How to Survive College Without a Car

Going to college has its challenges.  You are forced to adapt to a new environment, meet new friends, study countless hours and much more.  These difficulties are only made worse by financial hardship.  If you have already graduated from college, try to think of another time in your life where you have paid tens of thousands of dollars in expenses with little or no income.  I bet you can’t think of another time.  The truth is that getting through college without any debt is a very difficult task.  Trying to keep your student loans to a minimum is made possible by finding ways to reduce spending and cut costs.  One of the best ways to reduce your expenses in college is to get rid of your car.  In fact, some universities (because of limited parking) do not allow underclassmen to bring cars to college.  If you are one of those select few that has a choice whether or not to bring a car, here are some reasons to leave that car at home (or even sell it).

How to Survive College Without a Car

Money you would $ave

The money that you would save by going to college without a car is more than just gas expenses.  This is the obvious expense, but there are a few other factors to consider.  On top of gas expenses, there is also car maintenance and upkeep.  Most likely you aren’t driving the latest model and it should be expected that you will have to pay to keep your car in driving condition.  This includes regular oil changes as well as the unexpected maintenance repairs.  Another minor cost to include is a parking permit.  This will vary depending on the school, so make sure to read the listed fees to get an accurate number.

The more expensive costs that you will incur are insurance and depreciation.  Auto insurance, especially as a young adult with only a few years of driving history, can be quite expensive.  You also want to make sure to include depreciation into your calculation.  This is one of those hidden costs that may shock you when go to sell your call years later.  Did you know that the average car depreciates 10-15% each year?

So, how much are we really talking about? Let’s imagine you have a car that’s worth $10,000.  Let’s see what it would cost you to bring your car to school for those four years.  Depending on your university and the actual value of the car, these numbers will vary, but this should give you an idea of how much money you can save.

how to survive college without a car

How can you survive college without a car?

Insurance – $1,000
Depreciation – $1,000
Gas – $800
Parking Permit – $500
Maintenance Fees – $300
Total – $3,600

Four Year Expense: $14,400

With the estimates here, it would cost you roughly $14,400 to bring a car to school for those four years!  How much do you really need that car?  You may be wondering what you would do or how you would get around, but there are ways to make this only a small inconvenience.

Tips to Survive College Without a Car:

After working at a university for several years, I would like offer some important tips that will help you feel comfortable about leaving that car at home (and saving you lots of money).

  • Shuttle Services/Public Transportation: Most universities recognize that a lot of students will come to school without a car of their own.  Many offer their own shuttle service to local stores.  If the university is located in a major city, you can even bet that there will be public transportation to rely on.
  • “Mooch”: Asking your roommate or new friends for a ride to the grocery store every now and then is not only okay, but often expected.  So, don’t feel bad knowing that you will have to find a ride from someone else.  If they are your friend, they will certainly understand.  In fact, most university students would prefer company when they run to the store to pick up something they need.  With that said, I would be conscious that you don’t abuse this service and maybe even offer to buy them lunch once in a while.
  • Walk/Ride:†Walking or riding your bike are great alternatives to having a car as well.  Universities will often be located close to restaurants, grocery stores, and anything else you need to make this a viable option.

Are you committed to saving money that you will try living four years without a car?

What are other ways you can survive college without a car?

This is a guest post by Corey at 20’s Finances. His personal finance blog strives to offer creative tips for the beginner and expert alike. Be sure to subscribe to his RSS feed via email and receive his free ebook.


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Published or updated September 13, 2011.


  1. Thanks again for hosting!

  2. Track Your Bucks says:

    Many universities are designed specifically to be “bike friendly”, even those located in colder climes. You can’t get near most college campuses without seeing an increased number of bike racks or bicycling shops. With Craigslist, getting a decent used bike for cheap is pretty easy, especially in a college town. Also, while it’s not available everywhere, those who don’t own a car can use rent-by-the-hour services like “Zipcar” or rent cars via the usual car rental companies and still come out ahead financially.

    • You’re so right about bikes. And not only are many universities bike friendly, but the towns nearby tend to be as well.

  3. Yes, those are great tips as well. Thanks for the valuable contribution.

  4. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    I went three years of college without a car. Luckily, I had friends with cars, a shuttle system and then mass transportation too. I believe most people can go all four years of college without a car. Invest in a good bike and you’ll be all set.

  5. I survived all four years of college without a car. I had very good fiends and fraternity brothers who I double dated with. It was never a problem to get to parties etc.

  6. That’s great KC. I am sure you saved a ton of money too!

  7. This is my 4th year of college without a car & it has definitely been hard! Some roommates & friends didn’t have a car my first couple years in college either & I never learned how to ride a bike, but I managed to find at least 1 friend each semester that could provide transportation for us all. There’s some good people out there that don’t mind giving your rides & others that will ask for gas money (although you should offer every now & then if you ride with them often). I also discovered the greatness of Uber.

    • Glen Craig says:

      I’ve heard how Uber is becoming a favorite to college students. How easy is it to get a car when you need it?

  8. Elena Calvillo says:

    When it comes to commuter campuses, it can be hard because walking takes up a lot of time. Nowadays I live in an apartment because it is cheaper, though I did not get a spot in the dorm (competitive for upper class men). My struggle without a car, is being able to manage time waiting for transportation. The bus is way cheaper but again it takes a lot of time. Many people have cars on campuses and I hear them complain not finding a parking spot and spending money on a ridiculous priced parking permit. Seeing these factors, I feel great not spending but a car is definitely convenient especially if the university is on a hill. I admit, it does get tiring and money becomes a concern all the time. One day I will have a car. All I can do is study hard and wait to have a fancier car in my life.

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