Yes, freshmen can have cars here. Just like the upperclassmen, all you have to do is buy a parking permit [but our garages fill up FAST and they oversell permits a ton, so good luck finding parking unless he always gets home at 10pm when the garage is empty].
I don't see much use to having a car on campus. I used to wish I had one since I like to go home or visit old high school friends during the week, but SunTran [the public bus] works out fine for me now. Most of my freshmen friends with cars either live off-campus and need it to get to class or else haven't moved their cars all year.
I think that UArizona has signed up for the ZipCar program where students can rent cars for hours/days at a time....more expensive than regular car rental services, but 18+can rent and the gas/insurance is included......you may want to check into that.....
UofA does have a rental program through Enterprise, I believe, called ConnectACar (or something of that nature) There are many spread out on campus & can be rented. Theyre nice, newer cars. The cars that I have see are Ford Escapes, Mini Coopers, and Prius. There is also something called Safe Ride. It's a free service for students (only operates certain hours) but they'll take you anywhere near campus and there are things like grocery stores, friends houses, restaurants, drug stores, etc. Garage permits are expensive, but worth it. From my experiences, they're safe and conveniently located. I would suggest letting your son take his car...it becomes a hassle bumming rides off of people. And you just have to choose the right garage. I park in Tyndall & my best friend parks in 6th...I have never ever seen them full.
I'm coming up on my senior year and I have never really needed a car during the school year. I bike to the shuttle stop, park in the nearest racks, and use the shuttle to go to safeway every week or so. Pretty much everything else is within walking distance of campus.
I had my car freshman year, and I'm definitely glad I brought it. Was a huge convenience, be it going to the store, the mall, Best Buy, or any number of other places.
Parking permits do sell out, but they aren't impossible to get. I know several people who purchased theirs at a prorated rate throughout both semesters, and had no trouble with any lots/garages being sold out. I bought mine in July, just a little over a month before school started, and I got my first preference (Tyndall).
Parking spaces on the first can be hard to find, but a little walking never hurt anyone. I'll note that more often than not, I was able to find a spot on the first floor, which was nice. There's also an abundance of handicapped parking, so if that is an issue, don't worry. (The problem with a garage like Tyndall is that half of the bottom floor is 2-hour parking only, so most of the time even though they are completely empty, you've still gotta look elsewhere to park if you're a permit-holder, or are going to be there 2+ hours)
All parking garages are free on the weekends, though during the week permits are required to park in them past 2am. There's no free parking on campus, and they DO enforce it. I see lots of cars on campus getting ticketed because people don't feed their meter or sit in a 20 minute spot for 4 hours.
The rental cars available to students are called Connect, and it's done through Hertz. I believe rates range from $6-10 an hour depending on the car, and as stated above, they're located all over campus. Good if you don't have a car, but need to run to the store, movies, Best Buy, etc. I'd imagine you've also got to fill it up as well, though don't quote me on that.
Safe Ride is helpful for getting from A to B, but especially on weekends, it is of no help. They stop running at like 8pm, and lets face it, the night is just beginning at 8pm. They also have set boundaries, so if you're looking to go to the movies (El Con), you'll have to walk the last few blocks.
I never rode the Cat Tran, so I can't comment there.
Don't get me wrong, I had a bike too, and I definitely recommend getting one. I used it to get to/from class, and I couldn't have lived without it. But when my iPhone stopped working after a software update, I really would've dreaded making the 10 mile (each way) bike ride to the Apple store.
My friend said that everyone on UA campus was tightly packed together and convenient and so I really wouldn't need a bike and the car is just for convenience as opposed to necessary. I am mainly worried about the parking availability and the price of the permits.
Prices in the covered garages are something like $568 for the year. Open lots and spaces are cheaper. Prices are prorated throughout the year. And they aren't too difficult to get.
There is virtually no parking available without a permit, though. And your permit only works in one garage/lot, so you can't just park anywhere.
And yes, the campus is fairly tight, but I'd definitely recommend a bike. I had a few classes freshman year that were a half hour walk from my dorm (which was on campus). I wouldn't call it a small campus by any means. (There were a few times I had to go to the medical library, which was easily a 45-60 minute walk. A bike is definitely nice to have.)
A bike is nice to have, but not always necessary. The biggest thing I hear is that people only have 10 minutes to cross campus. [I've gotten from the Education building, which is near the center of campus, to the medical school for classes in under 10 minutes, though. Am I just really fast at walking? It takes me about 45-60 minutes to walk to one of my favorite theaters 3 miles north of campus from my dorm -- at the very south. Am I just a really fast walker?] If you ever need to get to the medical library or somewhere like that, the CatTran is pretty nice. Takes about 5 minutes to drive up there, and you rarely have to wait around for one.