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Best Cars For Back To School

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On: Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 9:36AM | By: Chris Weiss

Best Cars For Back To School

Back when I was in college about 10 years ago, your car was quite a status symbol. Kids drove around campus with their bright-rimmed, leather-seated, current-model-year rides pumping bass and feeling good about themselves. Nevermind the fact that the car lease was being paid for by the kid's grandma, the car made him look and feel like a player.  With gas prices hovering around $1 a gallon, fuel economy wasn't even a thought in the back of your mind, and you were free to get the biggest, loudest engine available without remorse.

The world has changed a lot in a decade. Market analysis like this has demonstrated that the car is sliding rapidly as a status symbol among youth. Many young people look at cars simply as a necessary evil needed to get around. With the world pushing greener lifestyles, the car may even be seen as a dirty, old remnant of outdated technology compared with newer, cleaner modes of transportation. So it's no surprise that the recommended cars for students aren't hot sports coupes--like the Acura Integra I used to drive around in college--but more practical, safe commuters. These options should make both kids and parents happy.

Earlier this month, Kelley Blue Book released its annual list of "Top 10 Back-to-School Cars." This year, the venerable experts over at Kelley listed five used cars and five new cars that provide the mix of reliability, safety, fuel, economy, versatility and fun. All of the used car options are model year 2007 or newer. While fast, fancy rides may be of decreasing importance to the younger generation, kids will still be kids, so Kelley tried to identify cars that are attractive and filled with brag-worthy technologies.

"Each year we have more great choices to consider for our top back-to-school rides list, because auto manufacturers continue to outdo themselves with the features and amenities they offer on vehicles that are optimal for students," Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for kbb.com said in a press release. "With so many vehicle choices, the key to shopping smart is finding a set of wheels that pleases both parent and child, which is no small task.

Frankly, I would have scoffed at much of this list when I was in high school or college, but with today's realigning auto values, it probably works better than ever. These are cars that will be reliable for getting to and from class and won't leave the student (or his parents) buried in a pile of debt. They're not really the hottest or best-looking cars on the market, but they get the job done. There's even a minivan on the list.

All of the used cars have a retail value of $12,000 or less, while new cars have a fair market price of $18,000 or less.

Used car picks include modest choices like the 2007 Nissan Sentra and 2008 Kia Sedona. The 2012 Hyundai Accent tops the list of recommended new cars. The list isn't without some flair, as distinctive automobiles like the Chevy HHR and Fiat 500 make the cut, but it's definitely more practical and less fun and sporty than in the past--like just a few years ago when kids were all about lively, youthful cars like the Mustangs and Jeep Wrangler.

You can view the entire list at Kelley Blue Book's website.


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