Things to Know About Having a Car on Campus

By Alyssa Laffitte on January 22, 2018

Many college students ask themselves, “Is having a car on campus worth it?” A car is not necessary in most college towns because places are usually within walking distance of the campus or there is a good public transportation system to help get students where they need to be. However, having a car is still much more convenient than having to walk or rely on a bus system. But does the convenience and freedom outweigh the cost and responsibility of having your own car?

There are good things and bad things about having a car on campus. For example, a good thing about having a car is that you have the flexibility to go anywhere you want at any time. Did you run out of milk? You can just drive to the grocery store! Want to visit home? You can! But on the other hand, having a car on campus might cost you a lot of money. You will have to buy an expensive parking permit to park in a lot that might be far away from your classes. You will also have to pay for gas, insurance, and maintenance. Clearly, bringing a car to campus is an important decision. Here are a few things you should know about having a car on campus.

having a car on campus

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Figure out if you are allowed to park your car on campus

Before you make any plans to take your car to campus, make sure you are actually allowed to. Because parking is a huge commodity at most schools, they will often not allow freshmen who live on campus to park on campus, or within a certain distance from campus. For example, according to their Student Driver Policy, Dartmouth College does not allow freshmen who live on campus to bring vehicles to campus. (Freshmen who live off campus are allowed to bring cars.) Even in my hometown of Miami, Florida, where you NEED to have a car to get around, there is a similar policy. This policy varies from school to school, so take a few minutes to figure out what your school’s policy on cars is before you even consider driving your car all the way there.

Consider how you will transport your car to campus

If your hometown is far away from your college town, you should figure out how you will transport your car. Will you have to drive it all the way to school? Will you have to ship it?

Yes, shipping a car to another state is totally a thing. You just need to find the right company to do it for you at a good price (since the prices can vary depending on how far the car is being shipped, how big the car is, how heavy the car is, and the make and model of the car.) Of course, you will have to wash your car and clean it out before you have it shipped. This is quite a long and expensive process, though, so definitely take the time to learn about how to ship your car to another state before you do it.

How you will transport your car to your new college town is another important factor to consider when deciding whether or not you should take your car to school.

Buy your parking permit early

Most schools require everyone who parks on campus to purchase a parking permit. At my school, buying a permit is a big deal because parking is so limited, especially in the lots closest to the heart of the campus. Based on your academic year, you are assigned a window of time when you are allowed to purchase a permit. It is recommended that you buy your permit as soon as your purchase window opens, since permits are such a big commodity. Even if parking permits are not in such high demand at your school, I would recommend that you purchase your permit as soon as possible. It takes such a weight off your shoulders when you have your permit in order.

It’s hard to find a parking spot on a campus lot

Campus parking lots fill up very quickly. If you have morning classes, this is not much of an issue. But if you have afternoon classes, you might have to circle around the lot a few times before someone leaves and you can take their spot. I was almost late to class on my first day because I didn’t realize how hard it would be to find a single parking spot! Before bringing your car to campus, consider that finding a parking spot is not easy!

having a car on campus

Infographic created by Alyssa Laffitte

You should always park in your designated lot

Continuing off the last point, at my school, we buy permits that are valid for only a certain parking lot. So, you are only allowed to park in that lot for as long as you have the permit (which is usually a year). If your school has the same system, please respect it and park only in your designated lot. The lot might be a long walk from your classes, but having the peace of mind that you won’t get a ticket is worth it. You do not want to be taking a test and have the thought in the back of your mind that you might get ticketed because you parked your car illegally. Just park in your assigned lot and you’ll be fine.

You will probably still have to walk a lot

You might think that bringing a car to campus means walking less. That’s true, to a certain extent. If you have a car, you won’t have to do things like walk to the grocery store or to a bus stop on the other side of campus. But the parking lots on campus are usually far from where you need to be, so you will still be doing quite a bit of walking. Even if you have a car on campus, you will still have to do your fair share of walking.

Budget for permits, gas, insurance, and maintenance

Having a car is expensive. As I mentioned before, you will have to purchase a parking permit (permits alone can set you back a good $500 or so) just to park on campus. But also, you will have to budget for gas, insurance, and maintenance. These things are crucial when you have a car, even if you are not parking it on campus.

Of course, not to mention that you should absolutely have an emergency fund in case something randomly happens to your car or if you get into an accident (because although we hate to consider the possibility that something bad will happen, it’s better to be prepared for it!). If you plan to have a car on campus, remember that you will have to budget for maintaining your car.

Be prepared to become your friends’ personal Uber

If you have friends who don’t have cars, be prepared to be their personal Uber/taxi service. This might be annoying if you are busy and have many people asking you to drive them around, but it can also be a great opportunity to bond with new friends. (I know I certainly bonded with my friends from my summer internship when we carpooled around the city together.) You can take advantage of this and plan fun outings to the mall or restaurant with them! You should also be aware that because you are the one with the car, you might be asked to be the “designated driver” when you and your friends go out.

Also, be prepared for your friends to ask you to borrow your car. Decide ahead of time whether or not you will let other people borrow your car, so that you won’t be caught off guard by their request and you’ll know what to answer when they ask.

It might become a distraction

When you have a car, you have a lot more freedom. However, more freedom means you must be more responsible. You will have the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want, and your car could become a distraction. But just because you CAN go somewhere, doesn’t mean you should. For example, if you have a test for a difficult class tomorrow morning, you technically could drive yourself to the movie theater to watch the latest superhero movie, but it would be better for you to stay in and study for your difficult test. If you have a car, remember to be responsible with this newfound freedom and not let it become a distraction to you.

having a car on campus

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You will have to take care of it when the weather gets bad

If your college town is somewhere up north, you should consider that you will need to take extra care of your car during the winter. Can you park in a covered garage when it snows? Or will you have to park in an uncovered lot? If so, you will have to scrape the snow off your car. You will also have to deal with driving in the snow. If it rains a lot in your city, you will have to deal with driving in the rain. Be aware that you will have to take care of your car when the weather gets bad!

A car is not your only option

If you find that you can’t handle the responsibility of having a car on campus, you can explore other options for getting around, like walking or public transportation systems. Most university campuses are walking campuses, meaning that you can get around the campus and the surrounding area by walking. Walking is obviously cheaper, healthier, and better for the environment than a car. Biking is another convenient, healthy, and cheap way to get across your campus.

Universities also might have a shuttle bus system that will take you to the other side of campus or to a nearby mall where you can buy anything you need. You should also check out your city’s public transportation system, as some city buses might have routes to and from your school. The bus system in Ithaca, New York (where Cornell University is) has many routes that take students not only around the Cornell campus, but around the city of Ithaca, too. Don’t worry if you can’t afford to have your car on campus. You can also use Uber or Lyft to get around since ride-sharing services are becoming much more popular on campus and depending on how much you use it, can be cheaper than having your own car.

There are many other transportation options you can explore to help you get to where you need to go.

Having a car on campus can be very convenient, since you can drive yourself anywhere at any time. It is extremely freeing because you won’t have to walk or rely on the city’s public transportation system, and you can use it as a way to make friends. However, there are some things you should know before bringing your car all the way to campus. You will have to buy a pricey permit for a lot that might be far away from your classes. You will still have to walk a lot. You will need to pay for the upkeep of the car (things like insurance, gas, maintenance, and cleaning can add up quickly!). You might have to drive your friends around often, and you will have to take care of it when the weather gets bad.

Consider these pros and cons having a car on campus for your unique situation. If you can’t deal with the extra responsibilities of having a car on campus, check out other available modes of transportation, like a university shuttle bus or a public transportation system. These methods of transportation might not be as convenient as having your own car, but it will be cheaper and you won’t have the responsibility of caring for a car or for driving people around. If the pros of having a car on campus outweigh the cons, then bring it and enjoy the convenience and freedom that comes with it.

22, ISFJ. Biology student. College lifestyle blogger. Avid reader and writer. Dog lover. Nerd. Boyband enthusiast. Superhero in training. Here to help you become the best you can be!

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