What to know before you send your kid to college with their own car
Across America, millions of college students are gearing up to move to campuses. Many will be packing up vehicles that will be their main source of transportation to and from school, as well as on and around campus.
If you’re helping a son or daughter purchase a set of wheels, or if you’re buying a vehicle for them, there are several factors to consider.
Don’t let price be your only guide
Paying the cost of college, even with scholarship dollars available through so many resources, can still be an expensive proposition. When car shopping with your son or daughter, you might be inclined to go for a very inexpensive used vehicle and hope for the best. That’s probably not the best idea.
You don’t have to spring for a new car, but you should make sure that you buy a dependable vehicle. According to U.S. News & World Report, there are many reasonably priced, reliable used vehicles that have passed rigid certification programs. Cars, trucks and SUVs that have passed inspections and have officially been certified by the manufacturers should provide solid transportation throughout your child’s college career. Routine services (e.g., oil and filter changes, brake inspections, tire rotations) should be completed at intervals recommended in the owner’s manual to ensure the vehicle’s reliability.
If you are considering a used car that has not been through a certification program, it’s well worth the expense to hire a qualified, trusted mechanic to give a car a thorough going over. Edmunds.com says it’s better to spend a little money now than to discover too late you bought a lemon.
A test drive during the inspection will reveal if the brakes, power steering and lights are all working properly. If any of the vital systems are not up to snuff and/or if the tires are showing a good bit of wear, before closing the deal, either ask the seller to rectify the problem(s) or lower the price to allow you to make the repairs. If they’re unwilling to do that, walk away. There are plenty of other vehicles for sale.
When the student is on campus
If you still have time remaining on a manufacturer’s warranty, locate a dealership near your son or daughter’s university. A dealer associated with your vehicle’s manufacturer is equipped to perform warranty work if needed, or to handle repairs related to vehicle recalls. This kind of work is reimbursed by the manufacturer, so even though repairs likely won’t cost you anything, the dealership is still making money, so they’ll be glad to see you.
Ask around and check references for a good independent mechanic in the college town as well. Non-warranty work and routine maintenance can be less expensive than service at a dealership and just as good. Generally speaking, having routine services performed at an independent shop does not affect your warranty.
Know the college/university rules
Parking spaces are at a premium at many institutions of higher education. Make sure your son or daughter knows and adheres to campus parking restrictions and pays necessary fees. Be aware that many universities, especially those that compete in major sports, have lots where you may be permitted to park MOST of the time. However, on game days, you may be required to vacate your space to make room for out-of-town fans who have paid big dollars to the school for the privilege of using the space you occupy all week.
Many a student has gone to get in their car only to find it had been towed because it was parked in an area where it wasn’t permitted or parking fees hadn’t been paid. College is a learning experience, but that is one lesson that doesn’t need to be learned.
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