• Image Credit: Mazda

The kids are finally out of the house and off at college or new jobs. This means you can finally get rid of that huge SUV or minivan and get into something a little bit cooler, greener and more fun. After all, you've done a great job raising your kids, which is something that doesn't come easy, and you've earned a little excitement and even a little bit of luxury in your life.

Polling the AOL Autos editors, we've come up with a list of some great vehicle options for empty nesters. These cars are fashionable, fun, fuel efficient and comfortable, all without sacrificing practicality. After all, you'll need your next vehicle to be able to comfortably tackle all of those road trips you've been meaning to do.

Our list is varied, containing sporty muscle cars and versatile crossovers. Click through to see what we like.

Ford Mustang GT
  • Image Credit: Ford

Ford Mustang GT

Sticker Price: $30,900 - $40,000
Invoice Price: $28,505 - $36,900
Fuel Economy: 15 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway

The kids are gone and the years of acting responsibly have paid off, so why not enjoy a thrilling ride?

The 2014 Ford Mustang is the perfect car to reintroduce a love of driving into an empty nest. Affordable, powerful and iconic, the Mustang's muscular retro styling recalls your years before kids. The 5-liter V8 engine has the kind of roar you've been missing out on while counting cup holders and NHTSA stars. Since you won't be transporting kids, their stuff, their friends, and their friend's stuff around town you can relax in this low slung coupe. Avoid the convertible option though, as nothing screams mid-life crisis like a drop-top.

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Ford Flex
  • Image Credit: Ford

Ford Flex

Sticker Price: $31,100 - $44,120
Invoice Price: $29,312 - $41,143
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg City, 25 mpg Highway

You don't have to sacrifice style if you want something practical. The boxy Ford Flex is trendy and urban, while also coming with tons of cargo and passenger space.

As fun as it seems to splurge on some two-seat roadster now that the kids are gone, the reality is that you're still going to need some space in your vehicle. You still have errands to run. You still have friends to take out to dinner. You still have projects that require trips to the big hardware store. And, even though they may be away, you still have at least one kid that is going to need some help moving at some point.

Looking for another option like this? We recommend the new Kia Soul, too.

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Mazda CX-5
  • Image Credit: Mazda

Mazda CX-5

Sticker Price: $21,395 - $29,070
Invoice Price: $20,784 - $28,233
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway

The kids are out of the house. You’re still paying terrific sums of money for their college educations. That means you’re in need of a good value. Look no further than the Mazda CX-5.

Small SUVs, also known as crossovers, are the hottest-selling segment in America, and this underrated vehicle may be the best of the bunch. The CX-5 has a stylish exterior that competitors are copying, nimble handling and, at 35 miles per gallon on the highway, the best fuel economy in its class.

In the 2014 version, Mazda added a second engine option, giving drivers a 185-horsepower choice instead of the base 155 hp model, which should make this car a slam-dunk for those who hesitated based on power needs.

And the CX-5 fared better on the small-front safety overlap crash test administered by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, beating its chief competitor, the Ford Escape, which received a “poor” grade.

When you consider the CX-5 is more fun to drive and safer, it becomes even more valuable when you consider it’s priced, starting at $21,395, more than $1,000 less than the standard Escape.

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GMC Sierra
  • Image Credit: GM

GMC Sierra

Sticker Price: $24,090 - $43,910
Invoice Price: $23,126 - $40,836
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg City, 24 mpg Highway

Just because the kids are out of the house doesn't mean the projects are over. How about that shed you've been meaning to build for ten years? That landscaping project? Your promise to help out more at the community park?

Buying a capable truck is a great way to help you stay active and engaged with your surrounding environment after the chicks have fled the nest. The GMC Sierra is versatile, comfortable, has an excellent towing rating and gets solid fuel economy for a truck. Instead of hauling kids to school and soccer, you can haul lumber and soil. And you're going to need something to tow that boat you've had your eye on, but had put off buying.

The GMC Sierra is set apart from its competition, and its sidling Chevrolet Silverado, with a premium interior. Seriously, it feels like a Cadillac in there. It has great seats, soft-touch materials, premium infotainment and audio and sound dampening that makes it whisper quiet. You've earned a bit of luxury in life, and this is a great car in which you should indulge.

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Toyota Prius c
  • Image Credit: Toyota

Toyota Prius c

Sticker Price: $19,080 - $23,360
Invoice Price: $18,127 - $21,746
Fuel Economy: 53 mpg City, 46 mpg Highway

So now that you don't have to haul around your kids, their hockey sticks and overflowing backpacks, you might be ready for something smaller. The Toyota Prius c, the pint-sized version of the Toyota Prius hybrid, could be a great option.

This subcompact hybrid gets great fuel economy -- 53 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway according to FuelEconomy.gov -- which should ease the pain of paying for gas while also footing all those college bills. The interior seems bigger than it should, and the large readout numbers on the speedometer are easy to read for those of us who find reading small print harder and harder to do.

It's a high-tech car that's surprisingly user-friendly, so you can have something that's cool and futuristic without feeling like you're totally re-learning how to drive. It's a great commuter car, too. After years of driving huge minivans or SUVs just because you've got kids and stuff to haul around, driving the Prius c will feel like you've lost 50 pounds.

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