How To Survive Buying Your First Car At Twenty-Six

First, admit that no one ever taught you how to drive. They didn’t. And it’s not anyone’s fault but your own: you went off to college, you applied for and won scholarships, you studied abroad, but you never learned to drive. You have to come to terms with the fact that this is something you cannot learn on your own, as independent as you like to think you are.

Graduate with your masters and land a salary-paying job (completely unrelated to your degree) and still live less than two miles away from all the undergrads. Tell yourself you like biking to work; it’s keeping your legs strong, and you’re saving money.

Pathetically stay at home on Saturday nights because all of your adult friends live by the good bars. You do not live by the good bars. You live in your cushy bubble where it’s easy to keep going on in the same way you have. Slowly grow sad over this element of adult life that you feel completely helpless to control. It’s not like you can go out tomorrow and pick up a car the way you pick up a new pair of heels. Help. You need help.

Come to the realization that your fear of driving is more derived from your lack of knowledge of driving: you’re scared of a thing you’ve never learned how to master, when you feel you can master anything and everything else. Finally realize that your determination overpowers your cowardice. You can do this. Decide to pay someone to teach you how to drive. You have the money for it. After four hours of driving lessons and highlighting your printout of the Florida driver’s handbook, you receive a flawless, perfect score on your driving test from a sweet middle-aged man that said you were a great driver. You almost start crying from relief on the spot.

Go on vacation immediately after. See your best friend for the first time in six months and feel whole for the first time all year. Lose your new license in the back of a cab. Worry about getting through airport security without an ID. Charm your way through TSA. Remember, you can do anything.

When you get home, immediately car search for weeks, hours everyday after work. Quickly learn everything you can about cars. Google phrases like “common car buying mistakes” and “best cars for new drivers” and scoff at how all of it is aimed for teenagers ten years younger than you.

Buy the first car you like online that’s in your price range. You’re tired and apathetic. It’s cute blue and has no maintenance problems. It’s fine.

Sign papers for hours, papers you would’ve read over three times if the salesman wasn’t ripping them from your hands. Put down all of the money you’ve been saving. Text everyone you know to see if you are getting a good deal. Appear tough to seem that you are not one to be messed with.

After the receipts are printed and the ink dries on the page, let it hit you: you bought your first car. At twenty six. After two degrees and years of bumming rides and telling yourself you were okay without it, and then the driving lessons and tests, insurance quotes, endless online bookmarks and voicemails, it’s over. It’s exhausting. But you got through it, and you did it on your own, like you do everything. You’re left filled with an infinite sense of independence and possibility. The world is an open road and for the first time, it’s yours.

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