The 5 best used cars for college students: Edmunds

Whether they’re a freshman leaving home for the first time or a grad student commuting from class to work, many college students rely on cars as their main mode of transportation.

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And considering that nearly 70% of students took out loans in 2018, according to Student Loan Hero, with an average debt of nearly $30,000, most college commuters may be in the market for something affordable.

A used car might be the most practical option. According to Edmunds, “purchasing a vehicle that's about 3 years old will save you perhaps 30% to 40% off the purchase price compared to buying a new version of the same car.”

The site took a look at fuel economy, value, safety and ease of parking, for a number of slightly used vehicles, to find the best used cars for college drivers. The prices listed are the averages paid at a franchised car dealership in the second quarter of 2019.

Here are Edmunds’ picks for top 5 best used cars for college drivers.

2016 Toyota Prius

Best “long-distance commuter”

Average transaction price: $18,909

Fuel economy: 52 to 56 miles-per-gallon in combined city-highway driving

This undated photo provided by Toyota shows the 2016 Prius. Its fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain gets more than 50 mpg. (David Dewhurst/Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. via AP)

This car has sharp handling, high fuel economy and great comfort, Edmunds says.

2016 Mazda 3

Best “sporty commuter”

Average transaction price: $13,717

Fuel economy: 29 to 33 miles-per-gallon combined

This undated photo provided by Mazda shows the 2016 Mazda 3, a small sedan or hatchback that provides sporty acceleration and handling. Besides being a fun car to drive, the 3 also provides many convenience and safety features. (Toyota Motor Sales U.

Fuel economy drops compared to the smaller engines, but this is still a fairly frugal choice.

2016 Volkswagen Golf

Best “laundry hauler”

Average transaction price: $14,596

Fuel economy: 29 miles-per-gallon combined

This undated photo provided by Volkswagen shows the 2016 Golf. (Volkswagen of America via AP)

This car’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides both power and fuel. Most Golf models come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, too.

2016 Ford Edge

Best “winter-weather transport”

Average transaction price: $22,500

Fuel economy: 20 to 24 miles-per-gallon combined

This undated photo provided by Ford shows the 2016 Edge, a midsize crossover SUV. (Ford Motor Co. via AP)

The Edge is roomier than many other crossover SUVs, Edmunds noted. “It's perfect for getting you and your friends to a ski resort, but not so bulky that it's difficult to drive or park.”

2016 Acura RDX

Best “all-in-one luxury ride”

Average transaction price: $25,960

Fuel economy: 22 to 23 miles-per-gallon combined

This undated photo provided by Acura shows the 2016 RDX crossover SUV. (American Honda Motor Co. via AP)

The RDX “combines many qualities of the other vehicles, including performance, a big interior and all-wheel drive.” And per Edmunds, it’s “versatile enough to handle many diverse tasks and upscale enough to look sharp on campus without being ostentatious.”

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