Running a car while you’re a student is not easy. Everything is expensive, and unexpected bills always seem to crop up just before your next loan is due to come in. You’ll want to spend as little as possible on your wheels, and hope that nothing major goes wrong during ownership. If you’re on the hunt for a used car, then keep these points in mind while you’re looking.


Mileage is probably one of the first things you’ll look at when you’re browsing. It’s an important indicator of how well used the car is, but it doesn’t tell you the whole story. A small French hatchback for instance, is going to be unreliable at 100k, but a decent sized Japanese car will be unfazed by such mileage. Sites like Exchange and Mart let you filter by mileage, so use this function. Motorway miles are fine, but a car that’s been in stop-start traffic all its life is going to be more worn.


Age isn’t quite as important as you might think. Within a bracket of several years, mileage will tell you far more about the likely mechanical condition of the vehicle, so don’t get picky in deciding between cars that are only a few years apart.


This is an interesting one. It’s easy to simply look for the very cheapest cars to insure, but there can be a false economy here. That French hatchback is going to have a lower premium, but spend a bit more and you might be able to get a much more solid car. There’s every chance that you’ll spend more in repairs on a poorer car, so weigh up your options.

Fuel Economy

If you’re going to be using the car to commute, then you’ll want something that’s not going to drink fuel. Keep the engine size as small as possible, and go for diesels where possible. You should avoid turbocharged petrols, as they may be a lot more uneconomical than the engine size might suggest. Turbodiesels are fine.


As already mentioned, some cars are better equipped to deal with mileage than others. More reliable cars could save you a fortune during ownership. It’s relatively easy to check out reliability ratings online. All you need to consider is the likelihood of repair compared with the cost. You could for instance replace the same component on a Renault two or three times, and it may still be cheaper than once on a BMW.