Driving A Car For The First Time? Top 5 Easy, Practical Tips

Driving a car for the first time in your life? How exciting! And terrifying, mostly for your co-pilot.

Today we are presenting our top 5 most important tips for people who are driving an automobile for the very first time in their entire life!

Now I am going to try and keep this very basic. Because, someone’s gotta do it. Anyone else notice how complicated the world seems nowadays? Don’t answer that. Related: How long does it take to learn how to drive?

Tip #1 For Driving A Car For The First Time: Make sure you know how to walk around your car the right way when going to get into it

driving a car for the first time
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This matters. Us driver training people refer to this as your ‘approach to the vehicle.’ Basically, it’s to make sure that:

  • All 4 tires (or however many tires you have on your car) are at least appearing to be looking alright; not obviously flat or otherwise ‘un-road-worthy’ (unroadworthy isn’t a word?) And that the path between the two tires is looking fine, not a temporary home to a sleeping kitten, or worse.
  • You’ve checked the ‘blind spot‘ area around your vehicle to make sure there is nothing there. Once you’re sitting in the vehicle, there is an area you can not see, directly in front and behind and to the sides of you. Anything could be there, and if you don’t check, you will very simply run it over.
  • You have eye contact, or at least are facing the traffic closest to you if your car is parked on the street. You don’t want your back to the traffic because you just don’t know what’s there. A large truck? An ambulance with lights and sirens? A cyclist and a large truck and an ambulance? A cyclist and a large truck and a car with failing brakes right beside them, plus an ambulance with lights and sirens? Not the greatest time to open your car door on the street and step inside, eh? Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic as per my nature. But you get the idea.

Tip #2 For Driving A Car For The First Time: Adjust your Seat Position, and Then Your Mirrors, In that order

This is a funny little detail that new drivers will not naturally think about. This is not a life and death thing, but maybe will make your life easier just a bit.

But, if you don’t adjust your seat first before the mirrors, you may end up adjusting your mirrors twice; once before you moved the seat, and then again after you moved your seat into the right spot.

Now if you just want to practice playing with your mirrors and seat (that is actually a good idea) then knock yourself out. NOT LITERALLY. Why are all the kids saying literally every 2 seconds? Where did this start? Someone tell me. I guess ‘literally’ is the new ‘groovy’, or something like that. I’ll get over it.

Anyway, it can take new drivers a while to get used to these things. Also, read this thing I wrote about If Your Car Won’t Go In A Straight Line. Brand new drivers often have problems going in a straight line. It’s totally normal. You have to look far ahead where you want to go, not at the ground right in front of you, as you might do when hiking a mountain.

Tip #4 For Driving A Car For The First Time: Know Your Pedals

driving a car for the first time
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driving a car for the first time
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Feet For The Pedals

When you’re driving a car for the first time, it’s good to start collecting good habits. In my experience it is just so much easier to get into good habits in the first place, rather than to try and later magically transform bad habits into better ones.

ICBC examiners will fail people on the road test if they are ‘driving with two feet.’ This basically means that someone is using their right foot for the gas, and their left foot for the brake. Also, don’t drive with bare feet.

I mean you have 2 feet and 2 pedals for an automatic car, so what’s the problem? One pedal for each foot, right!?

But no; you actually aren’t supposed to use your left foot to control the vehicle’s gas or brake (with a few exceptions of course).

It’s recommended to use your right foot for controlling the gas AND brake pedals. And use your left foot for the clutch if you’re driving a standard.

If you’re driving an automatic, you can just ‘put your left foot away.’ Some cars have a dead pedal where you can rest your foot and keep it out of the way, but others do not. If yours does not, try to put your foot somewhere comfortable where your knee can still be gently bent. This sets up your whole body for good, relaxed control of the vehicle.

The reason it’s not allowed to use 2 feet to drive the car is that in a sudden emergency situation, the idea is that a driver may use the wrong foot and then there may be an unintended result. If you’re only using one foot, and you find yourself suddenly in an emergency situation where you had to hit the brakes, it’s extremely likely that you would hit the brake pedal…

If you were using both feet, well, there’s a chance that you would hit the gas. So when driving a car for the first time be sure to form this important habit.

Tip #5 Driving A Car For The First Time: Where Are You Looking With Your Eyes?

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Is this creepy?

Driving a Car for the first time and every time: Look where you want to go

Most new driver’s won’t naturally do this. They are more likely to look at stuff they don’t want to crash into, for some reason. I.e. looking where you don’t want to go.

Why would you look where you don’t want to go? When you are applying for university, do you look at all the universities where you don’t want to go?

Anyway, it’s normal to be worried about hitting stuff when you’re new.

But if you stare at parked cars and stuff, you will aim your car straight towards them. Try to look far ahead where you want to go and that will work much better.

Bonus Tip From The Man Who Taught Me How To Teach People

“Keep the shiny side up.”


Okay, this wasn’t very simple or basic, but I just want to help all those brand new drivers in the world, because I feel their pain, so forgive me.

Driving A Car For The First Time


Driving a car for the first time in your life is supposed to be fun and scary. But sometimes it’s not fun. It can help to go to a quiet and large parking lot, so you can get a feel for things, without the added pressures that come with impatient other drivers.

Having a chill type of co-pilot can help as well, although I understand that is not always available. Just follow these steps to get you going and remember that it is all practice.

The more you practice, the better you’ll get, even if it doesn’t seem like you’re progressing. Some things take a long time, and this is one of them. When you feel confident with your parking lot experience(s), may you can try some residential neighborhoods with 2-way and 4-way stops.

Carmen Cohoe

Carmen became a driving instructor in beautiful North Vancouver at the age of 22 due to some crazy people who agreed to hire her. After that, there was never a dull moment teaching many different folks from many different places how to drive using automatic and standard vehicles and a minivan.

One thought on “Driving A Car For The First Time? Top 5 Easy, Practical Tips

  • Emiloo

    Thanks Carmen, I’m not a new driver but these were still good pointers, plus you are literally funny, literally is the new groovy for sure!

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