You won’t get much time to enjoy being out of high school before you’ll have to start preparing to leave for college. If you’re attending a university far from home, you and your parents want to make sure you have everything you need before you get there. In addition to the usual school supplies, you’ll need things for your dorm room such as sheets, towels, and maybe even a small fridge or microwave, if you’re permitted to have them. But what about a car? Whether you already have one, or you’re thinking about buying one before you get to the campus, there are a few things to consider first.
Cars May Not be Allowed
Some universities actually prohibit students from having cars on campus, and with good reason. It’s not about limiting your freedom—it’s about reducing traffic and keeping the campus uncluttered. Imagine if every student at one college brought a car. The university would need a huge parking garage, or every street around the campus would be congested with cars parked end to end. If you plan to live off-campus, you can have a car, but you may not be able to park it on-campus at all. Be sure to check your university’s vehicle policy with plenty of time to make proper arrangements for your car if you can’t take it.
Bringing Cars May be Discouraged
Even if a college does allow students to have their own vehicles, they may make it so difficult that students are better off not bringing cars. Space on university campuses is limited, so parking permits may be quite expensive. Even with a permit, competition for spaces will probably be high, so you may still end up parking far from where you need to go. Faculty will always have preferred status when it comes to parking, so you may be better off leaving your car off-campus, or better yet, at home.
Cars Can be More Trouble Than They’re Worth
Sure, having a car gives you more freedom. You don’t have to depend on other people for rides, or be restricted by a bus schedule. You could get away from the campus on weekends, and take fun road trips with friends. But remember there’s a flip side. If your car’s not paid off, you have the expense of monthly payments, which means you may have to work while you’re at school. If you’re only working to make a car payment, and you’re not enjoying having a car because you’re at work, what’s the point?
And even if your car’s paid off, gas is not cheap. Maybe you got a good deal on an older, used car, but that means more maintenance, and a higher possibility of the vehicle breaking down and needing repairs. You’ll have enough to contend with just keeping up with your course load. Do you really want to throw the hassle of car ownership into the mix?
A Car Can Mean More Debt
Starting your adult life already in debt is not ideal. It may be unavoidable if you need student loans to pay for college. That will put enough of a strain on your credit score. Add a car loan, and your debt-to-income ratio will be so out of whack, you may have a hard time finding a place to live, or even a job when you leave school. Consider holding off on the car until you graduate, and are working full time, which will put you in a better position to take on the added debt.
Whether your school doesn’t allow cars, or you just decide to wait on getting one, you don’t have to be stuck in the dorm all the time. College towns with public transportation make a point of running routes near the school. Or you can bring a bicycle and get some exercise while you get where you need to go. Take advantage of these last few years of fewer responsibilities, and focus on school. Employers don’t care what kind of car you drive, but they will care what kind of grades you got.
Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law, and an experienced Oklahoma City car accident lawyer.