Thinking about taking a car to university?

studentWhether it is worth taking a car to university often depends on where in the country you are going to study

If you’ve picked a university in London or another big city, driving could be both expensive and painful compared to using public transport.

But if you are heading to a university in a more rural area, or one where you’ll be living some distance from campus, taking a car could be a good move.

Things to think about…

How much will you use it?

If you are going to be living off campus and not be able to walk to lectures, you would get a lot of use out of your car.

If you are living on campus or within easy reach of a town centre, you might end up only using your car to travel to and from home!

What is the parking like?

Parking can be a nightmare if you’re in city centre shared accommodation, or if you’re at halls of residence with no designated parking spaces. Some parking permits for some university campuses are free, others, for example Aberdeen, cost over two hundred pounds a year.

Check up on the parking situation at the university, as well as at or around your accommodation.

Can you afford it?

When you add up the cost of insurance, tax, parking and petrol, you may find that a car is something you can’t afford as a student.

If you can afford it, you could always use some of your first student loan instalment to cover the tax and insurance for the year, that way, you avoid running out of money to pay for them later in the year.

Insurance dos and don’ts

DO change your address

Your student insurance policy must be registered to the address you spend most time at – in other words, your uni accommodation.

If you already have car insurance registered to your home, you need to ask your insurer to change your address before driving off to uni.

A change of address could make the policy more expensive, and there could even be a £25 admin fee, but failing to mention the change of address could invalidate your policy.

DON’T be tempted to lie about being the main driver

Trying to save money by asking a parent or older sibling to claim to be the main driver on your policy – a tactic know as “fronting” – is not a good idea.

Not only does it mean that any claims you have to make could be rejected, it’s actually illegal and could lead to you being charged for driving without insurance.

DO look for other ways to cut your costs

Car insurance for younger drivers can be very expensive. But there are lots of good ways to keep costs down.

You can, for example, reduce the amount you spend on insurance by choosing a car with a small engine, or by limiting yourself to lower mileage.

Telematics or ‘black box’ policies that reward safer drivers with lower premiums can be good when only generally drive short distances in the day, for example.

If you can keep your car in a secure car park (or if possible a locked garage) rather than on the road you will also get a discount on your insurance.

Other options

Some uni’s have car-sharing clubs that work a bit like pool cars.

Students at the Oxford Brooks University, for example, can join the Co-wheels on site Car Club, which gives free membership to their students eligible for the scheme

You generally need a clean licence and to be at least 19 to join car clubs.

You can help friends that live near you out by offering seats in your car for a fuel contribution – like car sharing. Many car sharing apps connect drivers up with people looking for rides and even give a suggested contribution based on the journey details entered.

If you leave your car at home, it still needs to be insured, even if no-one is using it, and even if it is parked-up on a drive or in a garage. So if your policy comes up for renewal, shop around and get the best deal you can, or apply to DVLA for a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN).