Car in College: Do I Need to Bring One

Car at College

When thinking about all the different things that you’re going to need to bring to college, one of the bigger things you may be thinking about is a car.

Do I need a car for college? Believe it or not, many people do not bring their cars to school for various reasons. Some things that go into these kinds of decisions including space at the University and the money towards paying for the parking pass. The answer all depends on what university you go to.

Bigger schools normally can only have a certain amount of student cars on campus, which may allow you to be able to bring your car if you are an underclassman.

Cars on Campus

When you are living in the dorms some colleges will not allow you to have a car at all, even if you can pay for the parking pass. Of course, some students find various ways around this by parking their cars at different places around campus. This may not be easy or safe to do.

From experiences that I have had with my friends and family going to school, usually, the smaller schools allow everyone who can to bring a car. That doesn’t mean that your parking spot is going to be super close to where you are staying, or even that you will have a good parking spot at all, but at least you will have your car on campus.

If the campus is really small or in a very congested area like American University in Washington DC, then a car will not be allowed. Most students use the bus, walk or the metro.

We can’t make this kind of decision for you, but we can give you some advice and you some experiences from people we know in college. This might help you to figure out what the best option is for you.

The first tip that I can give you, is that if your parents live within 30 to 40 minutes of your university, your best bet is probably to just leave your car at home. It’s just as easy for your parents to come to get you if you need to come home for any reason.

Of course, once you are an upperclassman you may change your mind, but I noticed that most of my friends that live close to the campus usually didn’t bring along their cars.

I guess it could also change depending on the area that your college is located. If you’re going to a smaller school that isn’t around any sort of city, then you might need a car simply just to go out to eat or go to a grocery store.

Just think about all the different things that you’re going to want to do when you go to school and figure out if you really need your own personal transportation to it or if you can use public transportation.


I hate to be the one to break it to you, but even if the smaller schools you’re never going to be able to drive to and from your classes. Occasionally there may be one class especially if it’s far away at the edge of campus where you could possibly park.

However, finding parking spots around campus are very hard to do. It doesn’t matter if there are 900 students at your school or 50,000. Finding parking spots near your classroom is probably not going to happen.

I know a fellow college student that did have a class across a large campus. He said he had the neighbors drive him to class every day. The driver just paid for parking every day at a garage that happened to be close to the class.

You have to think about the fact that faculty and workers also need to park somewhere as well. So, if you’re bringing your car to campus because you want to drive to your classes, then you need to get with the university administration. Parking is limited at every university unless you go to a branch.

Plus, you might want to actually take a vantage of the extra walking time or riding a bike because believe me the freshman 15 pounds is a real thing (I swear it is).

Working While in School

Work might just be the most valid reason to bring your car to campus. Once again depending on-campus location, finding a place to work could be a little bit harder. You might have to find somewhere that is a 10 or 15-minute drive.

Obviously, if you’re working somewhere that’s not in walking distance, you’re going to have to have some sort of transportation. There is public transportation or using your bicycle. I know a ton of students that just use their bike to get to work and school.

If you know that your school is small and to get a job you need to leave the campus area. Then you probably need to figure out a way to bring your car to campus.

If you’re going to a large school and you already have a job lined up, or you know that there’s a lot of places to get jobs on and around campus. This scenario you may not need to worry about having a car just to get a job.

If you work in a bigger city, there might not even be that much parking where your job is anyway. Another thing to think about is most on-campus jobs aren’t going to have parking spots. If you’re living at your apartment when you’re an upperclassman, then a car may be the best option you just need to figure it out.

Basically, just figure out your work situation and see what type of transportation is going to be needed in order to fill it.

Parking Passes

When your school gives you an estimated amount of money that you’re going to be spending on your tuition, room and board and fees, it usually does not include a parking pass.

Now, this may not seem like the biggest deal. I know you’re thinking “I mean how much could a parking pass possibly be?”. But here’s the thing, this is something that is completely up to your school and how much they want to charge you.

Some of my friends went to a smaller private school simply paid $25-$30 for an all-around parking pass for the entire year. And I also know some of my other friends, including me, would have to pay almost $1000 for a parking pass for the entire year.

Even though I would be paying $1000 for this parking pass it could still be a 25-minute walk from my car to where my dorm is located.

Now, obviously, this is not an ideal situation. And $1000 makes a large difference in the amount of money that you think you’re going to have to pay. So, therefore I feel that bringing a car on campus is a pretty big decision to make.

At my school, you were not allowed to have a car if you were a freshman, so I did not have to worry about it my previous year at all. I was just fine with no car my freshman year as I could use the busing system to get around town.

If the bus could not take me to where I wanted to go, then I used Uber or a Lyft. It is smart to ask for Uber gift cards for the holidays. Even if you don’t use Uber to just get around, it is nice just have some extra money in case you need to get home when it’s dark.

car at college work and social

Social Events

Either way, living at a four-year college without a car was not hard. I still get to do everything that I want to do, and I do have upperclassman friends who have cars if I absolutely needed one. The only downside was that of course anytime I wanted to go home my parents or family members had to come and get me.

The other downside was that in order to see my boyfriend he normally had to come to me. If I wanted to see him at his college, I had to get a ride to my house to get my car and then drive to the school he attends. I still was able to travel around the city where my university was located, going to new restaurants, going to ice cream shops, going to the movies, and even going to concerts.

Not having a car did not change my college experience one bit. I am glad I did not bring my car on campus and I am glad I did not pay the extra grand to have it (even though I wasn’t really allowed to have one anyway).

I will admit that I was a little worried when I first found out that I couldn’t have a car, ended up being just fine. The only reason that I decided I’m going to have a car on campus this year, which is my sophomore year. is because I am living in a sorority house and they’re offering me free parking.

If I did have to pay the thousand dollars for the parking pass, I am 100% sure that I would not, and I would just ride buses and Uber once again. I promise that not having a car on campus is not as big of a deal as you think.

You need to make sure you balance school and your social life.


Overall, if money is not a problem for you then bring your car to school so that you will have those opportunities. However, if you are really thinking about it a lot and you are concerned about the extra money, don’t think that it’s going to change your overall experience or the things that you’re going to get to do. Especially for underclassmen, a lot of people around you are going to have cars either.

The only people that will have a car are few upperclassman friends you may have. You’re not going to feel left out, and you’re not going to miss out on anything. Bigger cities have buses and an ample amount of Uber’s if you need something.

Even in smaller schools will have enough friends that are upperclassmen with cars or even underclassmen with cars.

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