5 Best Cars for 8 First Jobs

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Some 1 million U.S. students graduated college this spring and are looking for their first "real" jobs, and here are some great first cars they should consider buying once they land those coveted entry-level positions.

"Getting your first 'grown-up' job is a moment of independence for many people -- and buying a car is a really tangible way of expressing that to the world," says Warren Clarke of car-buying site Edmunds.com, which recently named the Top Cars for First-Time Job Holders.

Clarke says buying a new car to go along with your new job will not only provide transportation, but project a professional image that can help you look good in the work world.

"Young people who get new jobs have to start thinking -- probably for the first time -- about how they're presenting themselves to coworkers," he says. "Maybe that old clunker handed down to you from your great aunt isn't the kind of statement you want to be making to the world at this point in your life."

Edmunds picked 2014 models for young people entering various professions by looking at price, features and the kind of image that those in different lines of work likely want to put forth.

The site focused on cars listed for around $13,000 to $30,000, with the lowest-priced models earmarked for people entering modest-paying professions and costlier vehicles recommended for those in fields that pay a bit more. "You don't want to end up spending your entire paycheck on a car payment each month," Clarke says.

Read on to check out Edmunds' picks for best cars for first-time job holders in various professions. Models appear in order of price, and dollar figures refer to manufacturers' suggested retail pricing (including destination fees) for 2014 entry-level versions of each car listed.

Best first car for teachers: Nissan Versa sedan
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Teachers typically don't make much money, so the Nissan Versa sedan -- the lowest-priced 2014 sold in America -- should be about as welcome to new academics as summer vacation is.

"The Versa's affordability is its biggest strength, but it's also a very practical car," Clarke says. "You'd think you'd have to settle for a lot of compromises given the model low price tag, but there really aren't too many you have to deal with."

Also see: The Cheapest 2014 Cars You'll Actually Want to Drive

The expert says the model offers good ride quality, a large trunk and lots of interior space -- particularly in the backseat, which many compact sedans short-change.

Entry-level Versas come with 109-horsepower four-cylinder engines and manual transmission, with automatic transmission available as an option.

Best first car for salespeople: Kia Forte sedan
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Good salespeople must convince consumers that they're selling something that's reasonably priced, well-designed and built to last -- characteristics that Clarke says the Forte offers in abundance.

He says the sleek sedan, which Kia redesigned completely for 2014, combines a modest price with good looks, nice amenities and an industry-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

"The Forte is lots of fun to drive, very roomy and has lots of upscale features even though it's inexpensive," Clarke says. "And you get a long, long warranty that plays into the whole sales angle of saying: 'You don't have to worry about this product breaking down.'"

Base Fortes feature 148-horsepower four-cylinder engines and manual transmission. Automatic transmission is optional, while higher trim levels offer as much as 201 horsepower.

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Best first car for accountants/financial advisers: Toyota Prius C
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"If you're a person whose job it is to look at the bottom line, then this is car for you, because its fuel efficiency is amazing," Clarke says.

Toyota's smallest and least-expensive 2014 hybrid gets an estimated 53 miles per gallon in the city and 46 mpg/highway -- some of the highest numbers for any car sold in America.

Clarke says the subcompact also offers a good amount of interior space, plus a base price that's some $5,000 less than what the larger Prius Hatchback starts at.

All Prius Cs feature continuously variable automatic transmission and a 99-horsepower combination gas/electric propulsion system.

Best first car for publicists/marketing associates: Mini Cooper Hardtop
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Marketing people have to make their clients stand out in a crowd, and that's exactly what the quirky-looking Mini Cooper does among subcompacts.

"Publicists that I know are very conscious of their 'brand' and want a car that's both distinctive and inexpensive -- and the Cooper [Hardtop] is both," Clarke says. "You won't mistake a Cooper for another hatchback in its price range."

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The expert adds that the tiny two-door offers "a zillion different customization options, so you can tailor it to your personality and have it look exactly the way you want it to."

Completely redesigned for 2014, the Cooper Hardtop comes standard with a 134-horsepower turbocharged three-cylinder engine and manual transmission. Automatic transmission is optional, while higher trim levels come with four-cylinder engines that pack as much as 208 horsepower.

Best first car for software/Web developers: Nissan Leaf electric car
Base price:
$29,860 (excluding tax credits)

"People who work on information technology and the Internet usually appreciate technology, and electric cars are really at the forefront of tech as far as the auto industry is concerned," Clarke says.

The subcompact Leaf uses zero gasoline and creates no tailpipe emissions, running on batteries that you typically charge overnight or while at work.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the model's fuel efficiency at the equivalent of 126 mpg/city and 101 mpg/highway -- one of the best ratings in auto history.

Many people who buy Leafs also qualify for up to $7,500 in federal income-tax credits, while lots of states offer additional perks. For instance, California -- home to Silicon Valley and tech-centric San Francisco -- gives electric-car owners as much as $2,500 in state income-tax credits and the right to use HOV lanes even when driving alone.

The Leaf comes standard with a 107-horsepower electric motor and enough battery power to go an estimated 84 miles between charges (well within most people's daily commutes).

Recharging an entry-level model takes around eight hours using a standard household outlet, although upper trim levels come with a system that cuts that in half if you plug your Leaf into a special 240-volt outlet. That costs around $1,000 to add to your home.

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