Whether college students are heading off to school for freshman year or returning to campus, car care and property insurance may get lost in the back-to-school shuffle. AAA Kansas reminds students living away at college and their parents to not overlook these important steps to make sure vehicles and other belongings have adequate protection.
“College students living away from home should know they may have limited coverage under their parents’ insurance policies,” said Gary Tomes, Regional Insurance Manager for AAA Kansas. “Before leaving for college, students should check to see what risks and liabilities are covered.”
Homeowners and renters insurance tips for students:
- If you live in a dorm, some personal possessions may be covered under your parents’ homeowners or renter’s insurance policies. Expensive items such as computers and other electronics may be subject to coverage limits under a standard homeowner’s policy, and some states require a special student endorsement.
- If you live off-campus, purchase renters insurance. Renters insurance is necessary to protect you and your belongings, and can protect you from liability in the event that someone is accidentally injured on the property.
- Leave valuables at home. While some valuable items, such as laptops, may be needed on campus, items such as expensive jewelry may be best left at home.
- Create a “dorm inventory.” Create a detailed inventory of all items you’ll be taking with you, including photos and receipts. In the event that you need to file a claim, an up-to-date inventory will help make the process easier.
Safeguard your items from theft. Always lock your dorm room door and never leave belongings unattended on campus. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the library, dining hall and other public places are the primary areas where property theft occurs on campus.
According to Consumer Reports, dorm rooms can be a hot spot for thieves. Two roommates could have $6,000 or more worth of electronics alone – laptops, tablets, smartphones and gaming systems – as well as other items of value in their small living space.
According to U.S. Department of Education data of crimes reported on college campuses, theft of personal property is the most common crime, followed by motor vehicle theft.
Auto insurance tips for students:
- Coverage may depend on whether you leave home or stay in the area. If you bring a car to campus and remain on your parents’ policy, coverage likely still applies. If you attend an out-of-state school, make sure your insurance coverage follows you. It gets a little tricky if the student takes classes year round and does not plan to return home during the summers. Technically, they have relocated to their college location. It gets even more complex if they have on campus or off campus housing.
- Check with your insurance agent. To see what discounts you may qualify for and to ensure you have adequate coverage while away at school, contact your insurance agent.
If you have questions about any or are concerned about gaps in your existing coverage, contact a local insurance agent at 866-AAA-4YOU, or aaa.com/insurance.
Lessons on Car Maintenance for College Students:
In addition to reviewing insurance coverage, students heading to college should also address the important subject of vehicle maintenance and repair.
“Frequently, a teenager’s vehicle is maintained by parents while living at home, and lessons on proper car care are only briefly discussed and seldom used,” said Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman. “Before hitting the road, it is vital that your college student fully understands how to independently take care of their vehicle.”
Before sending a son or daughter off to college with a car, AAA Kansas encourages parents to sit down with their students and discuss plans for proper vehicle maintenance, as well as how to deal with unexpected problems when parental rescue is more than just a few minutes away.
Check and Maintain Tires
Tires are one of the easiest components of a vehicle to maintain, but they are frequently overlooked until something goes wrong. Every student should have a tire pressure gauge in their vehicle, know where it is located, and understand how to use it properly. While there are a variety of tire pressure gauges, those with electronic readouts might be the easiest for the teen to use. Explain that tires should be checked at least once a month when the tires are cold.
Show your young adult where to find the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure – typically on a label located on the driver’s door jamb or in the vehicle owner’s manual. It is important to let them know they should not use the inflation pressure found on the tire sidewall. That is the tire’s maximum pressure level, but it might not be the correct pressure for the tire when used on their particular vehicle.
To demonstrate proper tire care, AAA offers a number of short videos that can be viewed on the AAA YouTube channel.
Know the Vehicle’s Maintenance Schedule
Performing the manufacturer’s regularly scheduled maintenance on a vehicle will greatly extend its life and help ward off more costly repairs down the road. While it’s a good idea to make sure your student’s car is current with all maintenance items prior to sending them off to college, it’s possible some items will be due while they are away.
Sit down and go over the owner’s manual with your son or daughter. Explain the recommended maintenance schedule and remind them that in addition to basic oil changes other important items such as filters, batteries and brakes must also be regularly checked and maintained. AAA recommends that parents and students create a shared calendar with reminders so both are aware of any upcoming required maintenance or services.
The school year spans the winter months when inclement weather can place added demands on vehicle electrical systems. The average lifespan of a car battery is three to five years, so AAA recommends that any battery in this age range be checked before the student leaves for school. In many areas, the AAA Mobile Battery Service will come to a member’s home and provide this service at no charge.
Find a Repair Facility Near College
It is important for parents to help students identify an auto repair shop they can trust near their school in case routine servicing or unexpected repairs become necessary.
If unfamiliar with the area around a college, visit AAA.com/Repair to locate nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities. As a free public service for all motorists, AAA inspects auto repair shops around the country and only approves those that meet and continually maintain high professional standards for equipment, customer service, cleanliness and training.
When first arriving at the college, AAA recommends parents and students visit the selected repair shop and meet the staff. Ask for some shop business cards that you and your young adult can keep handy in case an emergency arises.
Prepare for Roadside Emergencies
It is also important for parents to prepare their children for a breakdown or other roadside emergency – especially if they are attending college too far away to ‘call home’ for help.
Make sure the student’s vehicle has a well-stocked roadside emergency kit with contents suitable for local weather conditions during the school year. A basic kit should include a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, first-aid kit, bottled water, rags or paper towels, a tire pressure gauge, a blanket, granola or energy bars, and a selection of basic hand tools. Add an ice scraper, snow brush and kitty litter or other material to increase traction should snow or ice be an issue.
For added peace of mind, provide the student with a AAA membership, which offers reliable roadside assistance through a large dedicated network of service providers with good coverage in and around the college. AAA’s many benefits are available to members no matter whose vehicle in they are in, so parents won’t have to worry about their teen being stranded in a friend’s vehicle with no access to emergency road service.
Traffic Safety Reminders
With college students leaving for school, it’s always a good time for a reminder about safe driving behaviors for the trip to campus and throughout the school year:
- Obey speed limits
- Be aware of any unique or different traffic laws – such as handheld cell phone bans – in the city where your school is located
- Don’t drive distracted by phones, passengers or other factors
- Always move over for law enforcement, construction, towing and other work vehicles as well as disabled vehicles on the side of the road
- Never drive buzzed or impaired by alcohol or drugs. Arrange a designated driver or sober ride home.
- All drivers and passengers in a vehicle should wear a seat belt, every time.