10 Money-Saving Tips for Bringing a Car to College

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In a few weeks’ time, about 20 million students will head to college. This often brings a freedom-filled world with lots to get used to – moving and setting up in new housing, unlimited food in the dining hall (hello, Freshman 15!), new friends to make, and the need to carefully budget enough time for studying amid the swirl of all the other activity.

If you live in a car-centric campus, odds are you’re bringing your vehicle to school; 90% of those students do. But that can be an expensive prospect – even a paid-off, 8-year old car costs nearly $8,000 per year just to keep on the road. Odds are you don’t have money to spare, given the average student debt was $35,051 for 2015 grads, so you might be looking for ways to save.

Interesting fact: the 25 metros with the most college students are home to more than 40 percent of the total college students in the country. Let’s say you’re in a city school and you park your vehicle on the street. Here are some easy ways to save if you plan on bringing your car to college.

If you rarely need to move/drive it

  • Leave it completely empty when you park it.
    Would-be thieves are easily tempted by anything from a baseball cap to loose change. A completely empty car provides no incentive to break your windows.
  • Call your insurance company to see if they’ll give you a low-mileage discount.
    While you’re chatting with your insurance agent, ask for a line-by-line rundown of opportunities to save while you’re at school.
  • Take it for a quick spin (at least) every couple of weeks.
    It’ll confirm everything’s working smoothly, ensuring your tires don’t develop flat spots from having parked for an extended period of time. Tires are among the most expensive auto repairs, so this is an easy bit of preventative maintenance. Also, starting and running your car regularly means you won’t likely return to a dead battery due to lack of use. But if your battery goes flat (perhaps just because it’s old), here are a few easy tips on how to jump start it.
  • Check on your car regularly
    Maybe someone broke in, and your window was smashed before the autumn monsoons hit. That could wreak havoc on your door panels’ electronics, and could invite others to take a look or help themselves.

    • Parking tickets – most of us have had ‘em, and ticketing agents aren’t afraid to pile them up and fan them across your windshield. When you discover a ticket, pay it on time; sometimes the late fee equals the cost of the ticket itself!If your car has been ticketed and subsequently towed, and you haven’t gone to claim it on time, it can turn into a real nightmare. For the sake of calculating a sample cost (in Openbay’s backyard), let’s say you’re a college student in Boston. You don’t check your car, which you’d inadvertently parked next to a hydrant (you didn’t see it – blame the snow!). You might have been ticketed a couple of times at $100 a pop. Then, in rolls the tow truck, an involuntary expense for which you’d have to pay $90. Your car will be brought to a tow lot, you’ll have to pay the tow yard a daily storage fee. Here in Boston, that costs about $35 per day. If you haven’t checked on your car in a week (five days), that could cost you a grand total of $465.

      But wait – it could be even worse if you drive a financed or leased vehicle and haven’t noticed it’s been towed. If you don’t claim your leased or financed vehicle within a couple of weeks, it could be repossessed by the bank, even though you’ve been making timely payments on it. It sounds crazy, but is true – we know someone this has happened to, and it took a bunch of ticket-and-fine paying, plus legal fees just get the car back. Believe us – it’s well worth a few minutes of your time to occasionally check on your car!

  • Scan your stickers. You risk tickets for out-of-date vehicle inspection, registration or even parking passes. Make a point to do a monthly once-over.

Don’t Forget Regular Vehicle Maintenance (Using an App!), Even if It’s Just for this One Thing

While you were at home, your parents might have chased you around, insisting on regular oil changes. We’re afraid to tell you – they were right. If there’s a single bit of vehicle maintenance that’s worth paying attention to, it’s your oil change. And once you’re in the shop for that minor bit of work, a good mechanic will take time to explain any other items of concern worth noting or repairing.

If you’re looking to save time as well as money, use the Openbay app to help with your vehicle repair and maintenance. Openbay will help you to find, book and pay for car repairs with a good local mechanic.

How to Save on Gas

  • Get Junk Out of Your Trunk
    If you’re constantly lugging heavy items that you aren’t actually using, take them out of your car. Your weekend bag, sports gear and to-be-donated clothes don’t need to be lugged around all the time. An empty, lighter car is a more fuel-efficient one.
  • Use an App to Save on Gas
    An app like Gas Buddy can help you identify which fuel stations have the most affordable gas. It also has a trip-cost calculator, based on your route and your exact vehicle.Another useful gas-savings app is SmartPay, by Cumberland Farms, to save on gas at its stores – 10¢ per gallon, to be exact. If your sedan takes 16 gallons, you’ll save $1.60 per fill-up. If you drive the average 15,000 miles per year, and your car’s fuel economy is the average 24mpg, SmartPay could save you $62.50 per year – not bad for a free app!
  • Check Your Tire Pressure
    For those less mechanically-inclined types, this may seem a little too hands-on to handle. Good news: many gas stations have free gas pumps, and some even have built-in pressure gauges. All you need is three minutes and a quick glance at your door sill to determine your manufacturer’s recommended tire-pressure settings before you get inflating.
  • Drive at a Steady Pace. Reduce Hard Braking & Acceleration
    Hard acceleration and braking can waste gas. In an ideal world, you’re paying full attention to the road, and anticipating everything – impending red lights, aggressive drivers and cars pulling out in front of you. Steady driving makes for efficient gas use.

Perhaps among the most important (but not money-saving) pieces of advice when bringing a car to college: don’t drink and drive. Alcohol causes nearly 1/3 of all traffic-related deaths. Grab a sofa, a cab, or use a designated driver. You’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you. Drive safely!

Image credits: Samantha Cohen, Ashley Coates flickr