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There’s nothing quite like preparing to leave for college. With the world open to you and choices seemingly endless, freedom is finally within your grasp. If you’re a college student’s parent, you may be wanting to steer your free bird in the right direction. For instance, you may be guiding their decision on whether to buy a new or used car.

Instilling good habits is paramount, and nothing screams adulthood like financial stability. With this in mind, how should you approach buying a car for this pivotal time of life? The answer may be different than what you would expect.

The age-old approach seems to be to buy a pre-owned car, considering these models generally have lower price points. And there are undoubtedly many great used car options for young drivers. However, we have a strong argument for buying a new vehicle instead of a used model.

Don’t underestimate the advantage of a new car’s warranty

A salesman talking to a customer about new cars and used cars while next to Chevrolet models
A salesperson and car buyer looking at new cars | Photo by EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP via Getty Images

Sure, a used car makes financial sense when evaluating how quickly new cars depreciate. However, there’s a reason why so many shoppers are willing to pay a higher price for a vehicle that’s fresh off the line.

A new car’s warranty gives drivers added peace of mind. Should something go wrong, you are protected for several years. Meanwhile, a used car comes with some uncertainty, and the owner will likely be stuck with the repair cost should a significant part malfunction or break.

College students searching for a non-luxury vehicle are better off choosing a Kia, Hyundai, or Mitsubishi model. These manufacturers offer 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranties and five years and 60,000 miles of basic coverage.

Those looking to splurge on a high-end vehicle should explore either Genesis or Jaguar. The former is the luxury division of Hyundai and offers the same warranty. Meanwhile, the U.S. News & World Report ranks Jaguar’s five-year/60,000-mile basic and limited powertrain warranties as the next-best in the industry.

Notably, some used cars come with a transferable warranty, and many dealers offer extended warranties. Plus, lightly used certified pre-owned models are backed by a special manufacturer warranty

However, these options won’t provide you with coverage as long as a new car will, especially if you choose a brand like Hyundai, Kia, or Mitsubishi.

Most used cars lack vital technologies

You wouldn’t send your child to college with an outdated laptop or smartphone. So, why would you do the same with their vehicle?

Like those technologies, older cars start to become obsolete quickly. The automotive industry is debuting new driver-assistance technologies and cutting-edge infotainment features often. And these features are more than bells and whistles.

Smart safety systems like front and rear automatic emergency braking can help mitigate the impact of a crash or avoid one altogether. Features like these were once premium add-ons – only available on expensive trim levels. Now, more and more driver-assistance technologies are becoming standard.

Even the affordable 2021 Toyota Corolla is packed to the brim with standard smart safety systems.

New cars have hidden savings

Finding an affordable new vehicle for your college student is about locating the perfect match. This process includes identifying the right combination of manufacturer and dealership. 

For instance, some automakers feature complimentary maintenance programs. Hyundai offers one of the best ones, giving owners three years or 36,000 miles of no-cost factory-scheduled maintenance. These services include oil and oil filter changes and tire rotations.

Toyota gives owners similar benefits, but its ToyotaCare program only lasts for two years or 25,000 miles.

These programs save you money that you’d otherwise have to pay if you bought a used car. Plus, they help promote proper vehicle health to your college student – without them worrying about having to pay out of pocket.

Additionally, some of your local dealerships may offer similar programs or other benefits, such as free car washes. Plus, many establishments have student and military discounts.

So while a used car might be cheaper overall, these hidden savings on new vehicles help close the gap – provided you find the right deal.


Used Car Prices Aren’t as Negotiable as You Thought