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Provide car for college or not

citivascitivas Registered User Posts: 403 Member
For background, our oldest son is finishing his freshman year at college. The school banned Freshman from having cars, and his original instinct was he wouldn't need one anyway. Prior to that the precedent we set with him in high school when he became old enough to drive was that I converted my 8-year-old SUV into the "family" car and bought a new one for my daily use. He was allowed to drive it to school (which was 20 minutes way and otherwise required bussing or rides from us) and in general, but we retained ownership. He paid for gas, we paid for insurance and major maintenance. And he had to help drive his siblings places.

Now he's lobbying to take the car when he goes back sophomore year, even buying it from us if necessary. The college is small and he often finds himself dependent on getting rides from other students to do anything recreational off-campus, which often means just not doing it. Also, while freshman dorms were in the heart of the campus, his sophomore housing (while still run by the college) is off-campus. He has worked summer jobs since freshman year in high school and works part-time at college now and has a full-time summer internship for two months, so he has built up a small four-figure nest egg, perhaps cracking five-figure by the end of Summer. But even with its age the KBB value on the SUV is thousands more than his savings.

The problem for us is as the first of three kids, everything we do both sets precedent and affects the other siblings. Our daughter, the middle, just got her learner's permit and will be able to drive without us by next April. If we let our son take the "family car" to college, we will both need to similarly retire one of our two primary cars and create a second family car or buy a used one for that purpose. Where the SUV was already ready to be replaced, we were not otherwise inclined to buy a new car this time. Our kids have a laser focus on "fairness" amongst them, so there's no way not to give our daughter the same option our son had, besides which we would want to.

Curious if anyone has insights from their own experiences. We appreciate our son's desire of the independence a car gives him and willingness to try and pay for it. Had he been the only child, I would have worked out some solution where we let him buy it at a discounted value from us, with a down payment now and no interest "loan" to gradually pay off the rest. But we're not sure we're ready to get yet another car or be locked into that precedent with the other kids down the road. We're also not in love with him instead just getting a super cheap clunker on his own. Also, we have paid his insurance until now and despite a perfect record and good student discount, him being away at college dropped our premium by $1,200 a year. If he takes it with him either we're paying that again or he's taking on a massive expense relative to his part-time income.
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Replies to: Provide car for college or not

  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 805 Member
    I don't have any answers, but have dealt with pretty much the same issue. My oldest needed the family car from sophomore year on due to an off-campus job. She therefore got it but ended up taking the newer one because the old one was making noises that made me suspect that it might fail, possibly at a bad time such as in the middle of finals. This left me with the older car, which after a minor repair is no longer making strange noises.

    I have assumed that at some point we will also need to give a car to younger daughter as much out of fairness as anything else.

    In terms of the "laser focus on 'fairness' amongst them", this is normal. Our sibling pet rabbits even had the same thing.
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 7,691 Senior Member
    Giving him or selling him the car for the occasional movie or Target run? Boy, that's an expensive luxury.

    If he had an internship at a research facility in a place where the campus bus only ran twice a day I'd think through the logic. But for convenience/leisure?

    Not in my budget. Our kids did not have cars at college, do not own cars now (live in major metro areas with good public transportation, augmented by Zipcar and Uber when necessary, and boy- does it point out how expensive it is to own a car if you need to pay for insurance and parking! the Zipcar goes back to its spot at the end of the day and you walk away!!!!
  • colfac92colfac92 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    One thing to consider, if your son buys a car for himself (whether he buys your old "family car" or another used car), he will have to have his own insurance on the vehicle (since he now own's the title, it can not be insured under your policy anymore), and (as I understand it) having his own insurance policy on his own car is potentially a lot more expensive than having him listed a driver (even the primary driver) of a car that you own (i.e. a policy of his own might be a lot more than the $1200 to have him on your policy). Something for him to investigate before going too much further down this road.

    My son does have my old van (the "family" car) at college (and we're paying the insurance, since I am still the owner of the van), but we don't have the sibling issues that you have.
  • colfac92colfac92 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    An idea -- let the boy take the SUV but only until the next child in line gets her license, at which time the vehicle has to be returned to the family for family use (because ultimately it is more valuable to the family as a whole to have this extra vehicle at home). If he still really wants a car at that point, he would have to buy his own (if you are concerned about what he might buy and want to help out consider co-signing an auto loan, or whatever....)
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 11,797 Senior Member
    Car insurance is by state law. It is often possible to have a 'family policy' with cars titled to various family members. I was roommates with two sisters who got to share a policy but even though one sister and I worked at the same place and carpooled often, we got no 'family' discount.

    But for the original question, I don't think you want to give your son the car. It's your choice.
  • redpoodlesredpoodles Registered User Posts: 2,104 Senior Member
    if he's able to bring in 9-10K a year he can buy or lease his own car.

    FWIW it was actually cheaper for my niece to insure herself on her beat up 10 year old Toyota SUV than it was to insure niece on her mom's Lexus. So find that out with your insurance company.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 59,304 Senior Member
    citivas wrote:
    The college is small and he often finds himself dependent on getting rides from other students to do anything recreational off-campus, which often means just not doing it. Also, while freshman dorms were in the heart of the campus, his sophomore housing (while still run by the college) is off-campus.

    What kind of distances are we looking at here?
    citivas wrote:
    Also, we have paid his insurance until now and despite a perfect record and good student discount, him being away at college dropped our premium by $1,200 a year. If he takes it with him either we're paying that again or he's taking on a massive expense relative to his part-time income.

    Have you told him the cost of car insurance and other car-related expenses?
  • citivascitivas Registered User Posts: 403 Member
    A few responses to the comments so far. Thanks for the input.

    -- He isn't bringing in $10K.year, he's earned that so far in sum total from 5 summers of work and his part time college job. If he consistently gets paying summer internships like this coming summer and works consistently at school (no semester abroad, etc.) he might make $8K/year for the next few years. But that's gross, not net, so his take home will be lower.

    -- He currently is on our family policy and the car he drives is a 9 year-old Honda, so not Lexus-level. We live in a very high insurance cost state and area of the state and teen boys command the highest rates even with perfect records because the stats of their peers work against them. His college is in a different state so if he had his own policy with the college as his state of residence and a 20 year old clunker it would be lower. Not sure if the insurance company would let him use his college location as his state of residence -- that would be interesting to know. He remains a dependent of us for tax purposes and is registered to vote in our home state.

    -- My wife and I have discussed the possibility of him taking it for sophomore year since our daughter won't be able to drive on her own until about 6-7weeks before the end of that school year for him. The issues are that gap -- and he's multiple states away so we would have no way to bring it back early -- and, more importantly, my wife is worried -- and I think she's spot on -- that once he gets used to having it sophomore year it will be an even bigger deal for him to lose it junior year than if he never had it.

    -- I agree with the above poster that it's definitely a luxury and not a necessarily. His college job is likely to remain on campus all four years. The campus is in a very cold weather climate (snow only melted a week or so ago), so it is hard to get around a majority of the school year and the college is surprisingly lame about providing public transportation. But it would still qualify as an inconvenience and not a true hardship.
  • mommdcmommdc Registered User Posts: 7,783 Senior Member
    We have two family cars. One I drive and one the now two young drivers can use for school/work.

    Older child is away at college, in a city, with public transportation.

    Younger brother is still in high school.

    We pay insurance and gas for normal use.

    We cannot afford to buy a car for all three kids. So once they want their own car they would have to pay for insurance and gas, plus the car.
  • citivascitivas Registered User Posts: 403 Member
    Yeah, if he was at an urban school this would be a non-starter. I've been disappointed that a school with a massive endowment and resources provides virtually no local transportation and doesn't even bother organizing transportation options to transportation hubs (nearest airport, major bus station, etc.) at key times like start and end of semesters or holiday breaks. Kids are left to informally beg into carpools, use a cab (Uber doesn't originate from their school area but will return people there from the airport) or take an outside bus company notoriously bad for not showing up or being so delayed they miss their flights, etc. Their peer schools mostly promoted bussing monthly or even weekly to NYC or Boston. And we were fooled by their website which still lists a bunch of defunct options that when you look into it have all been discontinued years ago. It wouldn't have been a deal breaker to not go there, just disappointing.
  • AlbionGirlAlbionGirl Registered User Posts: 759 Member
    edited April 21
    Does his college have a Zip Car on campus? If so he could rent it when needed, but not have the financial burden of owning.
  • citivascitivas Registered User Posts: 403 Member
    Yes, there is a Zipcar option on campus -- just looked it up. I think I did hypothetically last fall as well but forgot subsequently. I don't see any easy way to see the hourly rate (above the membership cost) without signing up with college email credentials but certainly an option, particularly compared to the insurance premium increase if he takes the car with him.
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 28,070 Senior Member
    My nephew used zip car. Our kids did without (getting rides with friends) tho we gifted each with a car for their SR year of college.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 59,304 Senior Member
    Yes, the rental cars (Zip car or otherwise ) may be a more cost effective way than him having a car. But check for age minimums for rental cars.
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