On the road: buying a car at uni

Getting a car sounds great, but what does it actually involve and is it worth the money?

Some people dream of the freedom a driver’s licence and the purchase of a car can bring, while others just can’t be bothered! If, however, you are the former, here are the facts to face up to when thinking of buying a car.


Many of you will have passed your test already. For those of you who haven’t, the standard theory test fee is £30. You can take practice tests for free via the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) website www.dsa.gov.uk. Practical driving lessons with a qualified instructor cost between £24 and £30 an hour. People who pass their driving test have had, on average, 45 hours of professional lessons and 22 hours of private practice, according to Government statistics. Both the Automobile Association (AA) and the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) offer discounts for members on lessons with registered instructors, so check to see if your parents are signed up.


The price of insuring your car depends on the size of the model of car you drive, your age, your existing road record, how long you have been driving, what sort of job you have and whether you keep your car in the garage. It also depends on the type of policy you get, whether it be third party, fire and theft or comprehensive.


All vehicles, with the exception of new vehicles, must be taken for an MOT inspection every year to ensure they meet with the minimum environmental and road-safety standards. New vehicles are required to have their first MOT after three years from the date of registration. An MOT inspection can be done at registered garages throughout the UK, and you will need the pass certificate to be able to get insurance and car tax. An MOT inspection for a car costs a minimum of £53.10.


The amount of tax payable on your car is calculated based on engine size or CO2 emissions, depending on the age of the car. Tax will be about £120 per year depending on the type of vehicle, and breakdown cover will work out about another £100 a year.


Petrol costs are on the rise due to economic conditions and the price of oil. Diesel and hybrid cars can offer relief from these prices, but there is no way to avoid it all together!


Check out your university’s parking facilities and parking in the area where you live. Some places charge for permits and require evidence of residence or enrolment.

Stolen goods

Remember not to tempt thieves by leaving valuables in a place where someone can see them, like the back seat. Fitting your car with an alarm is a deterrent if someone does break in, and don’t create an opportunity by leaving any windows open or the car unlocked.

Driving under the influence

You may want to offer lifts to friends in return for petrol costs, or volunteer to be the designated driver on outings, but be careful. If you are tempted to drink – or take other substances – when you’re out with friends, driving under the influence is a serious crime. According to the Department for Transport, driving under the influence of alcohol caused 14,350 casualties and 540 deaths (17 per cent of all road deaths) in 2006. The legal limit in the UK is 80mg per 100ml of blood, with ministers looking at reducing it to 50mg in line with EU regulations. Don’t drink and drive!

Web watch


Government information about owning a car www.direct.gov.uk/en/motoring/ owningavehicle/index.htm

National Youth Agency website

Head to the sport, leisure and travel section for guidance and advice www.youthinformation.com


Explanation of the costs of running a car can be found on the rac website www.rac.co.uk/web/know-how/owning-a-car