The first-generation Chevrolet Volt was a groundbreaking plug-in hybrid. The Volt has an all-electric range of up to 38 miles which is still pretty impressive today, meaning that if you have a place to plug in every day, you can do a lot of your driving around town without burning any gas at all. These can be found for less than $10,000, making them a strong value in used PHEVs.
2012-2017 Fiat 500
A used Fiat 500 can be a great little city car for college grads with an eye for style. This Fiat is a breeze to drive and park on urban roads thanks to its small footprint. The base engine doesn’t have much punch to it, but the available turbocharged engine gives it some more guts while still being good on gas. You can get a lot of style for your money with prices under $10,000 for used 500 models.
2015-2017 Ford Mustang
Few cars have a better “smiles-per-gallon” factor than the Ford Mustang. Early examples of the current version of the iconic pony car can be found for less than $20,000. The V8-powered GT models are a riot, but the more affordable EcoBoost Mustang models strike a fantastic balance of performance and efficiency by making 300 horsepower and achieving over 30 mpg on the highway.
2016-2018 Honda Civic
The Honda Civic is a car that always comes up in conversations about practical, affordable compact cars for good reasons. It’s a segment leader for its safety, reliability, efficiency and a surprising level of refinement for the price. Used current-generation Civic models can be found pretty easily for less than $20,000 and it’s one of the best values in compact cars today. College grads simply can’t go wrong going with a used Honda Civic to drive them into the next stage of life.
2018-2019 Hyundai Kona
The Hyundai Kona is a cute subcompact crossover with head-turning style and an equally attractive price tag. The Kona just came out in 2018, but they’re already easy to find under the $20,000 mark. Tech-savvy college grads will appreciate the excellent UVO infotainment system which comes standard with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and a USB port.
2012-2017 Jeep Wrangler
The Jeep Wrangler has a well-deserved reputation as an off-road icon. Surveys have shown that it’s one of the top dream cars in America and it’s more within reach than you might think. The current JL generation of the Wrangler is still a little pricey on the used market, but there are many used JK Wrangler models out there for under $20,000. The Wrangler finally got standard four-wheel drive starting in 2012 which makes that a good model year to start your search.
2021 Kia Seltos
The Kia Seltos is an all-new subcompact crossover that manages to be both cute and rugged. It has an affordable starting MSRP of $21,990 and even the higher-end trims with the optional turbocharged engine keep the price under the $30,000 mark. The Seltos has a bigger interior than you might expect for such a small SUV and a level of interior quality that might surprise you at this price point.
2020 Nissan Sentra
The Nissan Sentra is all-new for 2020 and it’s a massive improvement over its aging predecessor. It gets a sharp new design inside and out that looks muscular on the outside and upscale on the inside. The Sentra offers a strong value with an affordable starting MSRP of $19,090 and generous standard technology that includes the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of driver assistance tech like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and more.
2010-2015 Toyota Prius
A used Toyota Prius is one of the best financial decisions a college grad can make. If you have student loan debt you want to aggressively pay off, a used, third-generation Prius can help you do that. These can easily be bought for less than $10,000 and you won’t be making a lot of trips to the gas station because this car has a combined fuel economy rating of 50 mpg. The Prius is surprisingly roomy for a compact hatchback and it has the stellar safety and reliability ratings you’d expect from Toyota.
2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback
The subcompact Toyota Yaris gets a hatchback variant for 2020 and it’s an affordable, practical car that would be a great choice as a new car for a college grad. It starts at just $17,750 and it only has two trim levels, making it an easy car to shop for. Upgrading to the XLE trim for an extra $1,000 gets you LED automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, leatherette-trimmed seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio, cruise and phone controls.