Most people would assume that a college student would not only want to have a car while they are in college but even that all college students own vehicles. However, while there are many students that do own vehicles while they are in school, there are many who don’t.
This is because there are both positives and negatives involved with owning a vehicle while in college. Vehicles not only need constant attention and maintenance, but vehicles require constant money in order to keep functional. The problem is that when a student is taking classes, they have lots of expenses and a car might be an unnecessary one.
If you own a car, then you have the independence that comes with it, but it all depends on where you live. If you live on campus or in a town where most things are within walking/biking distance, you may not even need a car for daily life. If things are spread out, it may be more necessary.
Look at your situation and see if you can complete most of your daily errands without any help from Mom or roommates (it is okay to ask for a ride on occasion, so don’t own a car for something you do once a month). For example, owning a car allows you to go grocery shopping and get your dirty laundry to a laundromat (or to Mom and Dad’s in order to wash your clothes), but are there ways to do that without a car? Check if your apartment or dorms has a laundry room, find the nearest grocery store, and use that to help you determine if a car is necessary.
If you’re looking for a part-time job, check the distance and possible transportation options. If you have a car, you can get to your part-time job, and it might make it possible for you to manage to work a full-time job while juggling a full-time class load. Owning a car while in college allows you to have a wider range of options, with regards to the types of jobs that you can apply for and with regards to the shifts that you can work, which creates more financial options. However, if you can find a job within biking distance or a short trip on the bus, the extra time it takes could be worth it in how much of your cash you don’t have to put towards gas and insurance.
Finally, look at what kinds of activities you’ll want to do outside of school and work. It’s important for you to allow for a little socialization time and to participate in activities that look good on your career resume, such as joining professional association groups. Figure out if this is possible without a car, and if it’s worth it if it makes a car necessary.
Cars are expensive, but many of the costs are often overlooked. We all know that cars require gas in order to operate, but we often forget that vehicle owners must purchase an insurance policy in order to drive, which can cost hundreds of dollars a month (and is often the most expensive for people college-aged).
Further, there are often costs for parking your car and for any damage that might come from having your car parked in a dangerous area or on a busy street. Besides these cost factors, you need money for unexpected repairs, especially if the car is a used or older car. All of these expenses can be financially draining for a college student.
A college student needs to pay for dormitory fees or for rent in an apartment, and on top of that has class fees, lab fees, food, personal expenses, and more. Added to that, most students aren’t able to work full-time because of the course-load, and even if they are able to work, they usually work low-wage jobs to help them with daily expenses while they study. Therefore, it’s very challenging financially for a college student to own and maintain a vehicle while they are studying in college, and it should be thought about carefully before any decision is made.
So in the end, owning a car while in college can offer a range of lifestyle advantages. However, you must be prepared to have enough money set aside for all of the responsibilities that come with owning a vehicle. Look into your options and see if you can survive without a car, even if it’s just for a year or two, and you can save yourself a lot of money.