Your teen has been fantasizing about the moment she gets her first car long before she even starts driving lessons. Getting a car for your child is a huge decision that should be based on whether it is practical for your finances, how necessary it is for your teen and if you feel your teen has earned it. If you do decide to gift a car to your child, the red bow-covered car in the driveway is classic, but old. Be a little more creative and come up with ways that will make the moment memorable for your teen.
The Car Accessory Hint
A simple, (but always fun way) to surprise your teen with a car is by giving her car accessories she obviously would not need without a car. One idea is to leave different car accessories around your teen's room. For instance, you might put car freshener trees on her desk, car floor mats on the floor in front of her bed and an emergency car kit on her bed. As she looks at the items and starts to realize what great scheme you are planning, you could appear in her doorway jangling the keys in your hand for her. Another idea is to send her to an auto store on an errand, with a list of accessories to buy. She will wonder why you need all this new stuff. When she gets home, have the car waiting for her -- and her new accessories.
The Dealership Fakeout
Take the entire family to the car dealership pretending to need a new family car. Try a bunch of family-friendly cars -- enough so that your teen gets bored and is dying to go home. Insist on looking at one more, which is your teen's car. When she points out that the car will not be suitable for the entire family, you could say something like, "You're right, this one's for you," and give her the keys. Another idea is to tell your teen you are taking her car shopping, and then take her to a junkyard car lot. Tell the owner about it ahead of time, so that he enthusiastically shows her some horrible-looking cars. Tell her you want her to think about it overnight before she decides. As your dejected teen walks back to your car, have her car parked behind it, and then tell her she should follow you home in “her new” car.
The Fetch-Me-Something Move
Tell your teen you need her to get something out of your car and give her the keys to her own car. (She does not realize that these are not your keys.) Act rushed and fluttered -- as if you need the item right away -- so that she is not looking closely at the keys in her hand. The car should be in the garage with a bow on it or a "Surprise!" sign on the windshield. Or, if you have a long driveway, send your teen to get the mail. Put the keys in the mailbox in an envelope addressed to your teen and have his new car parked in front of the mailbox.
The You're-in-Trouble Tactic
Arrange to have your teen called to the principal’s office at the end of the day. When she gets down there, look at her sternly and say something like "I can't believe you. Let's go." Your confused (and possibly terrified) teen will follow you out of the school building where her car will be waiting. You could then say, "I can't believe you didn't guess I was getting you a car!" Another idea is to have the car parked on the street in front of a restaurant where you are having dinner with the family. Have a friend, posing as a parking enforcement officer, inform her that her car is about to be towed. When she says she does not have a car, he could shrug and say her name came up when he scanned the license plate. Have the "concerned" family follow her outside and yell, "Surprise!" when she sees the car.