The 2011-15 Chevrolet Volt is one of Autotrader’s top choices for new (to them) cars for newly minted college graduates.

The world is pretty topsy-turvy these days, however, there are some parts of the world continue on – albeit with some changes. More people than ever are working from home, kids are doing distance learning and college students are graduating.

They’re doing it virtually in most cases, but they’ve put in their time and are looking to move on to the next stage of their lives: joining the workforce.

For those who are able to secure a new job, the daily commute – when it finally does happen – may be more than that beater that got them through football tailgates, drives home to do laundry and the odd trip to the grocery store can handle. This means it’s time to get another vehicle and there are some things new grads should bear in mind about the next car, truck or sport-utility vehicle.

(Hyundai ups its game with new Kona crossover.)

“If you just graduated from college there is still plenty to celebrate. Unfortunately, grads will be entering one of the toughest job markets in recent memory. Our advice is not to overdo it when it comes to getting a new car,” said Brian Moody, executive editor for Autotrader.

The EcoBoost-equipped Mustang is one of the top choices for new college grads looking for a car.

“To help, this year’s list includes several good used car models that should be easy to find for $10,000 or less. No matter which car you choose, your local dealer will certainly be offering ‘social distancing’ services like virtual walkarounds, remote or online paperwork and, in some cases, test drives at home.”

Autotrader has a slew of suggestions for that next car and most of them them aren’t new cars, and getting that bang for the buck rules the day when it comes to the list of recommendations:

(FCA cutting Fiat 500, 500e in the United States.)

  • 2011-2015 Chevrolet Volt: The first-generation Chevrolet Volt was a groundbreaking plug-in hybrid that now offers a great mix of impressive gas mileage and lower prices with many available for less than$10,000.
  • 2012-2017 Fiat 500: Stylish and a breeze to drive and park thanks to its small footprint, the 500 is pokey so get the turbocharged model which is still good on gas. Prices start under$10,000 for used 500 models.

    The Hyundai Kona offers style and plenty of room for moving from college housing back to mom and dad’s — or the first post-college apartment.

  • 2015-2017 Ford Mustang: Who doesn’t want a V8-powered Mustang GT? You! Get the more affordable EcoBoost model which is a fantastic balance of performance and efficiency – 300 horsepower and over 30 mpg for about $20,000.
  • 2016-2018 Honda Civic: A segment leader for its safety, reliability, efficiency, and a surprising level of refinement for the price. Used current-generation Civic models can be found pretty easily for less than$20,000.
  • 2018-2019 Hyundai Kona: The cute subcompact crossover came out in 2018, but they’re already easy to find under the$20,000  Tech-savvy college grads will appreciate the excellent UVO infotainment system which comes standard with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and a USB port.
  • 2012-2017 Jeep Wrangler: Much like the Mustang in terms of popularity, the open air-capable Wrangler is an off-road icon. There are many used ones out there for under$20,000. Four-wheel drive became standard in 2012 so start your search there.
  • 2010-2015 Toyota Prius: A used Toyota Prius is one of the best financial decisions a college grad can make since they can be had for less than $10K, which lets you focus on paying off student loan debt or saving up to move out of mom and dad’s house.

The Kia Seltos offers some off-road capability and lots of new technology loved by younger drivers.

Not every vehicle on the list is used. While there’s plenty of experts that will tell you that buying a brand new vehicle is not a good idea, there are some points in favor of the purchase — starting with the new vehicle warranty. Here’s the list of the new offerings Autotrader recommends:

  • 2021 Kia Seltos: The all-new subcompact crossover is cute and rugged with a bigger-than-expected interior, and it starts$21,990 and even the higher-end trims with the optional turbocharged engine keep the price under the $30,000. (Learn more about Kia extended warranty)
  • 2020 Nissan Sentra: Just made over for 2020, it offers strong value with an affordable starting at$19,090 and generous standard technology that includes the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of driver assistance tech like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and more. (Could a Nissan extended warranty be right for you?)
  • 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback: Among the most practical cars, it’s very inexpensive with a starting price of $17,750. Upgrading to the XLE for $1,000nets LED automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio, cruise, and phone controls.

(New Seltos completes Kia’s sport-utility line-up.)


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