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 - April 10, 2018

Recent college grads and students graduating soon can get access to special discounts that help make it easier to get behind the wheel of 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 think, especially for those with limited credit histories. However, one of the benefits of college programs is that they can sometimes offer more relaxed loan requirements.

Promos can vary by manufacturer, so you'll need to know what to expect. So what kinds of discounts are there? How do you qualify? And what are some of the best programs right now?

Here's what you need to know.

Reviewed & updated April 10

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 goes for regular cashback 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 rates as part of monthly used car deals. 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 usually a very straightforward process. Some programs, like Ford's, 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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GM 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: January 2, 2019

Featured deal: Through April 30, up to $2,661 off the 2018 Chevy Cruze Hatchback (GM Supplier Pricing + $2,000 Customer Cash).

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Shop GMC models »

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Toyota College Grad Rebate

Key benefits: $750 College Grad Rebate + most 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 9, 2018

Featured deal: Through April 30, up to $2,250 off the 2018 Toyota C-HR ($1,500 Customer Cash + $750 College Grad Rebate) before dealer discounts. Offer vary by region, example assumes Southern California location.

Shop Toyota models »

Current Toyota Deals »

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Ford College Student Purchase Program

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, 2019

Featured Deal: Through April 30, up to $4,500 off 2018 Ford Focus ($4,000 Customer Cash + $500 College Student Bonus) before dealer discounts. Offers vary by region, example assumes California location.

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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 3/31/19 More Info Explore
BMW College Graduate Program Yes $1,000 Grads 1/02/19 More Info Explore
Ford College Student Purchase Program No $500 Students/Grads 1/02/19 More Info Explore
GM College Discount No Supplier Pricing Students/Grads 1/02/19 More Info Explore
Honda Graduate Program Yes $500 Grads 3/31/19 More Info Explore
Hyundai College Grad Program Yes $400 Grads 1/02/19 More Info Explore
Lexus College Graduate Program Yes $750 Grads 4/30/18 More Info Explore
MINI College Grad Program Yes $500 Grads 1/02/19 More Info Explore
Nissan College Grad Program No $500-$1,000 Grads Ongoing More Info Explore
Toyota College Grad Rebate Yes $750 Grads 7/09/18 More Info Explore
VW College Graduate Program Yes $500 Grads 1/02/19 More Info Explore

Updated April 10

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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 2017 Volkswagen Golf currently features up to $4,000 in unadvertised dealer cash incentives now that the updated 2018 model has arrived.

On the other hand, many brands offer 0% financing specials good for up to 72 months, although a big downside is that you'll generally have to give up rebates and have immaculate credit.

There are even 84-month financing deals, but we generally consider these 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 Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry and Mazda Mazda6 now feature comparable offers around $199/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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, 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