College Student - First Car

Another suggestion if the OP is looking for a good, cheap car that is not in demand by the rest of the used car market: Saturn SL/SC/SW series. Everybody hates these things for some reason, and it shows in their price on the used car market. If you can find a reasonably well maintained example of one of these, it will probably serve you well with few repairs and excellent gas mileage. They’re pretty bulletproof from what I’ve seen, too. I had a friend in high school who had a 1992 Saturn SL1, and try as he would, he could not break that car, that is, until he crashed it into something hard enough to total it. He neglected and brutally abused that car, but the mechanicals never failed him.

I once had a co worker friend who would also totally neglected and abused a cars. Sample: continue to drive a standard transmission Jeep Cherokee after the hydraulic clutch fluid leaked out enough to make the pedal inoperative. For a week, he would shift w/o the clutch and let it stall when he came to stop and start the car in gear. The consensus was; if a car lasted this guy for more then a few years, it had to be a car make that was pretty tough. Otherwise, he was a kind a gentle person with anything living. But, Oil changes were after thoughts or never happed. The guy was a walking automotive torture test lab.

Buy A Car With Good Dealer Or Independent Mechanic Support For Your Area. Buying Used, Pay More Attention To The Condition Of The Car And Less To The Name Plate.

There is no support for Japanese or Korean Headquartered cars in my area, but plenty for good old American badged (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) cars.

My family drives several GM and Chrysler cars and has for decades. We’ve never had a bad one. I have no use for a car perceived as better quality. From what I read on this site and from what I find in Technical Service Bulletins, I’m not about to change my thinking. We basically buy brakes, oil, gasoline, and tires for the cars, just like any car owner does.

I like the mag for purchasing household things, but as long as Consumer Reports keeps recommending the Asian cars (based on reader surveys) and people keep buying into the superiority myth, Ford, Chrysler, and GM cars offer some of the best values on the road, especially when used or slightly used. There isn’t any big difference in quality anymore, one brand to another.

Find a car that fits with the way you’ll use it and in your price range. Get a car that’s been well-maintained and documented. If you don’t know cars, a mechanic’s inspection is a good idea before you pay for the car.

Find a car, post the description here, and you’ll no doubt get some comments, some will even be meaningful.


My kids knew me as the meanest dad in four states. And, once they saw how things went, they were proud of that fact.

If my kid lived 1.5 hours from home, in college, and came home once every two weeks, I would drive and pick him up and take him back, and save all the money. Especially all the money going into the car for running around only because he had it.

Ok, sorry for the long absence, but I lost track of the thread.

I have a couple of family members / family friends who regularly buy from insurance auctions and fix cars up and resell them.

I was thinking of going this route also instead of looking up cars on craigslist and such.

The driving home was just one task; another reason is I’ll be starting some of my engineering internships soon and they could be a distance away from home or from the college town.

I find myself leaning toward a 2-door Civic, (like years 96~00).

I appreciate all the recommendations, but where I live, the parts on Hondas and Toyotas are fairly cheap, in fact their used to be a Toyota Manufacturing plant a little ways down the road.

You Haven’t Given Us A Budget Amount. Keep In Mind That Usually You’ll Need A Little Extra To Take Care Of A Few Things After Your Purchase.

Considering a 13 year-old to a 17 year-old car tells me that you aren’t willing to spend much. On cars this old you can have problems from age and deterioration, besides wear and abuse issues.

Make sure any car’s got a recent timing belt (if so equipped) or add several hundred dollars to your budget.

Is this a case where you haven’t saved much and all you have is the idea to buy a car ?


No, I have a budget of around $6500 MAX. But I prefer to keep it lower since I don’t see why I should spend that much on a first car (although, it’s suppose to be lasting me quite a while).

2003 2004 2005 Corolla depending on mileage. Good American/Canadian Made cars .

I left my Dakota pickup (12mpg) for a Fiat 500 (38 mpg). Since I didn’t need the useless back seat I removed it and bolted in a plywood platform and covered it with a fabric that matched the interior. Now I have a sporty little two seater with plenty of cargo space, great for pet too.


I really do prefer a stick, I find them more enjoyable to drive.

I would suggest avoiding the auctions, you would have trouble finding out the history on the vehicle. Craigslist has its issues as well but overall, you have a better chance of finding a gem, if you are careful and diligent.

I have a 2002 Saturn with a stick, and as pointed out by someone else, it is pretty bullet proof, gets me 38 mpg and has 254k miles on it. I bought a used 98 Olds 88 with he 3.8 engine for my father in law a few years back from a senior citizen couple who were downsizing to just one car after retirement. The car was well cared for, has been very reliable and get this, it gets about 32 mpg on the highway. The small difference in mileage for the big difference in comfort for a road trip is well worth the cost.

Since your college student will probably spend quite a bit of time on the highway, if the college is very far away, I would suggest an Olds or Buick from 1996 thru 2006 with that engine. Try to find one from a recent retiree.

When I look back over my almost 50 years of driving, the best used cars that I’ve had always came from recent retires or from the estate of a senior citizen. They are always well maintained and never driven hard.

My first real car was a 59 VW bug with a sun roof for $500 in 1967 from a Rolls dealer in St. Louis Park. The salesman said it belonged to an architect who liked to haul 2X4s through the sun roof. I found that feature to be useful and also for looking at stars. I bought it because I liked it and thought it would be economical and the girls would like it and think of me as whimsical as well as practical.

So, just buy what you like but a little on the cheap side. US cars are a little cheaper to buy and to maintain, but I strongly recommend the sun roof for after-hours. Nothing like having a car you don’t like.

Yep, our family friend just got back to us. He thinks he can nab an '06 civic with 89,xxx miles for $6500. Salvage title of course =/

Is that a good deal? Are you sure? You need to find out why the car has a salvage title. Here’s a place to buy a title search:

You may also get useful information from CarFax. Be very careful with a re-titled car that has been destroyed at least once.