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Car for college

Kid going to college in very wet region. Thinking subaru, but they are expensive. Good suggestions for reliable, low maint car on wet roads?

If it’s just rain, not snow, front wheel drive with a good set of tires (full tread depth is very important in the wet) will do just fine. Get a recent Consumer Reports, look at their tire review. Also, go to tirerack.com, lots of good info on tires.

As for a specific car, get the Consumer Reports car buyer’s guide, good information on different cars and their reliability.

p.s. - also make sure the car has side airbags.

If you’re concerned about wet weather traction safety help, active traction and stability control is cheaper and would help more and give your daughter all she needs. Look for a compact that offers these options and add a set of good all weather tires rated well for rain traction. The devices don’t add weight or negatively affect mileage like awd. Frequent rotations and replacement of tires when needed are necessary to maintain that safety.
Always good to keep son’s/daughter’s safety in mind.

I think the Honda Civic is a good choice. It is about as reliable as they come, and with good tires, mine does fine on wet roads.

Are you sure a kid going to college really needs a car? I have always thought it was silly to buy a car for a kid going to college unless the kid is living at home and/or commuting to college. If your son or daughter is going to be living on campus, or really close to campus, a car can be more of a hassle than a convenience, and is usually not worth the cost.

Edit: Here’s an idea. Take the kid to college yourself. Tell the kid of he/she gets good grades for two semesters, you will then buy the car. Then if the grades start to slip, you confiscate the car.

You don’t need AWD for wet roads, you need good tires.

All you need is an inexpensive, reliable, economical small car. There are many from which to choose.

Any normal car (not a high-powered sports car with really wide tires) should be fine, assuming you’re talking about paved roads and not muddy dirt roads. Just make sure the tires have a decent wet traction rating (which can probably be found at Tire Rack’s web site) and you don’t let the tread get too low.

“kurtzk” Give a look at these traction aids and how effective they can be on ice and wet roads. You’ll want your daughter driving a car with any or all…CR recommends them on all cars.


Where is this wet region? If it’s Seattle, then it isn’t all that wet. Everywhere east of the Mississippi gets as much or more rain than Seattle.

Since the OP is only concerned about wet roads, and not snow, he might be talking about Florida.

“Are you sure a kid going to college really needs a car?”

Whe I went to college, I didn’t buy a car. I bought a whole transportation system–it was called intercity bus tickets. It was amazing how much less this cost than owning a car–I was 50 miles from home. (I couldn’t afford a car or the insurance). When I did graduate from college, I bought a car to go to graduate school 350 miles from home. The car I could afford to purchase and buy the insurance was a 1947 Pontiac that cost me $75 in 1961. The Pontiac got me and my few possessions to graduate school. It then became my second car as I again purchased a transportation system. This transportation system was called train tickets. I could make the 350 miles home during breaks within 20 minutes of the driving time, it cost no more than running the car, and I could study as I rode along. The only reason I kept the Pontiac was that there wasn’t on-campus housing for graduate students, so I needed a way to get to campus and to the train station. Before my second year of graduate school, I bought a 1954 Buick from my dad, but I still used the train during breaks.

I recommend a Honda Fit. Its inexpensive to buy and own, fun to drive, and holds a lot of stuff for a small car.

“The Fit even has an anti-lock braking system (ABS) and active front head restraints, while the Fit Sport with Navigation adds Vehicle Stability Assist? (VSA?) with traction control?just a few more examples of how Honda takes a comprehensive approach to vehicle safety.”

When we debate about whether to buy a new car or not for our kids, these systems you should be consider which older models may not offer. It’s not always just about the bucks.

Subarus are great in all conditions, but you don’t need AWD for rain. You just need good tires designed for wet conditions.

Other than that, for college, don’t get anything nice. College campuses are dangerous places for a car in terms of bad drivers, thieves, and vandals.

Consider: almost any 2 wheel drive car from any Japanese make (except the Suzuki Reno, Verona, and Forenza…those are Daewoos and they are bad), any Ford since about 2000, most GM vehicles since the late 90s (except J, N, and Gamma platform cars…wiki it), and any Chrysler with a manual transmission and dual overhead cam engine. Hyundais since about 2003 or 2004, particularly the Elantra, Tiburon, and the small SUVs.

VWs in the price range you ought to be looking at (low 4 figures) are to be avoided unless you know what you’re doing. Saabs and Volvos are iffy unless your kid is going to do a lot of the work (probably not on a college campus), and BMWs and Mercs are out of the question unless the kid is doing most of the maintenance.

Since 1961, most of the United States has been redeveloped with cars in mind. There are relatively few places in this country where it is practical to get around without a car, and even some city centers where it’s difficult. Many intra-city bus systems are laughably bad. My home town had buses on 90 minute intervals. Others have stops too close together, and take forever to get from point a to point b. Light rail systems in the US are typically vestigial.

As for inter-city travel, I once wanted to go from Kingman, AZ, to Prescott, AZ. It would have taken at least 24 hours by Grayhound. It’s about a 4 hour drive. Amtrack works where you’ve got it, I guess.

If you’re lucky enough to live someplace like New York or San Francisco or Seattle or Tucson, where going carless is an option, then yeah, it’s a good one. But if you’re not, you’re giving up a lot when you give up a car.

Having lived in two countries with viable public transport (Japan and Korea), I find the US’s transportation infrastructure to be infuriating at best.

If you’re lucky enough to live someplace like New York or San Francisco or Seattle or Tucson, where going carless is an option, then yeah, it’s a good one.

I would like to add to your list Atlanta, GA; Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; Buffalo, NY; Dallas, TX; Miami, FL; Portland, OR; Philadelphia, PA; and Boston, MA.

You are right and I am certain that I could no longer make the trips I used to make from my home to graduate school by rail. I did this in the days before Amtrak where many private railroad lines operated a passenger service. The bus company that I used to make the 50 miles to college has been out of business for years. I presently live in a community of 60,000 in the midwst which has a major unversity and we have no public transportation to other cities. It is a 60 mile trip to an airport or an Amtrak terminal.

A westerner might consider Seattle to be wet, but it is merely about average in the eastern half of the US. Snow had nothing to do with my comment.

When I was in college in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the VW Beetle was the “in” car. The affluent college students along with many faculty owned them. Some car needs to take the place of the VW Beetle. Could this car be the Honda Fit?

Snow had nothing to do with my comment.

I know.

I believe if the OP was in Seattle, he should be concerned about rain and snow.

Kia Forte has all the safety features and is more fun and longer warranty and cheaper! than the fit. You can put a lot in the trunk, too, it’s HUGE