Top 3 Cars for College Grads

Congratulations, you college graduate, you! Now that you’ve been thrown into the real world, it’s time to start making some big-kid decisions.

But wait, your finances need to come first. Mommy and Daddy shouldn’t really be paying the bills for you anymore. You should start to get your finances under control as quickly as you can, and learn where to and not to spend your precious money.

If a car is something you feel you absolutely need when you graduate college (which makes sense, since you need a mode of transportation to and from job interviews, a part-time job, etc.), keep in mind that you won’t exactly have your pick of the litter of new cars. You have to find something that you can afford, but that will still get you from point A to point B and still be styling (you’re all hip and cool now that you’re a grad, anyway).

Here are just some suggestions for the modern-day for cars that are safe, affordable and perfect for recent college graduates on a budget.

Ford Focus

Ahh, an American classic – the Ford Focus. It seems like this car has been around forever, doesn’t it? Well, it’s for good reason that this classy car never goes out of style.

Recently named the second most affordable small car in 2012, the Ford Focus’ sticker price starting at just $16,500 may seem like quite a bit of money, but when you consider what you’re getting with it, it’s really not so bad. 26 city miles to the gallon and 36 highway will save you big bucks on gas that’s now risen over $4 per gallon, plus the car comes with awesome technology features like MyKey and MyFord.

MyFord will integrate all of your technology into one place – your navigation, your entertainment, your contacts – all right in one handy little touch screen on your dash. And MyKey is this great little feature that allows you to restrict the vehicle’s speed and the volume of the stereo if you have a teen driver behind the wheel (which, grads, you don’t need to worry about right now, but it may come in handy in the future!).

Oh and by the way, the car handles great. There are new features implemented in the 2012 model that seriously improve handling, plus the exterior looks sportier and more in style than ever. It’s a great value for the money, making the Ford Focus one of the most perfect cars on the market for college graduates.

Honda Fit

So you might have wondered, if the Ford Focus ranked #2 on the list of most affordable small cars of 2012, what was the #1 pick? That, my friends, was the lovely Honda Fit.

This little guy packs a ton of power for a starting price just above $15,000. And it may look small from the exterior, but one of the Honda Fit’s greatest features is the surprising amount of interior space it packs into such a tiny package. You can fold down rear seats to fit bikes, plants, pets – anything, really. And that’s not even including the hatchback space!

At 27 city miles per gallon and 33 highway, this is another good option if you’re looking to save on gas. Plus, it’s a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), so you know you’ll be climbing into something safe and reliable every time you need to drive.

Test drivers say that the Honda Fit handles well, but everyone seems to be most impressed by the shocking amount of interior space. Seating is comfortable and overall the car has been reported as “fun to drive.” You can’t go wrong for the price.

Chevrolet Equinox

Unfortunately, grads, if you’re more interested in larger cars or even compact SUVs, you’re going to be paying a bit more than the smaller cars we’ve mentioned, but you can still get a lot of “bang for your buck,” as they say, with an SUV.

Check out the Chevy Equinox. At a sticker price starting at $23,500 and gas mileage of 22 city miles per gallon and 32 highway, it’s really not so bad. It’s a U.S. News #1 pick for affordable compact SUVs and is consistently praised for a roomy interior capable of packing anything you need.

Although the 2012 model didn’t receive rave reviews in terms of driving and handling, drivers say the things that it does well heavily outweigh its flaws. The rear seats are massive and slide forward and back for added passenger comfort, plus the cabin is reported to be incredibly quiet for an SUV.

It gets the best mileage in its class, it’s a Top Safety Pick and it received a 4 out of 5 rating in terms of reliability. So if you really have your heart set on an SUV, give the Chevy Equinox a test drive. You’ll probably like it.

You might not be able to afford luxury right now, college grads, but what you can afford is a safe, reliable car that’s great on gas and will provide you plenty of room to pack up your life for all of the times you’ll be moving all over the place in the very near future. So put a hold on your dreams for a Lexus or a Mercedes, and take a look at these great deals for cars that are perfect for you right now.

Regina Clark is a freelance writer who enjoys driving and does a lot of it for her job. When she graduated from school, her first stop goal was to find discounts for comprehensive car insurance, then when her old clunker died, she finally invested in a new, reliable car that she still drives to this day!

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