The car buying process can be an intimidating one, especially if you are getting ready to graduate college (or you’ve recently done so).
I remember car shopping a few years back – my poor little Saturn had paid its dues and it was time to get something with a little more class (and safety) to it.
Now, I’ve never been one who likes to pay an arm and a leg for anything, so I immediately took to my computer and began searching for car deals for college graduates that would allow me to save money and keep my monthly payments down.
That’s when I was first introduced to the various programs below.
Although the requirements are subject to change and certain models may not be available under these special offers, they are definitely worth looking into because they could save you the hassle of finding a co-signer or having to pay higher interest rates.
Before you jump headfirst into your shopping, keep in mind that most of these programs only apply to new vehicles!
Let’s take a look at some of the deals:
GM (Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac) offers some great car deals for college graduates (less than two years removed from a two-year or four-year college) or those who have less than six months left until graduation.
Some select models are not available under this program, but there is a wide selection of models to choose from.
When you first enter the site, you can read about the GM College Discount guidelines, or you can jump straight to the build and price option.
While you are there, you can locate where your desired car is located. After doing so, simply print your authorization code (good for up to six months) and then show it to the dealer. You will then receive the discounted purchase price and you should be eligible for special financing as well.
Rather than offering a special discounted price, Ford’s college discount program offers $500 to students. According to the site, this offer is valid for all full-time and part-time students (including two-year, four-year, graduate schools, and trade schools), as well as recent college graduates.
Make sure you are attending a school that is accredited in order to receive the rebate!
You can fill in the application online to receive your $500 rebate, or you could walk into your local Ford dealership and show proof of your student status.
There are also some Lincoln models that are eligible for purchase under this discount as well!
The VW discount operates a little differently than the Ford and GM discounts.
Rather than offering you a set rebate amount, Volkswagen discount comes in the form of covering your first month’s car payment (maximum amount = $800).
Additionally, you do not need a co-signer and you do not have to have an established credit history.
It should also be noted that you need to have a full-time job or a letter from a future employer that you will be hired and starting on a specific date.
Although this extra stipulation may seem a little overboard, it makes sense because you wouldn’t want to be stuck paying for a car that you couldn’t afford after a few months.
To take advantage of this rebate, make sure you bring proof of your college degree (or a transcript that shows your anticipated graduation date) and proof of employment.
This is the first time I’ve heard of Lexus’ car discount program for recent graduates, but I’ll be honest and say that it’s because I could probably never afford a Lexus based on the money I make as a social services worker (it’s almost laughable sometimes).
After digging through the information a bit, I found that Lexus also requires college graduates to have proof of employment or future employment that will begin no more than 120 days later.
In contrast to the other programs, Lexus provides a few options for utilizing the discount:
- Grads can opt to receive $1,000 for a new CT200h or IS250/IS350 Sedan (models subject to change)
- Competitive deals and pricing on other new and used models
- The ability to defer payments for the first 90 days
Since the terms are not clearly defined on the site, any interested buyers should go to their nearest Lexus dealership to see what offers are available and how the recent college graduate car prices differs from regular prices.
Mazda’s college graduate discount program maintains the requirements of having graduated in the past two years or anticipated graduation in the next six months to be eligible for the special offers.
After these details, the exact rebate and/or discount amount becomes blurry because the site says to consult with your local dealer.
I decided to research some Mazda dealers and I found that certain locations offer lower APR rates while others simply have an upfront rebate (i.e. $250 toward the purchase of a new vehicle).
If your heart is set on getting a Mazda, make sure you discuss all of the details with your local dealer and do some of your own research. You may even want to print off some of the rebates and interest rates that other dealers are advertising and present that to the salesman or manager. Since car salesman are so eager to meet numbers and get deals (especially at the end of the month), they will probably match one of the other offers you found.
Kia was another company that I did a lot of research into when I was deciding which car to buy.
The discount and entire college grad program has changed a bit since I was car shopping back in 2012, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Recent graduates or soon-to-be graduates (look at the requirements in the above programs) are eligible for :
- A $400 rebate
- A free FICO score every quarter
- Deferred payments for up to 90 days (credit pending)
This is another program that requires a proof of employment or future employment (by this point, you can see that this is pretty standard – as I said before, it’s always best to wait until you have secured employment before you go out and buy a new vehicle).
If you just read the Kia details, then you also just read the Hyundai details (they are identical – no need to type all that out again, right?)
Nissan is similar to GM in the way they go about offering the discount.
Rather than stating an upfront rebate amount, college graduates get preferred pricing. Don’t worry – you still are eligible for nationwide rebates and incentives (as is true for all of the other programs mentioned).
The 90 day first payment deferment is also available under the Nissan College Grad Program, but you still need to have enough income to cover your living expenses and the car payment you would have if you purchased a vehicle from a dealer.
Acura’s college graduate program has a lot of similarities to the other companies, so I will save you the time and just point out some of the main points and differences:
- $500 rebate
- 5 percent down payment needed
- No bad credit history
You will still be required to show that you are employed, or will be soon, and you will need to provide proof of your college graduation (you can easily find a transcript online or photocopy your degree to demonstrate that you have met this requirement).
See the Acura requirements above
Toyota offers a $750 rebate for all eligible individuals (same requirements as above in regards to graduation time and employment).
The main factor I want to point out about this program is that currently only the Camry, Corolla, Prius c, RAV4, Tacoma, and Yaris are eligible.
If you are looking into other vehicles, it never hurts to negotiate with the car salesman and see if they can work something out to make up for your inability to get the $750 rebate (though keep in mind that you may not be eligible for deferred payments or special financing rates).
I Meet the Requirements, Now Tell Me How to Buy a Car!
If there’s one thing I hate it’s being pestered by those salesman who think they have you all figured out.
I know I don’t look intimidating – some people probably think I’m a pushover since I’m so small and fragile looking.
I knew that if anyone was going to take me seriously, I had to put on my game face and stand my ground no matter how pushy they got with me.
The most important advice I can give to anyone who is looking into buying a car is to do your research!
Now, I’m nowhere near being a car buying expert, but I can give you some of my own personal tips:
- Go to the dealership knowing what the average value of a car is worth (you can easily view inventory online and then use one of the free tools to estimate a fair purchase price)
- Educate yourself on current rebates and incentives (make sure these are included IN ADDITION to the college discounts you should be receiving)
- Don’t buy any add-on packages or coverage plans – I’m serious… say no to everything the finance guy offers you
- Don’t buy the car right on the spot – go to several dealers and open up some space between you and the car salesman. You may get a phone call with them offering you a better deal!
- Try shopping close to the end of the month – this is crunch time for dealers so they will be very motivated to work with you (don’t forget to bring those strong negotiation skills to the table!)
- Bring someone with you who knows something about cars
Ultimately, only you can decide which program fits your needs best. I encourage you to check ALL of your options before you make a final decision so that when you do finally sit in your new ride, you only feel success, not stress.