So, you're taking the next big step in your life and heading off to university. Independence now awaits! Of course, before you head off, you've got plenty of planning and packing to do, not to mention countless important decisions to make. If you're lucky enough to have your own car, you might be wondering if it's worth taking your car to university. If you're completely stumped and have had no luck with weighing up the pros and cons, we've got just thing for you!
In our guide, we're going to take you through the main factors you need to consider when deciding on whether to take your car to university or not. We'll walk you through the pros and cons, and also offer some handy recommendations.
As with most things in life, it all comes down to the cost. Now, when you go to university, there are a lot of expenses that you have to shoulder. While you might have a decent maintenance loan to fall back onto, it can only cover you so far—you've got to consider the cost of your accommodation, groceries, university supplies and any additional bills. That's not even including the money you'll want to set aside for a few nights out and pre-drinks! Even if you're getting a "loan" from the Bank of Mum and Dad, it might be a bit too much of a stretch to include the cost of taking your car to university.
Bear in mind that when we talk about the cost of taking your car with you, we're not just talking about the fuel. You've got to include the cost of road tax and insurance. The latter could even see an increase if you take your car with you—as you're changing addresses, your insurer might see it as a bigger risk to insure you. With insurance premiums already high for young drivers, this might just be the straw to break the camel's back!
Of course, this will vary from student to student. If you've got yourself a part-time job, or you've been saving up, you might easily be able to cover the cost of taking your car to university.
✓ For: if you're already covering the cost of maintaining a car and are a careful budgeter, you might not struggle with taking your car with you.
✗ Against: you're already having to carefully budget so that you can afford accommodation, university supplies, groceries and nights out.
Recommendation(s): we'd suggest putting together a spreadsheet to figure out whether you can actually afford the cost of taking your car to university. Look at how much your insurance will cost and include an estimated cost of fuel. See if you'll still be able to afford rent, groceries and additional fees on top of it.
One of the easiest ways to figure out whether you'll end up using your car much is to look at where you're located. If you're smack bang in the middle of a city centre—or around 10-15 minutes away—you'll probably have more than enough public transport at your beck and call. With a trusty student discount in your pocket as well, you can quite easily fork out for a fairly priced annual bus pass. In fact, we're willing to bet that the cost of a bus pass would come to less than the cost of maintaining your car for a few months.
An additional advantage to not taking your car is the extra exercise you'll get—forget shelling out for a gym pass, just walk everywhere instead! Of course, if you're going to a university in the middle of nowhere—or, you're unfortunate enough to be placed in accommodation that's nowhere near the actual campus—you might not be keen on having to spend hours of your time on the bus every time you need to head in for a lecture.
Plus, if you're miles away from your nearest Aldi, you're facing the prospect of having to trek all the way back with dozens of bags. (Our arms are aching from just thinking about it!). With your trusty car, however, your weekly shop will be a breeze. Another advantage to having your car on hand is that you've got the freedom of the road at your fingertips. You could easily hop in your car and head on home if you're feeling homesick (translation: need to drop off laundry and want a home-cooked meal).
Or, you could go on a spontaneous road trip with your housemates!
✓ For: with a car, you can reach your campus with ease, do some heavy grocery shopping and head on home whenever you'd like.
✗ Against: if you're in the city centre, your car will just end up gathering dust for months on end. Plus, it's cheaper to just buy an annual bus pass.
Recommendation(s): have a look at where your accommodation is based and how close it is to your campus. Then, search for local shops and any other places you might be interested in heading to. If everything's within walking/bus distance, you might not need your car. Obviously, if that's not the case, you'll need to bring your car.
It's all well and good sorting out your budget so that you can afford the cost of fuel, insurance and road tax, but if you can't actually find anywhere to park your car, your pro budgeting becomes null and void. Depending on where you're living, the parking situation might be a bit difficult. Some shared halls and houses will have parking available. But, with the sheer volume of students living there, it's likely to be over-subscribed—or, be a case of first come, first served. That's not even taking into account the cost of paying for your own parking spot.
If your budget's already stretched thin, you might not be able to afford a parking permit. You don't just have to think about parking at your accommodation, you also need to consider whether you're be able to get a spot on campus if you're using your car to get to and from lectures. If your university's in a city centre, the cost of paying for a car park every day will tot up to an extortionate amount in no time at all.
Again, if you're a careful budgeter and you've already looking into subsidised parking, for example, it might not be an issue for you. You could even opt to park your car on a nearby street—and if you do that, you need to know the rules about parking on pavements. The downside to this method, of course, is that it invites the possibility of car theft into the mix. Even if you carefully follow our car security tips and buy our top ten car security accessories, safety is not guaranteed—and areas with heavy numbers of students always tend to invite heavy theft anyway.
✓ For: your accommodation might offer affordable parking, or you might be able to find a private car park with decent permit prices.
✗ Against: if parking isn't guaranteed, or is simply too extortionate, you might as well leave your car at home and enjoy the extra money in your pocket.
Recommendation(s): look into whether your shared hall or house offers its own parking facilities. You might also want to look at any nearby private car parks. Then, compare the costs and see if you have room for the cheapest option with your budget.
Let's face it, if you're the only one in your shared accommodation or friendship group to have a car, then you're likely to end up as the designated taxi driver. Whether this is a good thing or not depends entirely on your perspective. If you're someone who doesn't like to do chores or be at someone's beck and call, we get the feeling you won't enjoy your housemates pestering you to head out to the local supermarket to pick up booze. We're sure you can already hear the drunken phone calls from your housemates at 2am asking you to pick them up from an undisclosed location.
Of course, if you're a naturally generous person, or you just know when to put your foot down, you might enjoy having your mates love you for the duration of university. (As long as you continue to bribe them with lifts of course!). The cost of being a personal taxi driver for your friends could get quite hefty, especially if it's a daily occurrence.
That being said, you can offset the cost quite easily if you ask your friends to chip in for the cost of fuel.
✓ For: you'll be the personal hero for your entire friendship group if you're offering emergency lifts. Plus, if you love organising trips or days out, as the only one able to drive, you're guaranteed to be the one in charge.
✗ Against: if the thought of being your housemates' slave for both semesters has you groaning in despair, you might want to rethink taking your car to university.
Recommendation(s): carefully think about whether you'd mind being asked to take people to the shop or into town on a whim. If you're not the kind of person who easily says no to people, then it might just make your life easier to leave your car behind. Of course, if you have a bit of a hero complex, go right ahead!
It all depends entirely on your situation. It mainly comes down to whether you can actually afford it. If budgeting is already tight and you're desperate not to dip into your overdraft, then you're not going to be able to afford fuel, road tax, insurance and parking. Plus, if you're not entirely sure you'll actually need your car, you'll just be throwing away money for the sake of it.
Of course, on the other hand, having a car can give you the freedom of the road. Whether you're a fan of big weekly shops or fancy being able to nip home whenever you feel a bit homesick, having your car with you can be a godsend.
Whatever you decide, you'll need to make some changes to your insurance policy.
If you've decided to take your car to university, then you'll need to let your insurance provider know that you're changing addresses temporarily. You'll need to do this for two main reasons: so that your provider can get in touch if need be, and also because your premiums might rise due to your change in location. Just think about it: if you're located in the city centre, you're going to be a much higher risk to insure. As such, your provider will likely have to increase your premiums. Please be aware that misleading your insurer in any way—such as, not telling them of your address change—could lead to your insurance being invalidated.
Keen to cut the costs of your insurance so it's not as much of a drain on your budget? Take a look at our top insurance guides for some handy advice and tips:
If you've decided to leave your car at home, then you'll want to consider declaring your car off-road. If no-one else is using your car while you're away, then you'll just be wasting your money on taxing and insuring it.
By applying for a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN), you can stop paying tax and insurance. Just think about how much extra money you'd have! Of course, if you declare your car as off road, you won't be able to use it on public roads at all. You'll also need to store it in a garage, on a driveway or on private land. Once you're ready to get your car back on the road, it's as simple as taxing your vehicle, sorting out insurance and making sure your MOT is up-to-date.