Well, it’s finally over. The best four-ish years of your young college graduate’s life are over and they have a piece of paper proving how educated and employable they are now. And whether your graduate plans to continue their education or they’ve already started the job hunt, reliable transportation is critical. But why settle for just any old car? A used car is the smart choice for college grads saddled with obscene amounts of debt, and it can also speak to their personalities. Let it also speak to their major!
We selected five cars that match 9 popular majors, all of which are excellent picks new and used (though it makes more sense to buy used), and all of which we’ve been testing since 2009.
Major: Geology or Archeology
Car: Subaru Legacy
The Legacy is the four door sedan version of the Subaru Outback wagon, and for some reason gets much less attention that its high utility, all-wheel drive sibling. Sure, the sedan exterior is kind of mature and conservative but the Legacy is quietly handsome and always scores well in crash tests. Also, if you really demand all-wheel drive, the Legacy has it standard. Affordable, reliable, and perfect for anyone who intentionally went to school near mountains, the Legacy is an often overlooked but wise choice.
Major: Art or Psychology
Car: Volkswagen Golf TDI
Could there be any car more worthy of a struggling student than the humble hatchback Golf? The huge rear cargo area will make it so easy to move to a new apartment (or back home) in one trip so you might not have to follow him or her with a U-Haul. Also, take heart knowing that you raised an environmentally sensitive individual who also enjoys a bit of fun behind the wheel. While we love the affordability of used cars, all brand new VW models have free maintenance for two years/24,000 miles, and the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder TDI turbo diesel motors are notoriously reliable up to ridiculous mileage. For summer road trips following various festivals, gatherings, and “happenings” the Volkswagen Golf TDI diesel will easily return 50-mpg highway.
Car: Honda Civic Si
This Civic, in all its forms, truly is the modern day standby for “College Kid Transport.” Why? Well, because the Honda Civic Si sport variant still reigns supreme atop the pecking order (in coupe or sedan form) and offers everything a new grad could want in an easy to drive and safe small car. While there are Civic models available with five-speed automatics or CVT automatics, a 1.8 liter 140 horsepower 4-cylinder, a natural gas model, and the hybrid, any self-respecting car geek will want the sporting Civic Si. We prefer the sedan version simply due to its increased utility.
Major: Music or Literature
Car: Kia Soul
If your college grad marches to his or her own drummer, or perhaps even owns a drum set, we just have one recommendation—the squarely hip yet utilitarian Kia Soul. Available with an amazingly crisp Infinity Audio System upgrade, the interior of the Soul features flashing red lights around the speakers in the doors making every drive a serious DJ’ing event. Music and literature students have strong opinions, and this car expresses them.
Major: Public Relations or Marketing
Car: Ford Mustang V8
For someone preparing for a career where the majority of your time is spent
partying with entertaining corporate clients, this car is nearly synonymous with good times in a post-college life. Ever since its birth in 1964 (with only a few bad years when it was based on Pinto mechanicals) the Ford Mustang in coupe, fastback, or convertible forms has never failed to provide college kids a good time behind the wheel. And that, of course, is a party that doesn’t stop after graduation.
James Hamel is a freelance road tester, auto journalist, and Motor Press Guild full member. Find past work at Autobytel.com and current work at iSeeCars.com. Contact James at [email protected].