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Thursday, August 11, 2022
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Freedom Comes at a Price for Student Drivers

Students bringing a car to UB often find a multitude of decisions accompanying their newfound freedom, as costs vary widely for something many perceive to be a necessary luxury.

"It is definitely a necessity to have a car on campus, there is always somebody not drinking when you go out who can drive," said Anne Gunia, a sophomore international business major who drives a 1991 Chevrolet Blazer.

"It's probably not an absolute necessity, but probably for most students where they are used to having a car available to them, they're not used to having to get around in a fashion that is more haphazard," said Jim Twombly, visiting assistant professor of political science.

According to Chris Austin, adjudication and transportation coordinator for UB, approximately 15,000 student-parking passes were distributed for the 2001-02 academic year.

Twombly, who is running for Amherst Town Council, said students from New York City are used to having easily accessible mass transit and may find it difficult to travel off campus without a car. Many students who had access to cars in high school find themselves in a similar situation.

One of the inescapable costs of owning a car is insurance, which varies according to address, age, gender, car model and extent of coverage. Insurance rates also fluctuate depending upon the number of accidents and violations on one's driving record.

Allstate Insurance Company and GPA Insurance Services, located in the Commons, charges different rates for male and female students, 18- and 21-year-olds, and residing of Amherst and New York City, to insure a 1995 Chevrolet Cavalier

A comprehensive policy, which includes fire, theft, vandalism and liability (with optional glass coverage), for an 18-year-old male in Amherst costs $2,319 annually from Allstate and $2,582 from GPA. For the same student to be insured in NYC, the Allstate rate more than doubles to $5,567.

Allstate charges Amherst residents $1,269 for liability insurance; GPA charges $1,585. In NYC, Allstate liability would be $2,665, more than full coverage costs from either company in Amherst.

"I didn't inform my insurance company that I was going away to school being that it would make [my insurance] more expensive," said sophomore business major Joel Mahakian. Mahakian drives a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee insured in Binghamton.

Females purchasing full coverage insurance in Amherst pay Allstate $1,470 and GPA $1,776, an $840 and $806 difference from male rates respectively. Allstate's rate more than doubles for females with cars garaged primarily in NYC, with full coverage running $3,735. Liability insurance for an 18-year-old female in Amherst from Allstate costs $786 and $1,056 from GPA. The same policy in NYC costs $1,669 from Allstate.

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Both male and female students 21 years of age from either Amherst or NYC pay an average of $200 less from policies covering students aged 18. Policy rates are approximately 20 percent greater for residents of the city of Buffalo as opposed to suburbs such as Amherst.

If a student can prove that he or she has been previously insured for at least one year under another policy, including a parent's, rates drop.

Another responsibility that can leave students with empty wallets is maintenance and repairs.

"I just had $400 worth of work done. I got two new ball joints, a new starter, and some other minor things," said Gunia.

Among the myriad problems that can arise in older cars, brake and front end work, including tire rods, ball joints, and any work involving steering and suspension, are the most common.

"The most common areas that we usually [repair] are breaks and front end work, variable items that don't last forever and are meant to wear out," said Joe Krebs, a service technician at Duncan Bros & Son Coastal Service on Delaware Avenue.

"There is no definite pattern because it depends on how old the car is," said Tom Zinni, owner of Zinni's Mobil Friendly Service on Dodge Road. "Every car needs basic maintenance, oil changes, tune-ups. As the car gets older, it turns to repairs."

Freshman architecture major Aaron Maller recently had a wheel bearing replaced on his 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier for $350. Maller believes the cost is worthwhile due to a lack of available transportation for students employed off campus.

Oil and gasoline raise the cost of car ownership even further. Oil changes at service stations near North Campus range between about $21.95 and $24.50, plus tax.

"It cost me $35 to $40 to fill up my [gas] tank and I try to make that last for two weeks," said Mahakian.

"Certainly if I was a student today I would use my car sparingly, but because of problems with urban sprawl it makes it difficult to get around without a car," said Twombly.



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