Car Buyer Labs

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A silver 2022 Volkswagen Atlas SE is shown driving on an open road.

2022 VW Atlas vs 2022 Honda Pilot: Which Makes a Better Grad Gift?

So your college graduate is about to launch into the world all on their own. They did the soft launch when they left your home for the dorms, but now, there won’t be any RAs or campus security. Nobody will be enforcing curfews, and they won’t have those cafeterias to provide them with a healthy meal when they’re in a hurry. They’ll be left to their own devices, making their own choices (and meals), and you really want to give them a head start in life by giving them the best graduation gift: a car. One survey actually found that a car is one of the top-requested gifts by new graduates, so you’re onto something. So, once you’ve checked out cars that are practical, reliable, and affordable, you’ll likely find yourself considering the 2022 Volkswagen Atlas vs 2022 Honda Pilot.

The Atlas and Pilot both make great post-college-life cars. They’re loaded with safety features, which twenty-somethings, who are still relatively new to driving, could use. They’re spacious but ditch the “embarrassing” mini-van look. They’re attractive enough for that first office job but, thanks to tons of seating and cargo space, sporty enough for weekend adventures when it’s time to blow off steam. And they’re priced just right, so you don’t feel that you’re totally spoiling your kid. After all, they still need to learn about the real world, and a reasonably-priced car sends the right message. So let’s dive into each of these vehicles and see which one should show up in the driveway with a big red bow on it after that graduation party.

A white 2022 Honda Pilot is shown during a 2022 Volkswagen Atlas vs 2022 Honda Pilot comparison.

Money-Saving Features

Money management is one of the first life lessons that college grads learn when leaving campus––whether they want to learn it or not. And while some are lucky enough to land a high-paying job, others might be starting at the bottom of the ranks, running coffee, handling mail, and cashing small checks. So every dollar counts, and a car that can help a recent grad save money is a gift that keeps on giving.

Looking simply at MSRPs, the starting cost for the 2022 VW Atlas is $34,335. That figure rises to $38,080 for the 2022 Honda Pilot. That’s nearly $4,000 more than the Atlas, so if you’re looking to not totally spoil your new grad, the Atlas is the more budget-friendly choice. On the other hand, the Atlas costs up to $51,505 for the SEL Premium R-Line, and the Pilot reaches $51,870 for the Black Edition. So in the upper trims, the pricing gets much closer for these two vehicles.

Gas expenditure really adds up, and that’s truer than ever now. Luckily, both of these SUVs achieve pretty good mileage. The four-cylinder model of the 2022 VW Atlas gets up to 21 MPG in the city and 25 MPG on the highway. Meanwhile, the 2022 Honda Pilot will achieve up to 20 MPG in the city and up to 27 MPG on the highway. The two are pretty close, but if your grad is living in a big city, they’ll get marginally better mileage from their Atlas.

Maintenance is, of course, also something to consider as those services really add up. Volkswagen certainly catches shoppers’ attention by offering the first two years of service free, so long as they’re completed at a VW dealership. Honda does not offer any complimentary maintenance but does offer maintenance packages for purchase.

There’s one more way the Atlas beats out the Pilot here. Drivers of the VW Atlas can enroll in the DriveView program, which monitors and scores the driver’s performance. Drivers can earn discounts on their insurance based on these reports. This feature could also encourage your young driver to make safer choices, which is always nice for a parent.

The Best in Connectivity

It’s no secret that today’s grads are going to want and need the best in connectivity in their vehicles. They’re accustomed to being fully synced up with friends, getting notifications, and listening to their favorite podcasts everywhere they go. And their professional lives might require them to be connected on the road.

Both cars should hold up to the demands of a young driver well. Each boasts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so your new grad can hook up their smartphone and use all of their favorite apps, receive messages and notifications, and listen to music in the car. Each vehicle also comes with an available Wi-Fi hotspot. Your kid’s passengers will love getting to use their devices to stream shows, check email, and more while riding co-pilot in these cars.

The Atlas does have a pretty great audio system with its available Fender Premium Audio System. So if your young driver absolutely loves to listen to music and requires the best sound, they’ll want the Atlas. But all in all, drivers will feel well connected in either vehicle.

The interior and sunroof are shown in a blue 2022 Volkswagen Atlas.

Parental Peace of Mind

A recent college graduate has some years of driving experience under their belt, but not many. And as such, as a parent, you’d probably like to send your kid off into the world in a car that will keep them safe. Here are some features of both of these SUVs that might put your mind at ease.

Each vehicle comes with 24/7 roadside assistance for the first three years or 36,000 miles. This assistance includes towing, battery jump start, flat tire service, lockout service, fuel delivery, and trip interruption coverage. So when those minor but inconvenient issues come up, you can feel confident that your kid will be covered. And you don’t have to be the one making the midnight trip to pick up your kid when they have a flat tire–– roadside assistance has that covered.

The 2022 VW Atlas does have something that really makes it a stand-out choice as a college grad gift, and that’s the VW Car-Net Safe & Secure suite. This includes anti-theft alerts that send notifications to the driver’s phone when someone has tried to open a locked door on the vehicle. It also has automatic crash notifications, which send a signal to a third party in the event of a collision where the airbags deploy. Furthermore, it has emergency assistance that contacts emergency services in the event of a crash. Finally, a stolen vehicle locator helps drivers track down their car when stolen. And when they simply can’t remember where they parked it, there’s even a feature that helps them find it then, too.

Which One Should You Choose?

Both of these SUVs are great contenders for your graduate’s gift. They’re stylish vehicles that any young professional would be proud to pull into the office driving. And they’re packed with the technology that modern drivers expect. At affordable price points, they let you treat your child without totally spoiling them.

One car did rise to the top, though, and it’s the 2022 VW Atlas. Its starting MSRP is significantly lower than the Honda Pilot, yet it offers quite a bit more where it counts. It boasts two years of free service at VW dealerships. With regular maintenance costing hundreds per visit, that’s a lot of savings in the pocket of a young adult who really needs it. Plus, it boasts the Car-Net Safe & Secure suite of features that help keep your child and their vehicle safe. There’s also that premium sound system in the Atlas––and we know how the young generation loves crisp sound when streaming podcasts and music.