In their song, “Wide Open Spaces,” the Dixie Chicks sing about a Dad yelling, “Check the oil!” as he drops his daughter off at college. This is good advice, although it has nothing to do with car insurance for college students.
For some advice you can use, here are seven tips from auto experts for students taking their cars to college:
1. Keep your car in good repair
“Many students have a long ride from their hometown to their college campus, so they need to make sure that their vehicle is up-to-date on oil changes and other required maintenance so as to avoid breaking down before they even arrive at college,” says William Van Tassel, manager of driver training programs at AAA National. “Having a backup plan, such as a AAA membership, which includes roadside assistance, also helps.”
2. Let your insurer know that you’re taking the car to college
Location is one factor in determining car insurance rates, so insurers need to know where the car is parked and garaged. If you’re on your parent’s policy and take their car to campus, notify the insurer of the change of address.
The same is true if you own the car and have your own coverage. Your rates may go up or down, depending on the location of your school. If you fail to inform the car insurance company about the location change, you risk a denied insurance claim.
3. Know what to do after an accident
After an accident, first, check to see if anyone is injured. Exchange information with the other party — including name, phone number and insurance information. Take pictures of the scene and write notes about the time, date, place and weather conditions — you may forget details later and it will be more difficult to accurately remember what happened even a day later.
You should also call the police to get an accident report. This is especially important if the other person is at fault because the driver might admit fault at the scene but say differently later. In some states, you must file a crash report with the state if the police don’t respond.
Call your own insurance company and if you think the other driver’s at fault, contact his insurer as well.
4. Know what to do if your friend wrecks your car
Car insurance follows the car and not the driver for most coverages. So, if you lend out your car and your friend wrecks it, your car insurance will pay out for any liability claims — and you need collision to protect your own vehicle.
If liability limits are exceeded, then the driver and the car owner (you or your parents depending upon who the car is titled to) can be held liable and be on the hook for expenses exceeding coverage limits.
With claims on your policy, your car insurance, or your parents if you’re listed on their policy, will likely go up at the next renewal.
5. Ask about car insurance discounts for students
“Many insurers, including Chubb, offer ‘away at school’ discounts, which are available when students are attending a college more than 100 miles away from home,” says Ray Crisci, senior vice president and worldwide automobile manager for Chubb Personal Insurance. “We advise parents and new college students to check with their insurance agent to see what types of discounts may be available to them.”
6. Be prepared to pay a fee for parking on campus
“Although we always try to accommodate all students’ requests for parking spots, parking is a limited resource on most college campuses,” says Josh Cantor, director of parking and transportation at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. “Most universities have to charge a fee in the first place to cover their expenses.”
Follow the parking signs to avoid tickets. Most colleges will fine you; some may even tow your car if you break parking rules.
7. New student? You might not be allowed to park on campus at all
“Many schools limit who is allowed to park on campus due to limited parking space,” says Cantor. “I would advise new students to check with their admissions office about any guidelines for incoming students related to parking before they make plans to bring their cars to campus and also ask about transportation options such as buses and bike programs. Most colleges want to give students many ways to get around without having to drive.”
— Marjorie Musick contributed to this story.