Pros and Cons of Having a Car on Campus During Your Freshman Year

Car on Campus

As college drew nearer, I had visions of throwing all my belongings into the back of my Toyota Tacoma and driving off into adulthood. My parents had another idea—leaving the truck at home.

They said that not having a car on campus would save me time, money, and the occasional headache. It would allow me to focus on adjusting to university life and spending my weekends around the school. This turned out to be pretty solid advice, but the right decision for me won’t necessarily be the right choice for you. You need to weigh the pros and cons to determine what’s best.

First, though, you need to find out your school’s car policy. Some schools discourage students from having cars on campus. Others, such as Georgetown University, don’t even allow on-campus parking.

Northern California’s Santa Clara University, as another example, bars first-year students who live on campus from bringing their wheels with them. The school explains that keeping freshman on their feet makes them more involved in on-campus activities, and it also reserves parking space for upperclassmen.

Then again, many colleges do encourage you to bring your car. In fact, 48% of students have a car on campus, according to a 2016 survey from U.S. News & World Report. And at 14 of the 215 schools surveyed, at least 90% of students have a car.

If your school allows you to bring a car to campus, weigh these three cons first.

1. You’d Have to Pay Auto Insurance Premiums

The simple fact is that if you bring your car to college, you’ll need to insure it. Most of us know that student car insurance can be costly. Leaving your car in the driveway at home, however, could save you or your family some money.

If you’re included on your family’s insurance coverage, your parents could drop you to an “occasional” driver on the policy. That would decrease the policy’s monthly premiums. Ask your insurer about its “resident student” discount or a “student away at school” discount. There might be a 100-mile minimum requirement for the distance between your permanent address (your home) and your school to qualify.

If you have individual insurance coverage and decide to leave your car at home, you could pause or reduce your coverage. Canceling your plan would create a gap in coverage, though, potentially raising your future premiums.

2. You’d Be Footing the Bill for Parking Costs

Having a car on campus means having to park it on or near campus. There are two ways this can become costly: parking passes and parking tickets.

Even if you live off campus, you may still have to buy a pass to park on campus. It might not be cheap either. Parking permits at University of California Santa Cruz, for example, can set you back $583 per year.

Short of buying a pass, you might be tempted to break parking regulations on campus—and you’re not alone there. The average college student receives two parking tickets per year, according to Best Value Schools.

Your school’s parking enforcement might charge lower fines than your city’s police department. They’re $25 across the board at SUNY Cortland, for example. But still, the charges could pile up if you’re not careful.

Research your school’s policies and costs. There’s a wide range of possibilities. Consider New Jersey schools as an example. Rutgers University issues 5.5 tickets per driver, William Paterson University distributes 0.12, and Princeton University doesn’t ticket drivers at all, according to’s research.

3. You May End Up Being Your Friends’ Chauffeur

Almost 30% of millennials say affording rent and other necessities is among their top sources of money stress. And cars can bring more than their share of money troubles. Insurance, parking, gas, maintenance, emissions checks, and more are all part of car ownership and use.

But there are more cons than those that hit your wallet. If you’re a freshman driving, having a car could help you make friends, but ask yourself if you want to be the driver each time you go off campus in a group. You might rather be the one asking for occasional rides.

But a car can do worse things than cramp your style—it can put you in an unsafe situation. If you have a car, and you drive to bars with friends, you run the risk of getting behind the wheel after drinking too much. It might not always be cheaper to take public transportation or reserve an Uber, but it’s much safer.

If these cons don’t sway you, then know there are some advantages to having a car in college.

1. It’s the Best Form of Transportation Available

If your school has a sprawling campus or satellite campuses, driving from class to class might be less of a luxury and more of a necessity. There are other possible reasons for needing a car

  • You need to commute regularly for an off-campus job or internship.
  • There is no viable bus, train, or similar option to get you where you need to go.
  • The distance between your residence and classes is too far to bike.

If you decide that having a car on campus is worth the trouble, consider creating a carpool to make it worth your while. You could find classmates who live in your dorm and offer rides in exchange for something else.

2. You Can Work Your Wheels into Your Side Hustle

Having a car on campus affects your wallet in negative ways, like with insurance and parking—but it can also make you money. Some of the best side hustles require a car.

Consider one or more of the following:

  • Be a rideshare driver for a company like Uber and Lyft.
  • Treat your car like a moving billboard with help from Carvertise.
  • Rent your car out to neighbors or classmates using Turo.

If you already use your car to make money or you’re looking into it, do the math. See if your potential earnings would covers costs for parking, insurance, and the occasional oil change. Better yet, see if you could turn a profit.

You can perform the same calculation for office jobs or internships that require a commute.

3. It’s the Cheapest Way to Return Home

Freshman and college students generally live by the academic calendar. Aside from having the summer off, there are spring and winter breaks and occasional long weekends. A student’s top option is typically returning home.

No matter where you see yourself taking breaks from school—whether it’s at Mom and Dad’s or a friend’s place—map the route ahead of time. If it’s a few states away, you might be booking flights for each trip. If you live within a road trip’s distance from home, however, having a car might be your best choice—and you may decide that putting up with parking on campus is worth having the ability to drive home at a moment’s notice.

Decide Whether to Take Your Car to Campus

On a daily basis, full-time college students spend 1.4 of every 24 hours traveling, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you know you’ll be taking a car to college, you should include the cost of gas and parking when figuring out the real cost of your classes. Choosing how you travel could save you time, but it could also save you money or trouble.

Research your school’s policies and think critically about whether you need your car on campus.

The less time you spend behind the wheel, the more time you can use on your college experience.


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Americans Are Traveling (& Spending) More Than Ever This Memorial Day


This year, Americans want to spend their Memorial Day weekend away from home, despite reports that gas prices are going to be the highest they’ve been in more than a decade.

This is according to a recent report from AAA, which used economic variables to forecast domestic travel volumes, as well as data from research firm IHS Markit. The study — which qualified Memorial Day travel as going 50 or more miles away from home during Thursday, May 25 and Monday, May 29 — predicts that 39.3 million travelers will be hitting the road this year for the long weekend, which is up 2.7% (roughly one million) from 2016, making this the highest volume of Memorial Day weekend travel since 2005.

And as the amount of travelers increase, so do gas prices. The gas prices averaged at around $2.74 in 2015, dropped to $2.32 in 2016 but are predicted to rise to the highest gas prices since 2005, AAA reported. This is unfortunate news for the 34.6 million Americans (88.1% of travelers) who reportedly plan to drive to their destinations.

“The expected spike in Memorial Day travel mirrors the positive growth seen throughout the travel industry this year,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. “Higher confidence has led to more consumer spending, and many Americans are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel this Memorial Day.”

What You’ll Pay to Get Away

Although the survey reports travelers intend to drive despite high gas prices, this isn’t the only thing they’ll need to consider as they get behind the wheel. According to last year’s accident and traffic data from Waze, a community-based mapping app, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York were the busiest metro areas over Memorial Day weekend, especially on Thursday and Friday. An extra precaution should be taken for most drivers especially because the number of car rentals are increasing this year as well. AAA’s car rental bookings are 19% higher than last Memorial Day and the cost has risen to an average of $66 per day, 7% more than last year.

The 2.9 million Americans choosing to fly to their destinations are also seeing a cost increase. AAA reports airfare rates are higher than last Memorial Day, saying the average airfare for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 9% higher. If you do plan on flying anywhere this Memorial Day weekend, you may want to read up on the best credit cards to use at every major airport in America to help ensure you get the best bang for your buck when you’re there. Just remember, these travel cards tend to require you have an excellent credit score to qualify. So, if you’re looking to apply for one, it’s a good idea to check out your credit ahead of time. You can see two of your credit scores for free on

While driving and flying dominate the survey, AAA projects travel by other modes (including trains, buses and cruises) will rise to 1.75 million this year, the highest level since 2009. The cost for transportation isn’t the only thing on the rise — hotels costs are also going up. The average AAA Three Diamond Rated Hotel for this Memorial Day weekend costs an average $215 each night, 18% more than last year.

Whether or not you’re traveling this holiday weekend, you will want to check out these 50 ways to honor the true meaning of Memorial Day

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50 Ways to Save on Your Commute

Is your commute eating up too much of your money? There are a bunch of ways to cut the expense of your trip to work.

Commuting can eat up a huge amount of time and money. In fact, a 2015 survey found Americans spend an average of $2,600 a year on their commute, or about $10 a day.

And it’s not only money spent, it’s also time — an average of 45 minutes a day, per the same survey — but there are ways for commuters to claw back at least some of losses. Here are 50 ways to do just that.

1. Carpool

If one or more of your co-workers lives nearby (or a neighbor works near your office), consider asking if you can split the cost and stress of driving to work.

“Not only does it allow you to save on your own commute, but you can also take advantage of the carpool lane and get to work even faster this way,” Deborah Sweeney, CEO of, said.

2. Space Out Oil Changes

An oil change every 3,000 miles is accepted wisdom, but many cars don’t actually need an oil change that often. Check your car’s manual to see whether you need to change your oil that frequently.

3. Use the Right Motor Oil …

Make sure to use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of oil. Check your car’s manual to find out. This improves gas mileage by up to 2%, according to, the official federal source for fuel economy information.

4. … But Make Sure You Keep Up With Maintenance

That doesn’t mean you should forgo maintenance or repairs. If a mechanic you trust says you should shell out for a repair, do it. It’s going to be much more expensive and inconvenient if your car breaks down. Keeping your car in tune also makes it more fuel efficient.

5. Use Public Transit

Depending on service in your area, taking the bus or train may be cheaper than driving every day. You can use a fuel savings calculator like the one on to see how your options compare.

6. Avoid Toll Roads

“Don’t take the toll road unless it’s a total game-changer,” said McKinzie Brocail, a writer who commutes 75 miles to and from work each day. “If you are spending $5-plus each way and only saving a few minutes on your drive, it is a waste of money.”

Your route may vary, but it’s worth investigating alternatives to toll roads.

7. Take Back Roads

The drive to work for Derek Hines, an internet marketing assistant for West Coast Self-Storage, based in Mill Creek, Washington, is about an hour. He generally avoids the highway.

“It’s longer from a mileage point of view, but I get better gas mileage because I’m not sitting in stop-and-go traffic,” he said.

8. Ease up on the Brakes

If you must brave stop-and-go traffic, ease off the gas and brake pedals, said Korey Adekoya, who writes the blog for Shabana Motors, a Houston car dealership.

“Braking and accelerating can be some of the biggest causes of fuel efficiency lost,” Adekoya said. He advised anticipating stops to avoid slamming on the brakes.

9. Accelerate Gently

The Canadian government lists five techniques that it says can cut fuel consumption as much as 25%. The first is to accelerate gently. The harder you accelerate, the more fuel you use.

10. Maintain a Steady Speed

Varying your speed too much can increase fuel use.

11. Anticipate Stops

If you know what’s up ahead, you won’t have to change speeds as drastically.

12. Avoid High Speeds

Fuel efficiency drops drastically at speeds of more than 50 mph, according to

13. Coast to a Stop

Canada’s final tip: If you see a slowdown ahead, just take your foot off the gas, then brake. In modern cars, releasing the accelerator like this shuts the flow of fuel to the engine. It also helps prevent wear on your tires and breaks.

14. Avoid Idling in General

Sitting in traffic is not only frustrating, but also wasteful. Your engine is on, burning fuel, but you’re not going anywhere. On that note…

15. Don’t Wait to Warm Up Your Car

Modern engines get warm when you drive them, Stephen Ciatti, an expert in combustion engines, told Business Insider. Idling your car, unless it was built before the 1980s, is just wasting gas. Per “The engine will warm up faster being driven, which will allow the heat to turn on sooner, decrease your fuel costs and reduce emissions.”

16. Park Somewhere Warm

Your engine is more fuel efficient when it reaches a warm temperature. Parking somewhere warm will help get it there faster once it starts.

17. Don’t Weigh Down Your Car

Fuel efficiency goes down with weight, Adekoya said. If there’s anything in your car you don’t actually need, store it somewhere else.

18. Keep Stuff Off Your Roof

If you must haul stuff, use the trunk, not the roof. Roof-mounted cargo boxes lead to increased wind resistance and lower fuel economy, according to

19. Use Cruise Control

As we said, staying at a constant speed helps save gas and using your cruise control makes that easier.

20. Buy a More Fuel-Efficient Car

If your car is eating up gas, it might be worth trading it in for one that’s more fuel-efficient. has gas mileage estimates for most cars. (Be sure to follow these money-saving steps while shopping.)

21. Buy a Used Car …

Used cars are not only cheaper than new cars, but can be cheaper to insure.

22. … Or Get an Electric or Hybrid

This not only saves gas, but might make you eligible for a tax credit of up to $7,500. (Try to avoid these five car-buying mistakes.)

23. Cool It With the Air Conditioner …

Most air conditioners use engine power to work, which can sip extra fuel. If you can stand the heat, sweating it out could save gas money.

24. … & Rolling Down the Windows

Unfortunately, driving with the windows down can also reduce fuel economy by increasing wind resistance. If you need to cool down, recommends opening the windows at low speeds and using the air at highway speeds.

25. Cut Down on Trips

Don’t make more trips than you need. If you know you need to stop at the grocery store or laundromat, plan to go on your way home from work rather than making separate journeys. Your car is more fuel efficient when the engine stays warm, so a trip with multiple stops is better than multiple trips separated by days, according to

26. Find the Cheapest Gas …

There’s an abundance of apps and websites to help you find which gas stations offer the lowest prices, from GasBuddy to your navigation app. Just don’t go so far out of the way that it isn’t worth it.

27. … & Don’t Buy Premium

Unless you drive a high-performance vehicle or your owner’s manual explicitly says to use it, there’s rarely a benefit to high-octane gas, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

28. Move …

If your commute is pricey enough, it can be worth it to find a place closer to work. (Follow these money tips before moving out.)

29. … Or Get a New Job

Or get a job closer to home.

30. Don’t Stop for Food or Coffee

“Breakfast or a latte might seem like a pick-me-up for the trek to work, but it adds up fast,” Brocail said.

31. Use Pre-Tax Dollars

The IRS allows employers to offer transportation benefits to workers. This lets them use up to $255 per month in pre-tax dollars on commuting expenses like parking or bus passes. Jody Dietel, chief compliance officer at WageWorks, a benefits provider, said this saves workers an average of 30% on commuting costs. Talk to your human resources department to see if they offer transportation benefits.

32. Buy a Bicycle …

If the route is safe, riding a bike to work uses no gas, is good exercise and helps burn calories, potentially saving a trip to the gym. The League of American Bicyclists has several tips for bike commuters on its site.

33. … Or Use a Bike Sharing Program

Many cities offer bicycle sharing programs that let people borrow bikes for short rides. You usually need to subscribe, but see what your city has to offer.

34. … Or Walk

If you live close enough, of course.

35. Work From Home …

Cut your commute out entirely by asking your boss to let you work from home — if not all the time, perhaps just a couple of days a week.

36. … Or Change Your Hours

Boss not down with you working at home? “A more sustainable option would be to ask your boss for a flexible schedule that would allow you to come to work before or after the traditional commute crunch hours, which could save on time stuck in traffic,” said Brie Weiler Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs.

37. Make Use of Your Commute

Your commute doesn’t have to be a waste of time. If you’re taking public transit or are a passenger in a ride-share, you can catch up on email. If you’re driving, play an audiobook or podcast that can help you with your career. There’s much more to do than stew about the traffic.

38. Park for Free

A free parking spot might mean a farther walk from the office, but you’ll save lots if you can avoid paying to stick your car in a garage or lot all day.

39. Keep Your Tires Filled

Under-inflated tires reduce gas mileage, according to Pumping them up is free at many gas stations.

40. Use a Gas Station Credit Card

The right card can give you some money back for what you spend at the pump. Here are a few options. Just remember, a rewards card usually requires a good credit score. Check your credit scores for free on

41. Avoid Left Turns

UPS claims to have saved about 10 million gallons of gas since 2004 by instructing drivers never to turn left (reduces waiting to cross oncoming traffic and related accidents). Cutting lefts out of your route might lead to savings as well.

42. Get a Discount

Many transit systems offer discounts to seniors or students for bus or train passes. See if you qualify.

43. Buy in Bulk

Generally, buying a monthly or seasonal pass, rather than an individual ticket, for your local transit method can lead to savings, especially if you ride regularly.

44. Hop Off Early

Many transit providers charge based on how far you travel. It might be worth it to walk the last few blocks to your house or office to save a few bucks.

45. Bundle Your Car Insurance

Ask your insurer if you can save money by bundling your car insurance with renter’s or homeowner’s insurance.

46. Keep Shopping Around for Insurers

Call around every so often to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your car insurance.

47. Put Ads on Your Car

If you drive enough, there are a few companies, like Wrapify, Carvertise and Get Paid to Drive, that will pay you for driving around with an ad on your car.

48. Know About Traffic Ahead of Time

You already know how bad sitting in traffic is for fuel efficiency. Make sure you find out about jams before you leave the house or office, whether by listening to the radio, watching TV or using an app, and plan around it.

49. Drive Safely

A ticket or worse, a car accident, will really make your commute costly. Be careful out there.

50. Don’t Stress

Sitting in a giant line of seemingly stationary buses at the Lincoln Tunnel is aggravating, but it won’t help to bring your commute-induced mood to work. Letting your commuting stress hurt your job performance is bad business. Try using your time on the bus or train to nap or meditate.

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