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How to Get Your Student's Car Ready for College

Tom Esposito, Owner of Automotive Technology of West Islip

Tom Esposito, Owner of Automotive Technology of West Islip

Just a couple weeks ago we celebrated our son’s high school graduation.  Now we are in a whirlwind of activity as we get ready to send him off to college!
Jackie and I are not alone as we get our son ready for college.  What I’m seeing right now is that there are a lot of parents contacting us at the shop saying, “My student is headed off to college soon, we need to make sure the car is ready,” and, we also get questions like: “What is the safest, and least expensive to maintain, used vehicle to buy for my college-bound student?”
So here’s my advice if you’re getting your student, and a car, ready to go off to college.

  1. Buy a Car that Fits How/Where it Will be Used: You don’t need the same car in Florida as you would in upstate New York.  Consider how much your student will drive and the driving conditions of the area. 
  2. Get it Inspected: Before you buy a vehicle, make sure you have it checked out by your mechanic.
  3. Do Your Homework: Just like you have always been telling your student, “Do your homework,” you need to do your homework when buying a used car. Consumer Reports, Kelly Blue Book, and Carfax are good places to learn about vehicles. But don’t forget to check out the dealer on websites like the Better Business Bureau.
  4. Know Your Rights as a Used Car Buyer: The state of New York enacted the “NY State Lemon Law” to protect car buyers.  It says that the dealer must provide a warranty on the vehicle that covers at least the engine, transmission, drive axle, brakes, radiator, steering, alternator, generator, starter, and ignition system (not including the battery).
  • Under the warranty, the dealer must either repair the defect or reimburse you for the repair costs. The length of the warranty depends on how many miles are on the vehicle when you buy it:
  • 18,001 to 36,000 miles: 90 days or 4,000 miles
  • 36,001 to 79,999 miles: 60 days or 3,000 miles
  • 80,000 to 100,000 miles: 30 days or 1,000 miles
  • The Used Car Lemon Law entitles you to a replacement vehicle or refund if the dealer is unable to correct the problem after 3 attempts to repair or the car has been out of service for at least 15 days.
  1. Teach your student driver basic preventative maintenance and how to tell if something’s wrong with the car. Unfortunately, when it comes to college students driving cars away from home, I see many expensive maintenance disasters because the child ignored the warning signs of a mechanical problem.  Teach them:
    1. What the warning lights on the dash mean, and what to do when certain ones come on (such as a blinking red engine light).
    2. How to check and fill the air in their tires, as well as the tread depth.
    3. The importance of regular oil changes.
    4. What do in an emergency breakdown.
    5. What do when you smell certain smells or when there is fluid leaking.
    6. Where is the spare tire and how to change a tire.
    7. It’s helpful to go meet a reputable mechanic in the community where you child is going to school, so when you do need help, you’ll know who you’re dealing with.
  2. Give them a College Survival Kit: Make up a college survival kit for your child to keep in their car. We recommend equipping it with:
    • Portable Jumper Kit: You can jump start a car with a device that’s as big as a cell phone. It fits in your glove department.
    • Fix a Flat
    • Jumper Cables
    • AAA membership
    • Flashlight
    • Folding shovel
    • Kitty litter (for using when you get stuck in the snow)
    • Snow tires or chains
    • Portable air pump


Written by Automotive Technology of West Islip