Going to college? Taking your car? If you answered “Yes” to that last one, you need to plan carefully. A car on campus can be more burden than benefit. Parking is one issue, and then you’ll need to find a local auto repair shop or mechanic. Here are seven points to help you decide whether to take that vehicle to school.
1. What policies does the college have?
Most colleges don’t want freshmen bringing cars. Lack of parking tops their concerns, but student safety and well-being are issues, too. Students with cars often get roped into running errands and being the designated driver, taking them away from their studies and putting them on the road at odd hours of the day. Less outgoing students sometimes use a car to escape from dorm life, making it harder to meet new friends.
Call the college or check its website and find out its views and policies about student cars.
2. Where will you park?
Few dorms have parking, and those that do often use a permit system. Rather than arrive with a car and nowhere to leave it, learn the rules and costs ahead of time.
The same goes for parking on campus. At most schools, what little parking exists is reserved for staff. If there is any student parking available, a permit will probably be needed. Parking without a permit will almost certainly result in a ticket, and that’s not a good use of pizza money!
3. What alternatives are available?
Most campuses are set up for walking rather than driving, so at many schools there’s no need for a car. If you’re living off-campus or your classes are some distance away, look into public transport options or get a bike. (Many bigger schools run shuttles across campus at the busier times of day.)
4. How far away is the college?
Don’t overlook getting the car to the school. Most students have only a couple of years driving experience and may never have undertaken a really long trip. Heading across country, in an older vehicle, can be tiring and difficult. Put an emergency kit and a cell phone charger in the car, take a good map and consider breakdown coverage.
5. Is the car up to the task?
Have an auto repair shop service the car before you head off. Tell your mechanic where you’re going in case he wants to change the oil or coolant to cope with the local conditions. Even if there’s life in the tires and brakes, have them replaced. If heading north, put an ice scraper in the car. By January, it might be essential!
6. Should you tell the insurance company?
Yes! Most insurance companies want to know when a student takes a car to college. If the school is out of state, coverage limits may be different, but your insurance company will advise on any changes needed. Also, the insurance company will probably want to know where the car will be kept. Parking on the street is never a big favorite.
7. What if there’s a problem with the car?
Even if you’re a hands-on engineering major, it’s no fun trying to fix a broken-down car at the side of the road. You need a vehicle repair shop you can call on, whether to change the oil, replace a bulb or diagnose a failed alternator.