Cars aren’t simply a mode of transportation that gets you from point A to point B. Cars can define a generation — such as the muscle cars of the 1960s — or mark the distinct milestones that many people experience during their lives. From your first car in your teens to your last vehicle in your golden years, different cars are suited to various stages of life and the changing needs of you and your family.
No matter what stage of life you are in, the following list can help you decide which type of vehicle will suit your current needs. Plus, it can give you an idea of how those needs may change as you get older.
20s – College Students and New Graduates
For most people, their early 20s is when they purchase their first car. College-aged kids are fresh off their newfound independence. As such, many are looking for a vehicle that will let them spread their wings and have a little fun. However, with that independence comes the realities of monthly bills and financial responsibilities.
When looking for a car in your 20s, you should find something affordable and reliable. You likely won’t need much space for extra passengers or for hauling large amounts of goods at this age. Therefore, a compact car or economical two-seater may be the best option for you.
2021 Mazda CX-30
- Subcompact design with ample rear storage.
- Comes with an 8.8-inch infotainment display and a Wi-Fi hotspot
- All-wheel drive for superior handling.
2011 Ford Fiesta
Price: $5,066 to $6,048
- Small profile for easy parking and maneuverability.
- The four-door model allows for multiple passengers.
- Great fuel economy with 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
2017 Toyota Corolla
- Comes with excellent safety features, including pedestrian detection and automatic high beams.
- Roomy and comfortable interior.
2015 Kia Sportage
Price: $15,678 to $18,764
- Sporty performance with 182 horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine.
- Includes a rear camera and five-inch dashboard touchscreen.
30s – Young Professionals and New Couples
As drivers enter the workforce and become young professionals, their disposable income naturally increases. At this time of life, not only is your car a reflection of your personality but is also a symbol of your success. Car payments are less of a concern as you earn more money than during your college years, so you can afford to choose a more upscale model.
When seeking out a new car in your 30s, consider a model that is sporty while being sleek and elegant. Focus on performance and luxury styling, and don’t worry so much about how practical it is.
2021 Lexus ES 350
- Smooth, comfortable ride.
- Stylish, modern exterior with sleek front-end design and LED headlights.
- Can reach a top speed of 131 mph.
2022 Honda Civic EX
- Updated cabin featuring dual-zone climate control and heated front seats.
- Superior performance with a turbocharged 180-hp four-cylinder engine.
2022 Volkswagen Golf R
- Includes six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive.
- Comfortable and spacious interior.
- The sporty handling and a 200-hp turbocharged engine make it fun to drive.
2022 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
- Superior handling due to the four-wheel drive and 18-inch wheels.
- Comes with parallel and perpendicular parking-assist.
- Infotainment system includes 8.4-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and an internal navigation system.
Late 30s to Mid 40s – Parents and Growing Families
As drivers move into the married stage of life and start to have children, their car needs dramatically change. Starting a family means more seats, extra storage space, and fuel economy for tighter household budgets.
Safety is also the primary concern during this age range because you are no longer just transporting yourself; you’re responsible for the other people in your vehicle. Furthermore, additional features such passenger video screens can help keep little ones occupied while you drive.
2022 Honda Odyssey
- Voted “Best Mini-Van” by Kelley Blue Books three years in a row.
- Received a Top Safety Pick+ ranking from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
- Comes with “Cabin Watch” camera to view all areas of the car and ensure passenger safety.
2022 Ford Expedition
- Spacious interior with ample seating and cargo space.
- Rear entertainment system includes USB ports and Amazon Fire TV capabilities.
- Hands-free trunk access.
2022 Toyota Highlander
- Three-row interior seating with room for eight passengers.
- Multi-Terrain Select for increased traction in mud, dirt, sand, rock, and snow.
2022 Subaru Forester
- Remote engine start and temperature controls from your smartphone
- A great suite of safety features, including automatic pre-collision braking and emergency steering.
- Comes with front and rear cameras and 11.6-inch console touchscreen.
45 and Older – Newly Retired and Empty Nesters
Entering mid-life is all about the newfound independence of being an empty nester. When the kids move out and you’re no longer hauling them to after-school activities, your vehicle needs should adjust.
Just as the vehicles your early professional years focus on performance and style, your mid-life car choices should focus on comfort, luxury, and style. Some call it a “mid-life crisis”, but it’s more of a return to the love of driving for the fun of it. So, it’s fine to indulge in a car that looks good, drives well, and makes you feel young again.
2022 BMW M3
- Includes rear-wheel drive, a manual six-speed transmission, and rear automatic emergency braking.
- Can produce plenty of torque thanks to the six-cylinder turbo 3.0-liter engine.
2022 Mercedes E-Class Coupe
- Sporty style
- Intuitive infotainment features, which includes dual 12.3-inch displays in the front dash and multimedia touchscreens.
- Spacious four-seat cabin.
2022 Jaguar F-Pace R-Dynamic S
- Features all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
- Can go from zero-to-60-mph in 5.5 seconds.
- Comfortable minimalist interior styling with sleek lines.
2022 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS
- Comes with sport-style suspension and superior handling
- The twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six engine can produce 473 hp and 420 pounds of torque.
- Classic Porsche exterior design with bubble headlamps and low profile.
65 and Older – Budget-Minded Seniors
As you settle into retirement, your golden years will be filled with lazy days and enjoying the best things in life.
During this milestone, your vehicle needs will downshift to be more focused on comfort, drivability, and accessibility. From meandering Sunday drives to activity days with your grandchildren, your vehicle should be fun to drive while having enough seating for the youngsters in your life.
2022 Subaru Legacy Premium
- Features 10-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
- Quiet and spacious interior.
2022 Honda CR-V EX
- Enhanced safety features, including a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
- Highlights include a 12-way adjustable power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support and seven-inch touchscreen.
2021 Nissan Murano
- Open concept interior for added space and comfort.
- Includes a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, and assisted parking controls
2018 Honda Fit
Price: $17,400 to $20,428
- Small exterior profile makes for easy parking.
- A solid suite of safety features, such as forward collision warning with emergency braking.
- Includes a peppy four-cylinder engine and adaptive cruise control.