For the precious undergraduate in your life, isn't it time you sent them off in a vehicle you can trust? Randy has five for you to consider.
Every college town – big and small – face the same onslaught of students coming back from the summer to resume academic life again. The future of our country bound for a college across town or on the other side of the country with their cars filled to the gills with everything for their dormitory or apartment. The parents tag along with a case of tissues hidden amongst the rest of their child's stuff.
It is uncertain whether the tissues are meant for seeing their precious child off…or, seeing their savings fly out the window in tuition, student expenses, entertainment (your definition varies here) and a vacation to South Padre Island.
If you live in Madison, Wisconsin, the "back to college" thing is a ritual onto itself. On August 15, all of the leases for student housing both on- and off-campus change over. For most students, that means moving. Twenty years or so ago, I worked for a telephone company based in Madison to facilitate the insanity of students who either had phone service scheduled that day, or forgot to schedule installation of their service. If they wanted to go through our company, students who wanted new phone service may have quite a wait on their hands. They could go with the company that owned the lines (not my employer at the time), who could service them sooner more expensively.
When I was an undergrad, I commuted to school. My 1991 Acura Integra made the 37.5-mile trek from San Rafael to Hayward through the Richmond Bridge and the MacArthur Maze every morning. It was a solider that thing was. I did not live on campus, as I was a little older than your traditional undergrad. Though, I wished I had that kind of insane on-campus (or, nearby campus) life full of friends, parties and late night cram sessions.
All of this made me consider what would be a great vehicle to send my college student off to campus. Or, if I were an undergrad again (meaning aged 18-22), what vehicle I would bring onto campus as my way to be free. Especially, when their parents – or, their hard-earned money – can afford anything below $13.000.
Again, it's My Favorites time! Here are five vehicles for back to school. This time, I made it more reasonable (or less) for the parents' budgets.
2010-2013 MAZDA3: What do you consider fun? In this case, fun comes in two varieties: A nice four-door sedan with sure footing or a mean five-door upright hatch. The choice of four-cylinder motors – including the first Skyactiv engines – is a good start to see how you would zip around campus. The hatches can swallow a lot of your dorm stuff while you buzz across town or down the highway. You could opt for a Mazdaspeed3, but I wouldn't want to pay your insurance. If you stay out the temptation – and the high cost – of a Mazdaspeed3, you could stay out of trouble…though I wouldn't guarantee you’d be followed by the campus police in one.
2010-2014 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF (Mk6): Some may argue that Volkswagen never got hot right after the Mk4 models. However the Mk6 is a safe bet. They were straightforward in their approach and just right for many situations. There is a lot of power from the standard 1.8-liter TSI motor, even more so in the Golf GTI and R. Mk6 Golfs also yielded plenty of cargo space and a safe shell to protect it – including yourself! What you will find from a Rabbit is a fun factor that can only be found in a Volkswagen. Before you buy one, ask yourself whether you need the GTI or not. Or, explore whether a Jetta Sportwagen is a good alternative to one.
2009-2013 TOYOTA COROLLA: The name is synonymous with quality and reliability. It is also not the most exciting vehicle on the road. But, so what? If you have it in your budget, you can get one of these and save the rest of your money for repairs and such. What this sedan also represents is spacious and practical transportation. A 1.8-liter engine is all they need – in either manual or automatic. It is proven that they can run for quite a long time. Think of the fun (or seriousness) a student could have in one.
2009- 2013 HONDA CIVIC: Similar to the Corolla, the Civic stands for reliable, safe, practical, and fun-to-drive transportation. This year-range also encompasses two generations of the Civic – both of which are pretty good in their own right. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine works perfectly in this car – available in both sedan and coupe. You can get this with a manual or an automatic. Trunk space is decent, and could swallow plenty in a pinch. No matter which one you choose – even if you venture onto finding. good Is model for the money – you’ll have a proper runabout on and off campus.
2010-2015 HONDA FIT: When your campus has limited parking and the town where it is located may seem too small to get around, you may want to look at something that fits better. Rather, something that is minimal in size, but maximum in practicality. The Honda Fit solves this problem through being reliable, flexible, efficient, and innovative. The rear Magic Seats create practical solutions that is rarely found in any vehicle these days, making shopping and moving things easier. The 1.5-liter engine offers plenty of pep and can be had with either a manual or CVT transmission. Overall, the lower cost of fueling up and maintenance makes this car pretty attractive for the college student.
ADDRESSING THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: Why did I not list any SUVs? They should work for college students attending campuses in the Northern Climes. For one, getting one under $13,000 that is reliable with lower-than-average mileage is tough in a SUV-dominated market. Secondly, if the all-wheel drive system fails, there goes all of your savings for maintenance and repairs. Not every college student is loaded enough to manage expensive repairs. You have to work hard to graduate, so you can get a job that can afford you the luxury of a vehicle you can afford – period. Or, at least that’s one reason to attend college. So, buyer beware when you’re looking at SUVs in this used car market.
All photos by Randy Stern