Saddled with student loans, small salaries, and short credit histories, many recent college graduates must add one more financial pressure to the list: a car. It’s true that more millennials are foregoing car purchases in favor of Uber or Lyft, but many of them still require their own set of wheels to get to and from work.
Usually, affordability trumps all else for recent grads choosing a new car. But it’s not only the sticker price that affects whether they can make the monthly payments and still have money left over for bills, groceries, and fun. In addition to proving environmental chops, a vehicle’s fuel economy also determines how much they’ll need to pay at the gas pump and how often.
City dwellers will probably do best with a small car that can easily squeeze into tight parking spaces. But of course, cargo space is crucial no matter the car’s size. Read ahead to learn more about the nine best new cars for recent college grads.
MSRP: $16,090 (Details Below)
Spacious, affordable, and fuel-efficient, the Honda Fit subcompact hits the trifecta of a modern millennial’s needs. Our top-rated subcompact car ekes enough power for city driving from a 130-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine.
The Fit has a small footprint, which makes parking easier, but its interior is surprisingly spacious, with a cargo area that’s larger than competitors’. Even at a starting price of $16,090, the cabin boasts the basic technology demanded most by millennials: Bluetooth, a 5-inch display, and a rearview camera. At an EPA-estimated 33 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway, the Fit’s fuel economy is hard to beat.
MSRP: $27,990 (Details Below)
Starting at just under $28,000, Acura’s entry-level sedan is one of the most affordable luxury badges on the market.
Though its cabin is not as upscale as others in the segment – the Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series, for example – recent college grads seeking a touch of luxury might find that the Acura ILX has enough premium materials and technology to satisfy. The ILX is available with leatherette-trimmed seats, Bluetooth, a USB port, Siri Eyes Free iPhone integration, a rearview camera, and a 5-inch display screen.
MSRP: $24,685 (Details Below)
The winner of our 2017 Best Hybrid Car for the Money, the Toyota Prius is light on fuel and heavy on value. It starts at $24,685.
Toyota’s top-selling hybrid gets a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors that provide 121 horsepower, which is adequate for both the city and the highway. Redesigned for 2016, the five-passenger Prius recently got an enhanced look with premium materials and soft-touch surfaces.
Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of driver assistance features is standard for 2017. The package includes forward collision warning, lane keep assist, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and a rearview camera.
MSRP: $18,740 (Details Below)
The Honda Civic is our top-ranked compact car, offering a combination of comfort, utility, and performance at a starting price of $18,740. It’s also one of the safest cars on the market, acing federal crash tests.
Available as a sedan or coupe, the Civic runs on a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that returns 158 horsepower. It even has available creature-comforts like leather-trimmed seats, Apple CarPlay, and dual-zone climate control.
Recent grads preparing for the next stage in life might appreciate that the Civic was named a finalist for our 2017 Best Compact Car for Families award.
MSRP: $29,950 (Details Below)
Starting at $29,950, the small but stylish BMW X1 features German-tuned performance and enough flash for a recent grad on a moderate income.
Our No. 1 luxury subcompact SUV comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, three driving modes, and a small turning radius, which is helpful when driving on congested city streets.
The X1 is on the pricier end of the offerings on this list, but it comes equipped with more standard technology, including BMW’s iDrive infotainment system with a 6.5-inch display, a rearview camera, and front and rear parking sensors.
MSRP: $19,465 (Details Below)
The Honda HR-V is roomy, fuel-efficient, and fun to drive. It’s our top-rated subcompact SUV, and it starts at just $19,465.
Honda’s smallest SUV gets a 141-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that returns 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway when mated to the standard six-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable transmission is available.
Inside, the HR-V’s cargo space is nearly 30 percent larger than a typical subcompact’s. Bluetooth, a USB port, and a rearview camera come standard.
MSRP: $13,000 (Details Below)
Chevrolet designed its Spark minicar for city driving, sipping fuel, and navigating tight turns with ease.
When paired with the standard manual transmission, its 98-horsepower 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers an excellent 29 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.
Freshly-minted grads will appreciate the Spark’s standard OnStar 4G LTE service and built-in Wi-Fi hot spot – as well as its budget-friendly $13,000 starting price. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rearview camera, and a touch screen are included.
Chevrolet Silverado 1500
MSRP: $27,785 (Details Below)
The Chevrolet Silverado, a finalist for our 2017 Best Full Size Truck for the Money award, might be an option for recent graduates heading to the suburbs or the country.
The Silverado’s standard configuration is a 4.3-liter V6 engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive, and a 6-foot-6-inch truck bed. Its towing capacity makes it an ideal companion for weekend off-roading activities.
Starting at $27,785, the truck is slim on standard features, but buyers can opt for Bluetooth, voice control, and the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system with a 7- or 8-inch touch screen.
MSRP: $16,100 (Details Below)
With its upscale interior and distinctive boxy shape, the Kia Soul is our top-ranked compact car.
Starting at $16,100, the five-passenger Soul is an affordable choice for recent grads who want quirky design without sacrificing passenger room or cargo space. The base model delivers a decent 130 horsepower with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, but a larger, 161-horsepower engine is available.
The Soul comes equipped with satellite radio, Bluetooth, and a USB port. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available.