Should I Bring My Car to College?

Debating whether or not we needed cars for our freshman year of college was a big decision. You’re not quite sure what activities you’ll be doing or what your day-to-day life will look like. Here are the perspectives of having a car and not having a car your freshman year to help you make this decision.

Experience having a car:

Being from a town where you can’t get anywhere without a car, I was very nervous about the idea of not having a car my freshman year of college. How would I get groceries? Get a job? Go into the mountains? 

roadtrip map Photo by Tabea Damm from Unsplash

Because of this, I decided to bring my car freshman year, all the way from Pennsylvania. Yes, I did embark on a 24-hour drive for this. While having a car was definitely nice sometimes, it was often more annoying than it was worth. Not only did I have to pay $700 a semester to park my car, but the parking lot I ended up with was a 15-minute walk from my dorm. 

If you live close to Boulder, this eliminates much of the hassle I had with my car. I had to plan out a 24-hour drive to Boulder and then back home. This was difficult because of COVID-19 at the end of the year, and my not wanting to do the drive alone. If you live somewhere that is more than a 10-hour drive to Boulder, the inconveniences begin to outweigh the benefits. The sweet spot is really two-four hours away because this isn’t a bad drive at all, but it’s probably a bit more than your parents are willing to do all the time. 

two women sitting on a car Photo by Elijah O'Donnell from Pexels

The times that I was very glad I had a car were when my friends and I would drive to a national park or somewhere outside of Boulder. I also liked using my car to go into the mountains whenever I wanted to, otherwise, it is pretty difficult to get to Lost Gulch.  

If you’re planning on getting a job freshman year, this is where a car might be very convenient. While there are many places close to campus to get a job, if you want to work somewhere that is a bit further away, cars are very nice. I get stressed out taking the bus somewhere where your arrival has to be very timely, like a job. I ended up getting a job that I could walk to, but my friend who worked about a 10-15 drive away would often use my car because she wasn’t able to walk to work. 

Additionally, if you’re a skier, I would imagine that a car would be very nice so you could get to the slopes with all your stuff pretty hassle-free. 

girl in blue jacket and skis smiling Isabelle Wright

My roommate also brought her car, which is not the case for everyone, but I should’ve realized that we both didn’t need a car. Part of me wishes that I didn’t bring one because now I don’t know the bus system very well, and that is a free mode of transportation.

My biggest advice regarding a car would be to coordinate with your roommate. There’s not a big reason for both or all of you to have cars, especially if you're comfortable with others using your car. If my roommate and I only had one car between us, we could’ve split the parking fee and the gas, which would’ve made it much more affordable.

teal interior of car Courtney Cook on Unsplash

The bottom line is that you definitely don’t need a car your freshman year, and to really think about if you will use it since the parking fee is so expensive. But, if you do bring your car, be very proactive about choosing your parking lot. I logged in to get mine a few hours late and was stuck with a lot that wasn’t very close to my dorm. Had my car been closer, I would’ve gotten a bit more use out of it. 

Experience not having a car:

As a freshman in-state, I had never been without a car; since the time I was 15 I had my learner’s permit. Going into my freshman year at CU Boulder, I was concerned about the idea of not having it up at school with me. But when I tell you that you really don’t need a car your first year at college, believe me when I say that was completely true in my case. 

My experience as a freshman was that there was hardly a need to leave campus at all. You are provided a meal plan that takes care of your food each day, and depending on which plan you chose, 19 meals a week with $150 in campus cash, or 15 meals a week with $200 in campus cash, you are set to be able to eat at least two meals a day on campus. Personally, I chose the 15 meals a week, because of my schedule and my eating habits because I don’t tend to eat three meals a day during the week. That being said, I didn’t have a need for a car to take me to the grocery store weekly for food. 

There are also markets on campus, at least one near every major dorm center. These markets have food and snack options, necessities like toiletries and medication, and some fun stuff too like cards and CU gear. These markets are where you can use your extra campus cash that is built into your meal plan. Not to mention there are also coffee shops on campus, both local shops that have spots on campus, as well as a Starbucks in the University Memorial Center. You can also find a Panda Express, Subway, and a Jamba Juice in this building as well. 

“assorted fruits on display in store” on unsplash Photo by Mehrad Vosoughi from Unsplash

All of these options are within walking distance of your freshman dorm, erasing the need for a car for most things you might want to do off-campus during the day. I was genuinely surprised at how taken care of I felt, all in one place as a freshman living on campus. The only time I missed my car was when I wanted to go shopping (something I shouldn’t have been doing anyway without a job) and if I wanted to drive home to see my family or friends from back home. Though that was a perk of living in-state, my family and friends could come up to see me, or take me home for the weekend. 

My experience as a freshman at CU taught me that a car is not necessary to live a happy and fulfilled the first year of college. 

car mirror reflection Photo by Michael Skok from Unsplash

Overall, having a car or not having a car is not the thing that will make or break your experience. Without a car, you might have some funny mishaps on the busses, and with a car, you might have a lot of driving ahead. No matter what you choose, your freshman year is really decided by the people you surround yourself with and what you do.

  1. 1. Experience having a car.

    Being from a town where you can’t get anywhere without a car, I was very nervous about the idea of not having a car my freshman year of college. How would I get groceries? Get a job? Go into the mountains? 

    Because of this, I decided to bring my car freshman year, all the way from Pennsylvania. Yes, I did embark on a 24 hour drive for this. While having a car was definitely nice sometimes, it was often more annoying than it was worth. Not only did I have to pay $700 a semester to park my car, but the parking lot I ended up with was a 15 minute walk from my dorm. 

    If you live close to Boulder, this eliminates much of the hassle I had with my car. I had to plan out a 24 hour drive to Boulder and then back home. This was difficult because of COVID-19 at the end of the year, and my not wanting to do the drive alone. If you live somewhere that is more than a 10 hour drive to Boulder, the inconveniences begin to outweigh the benefits. The sweet spot is really two-four hours away because this isn’t a bad drive at all, but it’s probably a bit more than your parents are willing to do all the time. 

    The times that I was very glad I had a car were when my friends and I would drive to a national park or somewhere outside of Boulder. I also liked using my car to go into the mountains whenever I wanted to, otherwise it is pretty difficult to get to Lost Gulch.  

    If you’re planning on getting a job freshman year, this is where a car might be very convenient. While there are many places close to campus to get a job, if you want to work somewhere that is a bit further away, cars are very nice. I get stressed out taking the bus somewhere where your arrival has to be very timely, like a job. I ended up getting a job that I could walk to, but my friend who worked about a 10-15 drive away would often use my car because she wasn’t able to walk to work. 

    Additionally, if you’re a skier, I would imagine that a car would be very nice so you could get to the slopes with all your stuff pretty hassle-free. 

    My roommate also brought her car, which is not the case for everyone, but I should’ve realized that we both didn’t need a car. Part of me wishes that I didn’t bring one because now I don’t know the bus system very well, and that is a free mode of transportation.

    My biggest advice regarding a car would be to coordinate with your roommate. There’s not a big reason for both or all of you to have cars, especially if you're comfortable with others using your car. If my roommate and I only had one car between us, we could’ve split the parking fee and the gas, which would’ve made it much more affordable.

    The bottom line is that you definitely don’t need a car your freshman year, and to really think about if you will use it since the parking fee is so expensive. But, if you do bring your car, be very proactive about choosing your parking lot. I logged in to get mine a few hours late and was stuck with a lot that wasn’t very close to my dorm. Had my car been closer, I would’ve gotten a bit more use out of it.

  2. 2. Experience not having a car.

    As a freshman in-state, I had never been without a car; since the time I was 15 I had my learner’s permit. Going into my freshman year at CU Boulder, I was concerned about the idea of not having it up at school with me. But when I tell you that you really don’t need a car your first year at college, believe me when I say that was completely true in my case. 

    My experience as a freshman was that there was hardly a need to leave campus at all. You are provided a meal plan that takes care of your food each day, and depending on which plan you chose, 19 meals a week with $150 in campus cash, or 15 meals a week with $200 in campus cash, you are set to be able to eat at least two meals a day on campus. Personally I chose the 15 meals a week, because of my schedule and my eating habits because I don’t tend to eat three meals a day during the week. That being said, I didn’t have a need for a car to take me to the grocery store weekly for food. 

    There are also markets on campus, at least one near every major dorm center. These markets have food and snack options, necessities like toiletries and medication, and some fun stuff too like cards and CU gear. These markets are where you can use your extra campus cash that is built into your meal plan. Not to mention there are also coffee shops on campus, both local shops that have spots on campus, as well as a Starbucks in the University Memorial Center. You can also find a Panda Express, Subway, and a Jamba Juice in this building as well. 

    All of these options are within walking distance of your freshman dorm, erasing the need for a car for most things you might want to do off campus during the day. I was genuinely surprised at how taken care of I felt, all in one place as a freshman living on campus. The only time I missed my car was when I wanted to go shopping (something I shouldn’t have been doing anyway without a job) and if I wanted to drive home to see my family or friends from back home. Though that was a perk of living in-state, my family and friends could come up to see me, or take me home for the weekend. 

    My experience as a freshman at CU taught me that a car is not necessary to live a happy and fulfilled first year of college. 

Overall, having a car or not having a car is not the thing that will make or break your experience. Without a car, you might have some funny mishaps on the busses, and with a car you might have a lot of driving ahead. No matter what you choose, your freshman year is really decided by the people you surround yourself with and what you do.