Three out of four parents buy their student children vehicles and 82% of those are used, according to a survey by AutoExtra.com.
The national telephone survey of 500 adults who have children, ages 16-22, enrolled in school also found that:
- 54% of the vehicles cost under $10,000.
- 51% were paid for in-full by the child's parent or parents.
- 23% shared the cost with their kids.
- 72% of the parents did not have cars bought for them when they were students.
Major factors parents say are important when buying a car for their child include safety and reliability (90%), price (79%), fuel efficiency (68%) and car age and mileage (67%). Last on the list is car color (13%).
Major factors that parents think are important to their children when buying a car include style/coolness (66%), safety/reliability (61%), age/mileage (53%) and make/model (53%).
Most of the cars were purchased directly from a dealership (58%), followed by private seller (36%) and online auctions (2%).
In no particular order here are AutoExtra.com's 10 best used cars under $10,000 for student drivers (and comments from “Car Coach” consultant Lauren Fix):
2000 Chevy Blazer
For those parents who want their child in a full-sized SUV, the Blazer is a good mix of safety, fair mpg (for a full-sized SUV) and insurance costs. “If they ‘go in the snow’ and haul around a ton of gear, this is a good choice for kids.”
Comfortable entry-level car that is fuel efficient, low maintenance, a good resell and small but safe. “Insurance costs tend to be lower for cars where cheap replacement parts are available, and with the Civic, parts are everywhere.”
All the benefits of the Civic, but in a little larger vehicle. “The newer the car, the more standard features — like driver and passenger airbags in this case.”
A comfortable car for five and a large trunk for hauling sports gear and dirty laundry back and forth from school. “Even the 4-cyl. model has a lot of pep.”
2003 Hyundia Elantra GLS
Korean manufacturing has combined quality with affordability. “The Elantra gives you the most powerful engine in its class for 2003 and fantastic J.D. Power crash ratings.”
2003Ranger (Half Bed)
Perfect solution for the child who has lots of stuff to transport. “Rangers are the best bet of the U.S. manufacturers and this one comes with driver and passenger airbags.” Word of caution: Inspect the bed carefully for signs of rust.
The least expensive all-wheel drive vehicle on the market, according to, which makes it a good choice for snow-prone schools. “Some might think the small size is a problem, but for students attending a big-city school, it's a great car to squeeze into small spaces.”
A top-seller, which translates into better resell and lower-cost maintenance. With a larger wheelbase, it is less prone to roll over. “SUVs are just a more expensive vehicle so you'll need to get an older model and factor in gas costs. The 4Runner is a good bet even from 1998, but be very selective.”
2001 Mercury Cougar
It has a distinctive look and plenty of standard features like power windows, four bucket seats, power-heated mirrors and a detachable audio panel. “This is a great car…Lots of storage in the back, and the back seats have great leg room.”
2003 Ford Taurus LX
It has low-maintenance costs, standard V-6 engine and is loaded with options. “This is the car for kids going off to remote schools, because Taurus parts are everywhere, and it has plenty of trunk and interior space to haul gear. Plus every '03 Taurus includes dual-stage airbags for added safety.”