Best College Grad Discounts on New Cars

By

Senior Pricing Analyst

Alex Bernstein is the Senior Pricing Analyst for CarsDirect.com. Each month he studies immense volumes of pricing and incentives data in search of trends that are useful to car shoppers. In the process, he often breaks industry news stories -- his analyses and insights have been featured on websites such as Automotive News, The Detroit News, Autoblog, The Truth About Cars and The Car Connection.

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, Senior Pricing Analyst - June 13, 2017

Recent college grads and students graduating soon can often get access to special discounts to help make it easier to get into a new car. In some cases, current students and even newly-admitted students may also be eligible.

Being able to buy a new car can be harder than you might think. Buyers often need to have established credit to get access to the best rates. However, college graduate programs often offer more relaxed requirements to those with limited credit history.

Offers can vary greatly with each manufacturer, so you'll need to know what to expect. So what kinds of discounts are there? How can you qualify for them? And what are some of the best ones available now?

Here's what you need to know.

What kinds of college discounts are there?

College discounts can encompass a wide range of shoppers.

Most programs focus on graduates and offer a rebate ranging between $400 and $1,000. In many cases, shoppers must finance through the manufacturer, but this isn't always the case.

If you prefer to take advantage of one of the outstanding lease deals being advertised, you'll be happy to hear that college discounts are often compatible. The same often goes for cashback & finance incentives.

Honda Fit

Apart from discounts, a key feature to college grad incentives is that they usually offer relaxed credit requirements for auto loans. This can be a make-or-break point for those still in the process of building their credit. This is a bit like first-time buyer programs offered by some automakers.

But you don't have to buy a new car to save money. Certified pre-owned cars are often eligible for special loan rates. In addition to not paying a premium for a new car, CPO cars have the added peace of mind of a limited extended warranty.

Most shoppers should be aware that current students can also sometimes be eligible for discounts. For example, Ford and GM both extend their offers to current enrolled students. In Ford's case, even newly-accepted college students are eligible.

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How to get a college discount

Getting a college discount is often a straightforward process. Some programs, like Ford, simply require showing proof of current enrollment for students in good academic standing. If you're a graduate, typical requirements are:

  • Proof of graduation within the last 2 years or within the next 6 months
  • No adverse credit history
  • Proof of employment

In some cases, like with Honda and Acura, a down payment of up to 5% may also be required. Rules can vary, so be sure to ask your dealer for the latest details.

Don't forget— most college discounts are stackable with current offers. Combining deals can equate to serious savings if you know where to look.

Below are some of our favorite college discounts available now.

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General Motors College Discount

Chevy Cruze

Key Benefits: GM Supplier Pricing + Most Current Offers

Who's eligible: Current students, grads within the last 2 years.

Why we love this deal: GM's offer gets you access to Supplier Pricing, which is essentially the invoice price plus a small program fee. Since the discount is already calculated for you, no haggling is required for you to get a good deal. You also get access to most other factory discounts.

Expiration: Ongoing

Featured Deal: Up to $2,176 off MSRP on the 2017 Chevy Cruze LT Hatchback (GM Supplier Pricing - $1,500 cashback).

Shop Chevy models »

Shop GMC models »

Shop Buick models »

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Toyota College Grad Rebate

Toyota Corolla

Key Benefits: $750 College Grad Rebate + Current Offers

Who's eligible: Graduates within the last 2 years or next 6 months opting to finance or lease through Toyota Financial.

Why we love this deal: Toyota offers one of the larger cashback deals among mainstream automakers. Even better, you can combine the offer with other rebates when you finance at non-promotional rates.

Expiration: July 5, 2017

Featured Deal: Up to $2,750 off all versions of the 2017 Toyota Corolla ($2,000 rebate + $750 college grad rebate) through July 5, before dealer discounts.

Current Toyota Deals »

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Ford College Student Purchase Program

Ford Escape

Key Benefits: $500 College Student Bonus + Current Offers

Who's eligible: Current students, those graduating within the program period

Why we love this deal: Another program that benefits both current students and recent graduates, combining the deal with Ford's already aggressive offers can yield remarkable savings.

Expiration: January 2, 2018

Featured Deal: Through July 5, up to $4,400 off any 2017 Ford Escape ($3,900 rebate + $500 College Student Bonus). All before dealer discounts.

Current Ford Deals »

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More College Grad Discounts

Here are some additional examples currently available to shoppers. Programs can change, so be sure to check with your dealer for the latest offers.

Manufacturer Requires Financing Discount Eligibility Expiration Program Website Current Lineup
Acura College Graduate Program Yes $500 Grads 3/31/18 More Info Explore
BMW College Graduate Program Yes $1,000 Grads Ongoing More Info Explore
Ford College Student Purchase Program No $500 Students/Grads 1/02/18 More Info Explore
GM College Discount No Supplier Pricing Students/Grads Ongoing More Info Explore
Honda Graduate Program Yes $500 Grads 3/31/18 More Info Explore
Hyundai College Grad Program Yes $400 Grads 1/02/18 More Info Explore
Kia College Graduate Incentive Program Yes $400 Grads 7/10/17 More Info Explore
Lexus College Graduate Program Yes $1,000 Grads 1/02/18 More Info Explore
MINI College Grad Program Yes $500 Grads 1/02/18 More Info Explore
Toyota College Grad Rebate Yes $750 Grads 7/5/17 More Info Explore
VW College Graduate Program Yes $500 Grads 1/02/18 More Info Explore

Updated June 13, 2017

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How often do college discounts change?

College discounts tend not to change much over the course of the year. When we do see changes, it's usually around May or June during the typical graduation season.

Interestingly, this coincides with a time of year in which supplies have started improving following early spring vehicle introductions. You'll often find outstanding deals during this period.

For example, the Hyundai Sonata currently features up to $6,750 in savings, making it the best deal on a midsize car. At the moment, it's also common to find 0% APR financing for 72 months from brands like Nissan and Toyota, but you'll need immaculate credit.

Volkswagen Jetta

There are even 84-month financing deals, but these are generally not advisable. In most cases, shoppers will find that it makes more sense to take a shorter loan or use rebates to reduce their costs.

If you're looking to lease, midsize cars offer a ton of value at the moment. Due to a slump in demand, discounts are up, and the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and VW Passat now feature comparable offers starting at $189/month.

However, a cheap payment doesn't necessarily equate to a good deal. In fact, we've found a number of $199-and-under offers that equate to terrible values.

If you're a college grad looking for a new car to make the journey with into your new life, chances are good that there's a deal you'll like on a car you'll love. Just be sure to do your research in advance.

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For an easy way to find the best deals, visit the CarsDirect Deals Page for the latest deal-related news and analyses. Browse expert buying advice updated monthly on hundreds of models for insider insights you'll only find at CarsDirect. Be sure to sign up for email alerts to have the latest deals delivered straight to your inbox.

Offers listed here are based on a resident in Southern California and may be subject to change. Most lease offers are for well-qualified buyers based on available credit and exclude tax, license, title, registration, document fees and insurance. Not all buyers may qualify. Please check with your CarsDirect Trusted Dealer to confirm details and eligibility.

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, Senior Pricing Analyst

Alex Bernstein is the Senior Pricing Analyst for CarsDirect.com. Each month he studies immense volumes of pricing and incentives data in search of trends that are useful to car shoppers. In the process, he often breaks industry news stories -- his analyses and insights have been featured on websites such as Automotive News, The Detroit News, Autoblog, The Truth About Cars and The Car Connection.

Follow On: Google+ | Website