Four Reasons Not to Bring a Car to College

The on-campus college experience is a time when freedom and simplicity reign. As long as you stay on top of your studies, no one will bug you if you keep peculiar hours or live to the fullest. And as long as you stay out of trouble, no one will hear what you’ve been up to, either.

Of course, the freedom to stay up late is one thing. The kind of freedom you really want is the ability get around. And if you want more freedom than most, you may think keeping a car on campus is the answer. But, is it?

Four Reasons to Leave Your Car at Home

Unfortunately, bringing a car to college can cause just as many problems as it solves. While some of the implications are of the practical variety, other potential issues are financial in nature. Before you bring your car to college, consider these downsides:

Reason #1: Many colleges discourage bringing a car to school.

If you’re living on campus, you might be in for a rude awakening if you bring your car to school. That’s because many colleges and universities discourage it, and create rules and requirements that limit car use.

One common rule employed by schools is banning on-campus parking or limiting parking to a large lot that is fairly far away. So, each time you want to use your car, you have to catch a ride – or hoof it – to your designated parking space.

By and large, college campuses were created for pedestrians – and not automobile traffic. As such, there may not be many parking spots on campus, either – aside from those designated for staff.

So, if you bring your car and park it in the student lot, it may not be feasible to drive it that often anyway.

Reason #2: You may not be allowed to bring your car – even if you want to.

Some schools are adamant about students not bringing their cars to school, and that’s particularly true when it comes to incoming freshmen.

At the State University of New York at Albany, for example, freshmen aren’t allowed to bring a car, register one, or park their car anywhere within campus limits. No exemptions are made for students who have off-campus jobs, either. And yeah, they take this stuff seriously. Take a look at this warning on the SUNY Albany website:

“Please be aware that ANYONE attempting to register a vehicle for a RESIDENT FRESHMAN is subject to referral to the Student Judicial Board for review. Both parties referred may be placed on disciplinary probation, and prohibited from operating/parking a vehicle on campus for an additional year. In addition, any vehicle registered to a RESIDENT FRESHMAN will be placed on the TOW LIST and the vehicle will be towed at the owner’s expense, even if legally parked.”

Before you bring your car to school, you need to know if it’s allowed. If not – or if rules are too stringent – the decision will probably be made for you.

Reason #3: Having access to a car can be a huge distraction.

While you might think getting away from campus is a good idea, it might be the opposite of what you need. When you’re first getting acclimated to college life, having the option to leave any time you want can work against your long-term goals.

When you have a car, you can go out at night, drive a few towns away to see a friend, or drive into the big city every weekend. But when you’re stuck on campus, you don’t have as many options. As a result, you might spend more time studying and getting to know more people on campus – you know, the things you came to college to do in the first place.

Having a car on campus might pull you away from school more often than not, and as a new student, that’s hardly a good thing. If you want to focus on your studies and your future, you’ll often be better off if you don’t have the option to leave.

Reason #4: Taking a car to college costs money – money you don’t have.

If you’re living on a college campus, it’s safe to say you’re racking up a pretty hefty bill. But when you bring your car along for the ride, you could end up even worse off financially.

Not only will you need to pay for long-term parking if your school charges, but you’ll rack up small parking charges as you take your car from place to place. Add onto that the costs of gas, more frequent oil changes, and more wear and tear, and you could end up several hundred dollars in the hole every month.

On top of that, having a car makes it easier to go places that require you to spend money. A late-night trip to your favorite restaurant, a night out bowling, or a boozy Saturday evening at a local club are all within your reach if you can drive. And boy, will those events cost you.

It’s true that public transportation costs can add up, but many colleges operate a free transit system for students, and you should be able to walk (for free) most of the time anyway. By keeping your car at home, you can avoid spending unnecessarily over the long run.

The Bottom Line

If you think a car is a must-have at college, think again. Not only do some schools discourage bringing one, they can make it costly, too.

And if your goal is studying hard and getting ahead in life, a car can cost you in that respect as well. Just remember, what you want and what you need are not always one and the same. And if you’re trying to finish school and earn a degree, a car is probably the last thing you need.

Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. She blogs at and teaches others how to write online at

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Holly Johnson

Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.