First Car: Expectations vs. Reality

When it comes to your first car, everyone wants a hot set of wheels.

You can imagine yourself cruising down the coast with your besties, blasting music along with the A/C and having the time of your life, all while looking young, wild and free.

Yep, the time of being toted around by your parents in a minivan is long gone my friends… or is it?

Before your first car bubble is burst, let me walk you through some common (mis)expectations and the more realistic model you're bound to receive:

The Reveal: Expectation

Picture this: It's the morning of your 16th birthday and your parents wake you up with a very special present in a very little box. You open it up to find a key. Huh? But not just any regular key… a car key. You jump out of bed and race to the front door, swing it open, and there on the driveway is your brand new car complete with an enormous red bow. You scream, you cry, you hug your parents before jumping into the front seat. Now wake up.

Girl receiving car as a gift

(via Shutterstock)

The Reveal: Reality

Your parents have probably been texting you images of used cars they found on some secondhand site for weeks. Any dreams of a surprise you once had went out the car door long ago. Eventually one day you tag along as your parents visit an array of used car lots that are a step or two above a junk yard. After settling on a combination of metals that one could potentially describe as a car, they hand over the keys with a smile that makes you feel guilty for thinking any of these bad thoughts. But you think them anyway.


The Make: Expectation

Your first car just so happens to be the car of your dreams. Not only does it have fresh leather interior, but the exterior is painted in the dreamiest of all shades. Whether it's cherry red or sleek black, this beauty is going to put all other automotives to shame. Now, the question is, are you more of a BMW or Prius kind of girl?

The Make: Reality

This lemon puts the bitter in bittersweet. Yes, you're so excited to finally have wheels of your own, but you really wish it was a little less junkyard and a little more fast and furious. Not to say that all Honda's are embarrassing, but let's just say that not all Honda's are created equal. It's a practical car, which is why your parents decided on it for their baby, but did they have to purchase the one in shimmery forest green or burnt orange? As if the make and model itself wasn't bad enough, they just had to go with the ugliest color ever made. You now know that it's basically a rite of passage for every teen's first car to be a driveable eyesore but you still wish you were the exception to the rule.

Car pile at the junk yard

(via Shutterstock)


The Year: Expectation

Brand new. The only miles on this baby are the ones you racked up driving home from the dealership. You've seen your fair share of car commercials, which apparently give away free gas money with your new car purchase and, hey, didn't they say that car payments aren't expected for the first 90 days. Sounds like a steal, 'rents, you'd be a fool to pass up that offer. Mmmm and just take in that new car smell.

Enjoying the top down in her convertible

(via Shutterstock)

The Year: Reality

It looks like congratulations are in order. No, not for you. For your car—she's about to have a little sister! Yep, your first car is probably older than you are. In fact, it may even be as old as your parents. The only real qualification besides safety that your parents have for picking out your first car is that it has less than 100,000 miles on it. And girl, just because a car is old doesn't mean it's racked up a ton of miles. That means that the older the car + the fewer the miles = the best deal imaginable for your parentals. Hey, does it make you feel any better if we use the words "classic" and "vintage" to describe your new baby? Plus, you can always get an air freshener in the new car scent.


The Drives: Expectation

Your car was made for the scenic route. From the beach to the mountains to all of the adventures in between, your vehicle was made to fulfill all of the wanderlust dreams that you and your friends ever imagined. You're going to make tons of memories in this car while it takes you on so many firsts. First date, first job, first road trip… this car is about to be your new inanimate best friend.

The Drives: Reality

Now that you have a car, you are the go-to errand-runner of the household. Beach? Forget about it. This weekend you have to drive your little brother to practice, pick up the dry cleaning, swing by the grocery store, pick your little brother up from practice, and by the time you get home, you'll have more of those pesky little favors pop up. It turns out your mom forgot to get cilantro for dinner or your dad needs you to return something from Target. Not to mention all of the favors that your car-less friends need. You've become a one-woman chauffeur for the entire town.

Teen packing up groceries in the trunk of her car

(via Shutterstock)


The Ownership: Expectation

This car belongs to you and only you. It was a gift, after all! And when was the last time you had to share a gift? Of course, you don't mind handing the keys over when the "check engine" light turns on or when it's in need of a deep clean. But maintenance aside this is your car baby and everyone else needs to keep their paws off.

Two friends flashing peace signs in car

(via Shutterstock)

The Ownership: Reality

Technically this pile of scrap metal belongs to your parents. Their names are on the registration and therefore they have the final say when it comes to how, when and where the vehicle is in use. You soon realize that this car never really belonged to you when your younger sib gets their license and now your car has turned into a shared car. Oh, the injustice. You don't even want to get your parents started on the ownership game because once you start, threats of having you pay for the insurance, tuneups and oil changes begin to pop up. No thanks, I'd rather share the car.


The Cost: Expectation

The only expense you have on this vehicle-of-freedom is gas. And how much could gas cost anyway? The signs usually read anywhere from about $2.50 to $4.50 which is practically pocket change. You can't even get a breakfast parfait from Starbucks for that cheap, so gas money will be a breeze.

The Cost: Reality

Gas, registration, tags, oil changes, car washes, flat tires, and the list goes on and on. Who knew owning a car could drain your bank account so quickly?? Oh, I guess your parents did. I guess that's why they weren't so peachy keen on buying you one the second you turned 16. This car is far from the definition of freedom—in fact it's a ball and chain of responsibility. And if there are two words that sum up the definition of responsibility, they are time and money.

Girl trying to fix car on side of the road

(via Shutterstock)


Now that you have a car of your own, it's time to hit up all of the drive-thru joints you come across. For some sugary cereal goodness, you have to check out where to find THIS Cinnamon Toast Crunch drive thru.