At first thought, having a car while at college is great. The freedom to get around when you want is a convenience all unto itself. A new car that looks good is a plus for popularity as well.
However, there are added responsibilities associated with having a car that are quickly overlooked. Here are some things to think about before bringing that car on campus.
If you are a new freshman living in the dorms, are you allowed to have a car on campus?
Different schools have different rules governing cars for students. Some schools specifically forbid freshman dorm students from having a car, citing the increased risks associated with freshman life and simply because there may not be enough parking on campus to accommodate everyone.
There may be exceptions for some freshman that absolutely must have car access, like students with medical conditions, but this will be on an appeal basis only.
But beyond exceptions, ask yourself, “How necessary is a car for a freshman?” For many, the answer is, “Not very necessary,” given that college campuses are like mini-all-inclusive resorts complete with all-you-can-eat meal plans and daily activities. Isn’t that the reason you wanted to live on campus in the first place?
Not having access to a car freshman year is a break from an unnecessary responsibility.
How is the parking at your school?
At some colleges, parking is a major issue, with students competing for the best spots on the lot, and faculty/staff bemoaning a lack of spots close to their offices. The parking lot is a much bigger issue for commuter students that need to drive back and forth to campus.
Students living on campus can usually leave their car in a sequestered corner of asphalt, accessing it when necessary. If you park a car on campus, but only use it occasionally, it may be a good idea to take a look at it daily to check for any vandalism. College parking lots can be easy targets for theft, so keep any digital devices like a GPS hidden in the trunk.
What kind of car?
OK, here is where dreams and reality begin to clash. The dream is to be driving something awesome.
However, the reality is that most college students cannot afford to drive an overly expensive car, leading to a vehicle more like…four wheels and an engine!
As long as a car is available it can be all that is needed to help secure an internship, and get around when necessary, but many students are beginning to look at the process of owning a car a bit differently.
Students your age are not buying cars!
There has been a major decline in the car buying habits of the college-age consumer, and it is radically changing the way cars are being manufactured and marketed. Many young adults have found alternatives to owning a car, like public transportation in urban zones, using zip cars where available, bicycles, or just not driving all together. With the high price of gas, they may look at a car like “A giant bummer.”
The below flow chart is a look at why it is so easy for college students to reject a new car in favor of other alternatives:
The new generation of potential car buyers is becoming much more pragmatic and environmentally conscious:
- You may question the value of a car considering that paying for gas, repairs, registration, insurance and parking permits will require more time at work, and take time away from studying and school activities.
- You are concerned about burning gas, the pollution generated by cars, and the work/life cycle centered around the use of cars that has dominated the baby-boomer generation.
If you can get a job that would not necessitate the use of a car on a daily basis, you would probably take it.
As young adults move into full adulthood and begin to earn more income, the usefulness of a car may become more apparent. Just not now.
I get it–I’m ready to drive!
- How will you feel if you are constantly asked to drive friends places because they don’t have a car?
- Would you be comfortable loaning the car to friends? Would they ask to borrow it? Is this even appropriate?
- Are you willing to be the designated driver? Will you take that responsibility seriously?
You are going to need to be ready for these questions before you start rolling that car around. This way you are prepared to handle any of the implications.
The best place is probably a happy medium. If you have a car, it is nice to share the convenience, however, if the same people always want a ride, you need to make it clear that you are not a chauffeur.
Loaning a car to college friends is usually a terrible idea, so avoid that altogether.
If you are always the go-to option for party transportation, you need to not make yourself so available to everyone’s needs. Recommend splitting the cost of a cab service instead, because safe driving is a party priority. Just remember it’s YOUR car not a Clown Car.
However, being stingy with a car can be mean spirited. Being a reliable and safe driver is commendable, and puts a young person in a good social position on campus. It’s all about freedom and a car can provide just enough needed for college life. Use the car for the right reasons, help friends when you can and enjoy the ride.
What about insurance?
Scrutinize car insurance in relation to the college student. There may be restrictions on a car insurance policy that could really be a problem if an accident occurs near campus. Most college students with a car get added to their parent’s policy. Work with your parents to see if this makes sense for you.
Notify your insurance company if you live at school and keep a car with you. If your school is in a different state, ensure you’re in compliance with the minimum insurance requirements of both your home state and your college state.
If you go to school in the same state as your permanent residence but it’s 100 miles or more from your home and you leave your car at home, you may be eligible for a distant student discount–if you meet specific criteria. Parents would be happy for a break on auto insurance wherever they can get it.« Your College Roommate Textbooks: Don't Waste Your Money! »
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