Hoofing It and Other Solutions: How to Deal Without a Car
No car? No problem! Although many college students have their own vehicles or borrow one from their parents, there are a lot of solutions for those of us who aren’t so lucky.
So, you’re at college and you don’t have a car. You’re not alone, there are lots of us who do it. There are quite a few solutions for getting your errands and adventures done without your own wheels. I’m lucky enough to live in a semi-urban area where things are pretty close together, but even if your school is in the middle of nowhere, there are ways to make it work.
Hoofing It (Walking)
A walk does the body good, and we all know most of us don’t get enough exercise. A lot of colleges are located pretty close to grocery stores, pizza places, etc. I tend to go on Google Maps or Mapquest (or MapMyRun.com if you’re not going on paved roads. MapMyRun shows the distance in miles, even if you cut across that abandoned lot) to find out how far my destination is. Anything under 2 miles is no problem, I promise. You can do it! Just wear good shoes and bring your music player to listen to some jams (one earbud only! Be aware of traffic) and it will be a fine walk. Beware walking late at night, especially if you’re not comfortable with your surroundings. When the distance starts getting over 2 miles or if you have stuff to carry, consider….
Again with the health benefits! Biking exercises your whole body and is enjoyable, too. Consider picking up a bike from a bike collective, a thrift store (I’ve seen bikes for $5 that just needed a new chain) or your cousin who doesn’t use hers anymore. Some schools even offer bike sharing programs in an effort to save the environment! There are a lot of amazing options for pimping out your bike, too. If your main need for transportation is to buy groceries, bungee cords and a milk crate can solve all your problems. Make sure to ride in designated bike lanes when they’re available, and always be aware of traffic. If you’re riding after dark, a reflective helmet and possibly a light are 100% necessary. Safety first!
I know, I know, you didn’t come to college to ride on a bus. Still, if you have to get from point A to point B, take a look at the bus, train, or subway schedule before begging rides from everyone you know. Most public transportation systems offer student discounts and some student IDs function as bus passes. I was absolutely overjoyed when I found out I could take a bus from downtown to a suburb (30 minute drive, but it’s out of the way so none of my friends were going that direction, and would cost around $8 for a non-student) for exactly $0.00 because public transportation was included on my student ID. Check out your options, they might be listed on your college’s website, and it might be easier than you think. The downsides to public transportation are obvious: it takes longer because it makes more stops, it might not sync up with your schedule, and you can carry a few grocery bags but probably not six boxes you have to get to the post office.
Zipcar is the most common and successful carsharing program. It’s almost universal across major cities in the United States, and over 30 colleges have Zipcars on campus. You pay an hourly or daily rate and it includes gas and insurance. Your parents will probably be more comfortable with you using a Zipcar than riding your bike or walking long distances late at night, so they might even offer to chip in and help pay for it. The only drawback for me was that to sign up, your license must be more than a year old. Oops! I got my license too late, so this wasn’t an option for me. Zipcar or other carsharing programs may be the answer to your transportation problem, depending on your budget.
“Can I Get A Ride?”
Probably the most obvious way to survive without your own car is asking for rides from your roommates or friends. I chose to put this one last for a reason: you don’t want to be known as the mooch of your group of friends. If you ask for a ride (or to borrow your friend/roommate’s car) ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS offer them gas money, or to buy them a meal, or some sort of repayment. Return the favor somehow: if you have a printer and your friend doesn’t, let them print whenever they want, after all, they’re giving you rides. Owning a car is expensive and gas prices are insane, even if your friend is the nicest person in the world they probably don’t want to drive you all around town for free every day. Use asking for a ride as your last resort; check out all the other alternatives first.
So, although it might be more convenient if you had your own car, it’s still expensive and annoying if your car ever needs repairs or servicing. You can get by without a car, save your pennies, and make it a long-term goal. Walking, biking, public transportation, carsharing, and borrowing from your friends are all perfectly valid ways of getting you where you need to go.