Although teenage drivers are considered to have the highest risk in terms of driving safety, college students are not far behind. In fact, most car insurance companies keep young drivers in the high-risk category until they are 22 or older. Safety issues of college students include distracted driving, inexperience, and the fact that many will be experimenting with alcohol and drugs.

Factors in Choosing the Best Cars for Students

There are a number of factors when choosing the best car for a college student. Safety is definitely an issue, especially for parents. Students, as well as parents, are concerned with money and budgeting so finding a vehicle that is cheap to purchase, maintain, and gas up is important.

College students may be concerned about their image, so how the car looks is often important. Most want a unique-looking, stylish car with nice features on the inside; however, family budget will help determine the importance of this issue. The following vehicles have not only been chosen for their safety features by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but because they also pass the test for cost and looks. Choose a used model to keep your costs even lower.

Best Cars for $15,000 and Under

If you are looking for a car in the $13,000 range, check out the Kia Soul or Ford Fiesta. The Kia Soul is a funky looking, boxy hatchback. It comes with a USB port, auxiliary input jack, and lights that beat with the stereo’s music.

The Ford Fiesta is a smaller car that has a lot of style and you can choose from a sedan or hatchback. One nice optional feature is an infotainment system that allows the driver to keep their eyes on the road by reading texts to the driver. You can also get a package for super fuel economy, which can result in 40 mpg for highway driving.

A couple choices that come in at closer to $15,000 are the Kia Forte and the Nissan Cube. The Forte is very fuel efficient, with 29 mpg. Along with a number of standard safety features, the Forte comes with iPod connectivity and Bluetooth, which are conducive to students’ wants.

The Cube from Nissan is another boxy hatchback, similar to the Kia Soul, but it has more cargo and passenger space. Although an auxiliary input jack comes standard, the iPod interface and Bluetooth are optional.

Best Cars Priced Between $15,000 and $20,000

Two good cars for college students that are priced closer to $15,000 are the Hyundai Elantra and the Jeep Patriot. The Elantra gets great gas mileage on the highway, around 40 mpg. Although it is a smaller car, it is roomy on the inside. Standard features include a USB port and satellite radio.

While many SUVs do not win safety awards, the Jeep Patriot is an exception. It is a smaller SUV and comes with optional four-wheel drive. For safety features, the Patriot features air bags that release at different stages of a collision and electronic roll mitigation. This is a good choice for students who are active and enjoy the outdoors.

For a couple of options in the $19,000 range, there is the Ford Fusion and the Kia Optima. The Ford Fusion is a mid-size sedan that is affordable and easy to drive. Although the standard features are good, there are available options that increase the safety as well as bring some peace of mind to parents.

You can choose all-wheel drive for the Fusion if you are going to school in a mountainous or snowy area. An optional alert system informs you if there are objects or people behind you when you are backing up and informs you of objects in your blind spot. The optional SYNC system uses voice instructions to direct the climate, radio, and phone systems. To ease parents’ concerns, the Fusion has an optional MyKey system. This allows parents to set limits on radio volume and speed. This is another way to improve safety on the road.

For students who are concerned about looks and status, the Kia Optima is a good choice, as it is a great price for its look. It gets 35 mpg on the highway and has a number of good safety features. It has many standard features that make it a good vehicle for not only when you are in school but also once you graduate and venture into the real world.

The Optima has ample space inside for passengers. It also has iPod connectivity and Bluetooth. To make things easier and safer, there are phone and stereo system controls located on the steering wheel.

Whether your main concern as a college student is cost, safety, or looks, these cars will all be great choices for not only your college years, but as you transition on to the workforce.