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Having a Car in College: Is It Necessary?

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Having a car in college has its pros and cons.

Having a car in college has its pros and cons.

Many parents wrestle with the idea of their child having a car in college. On the one hand, they want their child to be able to go where he or she needs to go and not be stuck on campus. On the other hand, they don't want their child to become the dorm taxi service!

Some colleges have restrictions that make the decision easy. My daughter's college doesn't allow freshmen to keep cars on campus. Before we decided on this school, we evaluated the transportation options to make sure she wouldn't be stuck bumming rides from upperclassmen just to go get supplies. Here are some transportation options to consider when making a decision on having a car in college:

Shuttle Bus or City Bus: My daughter's college participates in a city shuttle program with stops at all the major shopping and entertainment areas. Many other colleges are right along city bus lines.

Zipcar: Many campuses are now offering short-term rentals through Zipcar. Once a student registers online and is approved, he or she can rent by the hour or day. The rental includes gas and insurance.

Bicycle: Is the campus bicycle-friendly? Is there a safe place to store bicycles on campus? Are there bicycle lanes around town?

Walking: Is there a good selection of places your student would want to go within walking distance? Is it safe to walk off campus, especially at night?

You may also want to consider options for your student to get home on school breaks. Some questions to think about include:

- Are you okay with driving to pick up your student?
- Is there a ride-share board?
- Are there many other students who live in the same area?
- If your student is farther from home, is there an easy way to get to the airport or train station?

My daughter can take a shuttle bus to a commuter train station on the weekends. If she needs to come home earlier in the week, there's an online ride-share board and there are plenty of students who live in the same general vicinity, so she can at least get close to home.

Of course, there is also cost to consider. You could end up saving a lot of money by not sending a car with your student. Many colleges charge a fee for parking. Usually, the less parking there is on campus, the higher the fee. Many car insurance companies offer a discounted rate if your student is away at college without a car. I called my insurance company as soon as my daughter left for school and had them change her rate class.

There are many important things to consider when making a decision about having a car in college. If you're on the fence, you can always have your student try living without a car for a semester to see how it goes. Most campuses try to make it easy for students to get around without cars.

Image source: Flickr