A Collegiette’s Guide to Having a Car at UF

I love UF dearly, but the one thing about UF that makes my blood boil is the parking. Now that I live off-campus, I am not as bothered, but for the entirety of freshman year, I was heated. So to save you some misery, here are my best parking tips for Gators.  

1. Only bring your car if you genuinely need it

If you have your car with you, you do not have to depend on someone else to bring you home and then back to Gainesville when you want to see your family. Last spring semester, I had tickets to see a concert back at home, which is about two hours from Gainesville. Unfortunately, I had classes until 2 in the afternoon and at 8:30 the next morning, so my time at home was about 12 hours. Without my car, I don’t think I would have been able to achieve such a quick turn-around.

That being said, keeping your car here is a total mind-game. You have to know what the parking restrictions are and when they go into effect. You have to tend to your car by yourself if something happens to it, and as the friend with the car, you become the designated driver to almost all events. The choice to bring a car to college is up to you, but there are pros and cons to each choice.

2. Understand the lack of on-campus parking at UF

Students and staff alike complain about parking here all the time. In fact, getting more parking spaces for students has appeared on multiple student government campaign platforms. To park on-campus during the weekdays, so need a decal which can cost you about $150. The type of decal you qualify for depends on your number of credits. As a freshman, you will have a small number of credits, so you will most likely get a red decal. As you take more classes, you can qualify for better decals. Most of the parking lots on-campus are on the edges of campus, so driving to class will inevitably include some walking. Parking restrictions do lift during the evening and on weekends in most cases.

During the weekdays, parking lifts around 5 pm, but some lots lift earlier than others. As a freshman, I kept my car in the commuter lot during the weekdays. This lot was about a fifteen-minute walk from my dorm, but it could have been longer if I had lived in a dorm that was in the middle of campus. During the weekends, I would move my car to the small lot in front of my dorm, but sometimes I would forget to move it back to the commuter lot on Sunday nights, resulting in multiple parking tickets. Pro tip: Look at a map of UF and a map of UF parking lots and their restrictions. Know where you can keep your car for any given time, and maybe try to select a dorm that is closer to a lot you can park in. I wish I would’ve done this before I moved in. I probably would have saved a lot of money that was wasted on parking tickets!

3. Do your research about Gainesville city and neighborhood parking

Most places in Gainesville have standard parking lots, but the exception is definitely on sorority row and downtown Gainesville. These areas have primarily street parking. For street parking, you have to buy a decal that costs about $100. It’s important to know that these decals have to be repurchased yearly. If you don’t have a decal but need street parking, you will have to wait until the evening or the weekends when the restrictions are lifted.

One morning, I was running down sorority row as I usually do, when I noticed my car out on the street. At first, I didn’t think anything of it, but then I realized that it was Monday morning and I was going to get ticketed if I didn’t move my car in five minutes. Did I run like a maniac to grab my car keys and move my car? Yes, I did — just so I could avoid a ticket. In my experience, there is no such thing as a relaxed parking system in Gainesville. Restrictions are strictly enforced and tickets are given out regularly.

4. What happens if your car breaks down?

Perhaps you are a total badass and can change a tire and change your oil by yourself. If you can, I bow down to you. But if you’re like me, you know how to do none of those things. My worst nightmare is that my car will break down on Archer Road during rush hour and I’ll be stuck all by myself. A few weeks ago, that almost happened. Luckily, managed to get my car back to my apartment, but it was touch-and-go. 

The best present I have ever gotten was a Triple A membership. I was easily able to call them and they picked up my car and took it to a mechanic. I’ve also been able to help my friends out when their cars break down with my membership. It’s not something you will use every day, but it’s a lifesaver. 

Dealing with parking and driving in general here at UF is one of those things that gets easier with time, but hopefully these tips get you on the right track. Happy driving!