Tips and Tricks: Navigating College Without a Car

navigating college without a car

I’ve just completed my third year of college without a car. Admittedly, it can be an arduous endeavor at times, especially when attending a university with four campuses. I live on one of the three “branches,” and while most of my classes are there, the primary campus boasts the vast majority of social events that the university has to offer: most clubs and elective classes, Greek life, and sports games. It’s also about ten miles away.

Because of this, I know as well as anyone how difficult it can be to maintain a social life without a car while still keeping to a reasonable budget. So, here are the main tips and tricks I’ve picked up while living my sad, pathetic, car-less life.

Mix Public Transit and Ride-Sharing. There’s a good chance you know of smartphone apps like Lyft and Uber, where you pay a fee in order for a driver to take you to a preselected destination. What can dramatically lower that cost, though, is mixing in public transit to cut out a significant portion of that Lyft or Uber fee. Whether that’s a bus, subway, light rail, campus shuttle, or otherwise, this can be super helpful in saving some money if you’re not too short on time.

I have also never seen identical Lyft and Uber prices for the same ride.

Check which one is cheaper! Lyft and Uber often have both discounts and price hikes depending on the number of potential riders and drivers at any given place and time. These rises and drops don’t parallel too often (if ever), so you could get as much as a few dollars off by using both apps and checking both prices.

It’s also important to keep in mind that carpooling in a Lyft or Uber with just one other person cuts the cost of your ride in half.

One more thing: If both apps have price hikes as you’re trying to get a ride, waiting only a few minutes could change that. Fingers crossed it doesn’t go higher, though!

Don’t waste money on shorter distances. Choosing to bike, skate, run or walk to places that you’d normally Lyft or Uber to could alleviate a potentially large dent in your savings. Scooter sharing apps like Bird and Lime are also much cheaper for short distances than you might think – just a dollar to unlock it, and then 15 cents per minute of riding.

ZipCar is an intriguing option for college students. Upon signing up, you’re given a card, which you can then scan at any one of their cars to unlock and drive wherever you please. That’s right, it’s not ride sharing – it’s car sharing. While I’ve never used it personally, a few friends have found it to be a great way to get to those destinations that are a bit too far out of reach for ride sharing apps.

There are also discounts if you sign up through your college. At my university, you can use a car for as low as $9.50 hourly or $77.00 daily (any 24-hour period), with $0.45 per mile after 180 miles.

If all else fails or you’re desperately low on coin, you can always mooch a ride from one of your friends. As a shameless, vehicle-less college student, I am forced to do this every time I go to the grocery store due to the necessity of trunk space.

If it’s a common destination, ask them if they’re going anytime soon so you can synchronize with their schedule. They’re the one with the car, after all, so they’re probably pretty busy doing super-cool-car-related things that I can’t possibly imagine.

Be appreciative and toss them some gas money, mostly since you’re a good friend and that’s just the kind of person you are, but also because they’ll let you mooch again.