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The Best New Cars for College Graduates

After graduation you’ll need some new wheels to get to that all-important first job. But which new car is for you? Money Under 30 picks the top new cars for college graduates and young professionals under 30 based on affordability, reliability, and appeal.

2007 Scion tC
Avg. MSRP: $15,000 (Man.)

If you crave an affordable sports car, look no further than the 2007 Scion tC. Featuring mouth-watering standard equipment like 17-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, and a super sound system, this coupe is one hot ride for just $15k. The tC also boasts the engineering quality of Scion parent company Toyota, so you know you can count on your tC. Got friends? Owners praise the tC’s spacious rear leg-room. For a small car, the Scion tC carries disappointing 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway EPA ratings. Fuel economy aside, the tC is a loveable marriage of fun and practicality.

2007 Hyundai Sonata
Avg. MSRP: $18,295 (Auto.)

Need to impress your coworkers? Drivers looking for a larger car won’t beat the 2007 Hyundai Sonata. Redesigned in 2006 and made even better in 2007, the new Sonata is proof that Hyundai is a worthy competitor in the American auto market. The Sonata provides a smooth, quiet, yet peppy ride and boasts a surprisingly spacious cabin. Need more proof? The Sonata raked in initial-quality awards from J. D. Power and boasts Hyundai’s impressive five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and ten-year/100,000-mile limited warranties.

2006 Toyota Tacoma
Avg. MSRP: $18,230 (2WD, Auto., Access Cab)

Haul more gear than bodies? For those looking for a pick-up truck there’s no better choice than the Toyota Tacoma. The redesigned 2005 Tacoma won Motor Trend’s 2005 truck of the year award, and the Tacoma continues to be strong. With rock-solid reliability and interior styling far eclipsing American compact pick-up trucks, the Tacoma does well as a daily driver and a work horse. The Tacoma is highly affordable on the lower end, with four-cylinder, rear-wheel drive models all coming in under $20k. Choose these models for the best affordability, fuel economy, and reliability. Six-cylinder and four-wheel drive models will cost substantially more to buy, fuel, and repair.

Money Under 30’s Best New Car

2006 Honda Civic LX Sedan
Avg. MSRP: $17,510 (Auto.)

To current Honda drivers, the Money Under 30 pick for best new car for college graduates comes as no surprise. The 2006 Honda Civic features Honda’s legendary value and reliability and, finally, competitive styling. The Civic may not be the flashiest car you can buy, but its appearance has come a long way from its blander past.

Civics carry higher sticker prices than competing compact cars but cost less to own thanks to fewer repair bills. And with an EPA highway rating of 40 mpg, the Civic’s gas tank is easy on your wallet, too. The LX model offers options that are “just right”, including air conditioning and power windows and locks. Choose a barebones DX model to save cash or splurge on the EX for “luxuries” like alloy wheels and a sunroof.

Now that you have some cars to choose from, read up on some smart car shopping tips or learn how to negotiate with car salesmen like a pro.

Read More

Looking for a used car? Check out these useful resources:

The ultimate used car value reference, the Kelley Blue Book Used Car Guide 2006 contains average private market, trade-in, and dealer prices for fifteen model years.

From the most trusted source of car satisfaction and reliability, the Consumer Reports 2006 Used Car Buying Guide is a comprehensive reference for anybody purchasing a pre-owned car.

Published or updated on September 15, 2006

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. […] to get a new ride, know how to beat car dealers at their own game and get a few recommendations for safe and affordable cars. /* Sponsored Links Love this content? Get our FREE toolkit: The Complete Money […]

  2. Lisa says:

    I think the best new car for a new graduate is a new (to them) USED car. Most recent college grads don’t have an high enough income to afford the “luxury” of a new car. New cars lose a good chunk of value right after the the tires hit the road in front of the dealership. This gets people upside-down in their loans almost immediately. Not a good place to be.

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