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Be Centsible

Should I use my car or the bus system to get around campus?

Four photos of either a bus or car

Having a car on campus can be a convenient way of getting around. If you’re living in an apartment, it must be a struggle taking a bus to do grocery shopping. Getting to the grocery store is one thing but carrying multiple bags of food on the bus back to your apartment might require some work. Or even worse, having to walk to the store and back on a Sunday, when the bus system isn’t even running until late afternoon. We’ve all been there. And you’re probably debating whether you should bring your car to campus just to make your life easier. Both alternatives have their costs and benefits, so here are a few things you should know before you make your decision.

With a car come costs you may have not even thought about:

  • Your apartment company will most likely charge you a monthly fee for parking.
  • Depending on how much you drive, you might have to fill up your tank every week, or once every two weeks. A tank of gas can range anywhere from $25-$50 depending on size and price of gas.
  • Driving on campus also comes with metered parking, that is generally $1 per hour, which will add up.
  • You either need to always have quarters on you, or the parking app that will charge you a $0.20 every time you pay with a credit card – that will also add up.

But also, there are considerable benefits to having a car:

  • If you don’t like walking, you get the comfort of getting from your apartment into your car without having to walk too far.
  • You will get the advantage of spending less time getting to class or any place else, which may give you more time for doing other things.
  • You will enjoy the convenience of driving to a grocery store and putting all your bags in the trunk, instead of carrying them in your hands.
  • If you decide to go out of town, you will have more freedom on when you want to leave and come back, without having to commit to a time that is provided by bus companies.
  • You could also get a job further from campus, or a job that requires a car, which could possibly be a better paying job.

Using the bus system also has its costs as well:

  • You might need to account for more time getting to class.
  • You might need to account for even more time to do grocery shopping as it is possible that one bus will not take you all the way and you will have to change routes to get to where you need to go.
  • There may not even be a bus route that can take you all the way to your desired location.
  • If you take a bus home from campus, you have to choose from what is offered and commit to the set time, which takes away your flexibility if something comes up
  • Missing a bus when it is cold outside is also not fun

Nevertheless, there are advantages to using the bus system:

  • It’s free for all UIUC students! (And, may be cost-effective in other college communities.)
  • It’s free even if you need to go off campus, as long as you show your i-card.
  • You can take the bus to the mall, to Walmart, downtown Champaign, Champaign public library, and the Urbana Mall as well.
  • You don’t have to spend time warming up your car or cleaning it from snow in the winter season – just hop on the bus and go.
  • You don’t have to worry about finding parking or paying for it.

With pros and cons to both, the bus system and driving your own car, there is a lot to consider. It all comes down to what you value more and your willingness to pay money or to spend time. Before making your decision, make sure to consider all these factors!

Written by Oksana Batryn, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Spring 2019. Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, University of Illinois Extension.