Best Cars Under $16,000 for College Students

With car makers getting developing more low-cost, fuel-efficient vehicles than ever before, college students don't have to limit the search for a car to just pre-owned vehicles. There are a surprising number of brand new vehicles to choose from with an affordable base price. Here are the best cars under $16,000 for college students.

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Nissan Versa

College student in a car

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The Nissan Versa is one of the most affordable cars on the market. Base prices for new model sedans start at just $11,990. Drivers can choose from a 4-speed automatic transmission or a sportier 5-speed manual transmission. Both versions are equipped with a special power steering system designed to make parking and reversing easier. The fuel economy is also pretty good—the Nissan Versa gets 369 miles per gallon on the highway and 31 miles per gallon in the city. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave it a 'Good' rating in side impact, roof strength, and rear crash protection tests. 

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Honda Fit LX

Introduced in 2006, the Honda Fit is a compact hatchback that is both practical and stylish. Base models of the Honda Fit LX start at $15,990. In addition to the cheap price, the other main benefit for college students is the fuel economy. The Honda Fit gets 41 miles per gallon on the highway and 33 miles per gallon in the city, making it a good car for commutes and road trips. It also gets top marks in safety; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently gave the Honda Fit a five-star rating thanks to standard safety equipment like electronic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and a generous number of airbags.

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Chevrolet Spark

Originally produced as the Daewoo Matiz, the Chevy Spark is a fuel-efficient hatchback with nimble handling and tech-heavy features like a built-in wifi mobile hotspot. Base prices for the Chevy Spark start at $13,000, making it an affordable new car option for most college students. The Spark gets 31 miles per gallon in the city and 41 on the highway. Other features include a whopping 27.2 cubic feet of cargo space and cool ambient interior lighting. The Chevy Spark was recently chosen as a top safety pick by the IIHS and has good crash test ratings from the NHTSA.

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Toyota Yaris

The Yaris is Toyota's subcompact car with a Euro-inspired exterior and a sport-styled interior. Base prices for the Yaris start at $15,250. Like the Honda Fit, the Yaris is a hatchback with a surprisingly roomy 15.6 cubic feet of cargo space. The fuel economy isn't bad either; Toyota Yaris gets 30 miles per gallon in the city and 36 miles per gallon on the highway. On the safety side of things, Yaris is above average; the car recently earned a four-star rating from the NHTSA.

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Kia Rio

The Rio is a subcompact car that has been produced by Kia since the year 2000. Generations later, the Rio is still a very affordable car for college students with a base price that starts at $14,165. It is also a powerful car thanks to its Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) Engine, which is relatively fuel efficient. The Kia Rio gets 37 miles per gallon on the highway and 27 miles per gallon in the city. It has an overall four-star safety rating from the NHTSA. The IIHS gave it a 'Good' rating inside roof strength and rear crash protection tests and an 'Acceptable' rating in side impact crash tests.​​