Top 5 Tips for Getting an Affordable Car as a College Student 


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As a college student, public transportation may not be an option at your campus. If you’re looking into affordable car options, you should know which vehicles to look for that are the cheapest but also the safest. Getting a car can help you raise your credit score, but when you’re just starting out, you probably can’t get a low-APR loan on a car.

Chances are, you’ll be paying a lot to pay it off, so you’ll want to go with a cheap car you can afford to pay month-to-month. 

Car shopping can be an overwhelming and confusing task, so we’ve rounded up five tips for narrowing down your search and increasing your success in getting the most affordable car for you. 

1. Select the Right Type of Car

If you’re a competitive lacrosse player or you plan to be the designated driver for a whole bunch of friends, then you may need a larger car.

If all you need is a sedan or even a two-seater, then you’re looking to pay less. However, do consider any special needs you might have that require features like a hatchback trunk.

You may consider a pickup truck if you need one but only go for features you absolutely need during your college years, because each one means you’ll pay a bit more. In looking at different brands of vehicles, consider economy car makers that have a reputation for being safe yet affordable.

2. Choose Your Car’s Age Range 

The age of a car is a major factor that determines its value.

Older cars will cost you less, but you want to choose a car that you can rely on for the time you need it. If you need it for all four years of college, then you don’t want anything too old.

However, you do want to lean toward an age of about eight years old for the best price. The age not only affects the price but also the safety level, as the safety features on newer cars tend to be better.

While some cheaper cars may be fine for more experienced drivers, consider what sort of safety features you need if you’re a new driver, such as a rare view camera or blind spot indicators, which you’ll only find in newer car models.

3. Choose Your Car’s Mileage

Mileage is also a gauge of how valuable a vehicle is, because the more mileage it has, the more likely it is to encounter maintenance problems in the near future.

While 12,000 miles a year is the average, if more has been put on it than that per year, the car is more likely to give you maintenance problems. If you do the math and it comes out to only 8,000 or less per year, then you know you have a car that’s probably in good shape.

However, if you want to keep the cost of your car down or you only need it to get you by for a couple of years, you can get a car with higher mileage. This brings its cost down, which means you’d have lower monthly payments.

4. Finance Your Car

You may need to save up for the down payment, but if you have fairly good credit to start out with, you may not have to pay much down at all.

Once you’re approved for a loan to finance your car, you just pay the car off in manageable monthly chunks. Of course, it’s important if you do need to buy a car for college that you have a job or a reliable source of cash.

5. Pay Less for Car Insurance

In addition to paying monthly car payments, you also need to pay for car insurance. This is another area you want to save because you must maintain ongoing coverage in order to remain a driver.

However, older cars with higher mileage tend to require you to pay higher insurance premiums. To save money on car insurance, consider purchasing a car service contract and get extended warranty coverage that really pays off. 

Driving an Affordable Car This Semester

You can find an affordable car by looking for something only as small as you need it, something around eight years old and with higher mileage.

Since most maintenance problems don’t occur until three to five years after purchase with these types of cars, you shouldn’t have to pay high insurance premiums from the get-go. Going with an extended warranty coverage can help keep you safe and insured in your car at a more affordable rate.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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