May 2nd, 2012

Should You Bring Your Car To College: Pros & Cons

Get excited!  College campuses are where the real social networks began with a high concentration of motivated, ambitious, and diverse students all around your age.  As a freshman, you are probably either required or advised to live in a dorm for you first year which is a great opportunity to experience all that college has to offer.  Most campuses are designed for walking making a car unnecessary to get to classes. In fact, a number of colleges do not allow freshmen to park cars on campus. Don’t forget you’ll most likely have to pay for parking and you’ve still got insurance to pay for even though you won’t be driving your car that often.

According to Ralph Flom, an analyst for, the average person from ages 18-24 pays $2,000-$3,000 per year for auto insurance. There can be a lot of advantages to bringing your car to college, but there are also some things you need to consider to make sure it is the right decision for you.


  • Off campus living: While many colleges require freshman to live on campus, many either don’t or have ways around it if you already lived in the city of the college or university.  If you don’t live on campus, having a car is a must to get to class and around town.
  • Rainy days: Unless you have a big umbrella and a very short walk, rainy days can be a hassle that makes you want to stay at home.  Especially for spread out campuses, having a car can make a rainy day more tolerable.
  • Travel on weekends and holidays: For all the major holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and spring break, you are going to find one way or another to travel.  But for the holidays that just mean “no class today”, having a car makes traveling and entertainment much more convenient since most car rental companies won’t rent out unless you are 21 or even 25.
  • Learn your way around town:  If you go to a college or university that is not in your home town, you are likely to be there at least 4 years.  Many people even decide to live in the city of their alma mater.  Having a car as a freshman will give you a head start with how to get around town.
  • Grocery shopping: If you plan on grocery shopping, it can be quite difficult without a car for transportation.  If you walk or ride your bike, you are limited to the amount of groceries you can buy because you can only carry so much.  Having a car makes grocery shopping much easier.
  • Never ask favors: You might think that you will never have to leave campus for anything, and you may not for weeks at a time.  However, sooner or later you are going to find a reason that having a car would be nice and need to ask a favor.  If you have your own car, whenever you need that miscellaneous trip you won’t have to inconvenience someone else.
  • Road Trip: A rite of passage every college student should partake in a road trip, and last time I checked a car was a necessity.


  • Parking inconvenience and costs: College parking is expensive just like everything else in college and there is nothing you can do about it.  It can cost as much or more than your semester’s books alone.
  • Car responsibilities: Parking is not the only expense with a car; you have to consider oil changes and other maintenance.  If your car breaks down, you need to make sure that you have the financial plan in place to take care of it.  Your parents might help some, but college is a great time to learn independence and take financial responsibility for your life.
  • Can’t see the trees for the forest: Convenience is nice, but sometimes it can cause us to overlook certain perspectives of the world.  Colleges go to great lengths to make their campuses some of the most beautiful campuses around, and you will miss out on a lot of that if you drive everywhere.  Walking to your destination is usually under 20 minutes and gives you a chance to slow down and enjoy the moment.
  • Could I get a ride?:  Say that questions to yourself three times and you will understand how irritating it can be, especially on a bad day.  If you do bring a car, set the standards up front and don’t let people take advantage of you.
  • Not allowed: Many campuses won’t allow cars for freshmen or even at all.  Usually these campuses have everything you could need while in school within close proximity.

Less exercise: Having a car makes it tempting to drive short distances when you could easily walk in 5-20 minutes.  Walking is great exercise and will help you avoid that dreaded freshman 15 everyone keeps talking about.

James Daugherty is a car blogger who works with You can follow his tweets – @jimmydaugherty. Thank you to BigStock for providing the stock photography for this article.

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