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Best Cars for Recent College Graduates: 2019 Edition

If you’ve finally crossed the finish line and just graduated from college, one of the many things on your mind about the next stage of your life might be a car. Now that you’re ready to take on adulthood with your new degree, you’re going to need a car to get you to your new job.

However, you might be weighed down by student loan debt, which can limit your car budget and might make a brand new car out of reach. Not to worry, there are plenty of great deals on the used and certified pre-owned (CPO) market that are especially appealing to recent college graduates. Here are our top 10 best cars for recent college graduates in 2019.

2014-2019 Kia Soul

2014-2019 Kia Soul

The Kia Soul is all-new for 2020, but if it’s a little out of your price range, there’s a lot to love about the outgoing second-generation model, which is abundant and affordable on the used market. It’s a small car, but it has ample space both in the cabin and in the cargo area thanks to its boxy, space-efficient design. Its strong safety and reliability scores make it a crossover you can count on to get you where you’re going safely and in style. The Kia Soul is a practical and affordable way to stand out from the crowd. Find a Kia Soul for sale

2015-2019 Honda Fit

2015-2019 Honda Fit

Speaking of space-efficient small cars, the Honda Fit is the master of making the most out of a little space thanks to its clever packaging. Don’t be fooled by the Fit’s subcompact proportions, this thing is huge on the inside and its interior is very customizable for exactly what you need. Its back seat is roomier than not only its competitors, but in several cars that are a size bigger. Whether you’re carrying long items or if you’re taking some friends to a concert, the Fit is one of the most versatile small cars out there. The fact that it’s affordable, good on gas, and fun to drive just add to its appeal. Find a Honda Fit for sale

2016-2019 Chevrolet Volt

2016-2019 Chevrolet Volt

For environmentally conscious drivers or just anyone who likes the idea of saving a bundle on fuel costs, the second-generation Chevrolet Volt is a fantastic plug-in hybrid. It has an extremely impressive all-electric range of 53 miles. If you don’t have anywhere to plug it in every night, the Volt is still a very efficient hatchback even when it’s running on its gas engine. Technophiles will love the Volt’s interior, which is packed with modern tech. For the benefits of an EV without the associated range anxiety, the Volt is one of your best options. Find a Chevrolet Volt for sale

2017-2019 Mazda CX-5

2017-2019 Mazda CX-5

Mazda is known for building regular cars with a fun-to-drive factor that few of its competitors can match and the CX-5 compact crossover is no exception. Fully redesigned for 2017, the CX-5 quickly became a class leader offering an upscale cabin that might make you feel like you’re in a much more expensive car, a smooth ride with excellent handling, and roomy, comfortable seats. The more mainstream entries in this segment like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V are great too, but the Mazda has a more premium look and feel that sets it apart. Find a Mazda CX-5 for sale

2012-2017 Jeep Wrangler

If you’re planning on doing some serious off-roading or if you just love the classic military-inspired styling, the Jeep Wrangler is a great choice. Unfortunately, it depreciates pretty slowly, so if you’re shopping on a budget you’re going to want to look at the previous JK generation of this SUV rather than the new JL model that just came out in 2018. The JK generation of the Wrangler actually started way back in 2007, which is probably before you were even in middle school, but it got a nice update in 2012 with a more powerful V6 engine, a new automatic transmission, and most importantly, standard 4-wheel drive. Find a Jeep Wrangler for sale

2018-2019 Subaru Crosstrek

2018-2019 Subaru Crosstrek

For a lighter off-roader with a little better road manners, consider the quirky Subaru Crosstrek. Not only does every Crosstrek come standard with symmetrical all-wheel drive, but it offers athletic on-road handling and it has a large measure of practicality. It has a ton of room in the back seats and in the cargo area making it perfect for weekend camping trips with a couple of friends. It’s also pretty good on gas, which means your adventures won’t cost you too much at the pump. Find a Subaru Crosstrek for sale

2015-2019 GMC Canyon

2015-2019 GMC Canyon

The GMC Canyon and its mechanical twin the Chevrolet Colorado are strong midsize trucks for college grads who might like the idea of a truck but don’t want a huge full-size truck that’s expensive and thirsty for gas. The Canyon has a classy look and a premium interior, especially in the higher trims like the Denali model. It also offers strong engines including a V6 and a turbodiesel, making it more capable than you might think for a truck in this class. Fair warning: owning a truck could make all of your friends call you up when it’s time to move to their new apartment after graduation. Find a GMC Canyon for sale

2016-2019 Hyundai Tucson

When it comes to bang for your buck in used compact SUVs, the Hyundai Tucson is a top choice. It has stellar safety and reliability ratings, which means very low running costs and very few headaches. You likely won’t have to worry about much more than routine maintenance like oil changes with the Tucson. On top of being so reliable, it has a roomy, quiet interior making it a nice place to be for your commute or for running errands. It also has a strong turbocharged engine available, which we recommend if you find one that fits your budget. Find a Hyundai Tucson for sale

2016-2019 Toyota Prius

2016-2019 Toyota Prius

We’ll be honest, your friends might not think you’re very cool when they see you rolling up to brunch in a Prius, but hear us out. The Toyota Prius is quite simply one of the most practical vehicles money can buy. Not only does it have mpg numbers in the 50s, but it has all of the safety and reliability associated with Toyota, a decent sized cargo area, and it’s pretty affordable on the used market. If you’re willing to make some sacrifices in the style department and your idea of cool is getting over 50 mpg, then give the Toyota Prius a chance and you won’t be disappointed. Find a Toyota Prius for sale

2015-2019 Ford Mustang

2015-2019 Ford Mustang

On the other end of the style spectrum is the Ford Mustang, which began its current generation in the 2015 model year. This generation saw some big improvements, especially in interior design and quality. Another big change was the introduction of the EcoBoost turbocharged inline-four in the Mustang, which offers up a very satisfying blend of performance and fuel economy. If you have the budget for the Coyote V8 then go for the GT model, but a base Mustang isn’t nearly as much of a compromise as it used to be. Available as a coupe or convertible with an automatic or manual transmission, the Ford Mustang is a great way for a college grad to enjoy a muscular coupe before family life kicks in. Find a Ford Mustang for sale

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