As thousands of Millennials across the country are graduating from college and entering the real world, affordable transportation becomes a primary concern. While a growing number of grads will bypass car ownership altogether for popular rideshare options like Uber and Zipcar, most will opt for their own set of wheels. According to a 2015 report from J.D. Power & Associates, the share of new vehicles purchased by Millennials had increased from 18 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2014. As a graduation present from SelectQuote Auto & Home, here are the five best and worst cars for the class of 2016.
FIVE BEST CARS
- Honda Fit. Starting at $16,470, the Honda Fit is our top pick for active grads on a budget. The 2015 redesign provides tons of rear legroom for your friends in the back, while the ultra-adjustable Magic Seats go up and down – allowing you to load everything from bikes and skis to extra passengers behind the front row. At 41 miles per gallon on the highway, the fuel economy is hard to beat – as are the high-tech perks like a 7-inch touchscreen and LaneWatch blind spot monitoring system.
- Never let an entry-level salary get in the way of your sports car dreams. Starting at $17,765 for the sedan, the Mazda3 is a compact that drives like a Porsche. For as fast and powerful as the 4-cylinder engine is, its surprisingly great on gas: 41 miles per gallon. If you feel like splurging, opt for the knob-based Infotainment system and leather upholstery. Your buddies will think youre driving a far more expensive car than you actually are.
- Jeep Renegade. Like most Millennials, you probably think Jeeps are synonymous with poor gas mileage and high maintenance costs. The Renegade is here to prove you wrong. At 31 miles per gallon, the fuel economy on this compact crossover is actually great for a 4×4 – so youll have plenty of money left over for real-world necessities like groceries, rent and utilities. And if youre worried the Renegade isnt Jeep-y enough, its got enough cargo space and ground clearance to live up to its rugged heritage from the trail to the freeway. Starting at just $18,990, the Renegade is a great way to mix fun with frugality.
- Toyota Camry. If there were ever an icon for Millennial practicality, it would be the stalwart Camry. With one of the best reputations in the biz for dependability, low maintenance costs and high resale value, the Camry is perfect when youre just starting out in the world and cant afford to have car trouble. Green-minded Millennials will appreciate the hybrid option, while the 35 miles per gallon gas mileage will please any post-grad looking to save a little green. While the sticker price for the 2016 model starts at $23,070, this is one investment you wont regret making.
- Certified Pre-Owned Audi A4. Who says Millennials cant afford luxury cars? If youre jonesing for luxe but dont have the bucks, a certified pre-owned (CPO) luxury car could be the answer to your post-grad prayers. Not only do CPO luxury cars come with incredible warranties, but they also often outperform their newer, less-expensive counterparts. Take the 2012 Audi A4. A far better vehicle than the 2016 A3, the 2012 A4 currently retails for around $25,000 in the CPO market – a full $5,000 less than the inferior A3. With its incredible pick-up, smooth handling and beautiful interior, a CPO 2012 Audi A4 is a smart way to get a whole lot of bang for that entry-level buck.
FIVE WORST CARS
- Fiat 500L. While Millennials may love Italian cars as much as their Boomer and Gen X counterparts do, theyre in less of a position to throw away $20,000 on the disappointing 500L. Thanks to a stiff ride, flat seats and an uncomfortable driving position, this close cousin of the popular 500 has garnered dismal road test and customer satisfaction scores. As if things couldnt get any worse, the 500L has the worst reliability of any car in Consumer Reports latest survey of over 740,000 vehicles – not to mention a Poor rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) small-overlap crash test. If you need more reasons to avoid this patently unsafe, high-maintenance lemon, then you need to go back to college!
- Mitsubishi Mirage. While its natural to gravitate towards the lowest sticker price when youre fresh out of school, some things are too good to be true. Starting at $12,995, the Mitsubishi Mirage is a perfect example. While the 37 mile-per-gallon fuel economy may sound enticing, theres no hiding the Mirages wimpy 3-cylinder engine or its overall lack of acceleration. Adding insult to injury, the Mirage earned a rating of Poor in the IIHS small-overlap crash test – rendering it as dangerous as the Fiat 500L. Given that Millennials are more accident-prone than nearly any other age group, driving a car this unsafe is definitely a bad idea.
- Mitsubishi i-MiEV. As much as Millennials may want to make the right choice for the environment, investing $23,000 in the electric i-MiEV is the wrong choice for any graduates who value their money – or their life. Consumer Reports rated it the worst green car of 2016, calling it a half-step up from a golf cart. The i-MiEVs puny size, tinny construction and lack of safety features add up to virtually no protection in a collision scenario, while shaky handling, a stiff ride and the meek equivalent of a 66-horsepower engine make the iMiEV suitable for little more than side-street driving within a 20-mile radius of your home – which could easily rule out the commute to your new job.
- Dodge Journey. Between their major road-trip potential and capacity for hauling everything from mountain bikes to surfboards to the entire contents of your first apartment, massive SUVs are a popular choice for college grads – though few feel they can afford them. Starting at $20,995, the Journey may sound like a bargain for an 8-seater. But dont be fooled. As if the bouncy ride and confining interior werent bad enough, Consumer Reports blasted the Journey for its worst-in-class fuel economy of 26 miles per gallon on the highway, below-average reliability, and Poor rating in the IIHS small-overlap crash test. This is one Journey no Millennial should ever take.
- Mercedez-Benz CLA250. Most post-grads tend to be budget-conscious when it comes to buying cars. Nevertheless, the temptation to let style or status cloud your judgement is a powerful one – especially when youre in your early twenties. While a luxury compact like the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 may seem like a better idea than springing for an S-Class, spending money you dont have on this sub-par sedan is definitely not a good call. The starting sticker price of $32,000 is essentially a tease, since youll have to spend a lot more than that to get the luxury features that make a Mercedes a Mercedes. Reliability and owner satisfaction ratings are significantly below average, with drivers complaining about the punishingly stiff ride and claustrophobic interior. If luxury is that important to you, spring for a superior CPO option like the 2012 Audi A4 mentioned above. But lets face it – when youre fresh out of school, nobody expects you to be driving a Benz.