Used Cars Under $10,000 for College Students

These safe, affordable options are ideal for campus life.

White 2014 Ford Fusion driving in front of buildingFord

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Looking for the right ride for your secondary education experience? Something with decent fuel economy and space?

Here’s a variety of dependable used good cars for college students that won’t break the bank.

2014 Ford Fusion: About $10,000

A comfortable mid-size sedan with a fun-to-drive demeanor, the now discontinued Fusion has a lot to offer, including a wide range of powertrains, available all-wheel drive (AWD), and even a manual transmission for those who want it. The plug-in Energi model and Fusion Hybrid are the most efficient, but will likely cost you more than $10,000. That said, even the base car, with front-wheel drive (FWD) and a 175 hp, 2.5L engine, sees a decent 26 mpg combined. College kids are likely to appreciate the vehicle’s still-contemporary styling and ample trunk space.

Red 2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD parked outside buildingHonda

2012 Honda CR-V: About $10,000

In general, Hondas are a good choice for those who need low-maintenance, reliable transportation, and the automaker’s CR-V compact crossover should satisfy many with its high seating position, car-like handling, and generous cargo capacity (37.2 cu.-ft. of space behind the second row and 70.9 cu.-ft. with it down). The 2012 model year marks the introduction of the fourth generation, which achieved better mileage than the outgoing model thanks to revisions to the 2.4L four-cylinder and AWD system.

Blue 2014 Hyundai Elantra Limited parked in desertHyundai

2014 Hyundai Elantra: About $8,000

Hyundai hit its stride in the mid-2010s with affordable and reliable vehicles like the facelifted 2014 Elantra, which came in sedan, coupe, and hatchback form. It’s not large, but that’s a boon for fitting into tight spaces—such as on campus side streets, which may offer free parking. And while the 148 hp, 1.8L four-cylinder in the entry-level sedan might feel a little pokey, it sips fuel. That model returns 31 mpg combined. For a sportier experience, opt for the 173 hp 2.0L in any body style and you’ll still do all right in fuel economy, seeing between 27-28 mpg.

Red 2014 Kia Soul driving down highwayKia

2014 Kia Soul: About $9,000

While the first-gen traded on cuteness, the 2014 Soul redesign made the little box edgy. The distinctive exterior ensures you’ll stand out around town, particularly if you find an example painted in one of the bold colors Kia offered. Powertrain options include two four-cylinders: a 130 hp 1.6L and a 164 hp 2.0L. Regardless of which you choose, your Soul should see 26 mpg combined. Search around and you might find an example with heated and ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and an Infinity premium stereo system.

Black 2010 Lexus ES 350 on highwayLexus

2010 Lexus ES 350: About $9,000

Looking for something a little more luxurious and powerful? Consider the refreshed 2010 ES 350. The cushy ride and quiet cabin make it an ideal pick for those who have to commute to school on long stretches of highway. The 3.5L V6 provides a respectable 272 hp, and the car’s Toyota Camry underpinnings should speak to its reliability. Mileage is a reasonable 22 mpg combined. Inside you’ll find ample space, real wood accents, and, if you’re lucky, high-end options like a posh Mark Levinson stereo system and radar cruise control.

Blue 2014 Nissan Rogue on highwayNissan

2014 Nissan Rogue: About $9,000

This Nissan Rogue is a popular compact crossover that took a big step forward in 2014, with updated styling and a longer wheelbase than before. That extra length made room for an optional (albeit tight) third row and 70 cu.-ft. of cargo space with the rear seats folded. There’s just a single engine choice, a 170 hp, 2.5L four-cylinder, but AWD is on the table. Front-drivers manage an impressive 28 mpg combined. Desirable options include a panoramic sunroof, blind-spot monitoring, and a surround-view camera system.

Red 2012 Toyota Prius parked outside glass buildingToyota

2012 Toyota Prius: About $10,000

This distinctive-looking Prius hatchback sees a remarkable 48 mpg on the EPA’s combined cycle thanks to its efficient, hybridized 1.8L, four-cylinder powertrain. It’s the perfect statement car for the eco-conscious college student who is looking to change the world. Plus, you’ll save a bundle on gas. Interior styling is funky-futuristic, and the little car boasts 21.6 cu.-ft. of storage space behind the second row. For additional frugality, seek out the slightly smaller Prius c, which averages 50 mpg combined with its 1.5L hybrid setup.

Blue 2008 Toyota RAV4 parked outside buildingToyota

2012 Toyota RAV4: About $9,000

The affordable and reputable RAV4 is a versatile pick, offering a bevy of options including a small third row and AWD. Models of this vintage come with one of three powertrains: a 179 hp, 2.5L four-cylinder, a peppier 269 hp, 3.5L V6, and even a rare electric variant. Respectively equipped, the RAV4 sees 24 mpg, 22 mpg, and 76 MPGe combined. With the seat rear folded, it’ll swallow 73 cu.-ft. of stuff. Just think of all the laundry you could bring home on the weekend.

Gray 2012 Subaru Outback parked in mountain fieldsSubaru

2013 Subaru Outback: About $7,000

You don’t need to live in the wilderness to appreciate the longroof versatility of the Subaru Outback, which comes standard with AWD and room galore. It’s got a rugged-looking exterior, and engine choices include a 173 hp, 2.5L four-cylinder or a slightly thirsty 256 hp, 3.6L six-cylinder. And with 71.3 cu.-ft. of space behind the front seats, a college student can fit a bike or a dorm room’s worth of gear in the back.

All vehicle pricing is rounded to the nearest thousand and is based on vehicles currently available for private party purchase in the 90210 zip code as at time of publication.

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Andy Stonehouse
Andy Stonehouse literally fell into the world of auto writing while working as a ski-town journalist, and has not looked back since. A childhood spent dealing with the eccentricities of a 1976 MG Midget has made any subsequent auto experience a more safe and reliable drive. He has been blessed with nearby mountain trails and snowy roads in Colorado to do TV-adventure-styled test drives on a weekly basis.