Car Tips for College Students Leaving the Nest

Is your high school grad headed off to college this fall? Make sure they are ready for anything life throws at them — including car trouble!

AAMCO  | 08/25/2020
Car Problems & Safety

Banner - Heading to college with car knowledge

Across the country, millions of high school graduates are packing up their bedrooms and hitting the road for a new college life. It’s an exciting time for students, but for parents or guardians, the number of “what ifs” that could happen with a child out on their own can quickly spiral into panic mode.

If your student is hitting the road in their own vehicle, it is essential that they know how to react and respond to any possible automotive issues they may encounter along the way. While near home, if a problem occurs, an adult can be there at a minute’s notice to help problem-solve. The further away a student is attending college, the more vital it becomes that they know how to handle car problems successfully if they arise. 

Car Tips for College Students Leaving the Nest

Lesson #1: Car Maintenance 101

The first lesson your new college student should learn is the importance of car maintenance and the routine care necessary for keeping a vehicle running. No college student wants a broken-down car the first semester they are on their own!

Before your student starts the car and heads down the road, consider walking through a couple of the most basic car care tips with them:

Tire Care - How to measure tire air pressure and how to change a tire.

Oil Changes & Fluid Checks - How to check for low levels or leaks. 

Dashboard Notifications - What each of the lights on the dashboard means, and what to do when one lights up unexpectedly.

Defensive Driving & Parking - How to stay aware while driving and avoid unnecessary accidents or damage.

Working with Mechanics - Teach your student how to negotiate with mechanics at an automotive shop to obtain a fair price for any needed repairs.

By covering the basics of car maintenance with your student, they will feel more equipped and confident to take the road this fall. Consider your own experiences from your time driving and let them learn from your successes (and mistakes!).

Lesson #2: How to Jump Their Car (And How to Avoid Needing to)

One of the most important skills you can give your new college driver is the knowhow to jump their vehicle. Whether due to cold weather or car problems, most cars will inevitably fail to start when they turn the key, and they will need to know what to do so they can arrive at class on time.

Ensure that your student’s vehicle has a set of jumper cables and that they know how to safely apply the cables to another vehicle. Help your student understand who to contact to get their vehicle started. This could be an excellent opportunity to get them signed up for AAA or another roadside service.

Lesson #3: Understanding Insurance

It is likely that your student has never given much thought to car insurance. However, as they head out on the road by themselves, it is vital that they understand what insurance is for, and what their policy covers. 

Carefully walk through the auto insurance process with your student, including what they should do if they are involved in an accident. Ensure that they have multiple copies of their insurance policy card, both on their person and inside the car. This can help them avoid potential fines should they have an encounter with the police.

Lesson #4: Proactive Driving Behavior

Another seldom-discussed element of driving is the proactive measures you can take to prevent issues. When it comes to driving, the best offense is a good defense. Your student can avoid many common problems if they take the time to stay aware, drive safely, and take precautions.

Stay Aware

The best way to stay proactive while driving is to be constantly aware of your environment. Teaching your college student how to remain vigilant while driving with defensive driving skills will help them travel safely on their own.

Drive Safely

Consider running through the various car safety mantras that we all know by heart. Whether it is Turn Around, Don’t Drown to avoid flash flood-related driving emergencies or Phone Down, Eyes Up for driving with a cell phone, these short phrases can help prevent costly accidents. 

Take Precautions

Knowing how to take care of their vehicle during inclement weather and where to park safely can help increase their car’s life and safety. This also includes staying on top of routine maintenance — whether through a qualified mechanic or on their own.

Final Exam: Helping Your College Student Take Ownership & Drive Confidently

A great way to send off your college student with confidence is to give them ownership of their vehicle.  Teaching them basic car maintenance tips or how to put aside money for future car repairs can instill a sense of responsibility and pride in their vehicle by encouraging personal ownership and accountability.

Investing in your child’s college success is a multifaceted affair — don’t leave it up to chance. Take the opportunity to teach them valuable life lessons so they can better focus on their studies, not car trouble!

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