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Used car for a college student

We need to buy a car for our 19 yr old daughter. She will be a junior in college in Rochester NY so we want something safe, reliable and good in terrible weather. We can only spend up to $6000.00 Any suggestions? Thanks!!!

A Honda Civic with a good set of winter tires on steel wheels (you can get it as a package from places like to supplement the normal tires on the original wheels.

Thanks!!! We have been looking at civics but I was worried about the bad weather. This is really helpful!! Thanks guys!

Honda Civics do great in bad weather as long as they have a good set of winter tires on the rims, rubber-booted winter wipers, proper maintenance, and “winter mix” windshield washer fluid. And, of course, they’re driven in bad weather only when absolutely necessary and very, very carefully…just like any other car.

Other good cars are any Mazda Protege that has been well looked after, or Hyundai Accent or Hyundai Elantra. Stay away from any Volkswagen, Saturn, Saab, older Kias and early Ford Focus model (up to 2006), which has a lot of problems.

As mentioned, 4 good winter tires, such as Michelin X-Ice, will be a greaty asset.

Hyundai Sonata with four winter tires.

Thanks for the tips. We KNOW not to get a volkswagen because we own one. We really like it but we have probably bought it twice by now when you factor in all the repairs. It’s a 2001 Passat. As for Civics, and the others mentioned should we go with the latest model we can afford or should we worry about mileage? Thanks.

Not Considering An American Car From Ford Or GM (And Even Chrysler) Is Passing Up Some Of Safest, *Best Deals Available. Find A Car That Either Has A Fresh Timing Belt And Proof Of That Or One With A Timing Chain.

*I know cars and I am living proof of this.

Get a larger car with good safety ratings. You’ll sleep better knowing your daughter will be safer. There are sites to help you choose and your insurance agent should be helpful, too.

CSA, Dad Of 2 (And Always Purchase GM, Ford, and Chrysler Vehicles.)

In reality, for $6K, beggers can’t be choosers so I’d look for the car in the best condition with the fewest miles from a list of preferred top 5 from consumer report list for cars in this range. Then put snows on whatever. I wouldn’t devote my energy “just looking for Civics” or any other make alone.

I’d Save About 20% Of The Budget For Tweaking The New “Used Car.” Most Used Cars Will Need A Battery, Brakes, Tires, Etcetera, Shortly After Purchase.

Choosing a top rated car will probably command a higher price than many good cars that are available. People perceive them as more valuable, when in reality, it is more about condition, maintenance documentation, and fewer miles (any make / model) on a low priced $5000 - $6000 car, as Dagosa advised.


Sorry I asked. Didn’t realize I would get more answers that I ever wanted. What I wanted to know was if anyone good suggest something reliable and safe in that price range, all you need to do is say no, not call us beggars. We have two kids in college and incidentally we live in a large city where there are plenty of “civics to look at”, and they happen to have about the best ratings going in Consumer Reports. No more help please.

I have an '03 Civic that I purchased new. At 106K miles I’m very happy with the Civic. Mine is an EX with a 5 spd stick, 4 door. Things to look for in your search. The Civic has a timing belt that should be changed every 7 years or 105K miles whichever is comes first. So, even low mileage Civics you look at should have a new timing belt by now. Most on the market don’t have a new belt and are overdue. Unless you can document a new belt on the car, assume a $600 bill for a new timing belt, and water pump job.

At 105K miles the Civic is due for new plugs, new coolant, and lots of new fluids. This is an expensive proposition and Civics come up for sale when the previous owners don’t want to spend more money for these maintenance items. If done on time the Civic will happily motor on for many more years and miles.

If you can find a manual trans and your daughter can handle a stick shift, that’ what I’d buy. The auto trans in the Civic is not robust and could need expensive service and/or replacement someday. Clutches aren’t cheap either, but all in all I’d prefer a stick. Good Luck!!

Is your daughter going to be living on campus and the car used to make trips back and forth at breaks to home, or will your daughter be commuting to campus? What is the distance from your home to campus?
When my son went to college 19 years ago, the campus was 50 miles away and he lived on campus. Since there was no interstate driving, he took our 1978 Oldsmobile which was 14 years old at the time. For his sophomore year, my son was accepted into an Appalachian studies program. He had to do interstate travel as well as mountain driving. I put him in a 1988 Ford Taurus. (He protested–I had owned the Oldsmobile since he was 5–he had learned to drive in that car and he said that he and the Oldsmobile understood each other). However, I thought that the Taurus was a safer and more reliable car for what he was doing.

While my son was away in Apppalachian country, we had some students at my institution who were on a trip in a 15 passenger Ford E-350 van. The student driving the van made a driving error, the van rolled over, one student was killed and several were injured. When we went down to visit my son on the Appalachian program, he was drivng elementary students through narrow, curving mountain roads in a 15 passenger van. I rode with him one time when he had children on board. He wouldn’t even start the engine until every child had his/her seatbelt fastened. He handled the roads very well. When I relayed to him the incident back home with the 15 psssenger vans and how our institution had taken them out of service because of the potential danger, my son’s response was “If you drive with common sense, these vans aren’t a problem”.

The biggest safety factor is your daughter and her driving judgment. I think that a good Ford Taurus would be a good compromise with cost, reliability and safety.

When I was in college, the “in” car to own was a VW Bug. I don’t think any car could have been less safe than the VW of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. However, I don’t remember any students having accidents in these VW’s. If you drive any car prudently, you will be reasonably safe.
I didn’t have a car when I was in college, but I envied those who did.

You might find a 2005 Chevy Cobalt LT (or LS) for around $6000 from a private sale. A 2003 Civic would be comparably priced. Both are fine cars and you can get a newer one with the Chevy. We have a 2009 Cobalt LT and our daughter likes it a lot. Actually, all 3 do, but only one gets to drive it during the school year. If you put snow tires on it in the winter, there should not be any problems. And she can just park it since she is a student.

That is an old saying, and in no way literally called you beggars. When you come on a forum, you get the answers people write. No one here intended to offend you at all. they were trying to help you which seems to have been a mistake.

I’m sorry to offend you, but I was in your exact shoes too but I obviously did a poor job of advising. I’m trying tobsay that for $6k There is no one car that guarantees it will be safe and reliable. CSA is right that condition in this price range is more important than make. I would not buy a car just because it was a Civic when say an excellent Escort was available. CR themselves recommends this approach.
The “beggars can’t bechooser” comment was just that. For $6k you can’t afford to be choosy about the make, any more than you can about the color.
If that remark offends you, feel free of course to just disregard anything I say.