Things to Consider Before Taking a Car to College

One of the biggest accomplishments for many high school students is finally getting their license and being able to drive. The newfound independence is satisfyingly freeing. Needless to say, after getting used to spending a great deal of time in their cars, it can be difficult leaving them behind for college.

It’s no question that cars have become an essential part of our lives in general. However, does this mean that they’re necessary in college? That depends. Students living on campus are more likely to make do without having a car as they can get to classes easily, eat at dining halls, buy books and essentials from the campus bookstore, etc. However, those living off-campus and having to commute to campus may benefit from having a car. Usually, though, first-year students live on-campus and will be fine leaving the car behind – at least until they move off-campus in a year or two. Most colleges will also provide some form of bus or shuttle transportation to help students get to the grocery stores or shopping malls nearby when needed.

Why Do Colleges Discourage Having Cars on Campus?

There are a plethora of reasons why many colleges don’t encourage their first-year students to bring their cars with them. In short, college campuses are designed for pedestrians, not drivers. Plus, public transportation is available at most colleges when walking is not feasible. Some colleges are telling their freshmen to leave their cars at home because…

  • As you might imagine, parking becomes a struggle for everyone when a lot of people bring their cars to school.
  • Increased traffic means increased chances of accidents on campus.
  • Having a car can provide a distraction from studying.
  • Too much freedom can lead to painful consequences; first-year students are eager to explore, and test and define limits. This often includes drinking and partying, and getting behind the wheel of a car while engaging in these activities is asking for disaster.
  • Staying on campus helps students become more acclimated to college life. Having the freedom to be able to drive off campus all the time would not encourage students to stay actively involved.

Considerations to Make If You’re Bringing Your Car

If your school doesn’t have any restrictions on bringing a car on campus, there are still plenty of considerations to make if you plan to bring yours. To ensure that no problems arise due to car ownership in college, make sure to:

  • Learn about your college’s parking situation and make sure to be aware of every rule and follow them. It’s common for universities to have campus patrol monitoring parking areas and issuing citations for illegal parking… which can add up quickly! College is expensive enough as is, so it’s important to avoid getting unnecessary parking tickets.
  • Consider the cost of gas, repairs, and parking permits, and be sure to factor that into your college budget.
  • Ensure that your driver’s license is up-to-date and won’t expire while you’re in college.
  • Check to make sure that your car insurance is active and current.
  • Don’t keep valuables in the car, or any reason for someone to break in.
  • Keep the car locked at all times.
  • Before taking off to college, make sure that your car is all good to go. Make sure the car’s oil level, tire pressure, and filters are in satisfactory condition.
  • Think about joining an auto club so that in case you need roadside assistance, you can simply call a number for help rather than stress about it when the moment comes.
  • Keep jumper cables handy as you never know when you’ll need them!
  • Decide in advance your policy on sharing your car, and think about the consequences that might come with your decision.
  • Park in well-lit areas whenever possible.

Alternatives to Having a Car In College

Still debating whether or not to bring your car to school? The good news is, there are plenty of alternatives when it comes to reliable transportation.

  • Public Transportation – Most schools have buses and shuttles available for students to take to and off-campus. The fee will vary, but typically comes out to be more cost-effective than having a car. These buses and shuttles cycle through the same stops often, so people don’t have to worry much about missing one and having to wait a long time to get on another.
  • Walking – College schedules can get too packed for time at the gym every day. That’s where walking comes in! Even just walking from one class to another is a healthy alternative to driving, and a great way to stay away from the dreaded freshman 15. Walking can even create a greater sense of community, and you never know who you’ll meet on your way!
  • Biking – Bikes are a fantastic way to get around (and off) campus efficiently. Many schools have more dedicated bike paths these days, encouraging people to bike safely. Bike racks are readily available for easy parking as well. Biking is not only a great way to get your exercise and fresh air in for the day, but is also cost-effective. Compared to driving, you won’t have to worry about paying for gas, complicated repairs, or a hefty parking permit fee.
  • Car-Share Programs – Students not keen on traditional public transportation can always look into car-share programs like Uber or Lyft to get around. It’s much more affordable than taking a taxi, and is very easy to use. The best part is, you don’t have to worry about getting behind the wheel after a long tiring day at school, or a fun night out with friends. You can have someone pick you up from your current location and take you directly home, or to your desired location. This can be an especially good option to look into if you don’t feel comfortable walking late at night from the bus stop to home.
  • Carpooling – If you have a roommate or classmate taking the same classes or sharing a similar schedule with a car, you can discuss the possibility of carpooling with them. This will save money on gas for both you and the driver, keep school parking lots less cluttered, and allow you to take advantage of getting around in a car without worrying about the responsibilities that come with it.

Final thoughts

For most students and their parents, leaving the car at home for at least the first couple years is the smart choice. Save money, have less responsibility, and keep your mind focused and involved in school. You’ll have the rest of your life after college to drive, so why not take advantage of a few years not having to? With so many different modes of alternative transportation, you’ll have no trouble getting around.

On the other hand, some people may feel that having a car on campus is necessary. For example, students living with their parents an hour or more away from campus may find it inconvenient to consider other means of transportation. In such instances, it may be cheaper to pay for a parking permit than room and board to be closer to school or to live on-campus. There are pros and cons to car ownership in college, and each student’s decision will ultimately depend on their unique situation.