Driver's Guide

How to Buy a Car as a College Student

Howdy, Driver? Knowing how to buy a car as a college student is one thing while maintenance is another. Although exciting, owning a car as a college student arrives with a bit of pressure. It is also fun because you will have flexible movements hanging out with friends and being timely for every educational occasion.

how to buy a car as a college student

Before you buy a car as an undergrad, you need a detailed college student guide for buying a car and you must know the tips to beat the salesman. Fortunately, this article guides you on buying a car as a college grad.

Do note that buying your first car as a college student is no big deal. Parents may exaggerate the difficulties behind purchasing a car while in college, but it is never so.

It is just that you will be giving yourself a bit more responsibility. Also, you’ll be knowledgeable about cars; thus, it’ll be easy to choose a perfect car after grad.

So, how can you get a car as a college student? It’s easy and straightforward!

How to Buy a Car as a College Student

Below are the ways to buy a car as a college student:

Pick the Right Car

Regarding how to buy a new car, picking the right car matters by miles. What do we mean by the ‘right car’? The right car is that car that serves all tasks, easy to maintain, low theft history, and affordable.

Even with little or no knowledge of cars, online materials can help you make the right decision. Also, user reviews and reports are all over the internet to aid your decision-making. Moreover, you could contact me for loads of advice and assistance for college buddies.

The thumb rule is that before you fall in love with a particular car, know the price. It is essential because it will encourage you not to pick an expensive vehicle. Some of the advisable websites to use for car reviews and consumer reports are:

Furthermore, you can be keeping yourself updated on the automobile industry using Yahoo Autos. These sites feature, user reviews, payment calculators, etc. that will aid the decision.

Should You Get a Used or New Car?

College students often find it tough to decide whether to buy used or new cars. It is sincerely a matter of choice and what you can afford as a college undergraduate or graduate.

While it will take some students a whole year to make $4,000, some others would make the same amount in a matter of 5-6 months.

If it takes you a calendar year to save $4,000, a fairly used car should be the option. A college student that can save $4,000+ within 6 months can afford to save up $8,000+ for a whole year. This case will require an extra year to make about $15,000, which affords a new car.

Owning a used car arrives with some deficiencies. You would want to be extremely careful not to buy a stolen car that has been legalized. Also, in terms of maintenance, you will spend extra to fix broken parts in the car. A new and less expensive car, on the other hand, will not arrive with such deficiencies. So, all you do with a new car is to register with the DMV and obtain a title.

I recommend buying a used car while in college. You do not necessarily need a new car because studies might not permit you to enjoy the car to the fullest. Furthermore, you may have financial commitments to handle while in college.

Meanwhile, you should be aware of the used cars never to buy, and do not hesitate to read on the lemon laws of your jurisdiction or state.

Make a Budget

At college, you do not have to spend a fortune on a car.

What you most need a car is to drive for lectures or other business purposes. Simply figure out the key areas to spend on and assess whether you can handle the financing responsibilities.

Note that the expenses you incur in a car must not exceed 20% of your monthly budget. But, if your parents or guardians are responsible for most of your needs, you might increase the expenses to 50% or as much more favorable. Still, it is not advisable to spend a more substantial part of your income on a car as unexpected financial problems may set in. If you happen to steal money from your parents, give them some believable excuses for stealing money from parents.

As a college student, you are likely earning less. So, endeavor to have a more vivid understanding of your earnings and expenditures monthly. Understand also that buying a car is different from handling monthly bills and other menial financial commitments. You would have to maintain the car, refill the gas, even when the fuel market fluctuates.

Finance the Car

If you can’t afford a full payment, finance the car. However, you would want to be sure that you have an excellent credit history.

If you are a teenager, you may not have an excellent credit history, which makes it challenging to secure a reasonable interest rate. Individuals with excellent credit history often enjoy a 3% interest rate while you may be charged up to 6%.

Endeavor to straighten your financing before visiting the dealership; you do not want embarrassment. Although your credit history may be short, you can build it within months. Start with a credit card from the local gas station or your bank and avoid stores with 18% to 22% of the interest rate.

If you have been engaging in student loans with an excellent payback history, it increases your chances of securing a good interest rate. The dealership will conclude that you can fend for the loan. Meanwhile, use the autos rate calculator to estimate your monthly payment.

When you can’t afford the monthly payment any longer, you can return the car without penalty.

Visit the Dealership

How can a college student buy a car? First, you need to visit a dealership for findings. You can also research the best vehicle insurance quotes that will be affordable. You would want to be careful with the dealership who would do anything to secure their interests. While at the dealership, look experienced.

You may disclose that you are a college student because some dealerships run discount programs for grads and undergrads.

Typically, dealerships would attempt to manipulate you to buy just any car they recommend. You do not have to fall for the appraisal because it could turn out a piece of crap. Endeavor to stick to the car you earlier research, and that suits your budget.

It is advisable to visit the dealership with a responsible adult or parents. The presence of an adult alone will deter the dealership from attempting to feed you with lies or cheat.

Visit the dealership for car shopping with a 6-month credit history. But, is it advisable to make a car your first type of credit? Admittedly, it isn’t because you may end up spoiling the credibility of your credit history.

Also, the dealership will request your employment history to proceed with the deal. You may have to convince your parents to present their employment history on your behalf. It is equally useful for situations concerning how to buy a car as a grad student.

Buy or Lease a Car

Should you buy or lease a car as a college student – grad or undergrad? If you prefer buying, then how can a college student buy a car and not lease? It is as simple as it is; pay the dealership the whole amount of the vehicle instead of engaging in a leasing deal.

Leasing a car is like renting a house, and it arrives with several rules. Such may include restrictions to a single state, limited mileage, etc. For example, if the deal states 13,000 miles every year for 4 years, you can’t exceed the mileage. Otherwise, the leaser may sue you for defaulting. Worse of all, you may be unable to terminate a car lease since it is a contract.

If you can manage to, you will pay a sizeable amount of fee. If you need a car for the short term, you should go for a lease. Otherwise, you can buy and acquire the car permanently.

Test Drive the Car

Make sure to have your insurance ready for a test drive, even though the company may have you covered. Below is the college student guide for buying a car:

Before you start the car, inspect the exteriors and the interiors thoroughly. Walk around the car and look study the paintwork. Look for the spots with the VIN and check whether it has been tampered with. Finally, check under the hood of the car and then the undercarriage.

If everything looks good and, perform the same inspection on the interior. Start the car and listen to how the engine responds. Play around with gadgets such as Bluetooth, AC, etc. Do not hesitate to question the dealer on faulty gadgets.

Rev the car up to 4,000 rpm and listen for cranks. Reverse the car and use the mirrors to see whether the car gives a clear rear view.

Drive gently at first and speed up, but maintain your speed level between 20mph and 100mph.

Try to make quick turns and check whether the suspension responds seamlessly. During this while, be sure that the clutch, handbrakes, gear, steering wheel, etc. function without force.

Meanwhile, you could test drive the car without buying it.

Drive Home

You can’t drive home without active insurance after buying the car. Apply for a temporary autos coverage online before you drive home.

What Car Should You Buy as a College Student?

The ideal car for a college student should possess the following:

  • It should serve the purpose.
  • The speed limit must not exceed 180mph.
  • The car should be less expensive between $4,000 and $8,000.
  • The car must be easy to maintain.
  • A truck will be okay if you have any side business. Otherwise, get a hatchback or a sedan car.
  • It must be fuel-efficient.

The ideal car you need as a college student should have an average of 30 miles per gallon (MPG).

Read About Scams that Take Place Often

The city and crime category of this website disclose the various tricks from crooks. You must be vigilant not to fall victim after buying a car as a college student.

How to Avoid Buying a Stolen Car as a College Grad/Undergrad

If you are buying a used car, you can save yourself troubles by doing the following:

  • Request for the VHR (Vehicle History Report).
  • Use the VIN to look up the car on AutoDNA, Vehicle History, etc.
  • Look out for scratches at the VIN spots.
  • Obtain the relevant registration papers.
  • Inspect the car title and make sure the details correspond.

Some Common Problems:

Note some of the common problems below:

When your petrol car is draining fuel, see how to save fuel.

If the car battery does not charge, fix it now.

Things You’ll Likely Spend On as a College Student

As a college student, your money will go to areas like oil changes, headlight/taillight repairs, new screen wiper fluid, radiator coolant, tire replacement, etc. When the tires wear off, you need replacements after every 5 years. Moreover, good tires will cost anything between $500 and $650.

Endeavor to prepare your mind for registration fees and insurance coverage. You can’t be so sure that you will not run into trouble with the road agencies who will place fines or impound your vehicle.

Some of the major problems to be conscious of are getting a parking ticket, having your car impounded, having your car towed, etc.

Read the articles below for common solutions:


Can a College Student Buy a car?

Yes, a college student can buy a car of their choice as long you are of legal age. Nevertheless, do not hesitate to visit the dealership with an experienced and responsible adult or parents.

How Much Should a College Student Spend on Car?

$7,000 is the most you should spend on a car as a college student. You have piles of financial commitments, and you do not want to go bankrupt because of a car. You may settle for a nice used car for an affordable amount.

Should a College Student Buy a Car?

Yes, as long as it serves significant purposes such as driving to school, engaging in a job, etc. A college student shouldn’t buy a car if there is no concrete reason. If you need a car for showoffs at school, you are making a mistake.

What is the Best Vehicle for a College Student?

The best vehicle for a college student should be low-speed, affordable, easy to maintain, fuel-efficient, and mid-sized. You do not have to buy a vintage car while in college, especially when you are responsible for your needs.

Is It Smart to Buy a Car in College?

Of course, it is very smart to buy a car in college as long as you can afford to maintain the car. Do not buy a car while in college unless you have a stable source of income and parents willing to handle the bills. Moreover, if your parents disagree with buying a car while in college, they will hardly contribute to the bills if you eventually buy.

How Can I Get a Car as a College Student?

First, you have to save some money. Participate in activities that will generate income. For example, you can babysit, dog-walk, or mow the lawn in your neighborhood during free hours. After saving up, make a budget, decide on what car to buy, finance the car, get an insurance policy, and buy the car from a dealership.

Final Thought

Be sure that you can match the responsibility and do not buy a car in college as a means to satisfy a challenge. Owning a car is much tougher than handling house bills, and it can deter your financial progress.

This college student guide for buying a car is a complete guide for you. Regardless, seek further advice and decision from parents before buying a new or used car. Also, consider using the family car instead of acquiring one for yourself.

Bernard Juchli

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Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres. Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

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