The 10 Best Back-to-School Cars for Your College Student (and Your Wallet)

August 15, 2016
Jared Kaltwasser

Sending the kid off to school for the first time? Here are 10 cars that will please your kid but spare your wallet.

2016 Honda Fit

Sending your kid off to college can be a big adjustment. One way to make the transition smoother is to ensure your newly minted freshman has reliable transportation to and from campus.

As it turns out, reliable transportation doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money.

Kelley Blue Book, the vehicle valuation service, is out with its list of the 10 best “back to school cars.” The models on the list were chosen based on a variety of criteria, and all have a price tag under $20,000.

“Safety is the paramount decision when it comes to back-to-school cars, and practicality and affordability are also high on the list of desirable characteristics, at least according to parents,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for KBB.com.

On the other hand, college students tend to care more about style, Nerad said, in a KBB press release.

So which car wins? Kelley Blue Book says the 2016 Honda Fit (pictured at top) is parents’ best bet. It’s the third straight year the subcompact car has topped the list. KBB says a fair purchase price for the car is $15,776, slightly lower than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $15,890.

2016 Mazda Cx-3

The most expensive car in the Top 10 is the 2016 Mazda CX-3, which KBB says is one of the 10 most fuel-efficient sport utility vehicles on the market, making about 35 miles per gallon on the highway. A fair price for the CX-3 is $19,902, according to KBB.

2016 Chevrolet Spark

The least expensive car on the list is the 2016 Chevrolet Spark, which has a KBB fair purchase price of $12,544. It’s a four-door “mini car” but KBB says it’s surprisingly comfortable for four people.

When choosing a car, KBB encourages buyers to test drive at least two or three different models before making your choice. And while all of the cars on this list are new, the automotive information service says car buyers should consider certified pre-owned cars, which come at a lower price than a new car, but also carry a manufacturer-backed warranty.

The full list of KBB’s Best Back-to-School Cars, along with KBB’s fair purchase prices is:

1. 2016 Honda Fit, $15,776

2. 2016 Kia Soul, $15,701

3. 2016 Honda Civic, $17,837

4. 2016 Honda HR-V, $19,221

5. 2016 Mazda 3, $17,448

6. 2016 Nissan Versa Note, $13,691

7. 2016 Subaru Impreza, $17,837

8. 2016 Mazda CX-3, $19,902

9. 2016 Ford Fiesta, $13,889

10. 2016 Chevrolet Spark, $12,544

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