Learning to drive is one of the most significant parts of growing up for many people; owning a car represents freedom, responsibility, and another step towards independence - usually with the added convenience of having a place to keep your new set of wheels. However, once you start making university plans, it can be difficult to know whether keeping the car is realistic - between your budget, your accommodation and your new schedule, can you really afford to hold on to it?
First, weigh up the pros and cons - a few of them are obvious:
- You'll be able to drive all of your books and belongings up and down when you travel between home and uni. You'll also have more control over getting to lectures, without worrying about public transport.
- Day trips and adventures around your new area are a lot easier with a car - giving you far more freedom to explore off campus.
- Late-night lifts to the 24-hour Asda with your housemates are sure to make you very popular indeed - the perfect way to help out and make friends!
- Cars are awesome for lugging equipment around: take gigging musicians as an example - imagine taking a drum kit on the bus!
- You may end up being called upon for lifts more than you'd like - especially from those who have burned through their student loan and can't afford the taxi/bus!
- Parking in university towns and cities is notoriously difficult; you might find the car is sometimes more of a hindrance than a help.
Even if it's just for the initial move in, taking a car to uni will make a lot of sense for most people. Then it's a matter of weighing up the pros and cons of keeping it over the academic year. And for that we've got a couple of top tips to help you on your way:
There are more than a few financial considerations to think about when moving to uni, and motoring costs should definitely be one of these. But by being smart it's possible to keep costs to a minimum in order to get the most out of your car and your uni experience.
For starters, it's always good to mix it up between public transport and your motor - don't feel you need to take it everywhere with you! A weekly bus pass is normally going to work out cheaper than driving everywhere and then there's the nightmare of parking during rush hour.
However, carrying 5 bags of shopping on a packed bus is no one's idea of fun. And that's where you can be savvy - because we're sure you're not going to be the only one that feels that way, especially if the supermarket is a bit of a trek away. In this case, you should make sure of turning being the designated 'taxi-driver' to your advantage by asking for a petrol donation!
Carpooling is also a great way to claim some money back when you head home for Christmas and the holidays, giving you all of the independence without the extra financial strain of keeping the car topped up.
Finally, there's so much you can do for a bit of extra cash when you have a car. How about approaching local businesses to advertise on your motor? If your car is parked with other students, you can be sure that there are companies eager to pitch whatever it is they have to sell at a young demographic - Comm-motion, Money4space or Street Car Ads all offer options which could earn you up to £220 a month!
If you really want to take it to the next level, there's even Uber who will allow you to make extra income at hours to suit you.
Of course all of this is immaterial if there's nowhere to park...
House shares and student housing estates sometimes have parking spaces available, and halls sometimes offer a limited number of spaces, but don't be surprised if you end up having to pay extra for these. When you're looking for accommodation, check whether parking is available, and if possible, learn how far away you'd have to park the car. You might find that a service like Just Park could work out cheaper!
Don't forget that, when you go to university, your new accommodation becomes your official main residence. You'll need to let your insurer know that you've moved, and that you'll be taking the car with you, as they may want to reassess your insurance based on the risk level of your new location. It's also worth looking into a local mechanic as soon as you can, so that if you do have any car problems you're not scrambling to get it fixed in a new city.
You might find that after a term or two you're simply not using the car enough to warrant having it up at uni with you. As most halls offer termly car parking rates, it should be easy to chop and change without financial penalties.
If you decide you don't need the car, there are a few ways you can go without having to sell it; you could leave it at your parents' or with a friend; or you could hire it out and recoup some of the costs of maintenance. Don't forget to let your insurer know about your changing car habits, too, as they may be able to re-assess and drop your premium - giving you more space in your budget for socialising!