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Having a car in college can be a huge benefit. It can also be expensive. So we put together a list of the five best cars for college students.

best cars for college students

Before heading off to college, you have many decisions to make. What should you study? Should you take out student loans? How much can you budget for monthly expenses? You may even be considering a new car for getting to and from class or back home to visit the parents. But which vehicles are a wise choice for college students?

Let’s take a look at some of the most economical cars on the market today. These cars are both reliable and budget-friendly.

Vehicle Expenses

There are many costs to consider in college. Tuition and fees can run tens of thousands of dollars, on top of room and board, books, and even fun money. When you consider that most college students are working part-time (if at all) and strapped for cash, it makes sense to minimize expenses where you can.

Owning a vehicle can be a considerable expense. First you have to consider the actual cost of the car, of course. But you also have to consider its fuel efficiency, insurance premiums, and maintenance costs. If you plan to park a vehicle on campus, you also need to think about the added fee for parking permits. And don’t forget about the potential for citations for speeding or improper parking.

Of course, you also want a vehicle that meets your needs. Beyond simply getting you from point A to point B, you need a car that is reliable, safe, and has the features you use most often. Considering that some of these high-tech features like hands-free Bluetooth, USB ports, and GPS are standard in many of today’s vehicles, there’s no reason you can’t find exactly what you need.

With all these factors in mind, let’s explore five of the best, most cost-effective vehicles for students today.

Honda Civic

Honda has been a popular vehicle with the younger crowd for decades, largely because it’s affordable and fuel-efficient. Today’s Civics, though, also boast incredible safety ratings as well as a high-tech interior. All combined, it’s an excellent vehicle choice for college students.

The base model sedan has an MRSP of only $18,840, yet comes with an impressive list of tech features. Backup camera, bluetooth phone, bluetooth audio, and USB ports come standard. You can also add features like real-time traffic and

navigation, voice recognition, weather, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, heated and cooled seats, side mirror cameras, and more.

The 2018 Civic gets an impressive 40 MPG on the highway and 28 MPG in the city. This makes it easy to get to and from class or back home to visit, without spending a ton on gas.

Lastly, and most importantly, the new Honda Civics are incredibly safe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2018 model an overall five out of five stars, the highest possible safety rating.

  • Sedan base price: MSRP $18,840
  • Standard features: backup camera, bluetooth, USB ports
  • Fuel efficiency: 40 MPG (highway) / 28 MPG (city)
  • Safety: 5-star NHTSA rating

Kia Forte

Another incredibly safe, yet affordable, college car is the Kia Forte. This little gem is fuel-efficient and sporty, while also giving you all of the newest features standard.

If opting for the most affordable model, the LX, you’ll see a starting MSRP of only $16,800. With that comes a backup camera, standard on all vehicles beginning with the 2018 model year. It also comes with heated mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, an audio- and phone-controlling steering wheel, and USB port. Upgrade to the S model (with an MSRP of $19,400) and you’ll also get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 7” touch-screen display, and dual 12V outlets. There are also additional options like a Smart Trunk, blind spot detection, and lane change assist.

You won’t spend an arm and a leg for fuel with the Kia Forte, either. This car gets an impressive 37 MPG highway and 29 MPG city, while still bringing along between 147 and 164 horsepower.

Of course, it’s also a safe vehicle, getting a full five-star safety rating from the NHTSA.

  • LX base price: MSRP $16,800
  • Standard features: backup camera, bluetooth, heated mirrors, steering wheel controls, USB ports
  • Fuel efficiency: 37 MPG (highway) / 29 MPG (city)
  • Safety: 5-star NHTSA rating

Chevrolet Sonic

If you’re looking for a fuel-efficient car that offers plenty of storage space for your weekend adventures without being too big, the Chevy Sonic is for you. This car comes in three trim options, each with neat features standard and excellent gas mileage.

The base trim model, the LT, starts with an MSRP of $17,395. It comes standard with features like steering wheel controls, OnStar, power outlets and auxiliary jacks, and a rear vision camera. Bump up to the next trim, the LS, and you’ll also get a standard remote start system, SiriusXM, and heated mirrors. This model starts at only $19,295. All models boast 138 horsepower and get 37 MPG highway and 28 MPG city.

You’ll get a complimentary two years’ scheduled maintenance with the Sonic, as well as a 3 year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty. This gives you the peace of mind that you won’t have to worry about any mechanical failures or added expenses for quite a while!

Yet again, we have another car with a perfect 5-star safety rating from the

NHTSA, so you can feel safe and secure in the Chevy Sonic.

  • LT base price: MSRP $17,395
  • Standard features: backup camera, bluetooth, OnStar, steering wheel controls, USB ports
  • Fuel efficiency: 37 MPG (highway) / 28 MPG (city)
  • Safety: 5-star NHTSA rating

Hyundai Elantra

This next vehicle comes with six trim options, giving you many choices for finding the perfect combination for your needs. The 2018 Hyundai Elantra is a sporty sedan with good gas mileage, reliability, and a ton of tech features.

The base model (SE) has a starting MSRP of only $17,950 and comes with standard features like steering wheel audio controls, Bluetooth audio and phone capability with voice recognition, as well as USB and auxiliary jacks. Upgrade to the SEL trim (MSRP $18,850), and you’ll also get a 7-inch touchscreen display, SiriusXM, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, heated side mirrors, and individual tire pressure indicators.

All trims come with a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, 5 year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, and 5 year/unlimited miles 24/7 roadside assistance. This added security can be invaluable, especially when a college student is living far from home.

The SE trim gets 38 MPG highway and 29 MPG city, while the SEL drops slightly to 37 MPG highway and 28 MPG city. The 2018 Elantra also scores well for safety, getting a 4-star rating from the NHTSA.

  • SE base price: MSRP $17,950
  • Standard features: backup camera, bluetooth, steering wheel controls, USB ports
  • Fuel efficiency: 38 MPG (highway) / 29 MPG (city)
  • Safety: 4-star NHTSA rating

Mazda 3

Last but not least, we have the sleek Mazda 3. This sedan comes in three trims (Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring), all of which have an MSRP under $25,000.

The Sport is the base model but brings with it an impressive 155 horsepower for an affordable $19,145 price tag. It also comes standard with a high-end suite of features, like a 7-inch touchscreen display, Pandora/Stitcher/Aha radio integration, SMS text message audio delivery/reply, steering wheel controls, rear view camera, E911 automatic emergency notification, power side mirrors, USB ports and auxiliary jacks, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, push-button start, 12V outlet, and a voice command system. That’s a pretty impressive list for a base model’s standard features.

It’s estimated fuel efficiency is 37 MPG highway and 28 MPG city, even though it has a SKYACTIV transmission with sport mode. But don’t worry, it’s also a safe car: it scored 5 out of 5 stars from the NHTSA.

  • SE base price: MSRP $19,145
  • Standard features: backup camera, Bluetooth, steering wheel controls, USB ports, 12V outlet, online radio integration, voice command system, 7-inch touchscreen, power side mirrors, push-button start, and more
  • Fuel efficiency: 37 MPG (highway) / 28 MPG (city)
  • Safety: 5-star NHTSA rating

Going off to college brings with it many new considerations and expenses. One of them might be a new car. That way, you can ensure that your child has a safe, reliable vehicle for getting to and from class, or back home to visit (and do laundry!).

These five cars are perfect for getting around campus, finding parking before class, and staying safe while on the road. They all have excellent safety ratings, high fuel efficiency, and a reasonable price tag, while still offering the features that young kids want most.

Is a new car a consideration for your new college student? What are your biggest priorities, if so?


Nothing is more important for your safety than a reliable smoke detector. To help you make a wise choice, here are the best smoke detectors for your money.

best smoke detectors

Having adequate and working smoke alarms in your home isn’t just a personal preference. These gadgets are easy to take for granted. But they can mean the difference between life and death for you and your family, as well as neighbors and others around you. So which smoke detector is the best for your money?

There are many different brands, models, and types of smoke alarms on the market. This makes picking the right one for your home confusing, especially if you need to stay within a budget.

Luckily, we are making the process easier for you. We have combed through the options to bring you the best of the best in each possible smoke detector category, based on consumer reviews and features available. That way, you can ensure that your family is safe, no matter how much you can afford to spend.

What Your Home Needs

There’s no question: smoke detectors save lives. In fact, over 60% of fire-related home deaths between 2009 and 2014 involved houses without a working alarm. So, it’s easy to understand how using the right alarms can not only save your home but also your family in case of a fire.

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends each home have a smoke detector on each level, in each bedroom, and outside each sleeping area, at a minimum. For an average two-story house with three bedrooms, this would mean at least 5 alarms. Depending on the configuration of your home, whether you have a basement, the height of your ceilings, and other factors, you may want to consider installing even more than that.

The NFPA recommends you install interconnected smoke alarms. That way when one alarm goes off, they all go off. Otherwise, you could have a fire in your basement but still not be alerted to the smoke in time because you couldn’t hear the alarm from the top floor. Even the most affordable smoke alarms today can often be programmed to connect with one another..

You should test your smoke alarms monthly to ensure that they are working properly and that the batteries are in good order. After 10 years, you should replace the detectors altogether, even if they seem to still be working fine.

Optional Features

Today’s smoke alarms offer a variety of additional features. The most common are carbon monoxide detection, WiFi connectivity, mobile and/or voice alerts, and home automation interface to work with systems like Amazon’s Alexa or the Nest system.

In 2010, fire departments in the U.S. responded to an average of nine calls per hour where homes had detectable levels of carbon monoxide (CO). Called the silent killer, CO is most often found in homes that burn fuels for heating or cooking. However, it can also spread from areas like the garage, where vehicles emit the odorless gas.

The NFPA recommends that each home have one carbon monoxide detector on each level, as well as one outside each sleeping area and any area where you use natural gases, wood, or other fuels for heat or cooking. Because of this, it’s often useful to purchase a smoke detector that is also a combination CO detector. This saves you both money and time for maintenance/installation/testing. In addition, it saves you wall and ceiling space!

Smoke detectors with mobile alerts will let you know when an alarm event has occurred, regardless of where you are. Even if you don’t have a smoke detector system through your home security system, you can still be in the loop with what’s going on in your home. You can even alert the fire department if there is a fire while you’re away. This can potentially save your home from serious damage!

Alarm systems with voice alerts will not only sound a shrill notification, but a voice will sound letting you know why the alarm is going off. This is useful if you have a combination smoke/CO detector. That way you know which alert is setting off the alarm. It’s also helpful if you need to decipher between an actual alert and a low battery notice.

Lastly, WiFi connectivity is popular. This allows you to connect your alarms to a system like Nest or Alexa, remotely monitoring your home in yet another way. You’ll get notifications when batteries are low, monitor alerts remotely, and silence false alarms from within the system’s smartphone app.

The Best Detectors on the Market

So, which smoke detectors are the best available? And which one will meet your needs and budget? Here are our favorite values based on the features offered, consumer reviews, and, of course, the price tag.

Nest Protect–Best Performance & Versatility

Whether or not you utilize the Nest home automation system, the Nest Protect smoke alarm is a great value. It’s a top-of-the-line detector that alerts you to the presence of both smoke and carbon monoxide. It has optional WiFi connectivity and gives voice alerts when it has low batteries or detects an event.

You can also link the Nest Protect system to Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Nexia, Vera, or Wink. No matter which home automation platform you prefer, this alarm is likely compatible.

You can hardwire Nest Protect or power it by battery, depending on your preferences. If you download the app, you can also control your alarms in addition to any other Nest products you may own. You can remotely monitor the alarm’s status and even conduct your monthly tests directly from your phone. No more climbing up a ladder just to push test buttons!

Lastly, and most importantly, is the fact that Nest Protect receives excellent ratings for its smoke and CO detectability. This alarm offers not only a user-friendly experience, but the peace of mind that you need for your family and your home.

You can purchase the Nest Protect for $119 from Amazon.

First Alert 3120B–Best Value

If you’re looking for a smoke alarm that is both affordable and has excellence performance ratings, look no further than the First Alert 3120B.

This alarm offers both ionization and photoelectric sensors. This means it detects both smoldering fires and fast-spreading, high burning ones. It can connect to other units, creating a system of alarms that will all sound when one senses danger.

The detector is hardwired but also includes a battery backup. Its lightning system offers additional information after an event. This lets you know which smoke detector sounded first in an emergency, or which alarm has a low battery that needs changing.

This system is much more affordable than the Nest Protect. While it doesn’t have voice alerts, Wifi connectivity, or an app, it offers protection from two different types of fires for a fraction of the cost.

You can purchase the First Alert 3120B for $32 from Amazon.

Kidde Combination Smoke/CO Detector–Best Combo Alarm Value

If you’re looking to stay within budget but want a combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector, this Kidde alarm is perfect for you.

For a fraction of the cost of a smart detector, you can install the Kidde alarms throughout your house to protect against fires and CO poisoning. The alarm offers voice alerts so you’ll know which event has triggered the system. And you can connect multiple units to one another through your WiFi network.

The detectors are run entirely off of battery power, too. So they don’t need to be hardwired. While this means that you definitely need to stay vigilant about your monthly testing (and regular battery replacement), it also makes for a much easier installation process.

You can purchase the Kidde Combination Smoke+CO detector for $32 from Amazon.

First Alert P1010–Best Design

If you’re looking for a reliable smoke detector system with a more modern aesthetic, look no further than the First Alert P1010. These neat little alarms have a unique design. They move away from the ordinary flat detectors of the past few decades. Plus, they come in a number of colors and finishes. So you to match your decor while still protecting your home.

The P1010 isn’t just a pretty face, though. The detector comes with a slew of features. First off, it comes with an installed, 10-year lithium battery. This means that you don’t have to worry about constantly changing out 9V batteries from a step ladder. Instead, the battery will signal with an “end-of-life” tone after you’ve reached the end of its years. This tells you to replace the entire alarm.

The P1010 is also notorious for helping you avoid nuisance alarms, such as those caused by normal cooking smoke or even steam from showers. Its SmartClip system makes for easy installation. And an advanced smoke entry system gives you peace of mind that the detector is protecting your family against true threats at all times.

You can purchase the First Alert P1010 for $22 from Amazon.

We all know how important smoke detectors are in our homes. They constantly protect our families from smoke and fires. And today’s systems can even alert us to the danger of carbon monoxide.

No matter whether you choose a basic alarm or a smart detector that interfaces with a home automation system, it’s imperative to choose one that has great ratings and the features you need most. Then, be sure to install at least the minimum number recommended by the NFPA and test your alarms monthly.


Capital One 360 is one of the oldest online banks. In this review, we look at the savings products it offers, the interest rates, and the fees.

capital one 360
When Capital One purchased ING Direct to create Capital One 360, it made a splash in the online savings account market. Now, Capital One 360 offers a whole host of fee-free online savings account options that are easy to use. Here, we’ll talk about the accounts 360 offers, including their key features and fees.

Banking Deal: Earn 1.75% APY on an FDIC-insured money market account at CIT Bank.

Savings Accounts Offered

Currently, Capital One has three true savings account offerings, as well as some IRA and CD options. Since this review is focused on pure savings accounts, we’ll skip these latter two options. The savings accounts include:

  • 360 Savings: This is the traditional FDIC-insured online savings account on offer. It has a 1.00% APY and a $0 minimum balance.
  • 360 Money Market: This account offers up to 1.50% APY, depending on your balance. But you need to have a balance of at least $10,000 to get the higher APY.
  • Kids Savings Account: This one looks a lot like the typical 360 Savings, with a 1.00% APY. But it has some additional features that are just for kids.

We’ll break out the features and fees associated with each account, and then talk about which one might be right for your particular needs.

360 Savings Account

This fee-free account offers a 1.00% APY. It’s not the highest in the market for online accounts, but it’s also not the lowest. And the fee-free account with no minimum deposit makes it a good option for those who don’t have a ton to put into savings right away. Of course, the account is FDIC insured, as well, so you know your money will be safe.

One thing that’s nice about this account is that you can set up an automated savings plan. The account will pull money from your main checking account on a regular basis, whenever you set it. Automating your savings is a great way to become a better saver, so this is a wonderful feature.

Other features include:

  • Free transfers: There’s no fee to transfer money from any external or Capital One account to this savings account.
  • Savings goals: If you want to save for specific things, this is a great option. You can set up a savings goal and keep track of your progress regularly.
  • Mobile check deposit: Snap a picture of a check from your phone, and deposit it into your 360 Savings Account from anywhere.

Speaking of that last feature, Capital One is known for its great mobile app. It lets you do all of your account management conveniently on your phone.

360 Money Market Account

Unless you already have a chunk of change to put into your new Capital One 360 account, skip the Money Market option. Its 1.50% interest rate looks attractive. That is until you realize that you need at least $10,000 to get that rate. Less than that, and you’ll only get .85% APY, which is significantly less than you’ll get with the 360 Savings account.

The other account features are similar, though, including the fee-free structure and the mobile savings tools. But your best bet here is to use the 360 Savings account until you have a $10,000 balance. You could then transfer that money–maybe part of your emergency fund–to the 360 Money Market account to take advantage of the higher interest rates. But until you’ve met that balance threshold, don’t bother.

Kids Savings Account

The Kids Savings Account is a great option if you want to teach your kids to manage their money. It’s very similar to the 360 Savings option. It has the same 1.00% APY, no fees or minimum balances, and online savings tools. You can, for instance, schedule your kids’ allowance to come into their account from yours on a regular basis. Kids can also use the My Savings Goals tool to save for specific things.

The main difference between this account and the adult version is that the app includes parental controls. Adults can sign into the account with their own PIN to manage the account details. And you can keep tabs on how your kids are saving or using their money.

Opening Multiple Accounts

One of the great things about the Capital One 360 system is that its set up to let you easily open multiple linked accounts. You can have up to 25 accounts between 360 Savings and 360 Money Market. This is a great option for saving for specific goals. You could have one account for emergency savings, another for shorter-term savings, and a few more for specific savings goals.

Managing multiple accounts is easy with the Capital One 360 online tools and app. So you don’t have to worry about getting confused as to where your money is or how to access it. You can just sign on online and see where you are on your various savings goals at any given time.

Bottom Line

The bottom line on the Capital One 360 accounts is that they’re a decent option, especially if having multiple savings accounts will help you reach your goals. It doesn’t have the absolute best APY around. If you want that, check out options like Barclays Online Savings, which has a rate of 1.50%.

However, Capital One has become known for its easy-to-use apps and online tools, which is nice. So if you’re looking for an easy way to set up multiple accounts to manage multiple goals, Capital One 360 could be an excellent place to begin.


Barclays online savings account offers one of the highest interest rates and lowest fees available today. In this review, we cover the details to help you determine if Barclays Bank is right for you.

Barclays online savings

Barclays Bank is a relative newcomer to the U.S. online savings market. It’s been around as a bank, though, since 1690. That kind of longevity is enough to make some customers feel comfortable with keeping their money here. But you should take a second look at this bank’s online savings account offerings even if you don’t find its history impressive.

First, we’ll do a quick rundown of the account’s features. Then we’ll talk more in depth about whether or not it’s the right account for your needs.

Features and Fees

The Barclays Online Savings Account stands out for several reasons, not least of which is its APY. Here are the main features:

  • 1.50% APY
  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • No minimum balance to open
  • 24/7 online access
  • Easy online transfers to and from other banks
  • Savings assistant tool to help you reach your goals
  • Remote Deposit available through an app
  • Link your savings to your external checking account

Banking Deal: Earn 1.75% APY on an FDIC-insured money market account at CIT Bank.

Let’s Talk Interest

As we’ve said elsewhere, with interest rates well under 2%, this shouldn’t be your first consideration for a savings account. However, it should fall on your list of things to consider. And in the interest rate game, Barclays comes out ahead of most banks. Plus, their interest rates are trending up. Just a few months before this February 2018 update, the account offered 1.30% APY rather than 1.50%. Hopefully that’s a trend we’ll see continuing!

Barclays FAQs says that your deposits will start earning that interest just as soon as they post to your account–usually within 2 or 3 days of initiating  transfer.

No Maintenance Fees

These days, you really shouldn’t own a savings account that regularly charges you fees. There’s just no reason for it when there are so many excellent accounts available for free. This is just one example. There are no monthly maintenance fees, and there are no minimum balances or fees.

If you’re just starting out and you can’t put a lot into savings, this is definitely an account to consider. Some others don’t offer fee-free privileges until you have a decent balance in your account. But with the Barclays Online Savings Account, you don’t have to worry about that particular issue.

With all this said, the account does have some fees and consequences for certain savings behavior, including:

  • Barclays has the right to close the account if you have a balance of less than $1.00 for 180 days.
  • The bank will charge a $5 Non-Sufficient Funds fee if you initiate a transfer but don’t have enough money to cover it.
  • Make too many transactions–more than six withdrawals in a month–and Barclays will charge $5 per withdrawal after that.
  • You can get a cashier’s check, but it will cost $5.
  • You will be charged $5 per returned deposit item, up to $50 in one day.
  • For a $25 fee, you can have your account documentation via Express Mail or rush delivery.

Easy Access to Your Money

One of the advantages of online accounts like this one is that you’ll have several ways to transfer money to and from the account. You can use your smart phone to deposit a check remotely. You can also link the account to external checking accounts, from which you can deposit money into the account or take it out. And you can set up direct deposit. You can also get a check by mail.

The Bottom Line

So is the Barclays Online Savings Account right for you? If you need an easy way to save money but don’t want it directly connected to your main checking account, it definitely could be. This would be a great account as part of your emergency plan, or one to save for longer-term goals like buying a home or a car. With its low fees and high interest rates, it’s definitely a winner worth considering.


Discover Bank Online Savings Account Review

by Luke Landes

Discover Bank is an online only bank that offers excellent rates for savers with low fees. In this review, we cover its products, rates and fees. Interested in opening a savings account at Discover® Bank? Read this article first. Most every consumer knows the Discover brand, but for it’s extensive line of credit card products. […]

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2018 Review of Prosper Lending and Borrowing

by Guest Author

Prosper claims to offer great rates for both borrowers and investors. In this Prosper review, we put these claims to the test. Prosper offers a different way to look at lending. The Prosper platform is a peer-to-peer marketplace where people can borrow money for all aspects of life. It’s an interesting platform for people who […]

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MoviePass Review: Is it Really Unlimited Movies for One Price?

by Kevin Mercadante

MoviePass claims to offer unlimited movie tickets for one low monthly price. Is it too good to be true? We answer that question in our MoviePass review. According to the National Theater Owner’s Association, the average price of a movie theater ticket was $8.84 as of the first quarter of 2017. If you live in […]

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A Guide to the Best Home Security Systems

by Stephanie Colestock

The security of your home and family have never been more important. In this detailed guide, we rate the best home security systems and companies. No matter how safe your neighborhood — or even your city — is, you’ve likely considered a security system for your home. But choosing the right one (that won’t cost […]

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Capital One Quicksilver Review – Get a $150 Bonus

by Michael Pruser

The Capital One Quicksilver card combines a $150 signup bonus with 1.5 percent cash back rewards on every purchase. Oh, and no annual fee. Here are the details. One of the most important rules of sound personal finance is using credit cards wisely. A good cash back credit card, when used for everyday purchases and paid […]

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Zions Bank Online Savings Account Review

by Luke Landes

In our detailed Zions Bank review, we cover its savings products, rates, and fees. We also compare it to other online banking options. As of today, Zions Bank offers one of the highest interest rates among high-interest savings accounts. But is it worthwhile to move your money there to take advantage of this interest rate? […]

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