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Do You Really Need a Car for College?

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College can be one of the most exciting times of your life. You’ll be on your own, meeting new people, learning new things, and preparing to start your career and your adult life. It’s probably the most exciting thing since getting your driver’s license.

But with freedom also comes responsibility, and one of the many decisions you’ll have to make is how you’ll get around campus. Will you have your own car? Take public transportation? Can you easily get around on foot in the college town where you’re attending? These are all questions you’ll have to weigh when thinking about whether or not you need your own car at college. Here are a few pros and cons you may want to consider before deciding:

The Pros

First, let’s get into what’s (potentially) great about having your own vehicle on campus:

  • Glorious freedom! No more being subject to the bus schedule or your parents’ availability: if you want to see the sights, take an impromptu trip, or do the responsible thing and get a job, a car will make it much easier to get there.
  • Public transportation is by no means a bad thing, but it can be a bit of a hassle to deal with finding a seat, paying fares, and making sure you know the bus schedule so you don’t miss your ride. A car bypasses all that.
  • Moving and going to visit your parents will be much easier. Nobody particularly relishes having to rent a truck or convince a friend to let you use theirs so you can move some things.
  • Punctuality. One thing you’ll find out quickly as you experience college is that time management is critical. You have to juggle your class schedule, sleep schedule, possibly a job, and still find some time to sleep and socialize. Being on time can be a challenge no matter what – but if you have your own vehicle, it will be that much easier to be on time for things, because you won’t be waiting around for a bus, train, taxi, or a friend to pick you up.
  • Safety. Ride-sharing or taking public transportation isn’t always the safest, especially in a larger college city. This can be particularly true if you’re out on the town at night or get stranded. Having your own car means you won’t have to worry as much about this particular problem.

The Cons

As you might expect, it’s not all sunshine and roses when it comes to car ownership. One of the consequences of being out on your own is having to pay for things yourself — and cars can cost a lot of money over time. Here are just a few of the expenses you’re likely to rack up during your time in college:

  • Parking fees. Most colleges and universities require a parking pass in order to keep your car on campus. Not only that, but paying for parking by no means guarantees you’ll find any. More than one student has found themselves circling the parking lot, waiting for a spot to open, hoping they won’t end up late for class. Also, some universities restrict freshman parking to more remote lots, which means you’ll likely get your steps in for the day. 
  • Monthly payments. If you bought your own car via financing, you’ll have to work those monthly payments into your budget. You’ll also have to factor in the cost of scheduled maintenance: tune-ups, oil changes, tire rotation, and so on. 
  • There’s also the matter of car insurance, which is mandatory by law pretty much everywhere in the states. Younger drivers tend to pay higher premiums for driving, so you may want to look into finding the cheapest car insurance you can. You should also ask your insurer about possible discounts for good grades or low mileage. 
  • Fuel costs. With the cost of gasoline fluctuating wildly, driving a car can be expensive even before you consider those monthly costs… especially if you’re driving home to see Mom and Dad every other weekend. 
  • Ending up at the chauffeur. If you’re the only one with a vehicle in your group of newfound friends, you may find your carless colleagues hitting you up for rides to the store, that big concert, or whatever. Sure, you might be popular, but that can also eat up a lot of time (not to mention those fuel costs). 

Reaching a Conclusion

Like so many things in adult life, the decision of whether or not to have a car involves weighing your options and going with what seems best at the time. It may also mean sacrifice — either the sacrifice of those road trips and easily getting around town, or the sacrifice of time and money that comes with car ownership. Whatever your decision, it’s bound to be a valuable learning experience going forward.


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