50 Things You Can Do When You Turn 18 (Who Knew?)

It’s one of those big moments in life, a real milestone. Your teen turns (or you turn) 18, and suddenly people start throwing around the word “legal adult” about someone you very much still think of as your “kid.”

But an 18th birthday is a big one; it may be the biggest one. You may shed a tear once the candles are blown out because, deep down, you understand that things are changing forever. 

And even though parents may look at their 18-year-olds and still see the small child within, turning 18 is the legal gateway to adulthood. 

We have gathered a list of things that include the many legal rights and responsibilities that 18-year-olds are given at maturity and some of the restrictions that will still be in place until they turn 21. 

What teens can legally do when they turn 18

Civic and Legal Rights and Responsibilities at 18

1. Vote (you probably knew that one)

2. Enlist in the Military, though with parents’ permission, this can be done at 17

3. Register in the Selective Service system (this is still mandatory for males)

4. Sign a legal contract

5. Change their legal birth name

6. Become eligible for Jury Duty

7. File a lawsuit

8. Create a will


9. Open a brokerage account and buy stock

10. Open a bank account

11. Apply for credit cards

12. Buy real estate or apply for a mortgage

13. Rent an apartment

14. Undertake pawnshop transactions

15. Get a Costco card

16. File for bankruptcy

Health and Medical

17 Consent to their own medical care

18. Give consent for their own vaccines

19. Register to give blood or be an organ donor

20. Go to the ER alone and get treatment

21. Purchase cough suppressants

For Work

22. Use a meat slicer working at the deli in a grocery store

23. Become a realtor

24. Become a notary public

25. Work in a bar and serve drinks

26. Drive a taxi

27. Get a license to drive a truck

28. Work at a full-time job during the school year

For Fun

29. Body modifications, like a piercing or tattoo, without parental consent

30. Travel without parents’ consent

31. Purchase a lottery ticket

32. Buy an alcoholic drink in most places outside of the United States

33. Buy a pet

34. Access an adults-only store and content

35. Skydive

36. Book a hotel room; in some places

37. Legal consensual intimacy with someone over 18

38. Buy fireworks

39. Bet on a horse race

40. Rent Airbnb

41. Use a ride-sharing scooter like Bird or Lime

42. Be free of any curfew restrictions

43. Buy spray paint

44. Be the only one at home when a service repair person needs to enter the home.

45. Buy a car

46. Get a 10-year Passport

Change your family status

47 Get married without parental permission

48. Apply to find their biological parents if they are adopted

49. Adopt a child; in some states

50. Move out of their parent’s home.

Certain things happen only at 21 or older

But 18 isn’t the gateway to all legal rights and responsibilities. In the United Sates, the legal drinking age for young adults is still 21 for alcohol; the same is true with buying tobacco products, cigarettes or cannabis, in the states where it is legal.

Many states also have a minimum age of 20 or higher for renting a car. Casinos do not allow gambling until age 21.

Many states issue a new driving license to those over 21 (the new ID may have a photo with a different orientation or no longer be marked “under 21”).

In many places, renting a hotel room until you are 21 is difficult, though Airbnb allows rentals at 18.

And many states also require that someone be 21 or even 25 to adopt a child.

To all those turning 18 this year, enjoy the new freedoms, but please understand that those freedoms also come with new responsibilities.

And to all the parents of those kids, don’t forget our motto here at Grown and Flown, “Parenting never ends.”

One item that families may need once their teens are 18 and a medical issue arises is legal forms to allow parents to be involved in the decision-making. A quick and easy way to get the documents you need at a reasonable price is through Mama Bear Legal Forms. I used Mama Bear for my son, who attends school out-of-state, and the process was seamless. Use our link to get 20% off the documents you need. (We receive compensation from purchases made through the Mama Bear link, but our opinions are our own.)

It is a big moment. Your teen turns 18 and suddenly people start throwing around the word “adult” in reference to someone you very much think of as a “kid.” But deep down, once the candles are blown out and you have shed a tear or two, we all know that things are changing, really changing, and that this may be the biggest birthday of them all. #18thbirthday #adulting #teenagers

About Lisa Endlich Heffernan

Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author.
She started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and is co-author of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

Read more posts by Lisa

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