5 Considerations for Bringing a Car to College

Ask these questions to determine whether the convenience of having a vehicle on campus is worth the commitment.

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Should a college-bound student take a car to college along with the laptop and backpack? Or is leaving the car at home that first year a better plan? Here are some things to take into account when making that decision.

JULIE:

Most parents of college students–of college freshmen in particular–seem to fall squarely in one of two camps: "My kid is taking a car to college" or "There is no way my kid is taking a car to college."

Our daughter did take a car to college her freshman year. Here were some of the considerations we took into account when evaluating the options.

1. Will it inconvenience the family? In other words, is there a car available for your student to take with him or her? Even if your child has had a car available in high school, are there younger siblings who will soon be of driving age that could make use of the car at home?

2. Has the car been used responsibly so far? If having car privileges in high school has resulted in broken curfews, empty gas tanks, and insurance claims, a little more maturity may be in order before the car gets used at college. After all, an atmosphere of drinking and newfound friends who want to borrow the car only raises the stakes.

3. Does the school allow it? Many schools don’t allow freshmen to have cars on campus. Urban schools and other schools where parking is at a premium are the most likely to have this policy. Check out your school’s policies, before coming up with a plan.

[Find out which schools have the most cars on campus.]

LINDSEY:

I am often asked by incoming college freshmen whether or not they should bring a car with them to school. Like many things, I know of as many people who had cars their freshman year as people who didn’t.

There are benefits for both, and most people seemed content with their car or lack thereof. Here are a couple big things you’ll want to think about before bringing the car or leaving it at home.

1. Would you rather be driving others around or asking for rides? One of the disadvantages of bringing a car to school is that you may constantly be asked for rides by friends, especially those from out of state. This wasn’t an issue for me, and it may not be for you either. Still, it’s something to consider before becoming the only one in your group of friends with a car.

If you decide not to bring a car, you’ll be on the opposite side of this scenario. Things like going to the grocery store, getting a haircut, and going shopping may have to be done on others’ time if you don’t have your own transportation.

[Explore the 10 least car-friendly colleges.]

2. What will be your policy about others borrowing your car? Before I left for college, my parents and I had a discussion about who would be allowed to drive my car at school. What we decided together is that I would be the only person driving my car, period.

It may have been a little awkward when friends asked to take my car to the doctor’s office or to run an errand, but it made my parents feel much better about my having a car at school.

I recommend having this same discussion with your parents before bringing your car to campus. You may not come to the same conclusion as my parents and I did, but it could save your parents some surprises if you have to call them to say that a friend got a ticket or was in an accident while driving your car.