I Got My First Car! Now What Do I Do?

my first car
There’s nothing quite like that first-car feeling. It doesn’t matter if it’s new off the lot or a well-worn hand-me down — you just want to run around screaming “My first car! My first car!”

But once you’re done screaming for joy, it’s time to do all the adult-y stuff that comes with owning a car.

The Essential ‘My First Car’ Checklist

Here’s a checklist of six things you should do, from comparing car insurance for new drivers to keeping your new car shiny and clean.

1. Compare quotes for car insurance for new drivers.

There’s a reason this step is number one — you can’t drive your car anywhere until you’re insured. Car insurance for new drivers can be expensive, because insurers consider you a risk. You’re inexperienced and have no driving record yet, so they don’t know if you drive like a grandma or like Vin Diesel.

You might be tempted to choose the very cheapest car insurance you can find, but this decision can come back to bite you. If you only have the state minimum insurance and you cause an accident with injuries, you could be sued for the amount your insurance doesn’t cover. Here’s a guide to shopping for the cheapest car insurance.

The best way to find affordable car insurance for new drivers is to get multiple free quotes from compare.com. You’ll be amazed by wide range of quotes from different insurers. Start comparing now.

2. Get your registration.

So boring, but so necessary. You’ll need to register your car with your state DMV before you can drive it, and you’ll need your car title and proof of insurance. You may also need an emissions test or inspection, depending on where you live. And you’ll probably need to go to the DMV in person, take a number and wait in line. Sorry. The good news is that many states will let you renew your registration online.

3. Make friends with your new car.

Buying your first car is just the first step in a long and happy relationship, so take the time to get to know your car. Skim the manual to find the basics, such as:

  • Where the trunk and hood latches are
  • Whether your car takes premium, regular or either
  • How to check the fluids
  • How to set up tech features like phone integration and sound systems
  • How to access the jack and spare tire
  • How to adjust the seats, mirrors and steering wheel

speedometer4. Sloooow down.

One side effect of that my-first-car feeling is wanting to zoom. Eighty-five miles per hour might not even feel that fast to you — until you see the blue lights spinning in your rear-view mirror. Try to resist the temptation to speed in your new car, for two reasons.

One: Car insurance for new drivers is already expensive, so do you really want to pay more? The actual fine for speeding might not be so bad, but the ticket will stay on your record for up to three years, raising your insurance premiums.

Two: You’re just getting used to your new car, and you’re not yet a good judge of how long it takes to brake, or what to do if the car skids. Drive cautiously while you’re getting comfortable behind the wheel.

5. Change, baby, change (the oil, that is).

As dads everywhere like to say, changing the oil is the most important thing you can do to keep your car running well. And they’re right. If you have a new car, you should change your oil for the first time at 1500 miles, Car Connection warns, to flush out small metal scraps that break off a new engine. After that, just change it at the interval listed in the manual (which is probably less frequently than every 3,000 miles, whatever your dad might say).

6. Keep it clean.

You’ll be amazed by how quickly that “my first car!” excitement goes away when you treat your car like trash. If coffee cups are rolling around the floor and lost French fries are shriveling under your seat, you’ll lose that sense of pride in your ride. Your car will lose some of its value, too, if it gets dirty and smells funky. So wipe down the dash, visit the car wash regularly, and get in the habit of tossing trash every time you fill up the tank. Here’s a spring cleaning checklist for your car.

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