Car on Campus? Mar21

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Car on Campus?

Is your college kid thinking of taking a car with them to college? Having a car at college may not be as simple as it sounds. Parking, permits, insurance, and registration, among other things, may create some unanticipated challenges. Consider the following:

It was not until junior year, when my son informed me that he was staying in Boston for a summer job and needed a car to get to work, that the subject of having a car at school first came up. Boston has a great public transportation system and he had been living either on or near campus. If he did happen to need a car for any reason he usually got a ride or borrowed a friend’s car. There was also the option of getting a Zipcar from the hourly car rental system that is available on many college campuses today. So, there really was no need to have a car at school full time.  But having a summer job that required a significant commute changed the equation.

Luckily, the car he and his sister shared in high school was just sitting in our driveway in California. So, the discussion turned to whether we should take a road trip and drive the car to Boston from California or have it shipped. While we figured a road trip would be a fun bonding experience, due to time constraints we opted for shipping the car, which actually saved a lot of money when you figure in gas, lodging and food for 5 days of driving. There are many trucking companies that ship cars (you just need to do some research and look at the reviews). Other than calling our insurance company to advise them that the car would now be “away at school,” none of us considered what would happen once the car arrived in Boston.

Parking the car did not seem to be a concern, at first, since there were always spaces available near my son’s off-campus house. Street parking required a permit, so my son applied for a permit. Permit denied. Why? Apparently, permits are available only to cars registered in Massachusetts and our car was still registered in California. If we changed the registration, we would have to change the insurance. Not good. The only real option at that point was to try to get one of the few on-campus parking permits typically reserved only for commuter students. After significant negotiation and payment of an exorbitant fee, a campus permit was issued. Hurray!

And then, just when we thought we had the roadblocks (so to speak) behind us, the new car registration showed up in the mail. Yep, California smog certificate required! Now what? Luckily, after some research and a call to the DMV, I learned that there is a form (I love forms) to request an exemption from the smog certificate requirement when the car is outside California. Thank goodness.

Now — guess who is the new chauffer in town and guess who is constantly being asked by friends if they can borrow the car? You guessed it. Good thing I checked with the insurance company to make sure we have proper coverage.

The point of the story is that before a decision is made concerning whether or not to take a car to college, several questions need to be answered:

  1. Is there parking available for the car, either on or off campus?
  2. If there is parking, are permits required? If so, what are the eligibility requirements and what is the cost?
  3. Will you need to change your insurance coverage?
  4. Who will pay for permits, gas, car repairs, registration and insurance?
  5. Will friends be allowed to “borrow the car?”

Having a car while away at school is a big responsibility. Sometimes parents need to step in and assist when things like insurance coverage and DMV issues are involved. Learning about permits and smog checks and parking tickets are real world skills and can be a great growth experience for any student.

In my case, the only thing left for me to worry about now is my California kid navigating the strange streets of Boston . . . in the snow!



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