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.

Follow On: Google+ | Website

, Senior Pricing Analyst - June 9, 2016

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 what kinds of discounts are there? How can you qualify for them? And what are some of the best examples 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.

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 a credit history.

But you don't have to buy a new car in order 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 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.

Back to top of page

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.

Back to top of page

Here are some of our favorite college discounts available now:

General Motors College Discount

Key Benefits: GM Supplier Pricing + most current incentives

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 $2,026 off MSRP on the 2016 Chevy Sonic LT Hatchback (GM Supplier Pricing - $1,500 in cashback) through June 30.

Shop Chevrolet models »

Back to top of page

Toyota College Grad Rebate

Key Benefits: $750 College Grad Rebate + most current incentives

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, 2016

Featured Deal: Up to $2,750 off all versions of the 2016 Toyota Corolla ($2,000 rebate + $750 college grad rebate) through July 5, all before dealer discounts.

Shop Toyota models »

Back to top of page

Ford College Student Purchase Program

Key Benefits: $500 College Student Bonus + most current incentives

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 3, 2017

Featured Deal: Through June 20, up to $3,500 off MSRP on all versions of the 2016 Ford Focus ($2,000 cash + $1,000 Ford Smart Bonus + $500 college student bonus), before dealer discounts.

Shop Ford models »

Back to top of page

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
Acura College Graduate Program Yes $500 Grads 7/31/16 More Info
BMW College Graduate Program Yes $1,000 Grads Ongoing More Info
Ford College Student Purchase Program No $500 Students/Grads 1/3/17 More Info
GM College Discount No Supplier Pricing Students/Grads Ongoing More Info
Honda Graduate Program Yes $500 Grads 7/31/16 More Info
Hyundai College Grad Program Yes $400 Grads 1/2/17 More Info
Kia College Graduate Incentive Program Yes $400 Grads 7/5/16 More Info
Lexus College Graduate Program Yes $1,000 Grads 1/3/17 More Info
MINI College Grad Program Yes $500 Grads 4/2/17 More Info
Scion College Graduate Program Yes $500 Grads 7/5/16 More Info
Toyota College Grad Rebate Yes $750 Grads 7/5/16 More Info
Volkswagen College Graduate Program Yes $500 Grads 8/31/16 More Info

Back to top of page

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 graduation season.

This also coincides with a time of year in which supplies have started improving following early spring model launches. You'll often find an array of outstanding deals during this period.

For example, through July 5, Honda is offering grads 0.9% APR financing for 60 months on the 2016 HR-V, 2016 Civic and 2016 Fit. That's impressive considering these models rarely get special financing offers.

In another case, Volkswagen began offering a $500 college grad discount in May toward all finance and lease contracts, through August 31. Popular models like the Jetta and Passat also get an additional $1,000 holiday bonus through Memorial Day.

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.

Start your new car search »

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 nearly 300 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.

Back to top of page

, 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