If your son or daughter is leaving Atlanta to go to college this fall, is a car on your "school supplies" list? To make a good decision, you need answers to questions like these:
- Can your student handle car maintenance? Responsible kids who remember to bring their car in for oil and filter changes should have no problem being on their own with a car. On the other hand, if your student tends to be forgetful or irresponsible maybe they like to ignore that check engine light bringing a car to college can be either a very bad idea or a wonderful lesson in adult responsibility.
- Will your student have a place to park? Very few colleges still prohibit freshmen from bringing cars, but most give priority to upperclassmen if there is a waiting list for parking spots. Talk to current students and find out whether parking is limited and whether the college tends to oversell lots.
- Is biking or public transportation an option? Some college towns are small enough that biking or walking will get your student anywhere he or she needs to go. Others are larger, and you should find out whether a safe, reliable bus system connects the campus with town. If the college is in the city, public transportation will probably do the trick.
- How will your student come home for the holidays? If your son or daughter heads off to college without a car, you will probably be the doing the picking up at the end of the semester. Consider your schedule and the distance involved, and then decide whether this is a trip you want to make.
If your student is bringing a car to campus this fall, keep these tips in mind to reduce the stress over car maintenance.
- Make sure the car is reliable. Most college students don't need a brand new car, but it is a good idea to send your student off with a vehicle he or she can depend on. If the car has major problems that you cannot fix before the semester starts, think twice.
- Prepare your student. Teach your son or daughter the basics of car maintenance, such as how to fill a tire, change a flat, check the oil and jump a battery. Explain how often to change the air filter, rotate the tires, have the brakes checked and change the oil. Show your child where to find information on tire pressure and oil viscosity, and make sure the repair manual is in the car.
- Plan for emergencies. Ensure that your child's car has a good spare tire and jack. If your child will be driving long distances between campus and home, consider a roadside assistance service. The peace of mind is worth it.
- Schedule wisely. If possible, time oil changes and other scheduled maintenance to coincide with winter holidays, spring break and the start of summer vacation when your child has more free time.