Edmunds: The best cars and leases for college drivers

If your college kid is in need of a car, here are some vehicles with excellent current lease deals that will fit both parental and college-driver requirements. Edmunds chose the cars to meet three key criteria: EXCELLENT REVIEWS: Edmunds editors chose these vehicles as among the best in their segment. TOP SAFETY RATING: Each vehicle on this list is a Top Safety Pick+ , a designation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). To qualify as a 2017 Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the five crashworthiness tests, earn an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention, and an acceptable or good headlight rating, according to the IIHS. Cars with this designation are the best vehicle choices for safety within size categories, the IIHS says. Each car also earned an overall five-star rating in the 5-Star Safety Ratings system from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While subcompact and compact cars are sometimes touted for young, college-bound drivers, this list focuses instead on midsize sedans and small SUVs. Safety is the reason. Although new small cars are safer than small cars have ever been, larger, heavier vehicles are still safer than small ones. It's a matter of physics: Bigger and heavier is safer than smaller and lighter. Large vehicles weigh more and have longer hoods and bigger crush zones, which give them an advantage in frontal crashes. And because price also is of paramount concern to parents and students, the list skips the more expensive large sedans, large SUVs and luxury vehicles. AFFORDABLE LEASES AND LOW COST OF OWNERSHIP: This list focuses on leasing because the monthly payment for a leased new car is typically lower than the monthly payment for a financed car. Also, the car will likely be under warranty for the duration of the lease, so parents and young drivers don't have to worry about the cost of upkeep or expensive repair bills. Contrast that with buying an older, out-of-warranty used car for your son or daughter. The car might have a low price, but its reliability and repair costs could be hard to predict. The nationally advertised leases shown below are all $1,999 to start and have a payment of either $199 or $189 per month. All leases are for three years and 36,000 miles. With a little bit of negotiation, it may be possible to shave a few dollars off the monthly payment or due-at-signing cost shown. A final word about leasing: It's not for everyone. Leasing has constraints that buying doesn't. The driver-to-be needs to understand and abide by the lease's conditions to avoid the high cost of exceeding the mileage limits or the excess wear-and-tear charges that come into play if the driver treats the car badly. It's a good idea to have a frank talk about those factors before signing a lease agreement.

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