Having a car in college makes the difference between freedom and feeling trapped in your own dorm. A car can give you opportunities to get a new job or take on an internship; it can mean visiting home more often or taking road trips with your friends. Before you set your sights on the road, you need the vehicle first. If you’re ready to drop some cash for a new car, here are some tips that can save you both time and money and help you find the ride of your dreams.

  1. Think Logistics

First things first -- can you have a car on campus? This seemingly simple question is one you might forget if you’re super-excited and focused on getting that car. If your campus has a ban on driving and/or parking, where will you stash your car? If you can’t come up with an answer, you may have to decide between living on campus and being a driver.

  1. Shiny and New Isn’t Always Best

It’s totally human nature to want the best and newest thing. However, when it comes to buying a car, the difference between used and new might not matter in terms of quality yet mean the world in price. Instead of going for new, consider buying a used, low-mileage car. Look on sites that allow you to see the vehicle history (including any accident reports) where you can better compare what used cars are out there. You may find that your dream car is in reach if you get it a few years older than a 2016-2017.

Close-up of car rim parked

New may be nice, but reliable is always in![/caption]

  1. Avoid Deals with Friends

Imagine this situation: you tell a friend you’re looking for a car, and she says, “I’m selling mine!” You might be tempted to jump right in and buy it from her. After all, you’ll be helping your friend, and you’ll get a car. But trust us: don’t do it. Even if she’s offering the best deal in the world, the car could end up breaking down as soon as you get behind the wheel. As a way to avoid friction in your friendship, make sure you buy your car from someone reputable, but removed from your circle of friends and family. Because car purchases are usually high-expense deals, buying a lemon of a car from a friend may mean having to fight them to get your money back or dealing with the legal side. It’s better to not risk it.

  1. Shop Safe

So friends are out, but what about Craigslist or other online sites where you can buy via the owner? Unless you’re a car nut with a ton of knowledge, you should avoid these traps. Unfortunately, con men make major cash by attempting to scam young people desperate for a car. You’re better off, believe it or not, shopping around for actual, certified dealers.

To get your best deal, shop online first and request quotes from their websites. Then, visit at least 2 dealerships before signing off. Sometimes the bargain you get online isn’t the best out there, so having comparables and knowing your bottom-line can help sweeten the deal with a reputable dealer.

Car alarm and a blue car
  1. Bring Along an Expert

If this is your first car, or you can’t tell the difference between an alternator and a spark plug, you may want to bring back up. It doesn’t have to be someone with extensive car experience, but someone can talk the lingo and actually “kick the tires” with authority can make a huge difference in spotting a lemon or getting swindled. Even with a new car, a person with an eye for vehicles can save you money by telling you the features you do and don’t need.

If any, this is the time to ask your friends and family for their knowledge of car experts. Whether it be your mother's mechanic, your father's close friend who's into cars, or even your floor mate who loves to tinker with their set of wheels - don't go it alone!

  1. Confidence Repels A Bad Deal

Finally, when shopping in your college town, the best thing you can bring with you is your confidence. If you look like someone who can be sold a bad car, they will sell it. Bring in paperwork online with exactly what you’re looking for and the price that you have been quoted. Ask to drive the car, and make sure you get the feel of it. Don’t let the seller push you to settle if you’re unsure or if you want to shop around some more. Remember that a car is an expensive and important purchase - not to mention, there's only one driver's seat.

Getting your first car while you're experiencing the college life may seem like a lot - and it is - but it's all well worth it. As one of your first big-ticket items, making sure you get the most for your money is important. Take these tips to heart when searching for that perfect set of wheels, and remember to buckle up!

Image Sources (1,2)

Mar 21, 2016
College Life

More from 

College Life


View All

Join Our Newsletter and Get the Latest
Posts to Your Inbox

No spam ever. Read our Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.