Your first full-time job is an important milestone on life's road. It signifies entry into adulthood. Finally, you're self-sufficient, paying your own way and making your own decisions.
A new car is often one of the first purchases made by someone entering the job market. Just as your career choice is part of the fabric of who you are as a person, so, too, is the make and model of the car you drive. You'll want to choose a vehicle that's in harmony with your job, your life and your budget.
The 10 models below are our picks for the best cars for first-time jobholders. We've made our choices to appeal to new jobholders in a range of professions, from doctors to government workers. Models are listed in alphabetical order.
Best for: Lawyer
With the tedium of law school finally over, it's time to celebrate the fruit of that labor. Though the BMW 2 Series isn't inexpensive (it has a starting price just north of $30,000), it's the most affordable car in the manufacturer's lineup. As such, it's a solid gateway model for the young attorney looking to experience the driving excitement and overall quality for which the brand is known. Its handling is superb, its cabin is gorgeous and its available engines are both potent and fuel-efficient.
Best for: Engineer
Engineers love smart solutions and the Volt is one of the smartest. Able to cruise solely on battery power for about 38 miles, this Chevy boasts the strongest all-electric range in the plug-in hybrid segment. Its electric motor is supported by a gas engine that helps extend range to more than 300 miles. Chevy's Volt is a great choice for the engineer who's intrigued by the idea of electric transportation, but whose reality dictates a more pragmatic alternative. Inside, the Volt's cabin is sleek and futuristic, with high-quality materials and touch-sensitive controls.
Best for: Architect/Junior Art Director
Creative types like architects and art directors appreciate the value of superlative form. With its retro-yet-modern sheet metal, the Fiat 500 is a textbook example of just how magnetic outstanding design can be. Its shapely lines exude Italian charm, giving this Fiat a style and personality uncommon in economy-car segment. Though it only seats two, the 500's cabin accommodates both passengers in spaciousness that's surprising, given the car's minuscule footprint. Choose the manual transmission for exceptional fuel economy.
Best for: Government Worker
Government positions have a reputation for offering a great deal of security. In an era in which jobholders flit from company to company, many government workers spend entire careers in Uncle Sam's employ. The Honda Civic's appeal is cut from similar fabric. The Honda brand is known for reliability and this will no doubt will be a strong draw for the young government employee looking to invest in a car that promises hassle-free longevity. Ride quality is poised, fuel economy is strong and the Civic's interior offers ample room for both front and rear passengers.
Best for: Sales Representative
In sales, success is all about melding style with substance. A product has to catch the eye but it also has to function in a satisfying way if there is to be any hope of repeat business. The Kia Forte is emblematic of this winning blend. Its assertive exterior helps the Forte stand apart in a sea of generic-looking compact cars. And its good looks are supported by tremendous value. For a reasonable price, this car offers strong engines, a roomy interior and a long list of available features. There's also lengthy warranty coverage to provide peace of mind.
Best for: Physician
With medical school's grueling days and nights safely in the rearview mirror, the time is right to savor some luxury. Starting at around $30,000, the CLA-Class is the brand's gateway model, offering Mercedes-Benz opulence at a not-too-steep price tag. And while it may be entry-level, the CLA-Class is no low-budget compromise. It's the genuine article, with the superb power and uniquely Germanic handling that Mercedes-Benz buyers expect. Inside, its cabin is sumptuous, graced with appealing design and high-end materials.
Best for: Marketing Associate/Junior Publicist
Marketing and public relations associates know that some of the most successful brands are the ones able carve unique niches for themselves. So it is with the Mini Cooper. This adorable British subcompact is a wonderfully odd duck in its segment, with playful styling flourishes that give it a look all its own. For proof, see its oversized center-mounted speedometer. It's also a blast to drive and easy on the wallet at the pump. Dozens of customization options are available for those who want to make their Minis even more special.
Best for: Software Developer/Computer Systems Analyst/Web Developer
IT and Internet professionals work in careers that owe their existence to the forward march of innovation. With its cutting-edge electric powertrain, the Nissan Leaf is candy for the driver with a sweet tooth for new technology. At 84 miles, its range is on the longer side for an all-electric car, and its cabin is spacious, serene and comfortable. On the market since the 2011 model year, the Leaf is one of the more established electric cars available. In a brand-new segment, it's a known commodity, and has earned a reputation for reliability.
Best for: Teacher
Teachers are the unsung heroes of our day. Though many of the jobs in this field are neither glamorous nor high paying, the profession itself is of vital importance to our progress as a species. As the least expensive new car on the market, the Versa is budget-friendly enough to suit any teacher's finances. Ride quality is comfortable and the car's continuously variable transmission provides outstanding fuel economy. The Versa also is easy to live with, thanks to its spacious cabin and generous backseat. Add in the car's large trunk and you have a model that delivers quite a lot for a bargain-basement price.
Best for: Financial Advisor/Accountant
Accountants and financial advisors understand that a penny saved is a penny earned. The Toyota Prius C offers remarkably sensible fuel economy that's bound to make it an appealing choice for the first-time jobholder who makes a living balancing finances. The hatchback gets 50 mpg combined, and with a starting price of under $20 grand, it's also quite affordable. Its small footprint makes it nimble on the road and easy to park, and its modern-looking cabin is especially roomy for those in the rear.