Most, if not all, parents assist in the formation of this belief among adolescents. In our culture, its more of a gradual stage by stage release. There are degrees and stages of quid pro quo, privileges and responsibilities before absolute freedom is reached. The process starts early because of many baby boomer beliefs that high school and college students should have a car or at least a time slot to share the family car. The desire of the children to have a car or access to a car come teen age is fed to them by popular US mass media and the parents themselves.
There are practical aspects to this. Just as the early frontiersmen and subsistence farmers expected their children to contribute their youthful energies to the family's upkeep, a college age young driver is always useful not just for school but for other family errands when mom and pop are too pooped to drive. Its also a good time for children to understand the responsibility of ownership [maintenance, documentation] and responsibility to society at large when wielding an automobile.
Parents, who truly desire to put their high school age kids behind the wheel usually give them their old car. This gives them the excuse to get a newer one for themselves. Moreover, the relative inexperience of the son/daughter driver will surely result in scrapes and dents, so let them inflict it on the depreciated car. If the family has only one car, there will always be many tense moments when the elder driver, not used to not holding a steering wheel, transforms into the backseat kind.
Then there are a few lucky ones with parents willing to give a brand new car to their child, buying themselves the peace of mind that with a new car, their son or daughter will least likely to breakdown on the way home, as if going home is the adolescent's raison d'etre of owning a car. The more generous even supply a stipend to keep up with the image of their mobile semi-independent offspring. This usually becomes an open invitation for the offspring to go home when he/she pleases and leave the laundry and car cleaning to the domestic staff.
In this rarefied strata, the choice of car is sometimes left to the user or what the giver thinks is the appropriate car for the offspring. The usual considerations are the looks, the reliability and how the car will match with the identity and lifestyle the young ones are trying to project.
As a lifestyle tool, it will soon acquire the detritus of the trend or mood of the moment. So we come to the only easily understood, readily quantifiable objective datum that is not charged with emotion and subjectivity - fuel consumption. Its become an article of faith in the USA that a "college car" is usually cheap, economical to operate and can take a lot of abuse/neglect. As the object of the car is to get to places, stretching and multiplying those places depend on how far a car can go on tank of fuel.
To the lucky graduating few who will be getting new cars this graduation season we know that style, an emotional subjectivity and economy, a rational and economic consideration, are your main parameters. We think the following is in your or your parent's shortlist of something short of a cool one mil:
Suzuki SX 4
And for the really lucky few here's a few more over the one mil threshold:
MINI Cooper hatch
Volvo C30 hatch
Any mean looking dressed up pick up from Isuzu, Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Mazda for bikes, motocross, surfboards, horsebox trailer, scuba gear, jet skis, etc. etc.
Lastly, for those parents who cannot afford a new car or even a used car, here's something cheaper that will last your adolescents, whether cool or hot blooded, a long life time: Driver Ed, with lots of seat time behind the wheel in controlled conditions like a race track. Go to schools with extensive facilities likes Honda's Safety Driving School. And don't be shy to pay good money with high performance driving schools like Tuason Racing School. This is the best and safest place to exercise those high testosterone tendencies and budding fantasies to be the fastest man/woman alive. And even if your adolescent is not after imitating Ayrton Senna, Tuason Racing School simulates plausible accident phenomena, like skids and full on braking to teach the driver how to handle himself/herself during high stress situations like an impending crash.
To the Graduate, don't feel bad if you're not getting a new car, much less a used car. For sure, you'll get more seat time behind the family's wheels. With homework and exams behind you not only do you have spare time, you are also officially unemployed and your folks would need to get some payback, even in kind, for all those years of tuition. Drive your dream, but isn't that what financing is for?