Living in a rental home during college years could potentially save you thousands of dollars, since many rental units are cheaper on a monthly basis than dorms. However, whether this option is cheaper depends on where you will be living, the type of unit, the cost of rent and with whom you will reside.

Housing Costs

For the 2012-2013 school term, the average amount for room and board was $9,200 for public colleges with a double room and $10,500 for private schools. This is equivalent to about $1,022 a month for a nine-month lease for a rental home for a student attending public college or about $1,166 for a student attending private college.

Other Routine Costs

While the price for room is easier to determine, renting a house comes with additional expenses. These expenses might include gas, electric, water, cable and Internet access. The price of a dorm room usually includes the boarding plan for meals, while in a home, you will have to budget for your own food. However, this difference may not be significant, since many college students make a significant portion of their food purchases off campus. In addition, having your own kitchen might cut down on the amount of money you spend on takeout. Talk with students who live off campus to get a better sense of how much the real costs are to living off campus.

Roommates

While getting a home may be cheaper than staying in a dorm, having roommates makes living in a rental home an even better proposition. In some locales, splitting utilities between three roommates can make utilities cost less than $100 a month and cut the rent considerably.

Other Factors

Hidden fees can also impact the bottom line. A finder's fee may be charged for locating a rental house. Rental properties near campus may cost more so you may choose to live further away from campus. However, you'd also have to factor in commuting expenses if you are not within walking distance to the college. You might have to pay for laundry costs if your rental home does not have a washer, and you might have to pay for furniture for a rental home, presenting a higher upfront cost. The savings of getting a home may be eaten up if you have to live in the house for 12 months versus the dorm for nine months. However, subletting your unit during the summer may solve this problem.

Ask for Assistance

Rental prices vary tremendously by location. Real estate agents or property management companies might be able to give you a better idea about the going rates of rentals in the area or properties that cater to college students in your area. The housing department for your college might also be able to provide you with this kind of information, as well as refer you to other students who live off campus.