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3 Essential Steps to Buying a Car for a College Student

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For many young people, college represents a time of new found freedom — as well as responsibility. Unless they are living at home, college students are responsible for taking care of their own basic needs, often for the first time in their lives.

Students attending college in major urban areas can sometimes get around using public transportation or subscribing to a car-sharing service. However, some students often benefit from owning their own car.

If it turns out that it makes sense for a college student to have a car on campus, there are three important considerations that must be addressed: choosing the right car, financing the purchase and obtaining insurance coverage for the college student.

1. Choosing the Right Car

For students on a tight budget, buying an older model can seem like an economical alternative. However, this is one case where the saying “penny wise and pound foolish” applies. Many older cars lack important safety features that are often standard in newer cars, such as backup cameras and automatic emergency braking. Older cars are often less fuel efficient and may need more frequent repairs than newer cars, both of which quickly wipe out any initial savings. Instead, college students, their parents or both should choose new or newer-used cars with at least the three features listed below:

• Good reliability and safety ratings
• High-fuel efficiency
• Spacious cargo capacity

2. Financing the Purchase

Many college students lack regular income and have little or no credit history. As a result, conventional banks and lenders won’t approve them for loans. Some lenders offer special car loans, which allow college students to purchase a car independently. However, such loans often carry high-interest rates because they are considered to be high risk. College students who have part-time jobs that allow them to afford to make car payments and keep up with maintenance may be able to qualify for a loan if a parent or someone else serves as a co-signer. Barring that, students can save up to purchase a car with cash, although that usually means getting a much less expensive car.

3. Insuring the Car

Once students have chosen a car and arranged for financing or outright purchase, one more important task remains: obtaining insurance. Nearly every state requires drivers to carry basic auto insurance. Failure to adhere to this requirement can lead to serious legal hot water. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy for parents to obtain essential car insurance for their child. A USAA auto insurance policy is an excellent option for several reasons: the offer discounts for safe drivers, good students and multiple vehicles on a single policy.

Getting a Car for Your College Student

Students going away to college experience both freedom and responsibility. For students attending college in rural areas or who must work part-time jobs, having their own car is reasonable and often necessary. While getting a really old, super cheap car may seem economical, in the long run, getting a newer car with better fuel efficiency and safety features is a better choice. Parents or other relatives can serve as co-signers to make obtaining financing easier. Finally, an auto insurance policy from USAA offers discounts for multiple cars on the same policy, good student discounts and other savings.

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