The college essentials checklist for your child includes a backpack, a laptop, clothing, linens, and toiletries. But should it include a car?
We'll review the pros and cons attached to the rules, logistics, and costs of bringing a car to college. If you do decide your child needs a vehicle as a college student, we'll share tips on how you can help lower the high cost of insurance for a child away at college.
There are certainly some good reasons to have a car at college, and we’ll look at a few of them.
Having access to a vehicle may allow a college student to run errands as needed. So, if they need to run to the store or laundromat, they can.
Having a car at college also gives the student more access to extracurricular activities. For example, if they want to hang out at the beach or a lake, they can get there. They can go to a movie or out for dinner without worrying about finding a ride. It’s nice to have the freedom to go where you want.
While many parents of college students like to take their children to school the first time, the excitement wears off if they have to drive their child to and from school at the start and end of each semester.
If students have their own cars at school, they’ll be able to drive themselves between home and campus without their parents having to take the trip.
Just about every college has work-study opportunities, but with a vehicle, a college student will have more choices regarding work. In some situations, being able to work anywhere will allow the student to work in a field related to their major, providing them with real-life experience. We cannot deny the importance of having a car to your career growth.
Every time you consider the benefits of something, you should also consider the downsides.
Many schools discourage first-year students from bringing a car to school, and some schools outright ban it. Some schools want freshmen to become accustomed to life on campus without unlimited freedom.
Parking at most colleges and universities is at a premium. Sometimes it’s because the school was established a long time ago and didn’t have as many students. It could be that the school is in an urban setting where there isn’t room for vast parking lots. Or it may be because the school has put effort into developing alternative transportation programs.
Often, colleges will have more convenient parking lots for upper-level students who are living off-campus, while lower-classmen will have to park in a more distant lot.
If a college student brings a car to campus, they’ll probably have to pay for a parking permit. The permit could be expensive depending on how serious the school is about discouraging students from bringing cars to school.
Additionally, students will have the standard costs associated with car ownership like insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, and insurance.
If a group of friends has one member who has a car, it’s only natural that the rest of the group will ask for rides or even to borrow the car. It’s not just toxic friends that make these requests. Even good friends will likely ask to borrow a car. While some students may not mind refusing these requests, others might feel pressured into sharing their car even if they don’t want to.
When others borrow a car or ask for rides, it can put the student in a stressful situation. And if someone borrows the car and gets into a crash, the aftermath could lead to higher insurance premiums and the loss of the vehicle.
Even though young adults are in the most expensive age bracket for car insurance, there are ways that students can save money.
Many of the same discounts available for older adults are also available for students, like good driving discounts, multi-policy discounts, and more, but the good student discount is only available for students.
If your student earns a B-average or better, they’ll probably be eligible for this discount, and it could knock off up to 20% of their premiums. The savings might be a good incentive for students with failing grades to bring up their average.
This discount doesn’t apply to students who take their car to school with them, but if your child leaves their vehicle at home when they go to school, you can keep them insured but pay a lot less.
Usually, car insurance companies stipulate that the student attends a college at least 100 miles from home, so they’ll only use their vehicle when they’re home on break.
Even though all insurance companies look at similar factors when calculating their rates, some assign a higher risk to college students than others. So if you can find a reputable insurer that offers lower rates for your teen than you’re currently paying, you’ll save money by switching.
Pay-as-you-go insurance is rapidly becoming mainstream and might be an excellent fit for your child at college. If your student lives on campus, they probably won’t have a daily commute, and they might not drive much at all. Even if your child leaves their car at home, this option might be the cheapest available.
Here’s how it works: The policyholder pays a base rate each month. Then, they pay an additional fee per mile driven. So, a college student who doesn’t drive will only be responsible for the base fee. And a college student who drives a few miles each month will have a minimal fee added to the base rate.
After evaluating the pros and cons, you can likely see that there isn’t a clear-cut answer to whether or not your child should bring their car to college. But, by educating yourself, you’ll better understand which option will be best for your situation. Either way, there’s a good chance you can save on car insurance.
Melanie Musson writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, AutoInsurance.org. She’s passionate about helping others understand their insurance needs and how the right policy can protect their financial stability both now and in the future.