For both parents and young adults alike, cars can be a big part of back-to-school shopping.

According to IHS Markit, the average U.S. car has been on the road for more than 11 years. The recession forced families held on to their vehicles for years longer than they had planned, while stagnant wage increases haven't given them much extra to play with. That means the old family sedan or small SUV probably isn't getting shipped off with the first college kid.With the National Retail Federation estimating that U.S. families will spend roughly $83.6 billion on back to school shopping in 2017, it isn't hard to imagine that a new car might be part of that equation.

Especially with fewer high school kids driving. The New York Times discovered that less than half of U.S. youths aged 19 or younger had a license in 2008, down from nearly two-thirds in 1998. Meanwhile, the share of new cars being bought by Americans between 18 and 34 is down 30% in the last five years, according to auto pricing site Edmunds.com. A Pew Research Center study notes that people under 35 bought 12% fewer cars than they did in 2010.

The Department of Transportation notes that just 28% of 16-year-olds had driver's licenses in 2010, with just 45% of 17-year-olds claiming the same. That's slid from 50% and 69% respectively in 1978. The number of 16-year-olds with driver's licenses peaked at 1.72 million in 2009, but plummeted to 1.08 million by 2014.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) notes teen driver fatality rates started dropping around 1996, when states first began graduated driver licensing (GDL), and have kept falling. That decreased accidents involving 16-year-olds by 68% between 1996 and 2010. During that same span, fatal crashes fell 59% for 17-year-olds, 52% for 18-year-olds and 47% for 19-year-olds.

However, Kelley Blue Book puts the average price of a U.S. vehicle at $34,721. As Bankrate notes, even a well-paid U.S. market like San Jose, Calif. -- with a median income of $87,210 -- can't afford that price with a 20% down payment, four years of financing and insurance that's 10% of a household's gross income. Do families cope under those conditions? Buying used is a fine option, but so is getting more years out of whatever car you end up with. We spoke with the folks at used vehicle pricing site CarGurus and came up with vehicles for parents of school-aged kids, for cash-strapped young adults leaving for college and, just for fun, for empty nesters who may have more cash kicking around now that their kids have flown the coop.

For parents, they sought cargo space, third-row seating and great crash-test results. For students, the bar was set at a low starting price and decent fuel economy. Finally, for empty nesters, it was all about coupes, convertibles and getting from 0 to 60 faster than the family shuttle.

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Editors' pick: Originally published Sept. 6.

2012 Chevy Suburban

For: School parents

Cargo room: 45.8 cubic feet behind third row

Seats: 9

Crash rating: 5-star rating

This giant apartment on wheels was a rolling living room before harried parents started specifically shopping for them. A cross between a family tank and personnel carrier, this isn't the most fuel-efficient or cost-efficient option, but it can two a boat or camper and hold just about all the football, soccer, lacrosse and band gear your kids will every need.

2015 Lincoln Navigator

For: School parents

Cargo room: 42.6 cubic feet behind third row

Seats: 8

Crash rating: 5-star rating

More of an early 2000s entourage carrier or D.C. fleet vehicle than a family car, luxury features like leather, wood and multi-zone climate control give it all the utility a family could ask for. Also, by this year, the Navigator had a new vertical grille, 20-inch wheels, MyLincoln Touch with Sync, an eight-inch, touchscreen display in the dashboard, push-button start and a rear-view camera.

2014 Kia Sedona

For: School parents

Cargo room: 33.9 cubic feet behind third row

Seats: 7

Crash rating: 5-star rating

It's a minivan trying really hard not to look like a minivan. This model makde the exterior look a bit meaner and gave the Sedona xenon headlights, LED taillights and accents, Sirius-XM satellite radio, a touchscreen information and entertainment system. It boosted sales and proved that maybe Kia's rebranding of its minivan as a "Multi-Purpose Vehicle" wasn't such a brash idea after all.

2013 Honda Odyssey

For: School parents

Cargo room: 38.4 cubic feet behind third row

Seats: 8

Crash rating: 5-star rating

After the Odyssey adopted sliding doors in 1999, there was no stopping it. When you collapse the third row, you get 93.1 cubic feet for more storage. Second-row seats can be configured to fit three child seats. The Odyssey's removable center console has a flip-up and a "cool box" beverage cooler for sandwiches and drinks. With the optional 16.2-inch split screen entertainment system that lets passengers watch two programs and once, the stigma of minivan driving fades in a cloud of convenience.

2013 Toyota Sienna

For: School parents

Cargo room: 39.1 cubic feet behind third row

Seats: 7

Crash rating: 4-star rating

The upside is that it has the most seats-up cargo space of any minivan, though the Sienna's 87 cubic feet of cargo with the third row down are less than the Odyssey's. A sliding second row makes it easy for passengers to exit, an optional 16.4-inch video screen with split-screen viewing allows a DVD to play on one side while you're streaming shows on the other and optional all-wheel drive makes it a de facto choice for minivan families in snowy regions.

2009 Mini Cooper JCW

For: College students

Average price: $8,342

Combined mileage: 30 mpg

Parents may scoff at just 24 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats down, but that isn't why you buy this car. Basically a Cooper S with a higher-output engine and sport-tuned exhaust, suspension, tires ,17-inch light alloy rims and BMW's dynamic stability control (DSC) and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), it's a sportier Mini with the same fuel economy. If you can get a Mini with 208 horsepower instead of 141, by all means go for it. This is about the last time in your life where someone's going to appreciate that noise and speed without accusing you of having some sort of crisis.

2010 Smart ForTwo

For: College students

Average price: $5,779

Combined mileage: 37 mpg

You're getting a two-seater with no storage and standard features that included manual windows, manual mirrors, manual steering and an antenna and speakers - but no radio. Sure, it gets 33 miles to the gallon in the city and 41 pg on the highway, but so does an Eco-package Chevy Cruze that's 81% larger. As for its performance, driver could heat up a cup of soup in the 12.8 seconds it takes this car to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour. However, you'll never have to worry about parking -- or anyone asking you to help them move.

2010 Honda Fit

For: College students

Average price: $8,400

Combined mileage: 30 mpg

One of the small cars that kicked off the subcompact renaissance, the colorful and convenient Fit came with standard keyless entry, cruise control and CD player with USB jack. However, modular seating, under-seat storage, 57.3 cubic feet of cargo room and 10 cup holders brought some cool perks to that little price tag.

2010 Hyundai Elantra

For: College students

Average price: $6,700

Combined mileage: 30 mpg

There's a fairly significant difference between the Elantras made before 2010 and those that came after.The Elantra's fuel economy has increased significantly, jumping from 26 miles per gallon in 2006 to 30 miles per gallon by 2010. Its 2.0-liter engine and 135 horsepower also received a much-needed makeover, trimming to a 1.8-liter but bulking up to 148 horsepower. The best part, however, is that most of these Elantras will still be covered under Hyundai's 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty. This five-passenger ride is popular enough, but the continued coverage only makes it more coveted.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

For: College students

Average price: $7,654

Combined mileage: 35 mpg

It's been two years since Volkswagen's diesel vehicles were taken to task for fudging efficiency numbers a bit. But if you want a "repaired" diesel with the Jetta's performance and space, sellers are being eminently reasonable about the resale value of these sullied vehicles.

2009 BMW 135i

For: Empty nesters

Price tier: Less than $20,000

0 to 60 5.1 seconds

The folks at Jalopnik go into tremendous detail about why BMW's departed 1 series was so fun to drive. However, it all comes down to a 300-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine and a suspension that's better than an entry level Bimmer deserves.

2009 Porsche Cayman

For: Empty nesters

Price tier: $30,000 to $40,000

0 to 60 5.1 seconds

The 3.4-liter, 315-horsepower engine alone would be enough to sell this vehicle, but a facelift that included dice-faced LED lights and a limited slip differential somehow did more harm than good. Porsche sold fewer of this model than it did during the Cayman's early run, which dropped its price significantly.

2012 Chevrolet Corvette

For: Empty nesters

Price tier: $40,000 to $50,000

0 to 60 3.6 seconds

The Corvette is exactly what the nation envisions empty nesters driving. This particular year's model had the exposed headlights, huge rear wheeelbase and a 7-liter, 505-horsepower engine that got less than 20 miles per gallon. Not practical enough to for everyday use (you try parallel parking a car coated in carbon fiber) and way faster than some little retiree convertible, this Vette is quite the steal at an average of $40,132, or nearly half the original $79,835.

2014 Jaguar F-TYPE S V8 Convertible

For: Empty nesters

Price tier: $50,000 to $60,000

0 to 60 4.2 seconds

That 5-liter, 488-horsepower supercharged V8 and its all-aluminum chassis are are a zippy as they sound, but they're just part of the package. The touchscreen display, stop-start engine shutoff, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, active exhaust that opens up over 3,000 rpm and retractable spoiler and door handles are all extravagant touches, but empty nesters stay for whisper-quiet fabric-and-Thinsulate hood that aises or lowers in 12 seconds and can be used when the car is moving at up to 30 miles per hour. Oh, and a $51,000 price tag that's almost a full car lower than the original $92,000 MSRP.

2010 Aston Martin Rapide

For: Empty nesters

Price tier: $60,000 and up

0 to 60 5 seconds

The Aston Martin performance sedan and its 470-horsepower V12 engine is a monument to excess. A rear-wheel drive automatic with bi-xenon headlights, LED taillights, leather and walnut trim, power front seats with memory, Bluetooth and a Bang & Olufsen 16 -speaker sound system with speakers that rise from the dashboard once the system turns on aren't features that aren't focused entirely on performance. You don't get to a $197,850 MSRP on performance alone, and it doesn't depreciate to $77,364 if there's a bigger audience for a plush luxury car.

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