Best driving options for commuter students

Communications Manager

The steady increase in gas prices could make commuting difficult, especially for some students at commuter colleges.

The Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic are the best bang for your buck, according to Scott Tomson, Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified technician of The Garage NJ in West Orange.

Commuter college students are on a budget and should look at buying a used car, Tomson said. The Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic have an average of 30 mpg or better for the past ten years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Tomson works on many Corollas and Civics and has owned two Corollas himself.

Tomson suggests selling your old car privately because a dealership will typically give you less than the actual value of your car.

The websites and can be used to find the suggested retail value of your car by inserting the year, make, and mileage, according to Tomson.

“If you are a college student and see a cheap Mercedes or BMW, do not purchase the car,” he said. “The parts on those higher end cars are expensive and break very often. If you cannot afford to replace the parts, you cannot afford the car.”

Students who do not want a used car should consider leasing a car because it provides reliability without the expensive down payment of buying a car, Tomson said. If you do not lease a car, you should avoid taking your car to a dealership because they will charge you a premium price for all parts and labor.

“When taking your car to a new shop, you should always start with something small, like an oil change, before jumping into a big repair job,” he said. “If you do not trust what the mechanic is telling you, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.”

If you are having a lot of work done on your vehicle, it is possible to negotiate the price of labor, but make sure to negotiate prior to the repair job, Tomson said. A local shop can keep an old car running for a long time, at the fraction of the price that a dealership will charge. Tomson’s shop will typically give people who are low on cash the wholesale price for parts.

“The best way to keep a car running efficiently is to change the oil around 3,000 miles and have the break changed before they start making squeaking noises,” Tomson said. “If you change the breaks before they completely wear down you can avoid buying new rotors, which would double the cost of the break job.”

Tomson suggested that people avoid getting gas from stations in flood areas because the large underground tanks can become compromised with water. An engine that gets too much watered down gas can lead to rust build up and eventually engine failure. If a car does not call for premium gas, you will not get better gas mileage, but you will just end up wasting money.

“In my opinion, the Toyota Camry is the most American car on the market right now, all the parts and labor is done on U.S. soil,” Tomson said. “The Camry is more American than Ford’s and Chevy’s and all of them, but if they want to look American they should buy the Ford Focus.”


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