Owning your first car is a big milestone. In addition to all of the paperwork and bills that come with having your name on the pink slip, there’s also a lot of unspoken responsibility that’s vastly different from driving a lease—or your parent’s car.
There’s no single unified manual to car ownership, so it can be difficult to appreciate how much your sense of responsibility changes once you finally sit behind the wheel of your first car. The financial weight of your driving habits will likely set in as soon as you have to visit the garage over something dumb (every driver has), but your appreciation for the fact that this is YOUR car might not set in until later.
To that end, let’s reflect on the fun, stressful, and strange ways driving changes once you finally own your own car. Starting with:
It Becomes Impossible to Avoid Giving It a Name (Even a Dumb One)
On paper, naming a car sounds pointless. After all, cars are machines that are built to serve specific purposes, right? Naming a car doesn’t make any more sense than naming a houseplant or a Roomba.
As it turns out, Americans love to totally name those things too. A 2019 survey by Bosch Automotive found over 56% of Americans name their vehicles, and that number has likely grown in the last two years—especially among Americans who were socially distancing at home with only their cars for companionship. While naming cars might seem obnoxious to the uninitiated, it’s a fun expression of the natural human desire to pack bond, or build relationships with useful inanimate objects by giving them human qualities.
Once you own your own car, the urge to do that gets stronger and stronger. After all, this is YOUR car! Why not christen it with a new name, like some newborn 6,000-pound metal child?
A quick note: you are allowed to change your car’s name whenever you want. That’s a #LIFEHACK for everyone who’s named theirs Khaleesi.
Fast-Food Wrappers Become a Hot Button Issue
Everyone’s been guilty of some greasy car dining at some point in time. Whether it’s the result of a 2 a.m. restaurant run or a schedule that doesn’t allow for staying still during lunch, leaving fast-food wrappers in the back seat of a car is just one of those things that give it a “lived-in” feel, like the first time you have to fix the plumbing in a new home, or when a new cat surprises you with its first dead bird.
Once you own your car, however, that relationship starts to change. Trash building up in the passenger seat feels like some great karmic burden you carry with you everywhere. Fast food smells start to feel like they’ll be trapped in your seats FOREVER. Friends who ask to eat in the backseat of your car feel like they’re littering in a national park.
Sure, plenty of people eat in their car, and virtually no driver is going to maintain that dealership-fresh interior. However, once you actually own your car, it becomes a lot harder to think of it as just being a mobile trash receptacle.
Dings Go From “Stressful” to “End of the World”
Nobody likes getting their car dinged. Whether it comes from an overly narrow parking space or another driver, each little scratch can be a headache. Even if it’s completely covered by your car’s warranty, each one can still feel like it has all of the stress of a mini-car crash, complete with a lasting visual reminder on your hood, trunk, or doors.
Once you own your car, however, these dings start to feel personal. Each one seems to linger in your car’s paint job like a festering wound, calling back painful memories each time you open that door. Beyond all of the literary tragedy that comes from having your paint job scratched, they’re a reminder you’ll have to do something about it eventually, which is never a fun thing to think about.
You Learn to Be Picky With Mechanics
When you’re driving your parents’ car, you might not think about your car’s maintenance beyond just replacing flat tires and dropping it off for the occasional oil change. Once you’re in charge of your own car, however, you learn to get picky about which garage you trust for repairs.
Not all garages are created equal, and the dealership isn’t always going to offer you the best price on repairs, especially if your vehicle is out of warranty. This means that the mechanic you choose can have significant input on how long your car runs, and how expensive it will be to keep running. Once you own a car, you’re effectively responsible for keeping it on the road, and that means you’ll start caring a lot about how much your mechanic actually helps you.
Over time, you’ll find yourself asking questions like, “What do you recommend bringing the car in for service next?” and “What warranties do you offer for labor and parts?”. You might even start to view the search for a good mechanic like dating, which is fine in a “is this person the right fit?” sense and not a “romance with expensive dinner” one.
Finding a reliable mechanic is an important part of car ownership, but there’s no need to wine-and-dine them.
How has your relationship with your car changed since you bought it?