Graduating doesn’t just mean no more school, it’s a celebration of independence, accomplishment and adulthood...yes, the real world comes knocking quickly, as does the need for a dependable car. Thankfully these 16 companies are in the mood to dole out graduation presents! Graduates (usually those who finished within the last two years or will finish in the next six months) can get behind the wheel with incentives such as rebates and financing without an extensive credit history. If it’s time to start a new chapter in life, you might as well have some new wheels to take you on the ride.

Acura

Car buyers who tossed the mortarboard in the air within the past two years or will graduate in the next four months and have proof of employment can qualify for the Acura Graduate Program. A good credit history and a 5 percent down payment round out the requirements. In exchange, grads get a deferred first-payment option for 90 days and 60 days interest free and flexible financing options (such as 0.9% APR for 24 to 60 months) on lease or purchases of any new or Certified Used Acura. So if you’ve been eyeing a TSX or RDX Crossover as a present to yourself, now is the time to buy it.

Audi

Guess what, Grads? The A4 may not be a pipe dream. Audi’s College Grad Purchase and Lease options offer special financing terms through Audi Financial Services. That means you’ll need less credit history for approval than traditional purchasing plans. If you are within four months of graduating or two years out of school, are employed full time and your car payment is not more than 25 percent of your gross monthly income, you can take advantage of this deal.

Ford/Lincoln

All full-time and part-time college undergrads, graduate students, trade school students and recent graduates in the U.S. are eligible for Ford’s Student Bonus Cash. When they purchase or lease a new 2011 or 2012 Ford or Lincoln, these students get $500 cash, just like that.

GM

College and graduate students, along with recent grads, qualify for the GM College Discount Program, which offers discounts on all new Buick, Chevrolet and GMC vehicles except for Corvette and Volt. Cadillac models are excluded as well. Get an authorization number on the website and take it to a GM dealer, along with proof of enrollment or graduation to receive the discount. (Discount varies by dealer, but is said to be one of the more generous ones available.)

Honda

Select Honda models qualify for the Honda Graduate Program, which offers exclusive financing rates. (Example: a 2011 Civic Coupe qualifies for 0.9% APR for 24 to 60 months, based on solid credit history.) The rest of the eligibility requirements and benefits are the same as sister-brand, Acura.

Infiniti

Infiniti requires that you have graduated within two years or are about to graduate from an accredited institution for graduates to take advantage of the SignatureGRADUATE Financing Program. Perks of the program include low APR, delayed first payments on a new purchase, and special lease terms. A G Sedan may be closer than you realized.

Lexus

You’ve been eyeing the new CT Hybrid, so why not enter the working world behind the wheel of it? Qualifying recent graduates or those about to get their diplomas will enjoy the competitive monthly payments, waived security deposit when leasing and complimentary roadside assistance for a year with the LFS College Graduate Program. Lexus dealers have more information on eligible models and specifics when it comes to the cash.

Mazda

The beauty of the Mazda College Graduate Program is that it can get grads who may not have sufficient credit history behind the wheel of a new Mazda. To qualify for the special lease or purchase offers, you must have graduated within two years or will graduate in the next six months from an accredited institution.

Mitsubishi

Through Mitsubishi’s program, drivers can buy or lease any Mitsubishi model with no money down and a preferred finance/lease rate, even without an established credit history. To qualify for that Outlander Sport (or any model), you must be about to graduate or have just graduated, have proof of insurance, have a job and your monthly car payment cannot exceed 18 percent of your gross monthly income.

Nissan

Interested in buying or leasing a new 2010/2011 Rogue, 2010/2011 Altima (excluding Hybrid and Altima Coupe), 2010/2011 Cube, 2010/2011 Sentra, 2010/2011 Versa Sedan (excluding 1.6L Trims) or 2010/2011 Versa Hatchback? Qualified graduates or those about to graduate from an accredited two- or four-year undergraduate or graduate program get $500 cash back on the purchase or lease of one of the models listed above through the College Graduate Nissan Cash Back program.

Scion/Toyota

Graduates who finish programs between January 4th, 2011 and January 3rd, 2012, can get a $1,000 rebate toward the purchase or lease of a new Scion or Toyota. To get the grand, you need proof that you graduated recently or will graduate soon, have a job and collision insurance. What this proof gets you: waived security deposit with a lease, no money down and no monthly payments for the first 90 days, and competitive APRs.  

Subaru

Subaru Motors Finance offers a College Graduate Program that offers recent and future graduates the ability to finance or lease any model on their own. Local Subaru dealers have complete details for the program. Bring proof of graduation and job so you’re prepared when you get to the lot.

Volkswagen

If you graduated in the last two years or will in the next six months, with a full-time job or commitment letter, you can qualify for the VW College Graduate Program. When you buy or lease through Volkswagen Credit, there’s no security deposit with a lease, there’s no first month’s payment with a purchase and credit history is not required. Plus, VW has teamed up with Liberty Mutual to offer special rates on insurance. So that Eos, Jetta, or whatever else you’d like to see in your garage, can become a reality.

author photo

Meg Hemphill is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle writer who covers the good life: style, food, automotive, travel and entertainment. When it comes to cars, it is less about the nuts and bolts and more about the aesthetic, luxury and occasional practicality. A former editor at InStyle, she writes for the Huffington Post and a variety of other publications.

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