Do I Need a Car in College?

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Having a car in college can mean all kinds of things: freedom, flexibility, and access. But it can also bring a long list of the unexpected, like parking problems, high expenses, and maintenance costs. Before deciding to bring your car to college (or not!), make sure to think through the answers to the following questions.

What Do You Need the Car For?

Do you absolutely need the car because you need to stay connected to campus as a commuter student?

Or could you walk, take the bus, ride a bike, or otherwise commute? Do you need it for an internship or off-campus job? Do you need it to get to classes that might be taking place off campus? Do you need it for safety reasons, such as a class that always ends after dark? Think about what you really need the car for while also considering what other options might be available.

What Do You Want the Car For?

Knowing the difference between wanting your car in college and needing your car is perhaps the most important thing to think about. Do you want the car so you and some friends can leave campus whenever you wish? So you can go visit friends or a significant other nearby? So you can head home on the weekends? The reasons why you want a car in college should be things that, when push comes to shove, you could do without. The reasons why you need a car in college should be things that are critical for your success in college.

What Costs Will Be Involved?

Even if your car is in great shape, it can still be expensive to maintain -- especially during your time in school. Funds will already be tight, so how would you handle the costs of a car? How much does a parking permit cost (and will you be guaranteed one or does your campus work via a lottery system)?

How much will you spend on gas each month? How much will insurance cost, since your car will now be parked in a new location (in contrast to, for example, being garaged back at home)? How will you handle the required, standard maintenance -- like oil changes and 50,000-mile tune-ups? How will you handle the expenses if you're in an accident? Because even if you're an incredibly responsible car owner, things still happen. Someone might hit your car and drive away while you're in O-Chem class.

You might not get a parking permit through the campus lottery, meaning you'll have to pay to park it elsewhere or struggle to find a spot every day. Or things might be so tight on your campus that you'll inevitably get parking tickets. How will you absorb those kinds of expenses?

What is the Convenience vs. Inconvenience Factor Worth?

Is it convenient to have easy access to a car whenever you want it? Most of the time, yes. But if you're always hesitant to use your car because you don't want to lose your spot, you don't have money for gas, you're afraid of it breaking down, or you don't have adequate (or any) car insurance, having access to your car may be more of a pain than a pleasure.

Additionally, even if you have a parking permit, you may be frustrated to learn that it takes 45 minutes to find a parking space each time you come to campus.

And while it sounds fun to be the person who always drives everywhere, that can get expensive (and annoying), too; you'll often be the one sporting for gas and being asked to drive all of the places, all of the time. Think about what having a car in college is really "worth" to you -- and what you're willing to sacrifice for it.

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Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "Do I Need a Car in College?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2017, thoughtco.com/do-i-need-a-car-in-college-793342. Lucier, Kelci Lynn. (2017, February 11). Do I Need a Car in College? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/do-i-need-a-car-in-college-793342 Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "Do I Need a Car in College?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/do-i-need-a-car-in-college-793342 (accessed April 21, 2018).