Finding and Buying Your College Car

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SayCampusLife is beginning a new category of discussion, Campus Cars, to cover everything behind owning a car while attending college. This is the first of what will be many articles on this subject.

Sending your adult student off to college means paying for their tuition, room, and related expenses while providing him x08ch_av006.jpgor her with some extra cash to cover personal expenses and maybe a few dollars more for entertainment. For some parents another expense, transportation, is part of the equation which can sometimes come in the form of bus fares home or ride share money.

What if you want your son or daughter to have access to a car while on campus? Some schools do not allow freshmen students to have a car if they are living in a dorm, while others have no such restrictions. Regardless, finding, buying and maintaining a car is yet another expense. Let’s take a look at how you can find the right car for your student.

Off to School in the Old Buick

My neighbor’s daughter, Becky, took her parents’ 1999 Buick Regal with her when she went off to college in another state this past fall. Her dad is a weekend mechanic who keeps all of his cars looking and running great for many years. With 73,000 miles on the odometer, no doubt she has a car that will serve her well. For his part, Dad now has a spankin’ new Cadillac CTS parked where the Buick used to sit.

Finding and Buying a Car

Not everyone has an extra car to give away nor does every parent have the skills (or time) to maintain a vehicle. You’ve decided that your son or daughter should have a car, but you aren’t willing to part with one of yours. What are your options? You have quite a few including:

Friends, Family Members — A trusted friend or family member could be looking to trade in his car, but he knows what the dealer will give him wouldn’t be as much money as he could fetch on the open market. If it is a car you like and the price is right, why not buy from someone you know? Besides, he probably has kept all of the repair and maintenance records.

Program Vehicles — Cars which have been leased or rented out by companies such as Hertz and Avis are often well maintained, clean vehicles. Almost all are top of the line models and most have low mileage; some come with a warranty and first year depreciation is not a factor for the buyer.

Certified Used Cars — Auto manufacturers are increasingly standing behind their late model used cars and are certifying some for resale with warranties included. Not every vehicle qualifies, but that should be fine with you — you want your purchase to pass scrutiny and perform as expected. Of course, you could try your hand at the used car lot, but only if you’re like Becky’s dad who can spot a lemon before it is too late!

Go For New — You may even find purchasing a new car to be the best option for your family. With no “history” to it and years of dependable driving ahead, a new car can give you the peace of mind you need and the enjoyment your son or daughter seeks.

Lots of cars still retail for under $15k, including the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent and Elantra, Chevrolet Aveo (pictured), Kia Rio and Spectra, and other models. You get a full warranty and your student gets many years of safe, economical driving. SayCampusLife will be taking a look at a number of the value-priced vehicles available to you from time to time, so please check back in for more information.

Run A Damage Report

With any vehicle that is used, you’ll want to get all of the maintenance records you can and ordering a Carfax report can tell you if the car has a “history” you don’t want to deal with (flood damage, severe crash, etc.)

Finally, you’ll want to explore your financing options particularly if you want to keep the manufacturer’s rebate and finance your wheels elsewhere.

Having a car available on campus isn’t always a luxury — some students need access to a set of wheels, dependable transportation to carry them through the next four years of studying away from home.

Photo courtesy/copyright General Motors. Matt regularly dispenses automotive news, views and advice through his The Auto Writer blog.

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Categories: Campus Cars