A car can be a great help if you're a student as you'll need to get from where you live to the university or college every day and you'll probably living away from home. If you can afford it, of course.
The move to university or college and beginning the gradual process of ‘becoming independent’ is a culture shock for both parents and teenagers, bringing with it many considerations (“there’ll be more…/less washing!”, “I’ll have less.../more money!”) but in addition there are the inevitable questions around transport.
Do I need and can I afford a car at university? For many the answer is no as viable alternatives exist - good bus/tube services locally and willing parents at the beginning and end of term. But where this is unworkable , living in an area that is too far to walk or cycle, not well serviced by local transport or needing a car for work as well as college, then a car becomes an attractive proposition, if you can afford it. You can use the ur1stcar Cost Calculator to work out just how much it will cost.
Choosing the right student car
Assuming the most important selection criteria for the student are low insurance costs, low running costs but with some street credibility, combined with the parent's natural concern about safety and reliability, the current best buys for students are :-
1 Ford Ka 1.3 ’96-‘09
They’re everywhere, they’re cheap to buy and run, and great to drive but watch out for rusty sills and floors on older cars. Get one with unpainted bumpers as they’re in insurance group 2 – painted bumpers add 2 groups.
2 SEAT Ibiza MPi 1.0 ’93-'99
Cheap to buy but needs to have to reasonably well looked after. It’s in group 3 so insurance costs will be higher.
3 Peugeot 206 1.1 ’98-‘06
Good to drive but underpowered and not the most reliable of cars.
1 Toyota Yaris 1.0 ’99-‘05
First funky Toyota for a while. Usual Toyota reliability. Feels a bit cheap and flimsy in some places but isn't.
2 Skoda Fabia 1.0 '02-'07
One of the first Skodas to be based on a VW platform - this one's from the Polo. It shows as this is a great little car.
3 Fiat Panda 1.1 ’04-current
Spacious, frugal and a bit funky - a modern 2CV. Most will have been dealer serviced - but get one that is as Fiat isn’t the most reliable of marques.
1 Vauxhall Corsa 1.0 ’06-current
Handles well and rides very well. Both quality and space are up on the previous model. The cheapest models offer the best value-for-money.
2 Aygo/C1/107 1.0 ’05-current (They're all the same really)
Modern, light, economical and well engineered city car that should put a smile on your face. You can tell that a lot of thought has gone into saving money everywhere.
3 Renault Clio/Clio Campus 1.2 ’05-current
Economical, rides well and good NCAP score helped by lots of safety kit. Better than average for reliability and better built than previous Clios but check that the safety work has been done on the bonnet catch.
Need more space?
If it’s space you need to transport more stuff around then you should consider :-
1 Skoda Fabia 1.2 estate ’02-’07
One of the few estates available with a low insurance group. Also the first Skodas to be based on a VW platform - this one's from the Polo - it shows, as this is a great little car.
2 Fiat Doblo 1.4 8v ‘01-current
There's loads of room inside. Would you worry if you scratched or scraped it? Think of it as 'added character'.
Both are available for under £3000.
Apart from the obvious purchase, insurance and running costs, students should also consider the hidden costs of parking (you often have to pay to park on campus or in university-owned car-parks) and of your mates taking advantage to go out/shopping/away as you’ve got a car and they haven’t...... you can be too useful.
Buy the right car and you’ll be zipping about at as-low-a-cost-as-possible, you’ll keep the adult part of the family happy that you’ll be safe and you’ll make lots of new friends.
PAYG cars - an alternative for students
Apart from getting a lift from your mates if you need to get somewhere (home to get your washing done, for example) you could hire a car, but there is usually a lower age limit of 23, or could join one of the growing number of ‘pay-as-you-go’ car companies - ZipCar, City Car Club, StreetCar or OptionC - and have use of a car (or van) by the hour. There are age- and/or experience- restrictions and you have to live in an area served by one of the companies.
Finding the right car insurance for students
You could do a lot worse than looking at Endsleigh's Student Bonus Accelerator which gives you discount equivalent to a year’s NCD after just 6 months.