Big Ticket Gift: Don’t Look a Gift Car in the Mouth

A Girls Guide To Cars | Big Ticket Gift: Don'T Look A Gift Car In The Mouth - Lexus

LexusA Car for the Holidays, or Birthday, Sweet 16, Graduation..

Giving a car for a present is a huge deal – both for the giver and the recipient. For the one buying – how do you know what car to choose? How can you afford the present? And how do you present the car?

Unless you live at The White House, it’s probably too big to fit under the tree.

And as Mary Heston says “a car has always been a very personal and empowering process.” When her parents gave her a car for college graduation, her father” took me out test driving cars – no bows no surprises.” Because while getting a car can be wonderful, getting the wrong car – not so much.

Below are a few car gifting – and getting – stories

Sweet 16 Gift Cars

Eric Jay Toll said, “when my baby girl turned 16, I bought her a Dodge Colt. It was small enough that I bought a number of rolls of crepe paper ribbons and wrapped it in a big bow. Also attached a bunch of helium balloons to the antenna. I had to remove the fifth balloon, because the car started lifting off the ground — okay, it didn’t.”

To further the surprise, “I attached the keys to a pair of helium balloons and slipped them over her bed during the night, so when she woke up (long after everyone else) the first thing she saw was balloons with a key dangling.”

Kim Orlando, founder of TravelingMom, said, “when I was 16 my parents gave me a surprise party and one of the gifts was a small box with a key attached to an Opel keychain. I ran outside and jumped into my silver Opel GT. Everyone was yelling at me to start the car but it was a stick shift and I didn’t know how so I just sat in it for a long time. I fit 7 people in that car once. Bet my parents hadn’t planned on that.”

Barb Likos said “my parents took my now husband me out to dinner and gave me a box with a D&B key chain (which I was really excited about because who didn’t want D&B back then?) for my 16th birthday. I thought the key went to the car they had bought me when I got my permit (a junker) but instead it opened a Mustang that was in the parking lot. Loved that car. It wasn’t the super fast model but it was perfect for me.

The Guys Give

Anuja De Silva said, “my then fiancé bought me my first car just before I got my license. I was late to start driving since I always lived in a college town. It was a Toyota Yaris and he picked me up from the bus stop in it. It was the perfect one for me to start driving. We’ve been married for 5 years now and I still have the Yaris!”

And the Guys Get

Christine Tibbetts gave a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck to husband Christmas 2011. She hid it at one son’s home, then had the truck driven from there to her home by another son who left midnight mass early so the truck would be in front of house when she and her husband and I arrived from church at 1am. She said it was a “total surprise” for him.

Mega Mother’s Day

Kim-Marie Evans children eschewed the usual box of candy or flowers one year. “I got an Escalade a few years ago for Mother’s Day. My kids gave me the brochure wrapped in a box. I screamed.”

A Different Set of Wheels

Megy Karydes told this charming story:

My then-boyfriend (now-husband) in college had a small motorcycle. It was towed (which is so easy to do in Chicago) and the cost of getting it out was more than the bike was worth so he didn’t claim it. Over the years we talked about getting a bike but he’s more practical than I am and after we had kids, we decided to wait & have a mid-life crisis after they head off to college.

Recently, my brother my uncle was thinking about selling his bike for a larger one. I immediately texted my uncle and asked him if he still had it and wanted to sell it. He said he did; I texted him back that I wanted to buy it and would be coming over with a check. This entire transaction took about 10 minutes by text.

I wrapped title & keys as well as a photo of him on the bike with our daughter, which I happened to take earlier this year, I gave it to him as his Hanukkah gift. As practical as he is, he’s happy he married a completely impractical & impulsive woman like me. Now we can’t wait until it gets warm enough to go on a road trip.

One More for the Road

Christine Tibbetts says she always gives away the car she is replacing when she buys herself a new one. The old car goes to “the most promising /needy of my grandchildren in college.” No fanfare, just a practical, welcome gift from a cool grandmother.


Judy Antell, who is's Free in 50 States editor, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and... More about Judy Antell