Besides tuition, room and board and spending money, another item high on the list for college students is wheels. You simply have to be able to get around – hopefully in something a bit stylish (and economical). Finding such attributes in a used vehicle isn’t so tough after all, with all the great choices available today.

Whether parents pick up the tab or the student chips in all or part of the cost, keep safety, reliability, operating and insurance costs and price in mind. This list of the Best Used Cars for College Students is derived after checking out automotive expert reviews and lists. Of course, there are many more good choices, but why not start here for used wheels for college kids?

  • Hyundai Elantra (2005-2007)Kelley Blue Book named the 2006 Hyundai Elantra one of its 2008 Top Ten hyundai elantraBack-to-School Cars for its “quality and reliability improvements” and the fact that perception lagging reality makes cars like “Civic-fighting Elantra especially good deals.” Elantra also makes Forbes’ list of Best Cars for College Students. Edmunds singles out the 2002-2007 Elantra in its 2009 Used Car Best Bets for its “peppy performance and a smooth ride…solid build quality, reliability and operating economy,” although its engine is noisy and the car has a “few low-grade interior plastics.” Overall, with its good fuel economy and crash test scores, 6 standard air bags and anti-lock brakes (ABS) and optional electronic stability control (ESC) on SE models, Elantra is a very good used car deal.
  • Volkswagen Rabbit 4-Door (2006-2008) Smart Money calls the VW Rabbit the “Coolest” in its list of the 5 Best Cars to Buy College Students, saying the automaker “has long known how to appeal to youthful tastes while offering the durability that parents love.” Rabbit is also on Forbes’ Best Cars for College Students – and has standard ESC, ABS and front-side airbags. Edmunds hails Rabbit’s “roomy and upscale cabin, comfortable ride, high crash test scores and impressive build quality,” but knocks 4-door’s high base price.
  • Dodge Caliber (2007) – For a little attitude as well as good looks and surprising performance, check out Dodge Caliber, which Kelley Blue Book named one of its 2008 Top Ten Back-to-School Cars. KBB editors like Caliber’s “outgoing personality…exhibited in its standout styling and copious cargo flexibility.” Edmunds lists Caliber pros as “versatile interior, available all-wheel drive, wide range of engine choices,” but pans “sluggish acceleration from CVT-models.” Side curtain air bags for all outboard passengers and driver knee air bag are standard, and ABS is standard on R/T and SRT4 models. Caliber earns a perfect 5-star front and side impact crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In case these aren’t to your college student’s liking (or yours), also check out Chevrolet HHR, Ford Focus, Honda Civic and CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass, Kia Sportage, Mazda3, Nissan Altima, Scion tC, and Toyota Corolla.

By Suzanne Kane

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