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Best cars for students 2023

If you got your grades and student life beckons here are some of the best cars for campus life, and tips on how to run a car at uni

Dan Trent

Additional words by: Dan Trent

Last updated on 16 August 2023 | 0 min read

If you’re thinking about celebrating your uni place with a car, or just wondering how you’ll get about once you’re on campus, here’s a good place to start – the best cars for students in 2023.
Scroll down for our tops tips on student car finance and student car insurance.

What to look for in a student car

Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for your first car, or a car more suitable for life at university or college:
• Fuel economy – wconsider the type of driving you’ll be doing and compare the efficiency of cars on your shortlist, be that the miles per gallon for conventionally fuelled cars or miles per kWh for electric ones. • Practicality – you’ll probably need something handy for lugging your possessions between uni and home or carting your friends around at weekends. • Affordability – use our price indicator tool to see if you’re getting your money’s worth. • Style – this might be a big factor to you, and that’s fine if it is, but if you’re on a budget, being trendy doesn’t mean as much to others as you probably think it does. • Driving style – everyone’s driving style is different, so find a car that suits you – if you’re new to driving, find one that’s easy to get around in. We’d recommend looking at cars in an affordable insurance category, with a good reputation for reliability and a decent fuel economy.

Cheap cars for students

Ideal if you’re on a budget and looking for a car that’s cheap to buy, cheap to run and cheap to insure.

Dacia Sandero

Dacia frequently wins best value brand in our annual New Car Awards. Its cars are just what cost-conscious buyers like students want, and the Sandero is no exception. Recently updated with more stylish colours and branding, the Dacia Sandero is far more spacious than similarly priced city cars but the main selling point is the price. It’s the UK’s cheapest car, and Dacia also offer a comprehensive three-year warranty – which should comfortably see you through the bulk of your course.
Read the full review.

Hyundai i10

If not quite as cheap as it once was the latest Hyundai i10 is still very affordably priced. It’s also a good-looking car, and optional contrast roof colours help jazz up the exterior while the inside benefits from lots of standard kit and a decent amount of space. Hyundai makes pretty reliable cars, and this one is backed up with a very generous five-year warranty as well. The Hyundai i10 is also includes safety features like a radar for potential hazards and active lane keeping, meaning it could be one to consider for less confident drivers.
Read our Hyundai i10 review.

Best cars for new drivers

Well worth a look if you're new to the road. Look for cars with a good track record in reliability and safety, and find one that's easy to drive around and park in.

Renault Zoe

Voted the best car for new drivers in our 2021 New Car Awards the Renault Zoe is still one of Europe’s best selling electric cars. Easy to drive and park, the Renault Zoe has a decent range for nipping about town and doesn’t cost much to run or service.
It’s one of the cheapest electric cars you can buy and is very practical for its size. Take a look.

Volkswagen Up!

While its Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo blood brothers are still available on the used market the Volkswagen Up is, at the time of writing, the only one you can still buy new. Which is good news, because it’s still a stylish little car that combines city-friendly proportions with the cachet of that VW badge on the nose.

Electric and hybrid cars for students

Electric and hybrid cars might be pricier up front, but lower running costs, tax advantages and a host of other factors mean they’re more affordable than you think.

Nissan Leaf

The entry-level Nissan Leaf is an affordable one, offering plenty of kit as standard and a zippy performance. Take a look at finance options or a second-hand Leaf if you’re unsure about the upfront cost.
As with any electric car, the real savings come from charging (compared to refuelling petrol or diesel), especially if you have home charging in halls, or on campus. Learn more about electric cars and find electric car deals, including monthly finance options.
White Nissan Leaf - one of the best electric cars for students
Nissan Leaf

Renault Clio E-tech hybrid

If you’re not ready to take the plunge and get a full electric car, a hybrid is the next best step.
Recently updated with fresh styling and improved tech, the Clio E-tech hybrid offers a specially adapted 1.6-litre petrol engine paired with a main electric motor capable of driving the car on its own (driving using electric power only), or alongside the internal combustion engine as needed. Read our long-term review to find out what it’s actually like to live with a Renault Clio hybrid. Learn more about hybrids and find hybrid car deals, including monthly finance options.

Cars on finance for students

There are some fantastic PCP car finance deals if you’re looking to buy and pay monthly. You could get a decent new car for a couple of hundred quid a month and get the peace of mind offered by a new warranty.
If you’re not fussed about owning the car, and just want to drive it for a few years while you’re at university – car leasing might be another option to consider.

Used cars for students

There’s also a ton of used cars that are ideal for student drivers for very reasonable prices. If you’re looking at older cars, just factor in the breakdown cover and the potential cost of repairs should anything go wrong.
Remember: cars over three years old will need an MOT every year, so work that into your budget and try looking for a car with a lot of its current MOT remaining if you can.

Student car insurance

One of the big costs for new-ish drivers is insurance. A lack of no-claims bonus, and the perceived higher risk of accidents, mean newer drivers tend to pay higher premiums at first. There are, however, ways you can keep your insurance costs down on your student car.

How to keep your car insurance down

• Install a telematics device (black box) – these factor your driving style alongside your age and address, meaning safe drivers tend to be rewarded with lower premiums.
• Pay your premium in one go, if you can afford the lump sum. It works out cheaper overall than paying in instalments where you’ll be paying monthly interest. • If you’re not likely to be doing many miles (and only drive a weekend, for example), then a low annual mileage estimation could bring the price down. • You could also take a Pass Plus course – some insurers will take this into consideration and offer you a cheaper premium if you’ve got one.
Ultimately, you need to find the level of cover that’s right for you. Third-party only is often seen as the cheapest, but that’s not always the case. Compare car insurance quotes to find the cover that’s affordable and gives you the peace of mind and coverage you need to feel comfortable and confident driving around.
If you’re taking a car with you to university, then don’t forget to change the address on your car insurance. This could be the address of your student halls or shared house or flat. If you don’t change the address, you could invalidate any claims.

Driving to university

If you can, it’d be well worth practising the route to uni before moving day. This’ll give you a chance to explore the roads without the stress of moving day.
While you’re there, you could also practise the routes to and from campus, and any other trips you’ll likely be taking (nearby shops, gyms etc.) so you’re familiar with the road systems.

Parking at university

Check whether there’s any parking space available before you go. If you’re in halls, you might be able to get parking permit from the university. If it’s a house-share with a drive, you might have to draw up a parking rota (unless you’re lucky enough to be the only driver in the house).
If neither of those are applicable, you’ll have to master the parallel park and find on-street parking spaces. You can try Google Maps to find suitable streets, but make sure you’re following the rules of the road (not parking on a bend, at a bus stop, near a school entrance or suchlike) and factor in that many cities may have residents’ permit systems or other local parking restrictions. That may cause complications until you can prove you live in the area and have your paperwork logged at the address so factor in a little extra faff for that, or hold off bringing your car to uni until you can get that all sorted.