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In late summer every year, millions of college students head off to school all over America. Most do not need or have a vehicle. They are just fine living on or nearby their college campus, with plenty to do to occupy their time. On the occasions they need to venture off campus, they can hitch a ride with a friend, catch a bus, or call Uber or Lyft. As they get older or the situation demands it, according to a 2016 US News & World Report, roughly 48% of college students have a car on campus.

There are almost 14.8 million full time college students in America, and that means over 7 million cars on campus. Most college students are close enough to their college or university that they can easily drive their car from home. For many though, the drive to campus could be several hundred or thousands of miles. That presents a dilemma of whether to drive or ship the car? There are pros and cons to each.

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It is usually cheaper to drive it yourself … unless just one thing goes wrong. A flat tire, blown radiator or transmission, inclement weather, or an accident will make driving your vehicle to campus more expensive than shipping it. If any of that happens, the college student will have wished they just shipped their car. Maybe it has always been this way and we didn’t realize it, but it just seems that the world has gotten more dangerous. A young college student on the road driving across country by him or herself is, frankly, vulnerable. It takes a few days to drive thousands of miles, with many stops and probably a few motels. It is the best way to see America. Driving the country can be both thrilling and unnerving for a young man, as anybody can be targeted. For a young lady, the danger is even more pronounced. Many parents won’t even consider letting their college bound daughter drive alone across country. Even a trip with a girlfriend is dicey. The safest and wisest thing to do for a college student is ship a car across country, and then fly to their school. Here is the difference in cost between driving yourself or shipping your car. Let’s say the student lives in Dallas, Texas and will be attending Boston College, which is 1,800 miles away. That’s a four day drive by yourself.

Driving Your Car Expenses

  • $288 (Gas 1,800 miles divided by 25 mpg = 72 gallons x $4.00 per gallon)
  • $450 (Lodging average motel/hotel cost per night $150 x 3 nights)
  • $160 (Food average meal and snack cost per day $40 x 4 days)
  • $898 Total Driving Cost assuming absolutely nothing goes wrong

Shipping Your Car Expenses

  • $1,080 Car Shipping (1,800 miles x 60 cents per mile average cost)
  • $200 Flight (average airline price from Dallas to Boston)
  • $40 Uber/Lyft (average Uber/Lyft cost Logan Airport to Boston College 14 miles)
  • $1,320 Total Car Shipping Method Cost

As you can plainly see, the average college student would save $422 driving him or herself to campus from Dallas to Boston. That would pay for the semester books, or maybe beer and pizza, depending on the student’s priorities. But if even one thing goes wrong, as mentioned previously, then it will carve significantly into the savings and maybe cost more than shipping the car. And the math does not weigh the safety aspect of a young college student on the road alone.


Shipping a car is not like calling a taxi. The auto transport carrier is not guaranteed to show up on Monday and deliver by Friday. Most likely there are lots of other people, and college students, vying for car transport space. The highest priced and most convenient vehicles will ship first. Because it is not an exact science, it is unpredictable exactly when a carrier will pick up the vehicle, and when they will deliver. It would be unusual to not be inconvenienced at either end of the shipment. We do a good job of estimating dates, but nobody can guarantee ship dates. Especially for college students, it is best to have a family member meet the carrier at the origination. In our example, since it is a four day road trip (1,800 miles), the first date available to ship should be three days before the college student is scheduled to arrive. That way the vehicle doesn’t beat the student to the destination. If there are any delays in shipping, the college student will have to make do until the car arrives. The real problem arises on the return home car shipment. Most college students don’t have a backup support system at their school, because like them, all their friends are also returning home. If there is a delay in car shipping services for any number of reasons, and the student is planning on catching a flight home on a date certain, it can be stressful waiting for a car carrier that may or may not pick up the vehicle on time. photo of Student holding booksTo alleviate the stress, we advise shipping your college student’s car home early. Don’t wait for the rush exodus of college students. Make your vehicle available two weeks (14 days) before you are scheduled to fly home. If it ships right away, then great. Uber it for two weeks. If there are delays in shipping, you have time to push the panic button, which usually means adding more to the carrier fee to get your vehicle on the road. Direct Express Auto Transport has been shipping college student cars for nearly twenty years. Take our advice and plan ahead. You’ll be glad you did.

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