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Buying a Car in College: Is This the Right Time For You?

If you choose to buy or lease a car during your college years it could easily be the biggest expense you incur following your tuition, room and board. Owning a car on campus offers a sense of luxury, convenience, and also makes running errands or visiting family easy. However, owning a car on campus can also be expensive, time consuming, and somewhat risky should your campus not provide parking lot security. Is the expense of owning and maintaining a car outweighed by the clear advantages? Are you ready to make this large purchase? There are several things to consider when shopping for a car while in college: 

Check your School’s Policies Carefully

Before investing in a car, look into your school’s car policy. Some schools prohibit cars to underclassmen students. Additionally, most campuses are designed for students to walk easily from place to place. To make sure that investing in a car will not add time to your morning commute, try timing your commute time by foot first.

Car Maintenance and Additional Costs

Along with the obvious costs of the purchase or lease itself, you must consider maintenance and additional costs associated with car ownership. Routine maintenance can be costly, as can necessary repairs if routine maintenance is not performed correctly. Car insurance, registration fees and license plate renewal fees are additional costs associated with car ownership.

Parking on a College Campus

Consider your campus and parking availability. Are there adequate, secure parking spaces in areas you would like to drive? There may also be additional fees to consider, such as parking meters and required parking permits to keep your car on campus.

If you decide to purchase a vehicle, there are several ways to cut the costs of car ownership. The following are all suggestions for lowering the cost of car ownership for college students.

Lease vs. Buy
Have you considered leasing a car instead of purchasing? If you are planning to make monthly payments toward this purchase, leasing a vehicle could significantly reduce that payment. Of course the idea of leasing a vehicle is more of a rental agreement; you will be making payments towards this vehicle for years without owning it outright at the end of the term. Many lease agreements also include mileage restrictions and prohibit excessive wear and tear on the vehicle. Leased vehicles are still your responsibility to maintain, insure, and register, and you must also maintain current license plates for leased vehicles.

New vs. Used
New and used vehicles each hold their own advantages and disadvantages. While obviously the more expensive choice, new cars may offer a strong sense of security as the more dependable option over a previously owned vehicle. New cars typically include technological advancements which may offer additional savings in gas mileage or maintenance fees. However, new vehicles are usually more expensive to insure. Purchasing a used car may be more cost-effective, but be prepared should you encounter breakdowns or problems with that vehicle. Used cars may also lack the technology of increased gas mileage, making the vehicle more expensive to drive or maintain.

Study Hard and Drive Carefully!
Car insurance rates are not concrete. If you do well in college and receive high grades you may qualify for a “good student” discounted rate. If you drive safely without accident or traffic violation you may qualify for a “good driver” discount. Pay your bills on time—a higher credit rating may qualify you for additional discounts. Additional discounts may be offered for limited driving, lower-risk car models, carrying multiple insurance plans from the same company, or reaching a “milestone” age or life-changing event (marriage, the birth of a child, etc.).

Routine Maintenance
College life is full of responsibilities and it can be easy to forget that extra oil change or tire rotation. However, staying on top of your car’s routine maintenance needs can avoid expensive problems later on. Take good care of your vehicle and it will take care of you.

If you are preparing to make a trip back home for the weekend, ask around. Is there anyone else on campus that lives close to you and would need a ride? It is common for college students to car pool and share the expense of gas on longer trips. You could also run errands together with friends and share the expense of gas used for trips to the post office, laundry mat or grocery store.

Purchasing a vehicle is a big decision and one that should not be taken lightly. College students encounter a great amount of stress as the demands of education, work and social life can feel overwhelming. If you are deciding whether or not to purchase a vehicle while in college, be sure you are ready for the commitment of ownership before signing on the dotted line.

Today’s guest article comes from Ryan Devereux on behalf Rasmussen College, whose human resources degree can help you launch a career in a promising arena.

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