10 Best Cars For Recent College Grads


Best Cars for College Grads
Credit: Tala/Shutterstock

Being a Class of 2020 college graduate as the world and nation faces a pandemic can’t be easy. But even as new graduates plan the next phase of their future in a different world than grads before them, they’ll still be doing many of the same things like searching for and starting new jobs, and also buying their first post-grad vehicle. Thus, we bring you a list of 10 Best Cars for Recent College Graduates in 2020 compiled by AutoTrader, a list that keeps affordability and practicability in mind.

The list of both new and used vehicles for recent college graduates offers stylish looks, high-tech features, excellent fuel economy, or some combination of all of the above. One thing they all have in common is affordable pricing.
While I generally agree with their picks, I’d have to take off the Fiat 500, but otherwise the picks are good ones.

10 Best Cars for Recent College Graduates in 2020


  • 2011-2015 Chevrolet Volt
    • AutoTrader editors call the first-generation Chevrolet Volt a “groundbreaking plug-in hybrid” and say its all-electric range of up to 38 miles is pretty impressive today. You can find a used Volt for less than $10,000, so AutoTrader deems them a strong value in used PHEVs. Check out our 2017 Volt review here.

  • 2012-2017 FIAT 500
    • AutoTrader editors are also fans of the used FIAT 500, who give it thumbs up as a “great little city car for college grads with an eye for style.” They like its small footprint and easy maneuverability. AutoTrader admits the base engine doesn't have much punch to it, but editors say the available turbocharged engine gives it some more guts while still being good on gas. Prices are under $10,000 for used 500 models. Check out our Fiat 500X review here.

  • 2015-2017 Ford Mustang
    • Who doesn’t love a Mustang. Used models of the current generation of the iconic pony car can be found for less than $20,000. AutoTrader editors call the V8-powered GT models “a riot”, but say the more affordable EcoBoost Mustang models strike a fantastic balance of performance and efficiency by making 300 horsepower and achieving over 30 mpg on the highway.

  • 2016-2018 Honda Civic
    • Another AutoTrader choice for college grads that also gets our thumbs up is the practical, affordable and still stylish Honda Civic. AutoTrader calls the Civic a segment leader for its safety, reliability, efficiency that’s surprisingly refined for the price. Current generation models from 2016-2018 cost less than $20,000 making it one of the best compact cars values out there today. Check out our reviews of the 2017 Honda Civic Touring S and 2017 Honda Civic Si.

  • 2018-2019 Hyundai Kona
    • We’re fans of the fairly new to the scene Hyundai Kona, too, at the Car Pro. AutoTrader calls it a “cute subcompact crossover with head-turning style” and editors also like the price tag. Even though it’s only been around since 2018, you can find one under the $20,000 mark. Tech-savvy features include Hyundai’s UVO infotainment system which comes standard with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a USB port.

  • 2012-2017 Jeep Wrangler
    • If it’s an iconic, yet affordable, vehicle you’re after, the Jeep Wrangler has you covered. AutoTrader says surveys show this off-road icon is one of the top dream cars in America. The current JL generation of the Wrangler is still a little pricey on the used market, but you can find a used older generation model under $20,000. Keep in mind the Wrangler did not have standard four-wheel drive until 2012. Check out CarProUSA Wrangler reviews here.

  • 2021 Kia Seltos
    • Want something brand new that’s affordable from the get-go? The Kia Seltos also makes the AutoTrader list. This all-new compact SUV starts from $21,990 and if you want the more powerful engine you can still get one under $30,000. AutoTrader says the Seltos has a bigger interior than you might expect for such a small SUV and offers a quality interior beyond its price point. Check out the CarProUSA 2021 Seltos review here.

  • 2020 Nissan Sentra
    • AutoTrader editors call the all-new 2020 Nissan Sentra a “massive improvement” over the old model. It gets sharper looks on the outside and a more upscale interior. It’s a great value, too, with an affordable starting MSRP of $19,090. Standard technology includes the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of driver assistance tech like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and more.

  • 2010-2015 Toyota Prius
    • As far as used hybrids go, AutoTrader calls the Toyota Prius “one of the best financial decisions a college grad can make.” You can buy a third-generation Prius for less than $10,000 and you’ll save money and time at the pump thanks to a fuel economy rating of 50 mpg. Its editors also say the Prius is surprisingly roomy for a compact hatchback. Toyota’s great safety and reliability ratings also make it a terrific choice. Check out CarProUSA Prius reviews here.

  • 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback
    • Finally, we have the subcompact, practical and affordable 2020 Toyota Hatchback. It starts from $17,750 and comes in two trim levels. Upgrading to the XLE trim for an extra $1,000 gets you LED automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, leatherette-trimmed seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio, cruise, and phone controls. Check out the CarProUSA Yaris review here.

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