College students looking to purchase a new car should consider more than the sticker price when budgeting for costs. The cost of purchasing a new or used vehicle goes beyond what you pay a dealer
or seller, and that doesn’t just refer to a car loan or car payments. Once you own a car, your budget will also account for other expenses such as insurance, gas and car maintenance. When considering various factors (like sticker price, fuel economy and maintenance) to get the best deal, it means that you want the best value. For this reason, we have created the The International’s Guide on Buying a Car in the U.S. to make sure you are looking at all factors and getting the best deal on your car!
If you are looking for the best value when you purchase a vehicle, there are several factors to consider to ensure that your car will continue to give you the most value for your money:
- Price: When you purchase your car from a dealership, you have two payment options: cash in full, or car financing. You should consider all of your payment options when deciding which car can offer you the best value. Buying a previous year’s model can also save you big, while still getting a car that is almost good as new!
*TIP: Internationals students may be able to save even more money with affordable car loan rates from providers like Lendbuzz. Getting pre-approved for a car loan, and considering options tailored to international students, can help save you money and leave you time to focus on negotiating other factors at a dealership.
- Safety: The safety features of a vehicle should be at the top of your list no matter how long your commute is. You can research the safety of a car by using information online, like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety which rates crash tests and accident avoidance.
*TIP: Look for features that protect you on the road like back-up cameras and driver correction. Safety is important to protect yourself and others on the road, but also makes your car more cost effective when you don’t have to pay for repairs.
- Fuel Economy: Fuel costs can be very expensive and is a constant cost. Since you will encounter this cost over the lifetime of owning your car, it is important to consider the associated costs when planning for a car you can afford.
*TIP: Check the label. Each vehicle has a label on the car. You can look it up online as well. This label will give you important information like the annual expected fuel cost, environmental impact ratings, and how much money you’ll spend or save over time.
- Space: Purchasing a car is an important financial responsibility. Considering your needs and lifestyle is important when deciding which model to purchase. If you’re on a budget, you’ll need to balance price with size. You should think about how many passengers you want to fit in your car on average, as well as cargo space.
*TIP: Maybe you need 5 seats and a large trunk space for frequent skiing trips with friends. Maybe you carpool to class, but can rely on folding seats for cargo. Be sure to consider all possible storage options in order to maximize your value.
- Maintenance: The costs associated with maintenance and repairs are largely related to several factors, including the safety of the vehicle, the reputation of the company, and whether or not you purchase a new or used vehicle. Some costs you can’t avoid, like getting your oil changed or replacing lights or car fluids. Others you can avoid, like dinged up fenders from small accidents.
*TIP: It’s important to consider any warranty that is offered by the dealer and to understand it carefully before making a final call on your expected maintenance budget.
4 TOP VALUE CARS FOR INTERNATIONALS IN 2018
Now that you have a list of what to look for to get the best value, let’s take a look at this year and last year’s models to give you an idea of the best car for your buck! Each year, Kelley Blue Book compiles a list of the Best Buy Cars of the year.
- 2018 Honda Civic: Small Car Best Buy
If you live in the northeast, you probably know at least one person who owns a Honda Civic, and it’s probably old. Why? Because these cars last. In fact, this is the 4th year in a row it is a KBB Best Buy!
The 2018 model has safety features like driver-assist and forward collision warning, making it a top safety pick. With average sticker prices below $20,000, the Honda Civic is a great value for students who need a car primarily to commute.
- 2018 Honda CR-V: Small SUV Best Buy
If small or mid-size cars aren’t sufficient for your cargo needs, then considering a small SUV like the Honda CR-V is a great balance of cost, space, and fuel economy.
The interior space maxes out at 75 cubic feet when you fold the backseats, so this is a perfect fit for equipment or luggage heavy road trips, or if you need to frequently carry sporting equipment. A notable feature that Kelly’s Blue Book points out is “adaptive cruise control”, which can ease the stress of long commutes. Making life easier is what good value is all about!
- 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: Electric/Hybrid Car Best Buy
Compared to our first two picks, the Honda Clarity is going to require a higher budget than a small car or small SUV. However, if environmental friendliness is on your list of priorities and the numbers work, the value of this vehicle is second to none. If cost is the barrier to this pick, consider the possible federal and state tax credits that come with buying a hybrid car (if you need to pay taxes anyways!). This choice drives like most mid-size cars.
- 2017 Honda Fit: Best Back to School Car
Used cars are always worth considering for the best value, and the Honda Fit is worth looking into. It has a five-star safety rating, offers a surprisingly spacious interior, and comes with Honda’s demonstrated reliability.
You may have noticed that our list is all Honda. It happens that for these car categories, Honda is providing the best values. If you prefer other makes of car, check out other top lists for runner’s up in each category directly through Kelley Blue Book.
Purchasing a car is a process that requires research and thinking about what works best for you. By considering these suggestions in The International’s Guide on Buying a Car in the U.S., you will be on your way to getting the best value, and owning a car that fits you perfectly!