The Arizona College Students’ Guide to Buying a Used Car

Tips for Arizona’s Coeds Looking to Buy on a Budget

With the end of summer just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to get around when the school year kicks in. It’s no secret that as soon as you drive out of a dealership, the price of a new car instantly drops. That’s why as students, splashing out on a brand new set of wheels just isn’t savvy. Instead, pre-loved vehicles are the way to go.

Of course, knowing how to distinguish the gems from the old bombs is essential. As is choosing a car that suits your lifestyle. So to help you out, we’ve put together a guide to buying used cars, with a student friendly edge.

Two doors, or four?

One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is how many doors to opt for? While most standard cars feature four doors, you can also choose to go smaller and buy a car with two front doors, and a rear bench that can be accessed by folding down the front seats. If you’re planning on carpooling to college with three or more passengers, a four door car definitely trumps a two door option.

Fuel efficiency

Gas prices may have dropped significantly over the past two years, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be smart about choosing a fuel efficient vehicle. Depending on how far you commute to school each day, filling up the tank could become a major expense.


School parking can be a nightmare, especially when the parking spots are crammed. This is when it pays to have a small car that’s compact, and easy to park. If you’re planning on using your ride primarily as a mode of transport to and from school, small cars are your best bet. However, if you’re investing in not just a ride but a lifestyle accessory, you may want to upgrade to something a little roomier. For example, if you surf, kayak or camp, you’ll probably want a larger trunk, and more space for roof racks.

Age and mileage

As a general rule of thumb, newer cars tend to be more reliable than their older counterparts. That said, quality also depends heavily on treatment from the previous owner. Mileage can offer invaluable insight into the condition of a car, so be sure to check out the odometer.

The finer details

Like snowflakes, no two used cars are the same. This means its pays to take a close look at every car you check out. Keep an eye out for telltale signs of collision damage, like paint overspray on doors or shattered glass under the seats. Interior mildew odors could indicate water leaks, fresh undercoating may be covering up structural repairs, lit warning lights may indicate expensive engine issues and frothy motor oil is a classic sign of a blown head gasket.

Ultimately, there are a handful of different factors to consider when purchasing a new car. And to us, each and every one matters. Honing in on a new set of wheels shouldn’t be a matter of luck, divine intervention or any other form of chance. Yes, it takes homework, patience and street smarts, but if you follow these steps you should be able to find yourself a sweet ride, at a great student-friendly price.