Back to School: How to Choose Cars for Teens and College Students

It is back-to-school time for many students. Students are working to get ready for classes. For some high school students, this means the first time they get to drive to school. For some college students, this means the first time they are away from home. For those that aren’t riding the bus or commuting by their own feet, a car is necessary. But what cars are good for students?

Kelley Blue Book (KBB), the leader in providing car values and pricing, released today “The Top Ten Back-to-School Cars”. See the Official Press Release.

KBB’s list includes:
2009 Ford Focus
2009 Honda Fit
2010 Kia Soul
2010 Mazda MAZDA3
2009 Nissan Cube
2005 Chevrolet Silverado
2005 Ford Escape
2006 Honda Civic
2005 Scion xB
2007 Suzuki SX4

See the full article HERE.

I think the KBB list is great, but I would have liked to have seen a few cars in more of the $5,000 to $7,000 range.

Here are my suggestions:
1. Look for a vehicle that gets a “5-star safety rating”. Go to and research possible vehicles.

2. Find a vehicle that is reliable. The last thing a student has is a lot of money to continually fix the vehicle. Use the MSN site to research the reliability of a vehicle that you are considering. Enter the make and model and then look for the “Reliability” tab at the top in blue.

3. Buy a vehicle that gets good gas mileage. Fuel prices can eat up a small budget quickly. Investing in a vehicle that gets great fuel economy can save you $50 or more dollars per month. Take this example. If you drive 1,000 miles a month and your vehicle gets 16 miles per gallon (mpg), then your car will be burning about 62.5 gallons of fuel. If gas prices are at $2.50 a gallon, fuel will cost $156.25 per month [(1000/16) x $2.50 = $156.25]. If your vehicle gets 32 miles per gallon, you will be spending 1/2 that cost on fuel expenses [(1000/32) x $2.50 = $78.13]. Go to to find the mpg’s of the vehicle you are considering.

4. Once you have narrowed down your search, contact your insurance agent to get a quote on insuring that specific vehicle. Some vehicles are more expensive to insure than others.

5. Create a budget to maintain the vehicle. Take the time to calculate what it will cost to keep the car in tip-top shape. I have provided a FREE activity online to step you through this process. Click HERE.

What vehicle do you think is ideal for teens and college students?

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Auto Upkeep 4th Edition

Michael Gray

Mike has roots in the automotive service industry. He began diagnosing and fixing cars at a young age in his family’s service station. He has worked in automotive parts supply stores, towing companies, and service facilities. After graduating from St. Cloud State University (MN) with a Bachelor’s degree, he implemented and taught a basic car care program at the high school level. During work on his Master’s degree at Illinois State University (IL), he was a curriculum specialist on a National Science Foundation project where he co-authored ten integrated mathematics, science, and technology books designed for team teaching. Mike has also supervised teachers in Career and Technology Education as a school system administrator.

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