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Five Things I Learned From Getting My First Car

  August 19

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getting my first carSo, my car back home is 12 years old, and I am really, really attached to it. It was my very first car, a hand me down from the parental units, and I’ve had it ever since.

I’ve had a lot of people ask why I still drive it. After all, America is the land of turning in a car once it hits 100,000 miles, right? (And this baby is at 170k!)

I admit; I did think it was on its last leg and wanted a new one before I came to the island. However, after seeing all of the cars that people drive here on the rock, I’m starting to think my ol’ ride back at home will suit me just fine.

Here on the island, the uglier your car is, the more hilarious the whole situation gets. Take for example my friend Luke’s car, which is literally spray painted orange. I can spot him anywhere on the island. My other friends have used duct tape to hold their car together and still even more have issues like only being able to reverse if the windows are down. If all of us can get a good laugh out of this and no one here cares what brand the car is, then I think I can live with my car back home for quite some time.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned from getting my first car:

1. Take Excellent Care of It

My car would not be 12 years old if I didn’t take care of it and if my parents didn’t take care of it before they gave it to me. Regular oil changes, fixing things when they break, and in general keeping it clean and pretty have all made it run, run, run.

If you are normally forgetful, setting reminders for oil changes and tune ups for your car can be a lifesaver. You can write them in if you like planning with paper and pen, or set the reminders on your phone. No matter what though, make sure you take these preventative measures with your car. Keeping your car maintained is a lot easier than constantly fixing it because it’s not getting the TLC it needs.

2. Don’t Trade It In If It Was Free

Since my parents gifted me this car when I was a teenager, it was free. So, the worst thing I could have done was trade it in just to get a new shinier version. My older, wiser self knows that even if the car finance numbers are good, free is even better.

3. Used Is Best

Some people really dream of the day that they can drive a brand new car off the lot. I used to think that I wanted that, but now one of the things on my bucket list is to buy a used car in cash. I know; such a nerdy goal, but can you imagine how awesome it’s going to feel to hand over some dollar bills and get a car in return?

Also, keep in mind that when you buy a new car, 10-15% of it’s value is gone by the time you drive off the lot. New cars depreciate a lot faster than used, which is often why you can buy an ALMOST brand new car for thousands cheaper!

You can always make your used car feel new and more personal by making it smell and look nice, adding a few knick knacks (if that’s your thing) and even changing the color if you have the budget for it.

4. Don’t Park It Behind Your Dad

The last time I was home, I parked my car behind my Dad, and he ran into it. Luckily, he fixed it (thanks, Dad!) but I’m not sure ol’ KAL (that’s my car’s name) could really handle one more hit.

Even if you don’t have to worry about your dad hitting your car, you can still be mindful about driving or parking. There are quite a few crazy people on the roads, so always double check and be a safe driver! This will protect your car, and give you peace of mind when you don’t have a bunch of dents and dings. Plus, save driving helps you score cheaper insurance.

5. Get Emotionally Attached To It

I think the more you’re attached to your car, the better you’ll take care of it. My car has been with me through Hurricane Katrina (and we both survived). It’s been with me to college. It’s moved with me to Virginia. It’s gone to grad school with me. It’s been married with me, and it probably shed a tear for me when I moved to the island and left it all alone. Womp womp.


The point is, I love that car. It was my first one! And, when I get home, I’m going to give it a big hug and assure it that I’ll be driving it for at least a few more years. 😀

What was your first car? What did you learn from having it?

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57 responses to “Five Things I Learned From Getting My First Car

  1. The car I learned to drive on was a Toyota station wagon that is still running as my little brother’s car…I think it is almost 19 years old now with around 200k miles on it. It certainly has its share of strange tics: a wonky antenna that struggles to go up for a minute, making terrible grinding noises; a broken lock that you must always remember to close manually; a special dance/prayer you must do before getting the trunk to open (only kind of optional). But the engine is still going strong and it is definitely WAY better than sinking a ton of money into a new car, especially for two learning drivers.

    I now have a used 2006 Toyota Corolla that I have a loan on. Though I couldn’t pay for the whole thing in cash, it’s the perfect car for me. A steady monthly payment, regular maintenance, no-fuss! I love your goal of buying a used car in cash. That’s a great goal for me to aim for–but only once I get a good two decades out of this car!

  2. My first car was a 1996 Dodge Neon. Boy was that thing ugly (paint chipped off the whole car) but it was reliable and did the job!

  3. I purchased my first car when I was a sophomore in college, and plan on having it FOREVER! It is a honda accord that I bought new (should have bought used thinking back now), but I love it and know that it will be a dependable car for a very, very long time. Big lessons I’ve learned are really to take care of it and do the scheduled maintenance. It’s a big deal and will keep your car going stronger longer. Plus, I live in Atlanta where dents, chips, potholes and scrapes are inevitable. Having a brand new car seems like a terrible idea – I would be worried about it all the time!

  4. My first car was named Sunny. =). She was a 1970’s Benz and looked like a taxi from the 3rd world. But I loved her and would have loved to keep her, but it didn’t make sense for me when I moved out of the country. Unlike you, I didn’t have free storage, so I would have paid a bundle to keep her!

  5. I’m loving reading about everyone’s first cars. =) Mine was a hand-me-down to me and my husband from his parents the year before we got married. It’s currently… 15 years old? Maybe 16? It has survived a teenage boy driving it, a move to Philadephia, queso being thrown all over the windshield by a bunch of drunk college students, and someone taking off the passenger-side mirror while it was parked, among other poor-car-gets-parked-in-the-city adventures. And we love it. I think we can get at least two more years of safe driving out of it, and we plan to drive it into the ground.

  6. Only being able to back up with the windows down? That’s too funny! My first car was a gift from my grandma. She left it parked for almost 2 years before I got it. Cats had climbed up into the motor and peed in it. When we finally got rid of the smell, the AC decided to catch on fire. This was all before I had my license. Needless to say, we got rid of it pretty quickly, and I took over my dad’s old SUV, which then passed on to my brother. It was literally driven into the ground!

  7. My first car was a Jeep Cherokee and I really liked it. Unfortunately, I was trying to learn how to customize them. I lifted my Jeep and did many things so I could take it offroad. I learned from that car to never use your daily driver as a project car. It only ends poorly.

  8. My first car was my Grandmother’s Dodge Charger. My dad gave me a choice. I could have my Grandma’s car AND a Mediterranean cruise or a new car. Easy choice for me! There is something special about your first car. We drive our cars forever too.

  9. The bond that you have with your car is so cute. I am pretty attached to my car as well, and plan on taking good care of it so it can last many more years. I think it would be pretty awesome to be able to pay for a used car in cash – that’s one of my goals, too. My first car was a hand-me-down – my grandma owned it first, then gave it to my mom, and when my mom got a new used car, she gave it to me. I only drove it for a year, but I was careful with it because it wasn’t in the best condition. I got stuck a few times, so I learned to always have a back-up plan or someone I could reach!

  10. I still have my first car (the one that I got when I was 16). Of course, I would like a new and better car; preferably one in this decade. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I have an SUV, which is also 11 years old (but we have only owned it for a year). However, it baffles me that people get new cars every 2-3 years. My car has been completely paid for 11 years, and the SUV was paid in cash as well (result of a settlement). I do care about having a nicer car, but then again I don’t. To me, I would rather spend my money on vacations and other stuff than car payments. To me, that it more financially responsible. To each their own, and we all can choose what we spend money on. We aren’t in our cars that much anyway, when we think about it.

    I also used to dream of the day to drive off the lot with a new car, but now I don’t. I used to sell new/used cars, and the new cars DOES depreciate fast (although, it depends on make/model). I saw it firsthand. The used cars are just as good!! Whenever, I get a car from this decade (hahaha), it is definitely going to be used!

  11. Aw, I love how attached you are to your car. My wife and I just sold her first car, and it was kind of sad. 🙁 But I’m rooting for you to keep yours…may she give you another hundred thousand miles of memories.

  12. Cute story! I really miss my first nice car, a 2000 Ford Focus wagon. Unfortunately, mother nature decided we must part ways and a terrible rain storm led my car to being totalled (I walked away injury free, thankfully). I now drive the Fern-mobile, a 2002 Toyota Corolla that was terribly maintained by my father and is at 175,000 miles and counting.

    Like you, I used to dream of getting a brand new car one day. But now I know how financially irresponsible that really is for a frugal person like myself. When the Fern-mobile passes on to the next life, I have my heart set on a 2006 Mazda 5. Nothing newer!

    Also, since I remember you mentioned you’re moving to Brooklyn before, I have a car in the city and it’s not as difficult in my neighborhood, parking-wise. I street park and haven’t had issues finding a spot in my current ‘hood. Depending on where you end up, you may be able to bring your car with you if you want. It’s nice to have for weekend getaways and trips to Costco! 😉

  13. I plan to drive my car until it dies. I have taken pretty good care of it. It hasn’t given many problems yet (knock on wood) and I definitely don’t want a car payment any time in the near future.

  14. Great story! My first car was a 1988 Plymouth Horizon that I drove through high school and college. I had to repair it so many times and do so much bodywork that it just wasn’t worth it anymore. Funny enough, I sold it for $200 more than what we paid for it. I’m planning on driving my current car, that I bought new, for at least 10 years. I always take amazing care of my cars but over the years, I’ve learned NOT to get emotionally attached. I find that if you do and you have an accident, you get pretty pissed off about it and realistically it’s just a material object. True, it may have gotten you through a few tough spots but it’s not worth stressing over.

  15. My first car was a ’97 Altima…I loved that car and kept it for 10 years. I knew I had to get rid of it when it broke down on me a week before my wedding when I was running wedding related errands. It was no longer reliable and I wouldn’t want to get stuck on the side of the road again. It was partially my fault though as I probably didn’t take as good care of it as I should. And I need to learn more about car maintenance.

  16. My first car was a maroon Chevy Beretta. I learned how to drive a stick. I didn’t know how to drive one before I purchased that so my dad had to come with me and drive it home. I got a great deal on it and I’m glad I didn’t let my stick shift deficiency keep me from purchasing it.

  17. My little brother got to drive my first car more than i did. He went to private school and even though my parents gave me a Canary Yellow Toyota Corolla when I turned 17, my senior year in high school I drove a 10 year old Ford Country Squire station wagon with faded vinyl roof and faded wood panel sides. I still haven’t figured that one out, but the little jerks at private school banged up the doors of my little car far worse than the kids at my public school. Ah well……. Now I have teen girls….with cars. Yikes!

  18. I have a post about a similar topic coming up on Thursday, but I was lucky enough to pay cash for my first car and I learned pretty quick: It’s nice to not have a monthly payment on a car loan! Unfortunately my next car will almost 100% for sure have some sort of loan and monthly payment.

    1. Ha, why are you trying to be just like me David?! ;)) It is definitely nice not to have a monthly payment. My mom told me that a million times. 🙂

  19. This is a great post! I still have my first car, it’s a 2007 VW Golf and I love it! I got it used after I totaled my husband’s car (oops). I plan to drive it for a long, long time, but once I have to replace it, I want to get a used hybrid – paid for with cash. Oh the lofty dreams of PFers!

  20. I loved my first car! In fact had I’d not been an idiot and let my then 17 year old younger brother drive my truck I’d still have it! Lol but my hubs still has his first truck and plans to drive the wheels off it! 🙂

  21. Have to laugh about your dad running into your car! I can’t say for sure what my first car was….My siblings and I had to share a lot of beaters while I was in high school (my dad liked to fix cars). There was a Bronco that the gas gauge didn’t work (ran out of gas on more than one occasion) and the brakes went out on it while driving (luckily slowly). Then there was an Econoline van with no heat (driving to school in the winter sucked). Then a Taurus and a small pickup truck with a bad transmission.

    My dad bought me a brand new Kia Rio when I graduated high school (older siblings were dropouts) to use at college. My brother ended up stealing my keys and taking my car out one drunk night…crashed and totaled it and it sat in the junk yard while my dad made payments on it.

    I guess the first real car in my name was my 1995 Mercury Sable that I bought (split the cost with my dad) in 2007. We bought it for $1500 but the repairs that had to be done to keep it running until this year have probably costed over $4000! New brake line, new muffler, new exhaust, struts, a/c fixed, new tires. The entire underside was rust and this year my subframe completed rusted through, broke the water pump and my transmission was going. Fixing it wasn’t going to happen (RIP POS). My husband and I are now financing a 2011 Toyota Corolla, 2 months old to us and happy to have something reliable to drive!

  22. Love the comment string!! My first car was a 1980 Mercury Bobcat. It was 12 years old when I got it and my dad split the cost with me. $300 each. It didn’t last long – it got covered in snow and then run over by the snow plows. Which I was happy about. I hated that car. 🙂

  23. Great points! My parents bought my first car and it’s been 9 years. I’m emotionally attached to it and wouldn’t trade it for anything!

  24. Emotional attachment is real! 😀

    I know a few friends of mine do bring up their first car when the topic goes to cars. Can definitely tell that the first love is missed.

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