Graduation brings new opportunities, new responsibilities and, for many students, a new set of wheels.
But before stepping into a dealer showroom, graduates and their families should research online the makes and models in which they have interest. Like picking a college major, one size does not fit all.
Even if parents or grandparents are helping with a down payment or even more, the first factor is budget: Financial advisors suggest buyers spend no more than 15 percent of their pretax income on a car payment.
“In most cases, graduates will find themselves in need of reliability,” says Alex Lauderdale, founder of EducatedDriver.org. “At the end of the day, nothing fancy is absolutely ‘needed’ … (graduates) most likely will be looking for something in the $15,000 to $25,000 range.”
These days even frugal shoppers can find great gas mileage, reliability and personality. Cars are also safer than ever: Backup cameras will soon be standard equipment, and blind-spot radar and crash-avoidance systems are increasingly common. Plus, most include Bluetooth connectivity — a necessity for this phone-addicted generation.
New rides worth considering:
No need to settle for stripped-down wheels. You can get the top Grand Touring trim line on this compact car at a surprising price. “Mazda is known for its handling and this one does not disappoint,” says Valerie Coleman of the mobile marketplace, 5miles.com. It includes a Bose nine-speaker surround sound system, a seven-inch touch screen and Bluetooth for a suggested price of $24,195.
Long one of America’s top-selling cars, the Camry got a makeover this year that’s turning heads and will do a new grad proud. But the beauty’s more than skin-deep. Even the basic L trim comes with safety devices like forward-collision warning system, lane departure alarm with steering assist, and radar adaptive cruise control for a suggested price of $23,495.
This distinctive compact proves that cool things come in small boxes. “It can be a fun choice for college grads, due to the unique design and bright colors,” says Rune Hauge, of DriveMotors.com, an e-commerce tool for car dealerships. On the practical side, it offers ample cargo space, and an impressive 10-year powertrain warranty at a suggested price of $16,200.