Best Cars for Young Professionals
Young professionals just starting their careers are often looking for a car that will get them to the office and social events in style — affordably. Fortunately, there are a variety of high-quality sedans, crossovers and SUVs loaded with a plethora of safety and comfort features on their base models.
We also looked for vehicles that scored well on crash tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) as well as picks with favorable expert reviews from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and consumer reviews on Edmunds, when available.
- Best sedans for young professionals
- Best crossovers for young professionals
- Best SUV for young professionals
- How we chose the best cars for young professionals
- Ways to finance the best vehicles for young professionals
Best sedans for young professionals
4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.6 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (47 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA
29 combined/25 city/36 highway MPG
If safety and practicality are your top priorities, the 2019 Honda Civic is a solid pick (2020 Civics are available, though we focused on the 2019 model for reasons of price but also because of greater available review information). It’s packed with standard safety features, like its Collision Mitigation Braking System and Road Departure Mitigation System. The four-door sedan is the lowest-priced version of the Civic, but it does come as a coupe and the racing-inspired Type R, as well as a four-door hatchback.
Since the Civic also offers high fuel economy ratings, it can get you to work, social events and just about anywhere else you need to go without frequent visits to the gas station. If you travel often for work or have to take a lot of stuff with you into the office, you’ll appreciate the Civic’s 15.1 cubic-feet of cargo capacity. Need more space? You could check out the roomier (but pricier) hatchback. For even more fuel efficient picks, you could check out cars with the best gas mileage.
2019 Volkswagen Golf
4.1 out of 5 by KBB experts; not yet rated by Edmunds consumers
5 stars NHTSA
32 combined/29 city/37 highway MPG
With the 2019 Volkswagen Golf, you’ll enjoy a standard intuitive infotainment system with a 8-inch display, Bluetooth technology with audio streaming, and USB connectivity to keep you entertained on the way to work and other daily activities.
It’s a great choice if you’d like a car that feels like luxury without the hefty price tag, as it offers soft plastics on the dashboard and an open, airy feel. In addition, the Golf comes with Intelligent Crash Response System and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System for your peace of mind. If you wanted a sportier version of the Golf, it’s also offered as a hot hatchback, or as performance hatch with the further option of an electric version.
2020 Chevrolet Malibu
Not yet rated by KBB experts; 4.0 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (1 review)
Not yet rated by NHTSA
32 combined/29 city/36 highway MPG
Even as carmakers trim their sedan lineups, Chevy has rolled out a 2020 Malibu, a car it first introduced in 1964. For a mid-size sedan with no shortage of space to haul your friends, co-workers and work equipment, the 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is a strong choice. It offers 39.10 inches of front head room, 41.5 inches of front leg room, and 58.5 inches of front shoulder room.
Inside the Malibu, you’ll find a Chevrolet Infotainment 3 System with an 8-inch diagonal color touchscreen, a 6-speaker audio system, premium cloth seats, and steering-wheel mounted controls that you can use to easily operate the audio system, cruise control and phone interface.
Best crossovers for young professionals
4.2 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.2 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (19 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA; IIHS Top Safety Pick
31 combined/29 city/34 highway MPG
If you’re in the market for a small, sporty crossover to get you to and from work, you should definitely check out the 2019 Mazda CX-3. It boasts a wide range of comfort features such as push button start, the MAZDA CONNECT™ Infotainment System, a 7-inch full-color touch screen display, and Bluetooth capability.
The CX-3 also wins when it comes to safety as it was named an IIHS Top Safety Pick when equipped with the optional front crash prevention and specific headlines. However, that means upgrading to the highest trim, the Grand Touring, and adding the optional Premium Package, which drives the starting cost to about $26,000. The base CX-3 comes with standard safety features like Smart City Brake Support and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Another nice option with the CX-3 is the availability of all-wheel drive on all trim levels.
4.8 out of 5 by KBB experts; 3.9 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (114 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA
28 combined/26 city/32 highway
Slotted between Honda’s HR-V and larger SUVs like the Passport and Pilot, the CR-V strikes a balance between price and roominess. If the alphabet soup of letters has you confused, check out our comparison of the CR-V vs. HR-V. Though both of Honda’s smallest SUVs lack Safety Sense on base models, the CR-V does come standard with remote entry and Bluetooth.
There’s also an Eco Assist System to help you maximize fuel economy and fold-flat 60/40 split rear seats that may be configured in a variety of ways to make more room for more passengers or cargo.
Not yet rated by KBB experts; 3.2 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (152 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA; IIHS Top Safety Pick+
30 combined/26 city/35 highway MPG
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 can be a great option if you’d like a small SUV that still looks tough thanks to flared fenders and available 19-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels. If you want something even hardier, the 2020 RAV4 is set to be available with TRD Off-Road, an option found on Toyota trucks and larger SUVs. Otherwise, the 2020 RAV4 is little changed from the 2019 version (one reason we focus on the older model), available in a whopping nine trims, including hybrid variations.
Inside its cabin, you can enjoy standard Toyota Safety Sense with features like an integrated backup camera with project path and Safety Connect®96, which includes Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance and Automatic Collision Notification.
2020 Nissan Rogue
Not yet rated by KBB experts; 3.0 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (1 review)
4 stars NHTSA
29 combined/26 city/33 highway MPG
You don’t have to upgrade to a higher-level trim with the 2020 Nissan Rogue — there are plenty of standard features on its base model designed to offer you optimal comfort and safety. With the entry-level Rogue, you’ll get Nissan’s Safety Shield 360, which offers a suite of safety technologies including Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Warning, Intelligent Lane Intervention and High Beam Assist.
This crossover will allow you to stand out in your work parking lot, thanks to a new Nissan Vmotion grille paired with LED daytime running lights. However, poor-to-average headlights was one of the few lowlights of its safety review by IIHS, though it was still a Top Safety Pick for 2019.
Best SUV for young professionals
2020 Kia Sorento
Not yet rated by KBB experts or Edmunds consumers
5 stars NHTSA
25 combined/22 city/29 highway
If you’re constantly hauling co-workers, friends, and family or lots of cargo, you may want to consider the 2020 Kia Sorento, a midsize SUV furnished with 40/20/40 split-folding second-row seats and 50/50 split third row seats. It offers 73 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seat.
You don’t have to sacrifice a high-tech interior for plenty of space, as the Sorento’s available UVO eServices can sync you to your vehicle to help you keep track of parking locations and schedule maintenance appointments with ease. There’s also standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can use your phone safely while in the driver’s seat.
How we chose the best cars for young professionals
For our review, we made price one of our top priorities as many young professionals are paying off student loans at the same time they are launching their careers. Therefore, all of the cars included in our list are priced under $30,000. Looking for something even more economical? Consider these best cars under $20,000.
We also heavily weighed safety into our picks — younger workers may still be relatively new to driving and are more likely to feel safer in a car that has been ranked well by reputable organizations like the NHTSA and IIHS. Each car on our list has received at least 4 stars from the NHTSA. We opted for a mix of 2019 and 2020 models, leaning heavily on previous year models, which tend to be lower-priced.
Ways to finance the best vehicles for young professionals
Since you may lack a strong credit history or are buying your first car, it’s a good idea to shop around and compare all of the vehicle financing options available to you rather than accepting the first offer you receive at the dealership.
Seek out a pre-approved loan from your bank, credit union or online lender, ideally more than one. This way, you can choose the ideal financing option for your budget and lifestyle needs. Consider filling out an online form on LendingTree to receive up to five auto loan offers from lenders, depending on your creditworthiness.