Giving Your Spouse a Car is a Really Bad Gift

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buying a new car

Just recently I was browsing Facebook when I came across an interesting picture of an acquaintance of mine. She was standing in front of a brand new white Lexus, which in all honesty, was absolutely gorgeous. (Hey, if you can afford it, more power to you, right? 😉 )

The issue I had with the picture wasn’t the brand of the car or even the fact that she was showing it off to the world, as people on Facebook are apt to do.

My problem was the caption on the photo, which read, “My husband is amazing! He surprised me with a new car! Thank you honey for the amazing anniversary present!”

Now, I know this couple. They both have decent jobs, but if I’m being frank, they are not the type of people to pay for a vehicle in cash. So, I’m pretty sure this “amazing” present that was a “surprise” was in fact a gift of a car note for the next few years. Of course, I don’t know this for sure, but based on my experience knowing them the past few years, I’d be willing to bet on it.

Here’s why giving your spouse a car sends a bad message to the world at large:

1. Giving Your Spouse a Car is Showy


Again, I have absolutely no issue with people driving nice, expensive cars especially if they can afford it. There are a lot of ways to show off your possessions to the world if you must, but we all know that posting something to Facebook like this will inspire envy. I was surprised that every comment on the photo was some form of “Awwww” or “You’re so lucky!”


No one thought buying a car as a surprise for your spouse was a bad idea?

2. It Encourages a Lack of Communication


Buying a car is a major financial investment. Perhaps this couple did discuss the purchase of a new vehicle. At least I hope they did. Maybe it just looked more romantic to call it a surprise anniversary present, and in that case, then you know they were just milking it for Facebook.

Either way, a purchase as large as a car should definitely be something that both members of a relationship agree on and discuss ahead of time. Heck, at this point in my family, we ask each other about a purchase above $50, so the thought of giving my spouse a car or my husband going to get a new car and bringing it home to me as a surprise just boggles the mind.

3. It Equates Love With Possessions


We’ve talked a lot this month about consumerism and how our society equates showing love with giving gifts. Pictures like this on Facebook reinforce this message. Instead of just wishing her husband a happy anniversary on her status like normal people, this acquaintance of mine said her husband was amazing because he bought her a new car.

I mean, my husband is amazing because he helps me zip up my boots when I’m too pregnant to do it myself, but you won’t catch me posting that as my next Facebook status. 😉


So, am I being too hard on this couple or am I over-thinking it? Maybe there’s more to the story that I don’t know, and I should give them the benefit of the doubt. What do you think?


Photo courtesy of: Moto@Club4AG

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • Jen says:

    I find Facebook has become a place of show and tell. People use it to show off what they’ve got. I personally can’t be bothered. I don’t even update my status. I agree that people seem to equate love with gifts and it shouldn’t be that way. Like you Cat, I find my husband amazing for all the things he is and does for me.

    • says:

      He sounds like a sweetie Jen! I use Facebook a lot but try hard not to go overboard. I’ve worried I’ve posted too much about my pregnancy but I’m just so excited about it all!

      • Shannon says:

        I know this is a 4 year old post, but I guess I’m just commenting to get it off my chest anyway so here goes. I am happliy married for 15 years. I love him to death, BUT, we are about to have a major down in our relationship because I found out he bought me a car today. He didn’t think about the fact that Progressive would email me if there was a change to the policy. Today I saw that a 2018 Chevy Camaro was added to the policy. Like are you f—king kidding me?! In 2006 he bought a 6k boat and 20k truck that went very BAD for him and so I really never thought he’d do this again. Really? I cannot believe it and I’m super pissed. 28,000 dollars without a word. Are we rich? Not by any means. He received a settlement that saved our broke asses and that is why we are comfortable now. You know, as long as no one runs out making 28k purchases. This is not okay and it’s not going to turn out happy. Dont do it.

    • Melanie says:

      Here’s one for you. I have been married for 33 years. For my 50th birthday, my husband was going to surprise me with a USED yellow VW Beetle Convertible. Thank goodness he did not! When it comes to cars, I am extremely picky. I like new cars and I like for my cars to have every option available. Now, this was supposed to be MY car. However, we looked at every color car except for yellow. My husband wanted a car that was gray with the word “BEETLE” scrawled down both sides and it was a new car but a model from the previous year. I didn’t like it. Still, he tried to dicker with the salesman but thank goodness he didn’t lower the price. After that we drove 4 hours back home and bought a new blue car that my husband liked. There was a new yellow car that had everything I wanted in the same town the blue car was in but my husband refused to consider it (and he has a truck that I had no say in when he purchased it). I was happy with the car–and then the scandal broke. It was a diesel and we had 2 choices. We could do the buyback and get more money back than we paid for it or we could get it fixed. My husband chose the buyback. So I got a car for my birthday and he sold it 2 years later and didn’t even bother to replace it with a new one for me. Also, he has always gone out and bought whatever he wanted without consulting with me first, but if I were to do that, I would have to endure his wrath and then he would KILL me! I have come to the conclusion that some men are just stupid, selfish, and insensitive and my husband is one of them. The Final Editions are out and selling out quickly. I want one desperately but he refuses to buy me one yet he bought himself a new $75,000 truck for Christmas in 2017. To make the deal, he had to give them my van also and he did without question, leaving me with no car to drive and scrambling to find a car quick. I am so sick of living my life like this!

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    The only time I could really see this making sense is if you are extremely wealthy. I mean $5M+ net worth wealthy, and even then the other spouse probably wanted to have some input into the vehicle so it’s still kind of a meh idea.

  • Travis @debtchronicles says:

    I’d be LIVID if my wife gave me a car (or more specifically as you mentioned, a car LOAN) for a present. Making that kind of financial commitment should be done together!

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    Also, where do you go after gifting a car? Not sure you can top that.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    Oh dear, that is tacky!

    I know someone who is constantly bragging about gifts on Facebook (including a new mustang her husband bought her) who is currently getting evicted from the house they are renting. Apparently they were two months behind on rent….but bought a new mustang???

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter says:

    It all depends on financial situation and whatnot. My Dad got my Mom a new car for Christmas about ten years ago. My Mom had wanted a new car for over a year. She got the brochure for Christmas and they picked out the specific one together. She still has that car.
    I think it all depends on input. I couldn’t give my spouse a car because test driving them is half the fun for him. My gift would be finally agreeing to the purchase!

  • The Warrior says:

    My wife’s best friend in college had a boyfriend that became her fiancee then married then divorced. They both wanted completely different things. This was apparent from the proposal.

    He proposed on some random land outside Scottsdale, Arizona saying that this was where they would build their dream home. He had already bought the land without asking her.

    Anyways, they got divorced which was better for both of them.

    The Warrior

  • Michelle says:

    I really hope they discussed it before hand. If not, that isn’t exactly the best gift because it’s a gift that keeps on giving for years to come!

  • Pauline says:

    I wouldn’t like to get a car, too big and extravagant, plus I am pretty sure he would pick the wrong one. A gift card for a car I can pick, maybe, and then you can start the discussion and see if it is wise and worth it.

  • Alicia says:

    I couldn’t imagine this happening… though my friend did get an “engagement jeep” instead of an engagement ring. I thought it was over-the-top, but she liked it…

  • Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says:

    I’m with you. A car is a HUGE purchase. I wouldn’t be able to handle it if my spouse didn’t involve me in the decision. It’s a pretty showy gift, that’s for sure.

  • Michael Solari says:

    I’d have to agree with most of the posts. Large purchases, like a car!, should be mutually agreed upon first. What if she was a BMW girl?

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    I can’t imagine buying something as big as a car for a surprise. Hopefully, they discussed it and were in need of a new vehicle. Facebook is like online show and tell for adults. Who honestly wants the world to know what you got for your birthday if you’re over 10 years old?

  • AverageJoe says:

    I couldn’t imagine giving Cheryl a car for Christmas. Even if I had tons of money, she’s so exacting about that type of gift that she’d want something that I couldn’t imagine. …and don’t get me started on buying the car on credit…..

  • Raquel@Practical Cents says:

    I’ve retreated from my personal facebook page a bit because it has become very much a show and tell. You’re probably right about the couple you mentioned. I think people can easily get pulled into doing what everyone else is doing on FB.

  • Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says:

    I’d really like to know if Lexus gave your friend’s husband a huge bow like the ones they have in the commercials during Christmas. I never thought regular people bought each other cars as a gift. I’d never make such a huge purchase without consulting my wife.

  • E.M. says:

    I would be horrified if I got a car as a surprise present, mostly because that’s way too much money to spend without communicating, and it’s just kind of irresponsible. Being that my boyfriend can’t even afford a good car for himself, it won’t be happening! He knows I don’t appreciate materialistic presents like that anyway, even if he does know what cars I like. His brother has gotten cars for his wife before, and then they got repossessed because they couldn’t afford it. So silly.

  • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says:

    The notion sounds romantic, sweet and let’s be honest – meant to inspire a bit of jealousy in others. 🙂 Hopefully they discussed it before hand and agreed to it and the car loan. Otherwise it’s really not as great of a gift as it looks! I don’t have a problem with people being incredibly generous with birthday presents but I also don’t think you should need to take a loan for a gift. If you want to take out loan for a car that is your personal choice but that is not a gift. It’s debt.

  • Kathy @ SMART Living says:

    Back early on in our relationship my husband to be bought us an entire living room set as a “surprise!” The surprise was his when I had a fit telling him that not only was it something that I would have wanted to be a part of but that the money spent was way-ay-ay more than was justified. We argued for days about that “gift” but the best part of that present was that we agreed that neither one of us would EVER buy something that was over $100 without consulting each other first (okay back then $100 bought a lot more than it does today). I so agree this gift and FB posting was about wanting attention and trying to be the “Jones’s)

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I actually feel bad for this person, because she thinks she is “showing off” on Facebook, but what she is really showing is that she and her husband make stupid financial decisions and celebrate them and I don’t think that is anything to brag about. Unless you have the money and a car is fully paid for, then it is not a “gift,” it’s another financial burden. It would be like me posting a picture on Facebook of a $30,000 credit card statement my husband just ran up.

  • Michelle says:

    To me, giving a car is like saying, “Here, honey! I got us in a ton of debt/spent over 10k on you!”

  • Broke Millennial says:

    Agree, agree, agree! You seriously nailed it in this post, Cat. I am going to put my guilty pleasure on display here BUT…this happens in all the real Housewives franchises and almost every time (with a few notable exceptions) it’s a leased car that requires insane payments. I loved in one episode a boyfriend surprised his gf with a car and she said, “Um, how could you make this decision without me? This is a lot of money.” FINALLY! She later gleefully drove off in the thing, but at least for a split second there was some serious consideration about money.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    Like DC said, unless we were super duper wealthy, never would I be on board with that. Plus, for me, a car is just a car. If it’s safe and reliable, I’m good. It’s not a status symbol for us anymore, like it used to be when we cared about what other people thought. 🙂

    • Cat@BudgetBlonde says:

      I agree. Hubs would like a nice car someday but I figure mine can just be a regular ol’ car since I’m the one that’s going to be carting around kids and their cheerios haha.

  • Blake @ BeanCounterByDay says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with #2 and #3. Buying large presents to show love is taking the easy way out in a lot of instances. It’s much easier to buy someone a car than it is to show a grand gesture of true love.

    I can say with absolute certainty that my fiance would not be happy if I went and bought her a car without her input. She would be PISSED! If you’re going to go buy a car without talking it over, what else are you doing behind your spouse’s back!?

  • Marvin says:

    I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!!! I do not know why people do this. Stop buying new cars and stop buying things you cannot afford in cash.

  • Cedric @ Fuggingdebt says:

    I pretty much agree with the entire article. Not only the car note, you have registration fees, car insurance, and the maintenance. It’s the gift that keeps on giving haha.

  • Brian says:

    I agree with Cat 100% but I will still be giving my wife a car on our 20th anniversary next month. The key is not have the gift turn into a white elephant. The car is 3 years old, still under factory warranty, 55% below original sticker price & most importantly I paid cash.

  • Alex says:

    I dont understand whats the big deal. If she needed a car and you can pay cash for it surprise her. This is why most women in america are single.

    • John Schmoll says:

      WOW!! Really?!? Did you even read the post? It had nothing to do with buying the car in cash. Not to mention the fact that few people “need” a brand new Lexus, but that’s just me I guess. I guess having a bloated car payment is something we should champion.

      Your last statement…what can I say…and people wonder why there are problems in our society!

  • Melissa says:

    I had a 2011 VW golf diesel that my husband purchased for me when my 1999 Camry was on its way out. This was a purchase we had to make. He was the one who bought it as I do not have a job I am a stay at home mom. Well as for the golf it is part of the vw scandal and I turned it back in for the $22,000. With this money we purchased another car for me a 2017 Subaru Impreza. Of course the money was not enough to pay for the car. My husband had to pay the rest. Which we will do through financing. I did post this on Facebook. Does that make me a bad person for showing a car which I like? Being I was part of a scandal and had to give up a car I liked for a new one? I’m not a flashy person, nor are we swimming in money. But sometime you just want to share what great experiences you go through with family and friends. I agree some go overboard. But I don’t think I am.

  • smith says:

    What about when your husband buys you an engagement ring as a surprise he doesn’t ask for your opinion. I just bought my husband a used car for 12333 dollars and put 3 thousand down and my monthly is 180 but i plan to always pay at least 300. So I think it depends my hubby is in med school on scholarship and stipend and i work. We are a one car family for years 4 years and we constantly run into logistical issues. That car is fully paid, in addition, are condo is paid in full. Neither of us have any debt. My husband taking his first part of his boards in June and I’m going surprise him with the car. I think it depends on the situation.

  • Stephanie says:

    This is a great article! My 35th birthday is approaching and my husband bought me $3k designer handbag because I’ve always loved them, but I’ve never bought one on my own because it’s way too expensive. If I were a super millionaire I’d do it, but we are far from it.
    I’m furious about it. Imagine if it were a car!
    To top is off he’s about to lose his job and the store has a no refund policy. I don’t understand why he thought it was okay to spend $3,000 without consulting me. He said he wishes he could do so much more, which is sweet and I understand, but, he pretty much spent the money I worked hard to earn which I wanted to save because sadly, i don’t even have a retirement account at my age!
    I’m so mad, I don’t know what to do.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Sorry to hear that Stephanie! I wish I knew what to say, but can empathize with your wishes that he spoke with you prior. Best wishes on his finding a new job and working this out. 🙂

  • Danielle says:

    I would fall over if my husband bought me a new car! And I would not be mad at all. It really does depend on the situation and the couple…

    • John Schmoll says:

      That’s a fair point Danielle. Each situation is different so what may be bad for some will not always be the case for others.

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