Five Affordable Cars for a Student Budget

We’ve entered the #Back2School season for both high school and university students. Student budgets are notorious for being tight for everything from clothes to Kraft Dinners, and especially transportation.

If you’re looking for a vehicle to get you to and from school, it’s important to consider affordability without sacrificing safety and a little bit of fun.

We’ve got 5 cars that should do the trick.


1) 2004 ACURA TL BASE 4D SEDAN 3.2

Acura sedan left side

Imagine being able to drive a luxury vehicle to school without the price tag. We found that the Acura TL can turn heads without breaking your bank

  • Safety: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the TL as “good” after testing: moderate overlap front impacts, side impacts, roof strength, head restraints and seats
  • Affordability: ~5,500 CDN. Not bad for a fancy sedan that has a spacious leather interior, 258 horsepower, and durability (it’s made by Honda afterall)
  • Fun: A reliable and safe sedan, the TL has XM satellite radio, Bluetooth and has some get-up and go when you need it.

Watch the review and test drive.

2) 2010 Toyota Corolla

closeup tire tread

This may not be the sportiest of cars, but the 2010 Corolla sure lasts a loooong time. The 2010 Toyota Corolla is a healthy fit for a student budget.

  • Safety: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2010 Corolla a rating of good for crashworthiness (a scary thought, but the IIHS tests that).
  • Affordability: ~$8,500 CDN for a practical design and hefty fuel savings of 34 MPG on the highway.
  • Fun: A super-reliable and safe sedan, the TL represents a very good older car with a bit of style.

Watch the Corolla walkaround review. You can even see How It’s Made.

3) 2013 Nissan Leaf

2013 Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s Electric Vehicle (EV) Leaf floated onto our list as used, more affordable models became available. There’s no doubt these feisty hatchbacks get the job done in terms of fun and fuel.

  • Safety: The newest Leaf is still being rated by the IIHS, but older models like 2013 have been given the green light (other than their child seat anchors which you probably won’t need).
  • Affordability: ~$15,000 CDN. Okay, of the five, this might not be as friendly to a student budget, but the fuel savings (over 115 MPG) outweigh the overall cost. Want to try the Nissan Savings Calculator?
  • Fun: Some university campuses give electric vehicles (EVs) preferential treatment when it comes to parking (nifty eh?). Even if you get an older model, you’ll still get street cred with both green fiends and tech geeks alike. Plus, there’s a super quiet cabin with lots of room for you and and your friends (and your belongings) in the Leaf.



2007 Mitsubishi Outlander

Resembling the classic look of a Mercedes-Benz M-class with a sporty 220 HP engine, the 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander has useful controls and a roomy cabin for all those fast-food runs with friends.

  • Safety: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Outlander “good” or “average” in tests for moderate overlap front impacts, side impacts, roof strength and head restraints. It comes with 4WD so you can stick to the snowy roads.
  • Affordability: ~$7,000 CDN isn’t bad for a versatile SUV and gets 26 MPG on the highway to boot.
  • Fun: If you’re looking for a 4-wheel drive SUV for next year’s Spring Break road trip (that comes with paddle shifters for added kick), this is a good overall choice and price point.

Watch the video review.



2006 Volkswagen Passat

It’s hard to go wrong with German engineering, but keep in mind that most VWs can have higher maintenance bills when they need some TLC.

  • Safety: The Passat got a “good” in tests for moderate overlap front impacts, side impacts, roof strength and head restraints by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
  • Affordability: ~$7,900 CDN. Considering this was a higher end vehicle in its heyday, you get a lot of Germanic bells and whistles for a decent buck. These include a fancy key fob push button start, stylish interior and exterior, and a release brake button, kind of like an Audi A4!
  • Fun: This is a truly European car. It’s firm behind the wheel but not as reliable compared to other foreign vehicles. So make sure you get a detailed mechanical inspection. But the price is right and the safety story is even better.

Watch a review of the Passat.



Have a look at CARPROOF’s reasons for a pre-purchase inspection. At the very least, grab a Carproof accident history report on the vehicle.

If you want to get a good grade on your student budget, Carrot’s insurance program awards safe driving with up to $200 every year and 10% off new driver insurance!



Carrot is as easy to use as ABC:

  1. Enroll with InsureMy (plus get a 10% discount)
  2. Connect your vehicle to the Drive With Carrot App
  3. Buckle up and start getting cash rewards for driving smart!

Want to Get Started? Click ahead!

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