What Can You Do at 18 Legally?

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In the United States, where the legal drinking age is 21, there is a common misconception that your 18th birthday is unimportant. But this is far from the truth, at 18, you are a legal adult, and there are many things you can now legally do.

Some of the things you can do at 18 include registering to vote, buy lottery tickets, get a tattoo, and buy fireworks. You can also change your name, be called for jury duty, and more.

We’re going to cover all the things you can legally do at 18, read on to find out more!

What Can You Legally Do at 18?

1. Vote

Perhaps one of the coolest things about turning 18 is that you get to vote. You can’t do so without registering, however, so when it’s your 18th birthday, don’t forget to head online to your state’s website to see what you need to do to register to vote in the next election!

2. Get a Tattoo

While you can get a tattoo when you are 16, you need your parents to sign off on it. Now that you are 18, there is no such thing as parental consent for anything, and you can take yourself to get a tattoo anywhere you want!

3. You Can Buy a Lottery Ticket

Most states allow citizens to play the lottery once they reach 18 years old. There are some states, however, where this isn’t the case (there are also states where the lottery is totally illegal!). If you want to spend your 18th birthday buying lottery tickets, you can, just check the local laws first.

4. Get Called for Jury Duty

You are 18, and you can vote! But before you start celebrating too much about how your vote will change the world, know that when you register to vote, you are also registering yourself for possibly being called for jury duty.

Because jury duty works somewhat on a rotation (as in, you can only be called once every few years), you are likely to get called sometime after you register, typically within the next 3 years–so be prepared!

5. Buy Fireworks

Is it almost New Year's or the 4th of July? Now that you are 18, you can officially buy some fireworks to set off! In some states, you can buy large fireworks prior to holidays at local American Legion locations or grocery stores.

Even if your state doesn’t allow the large fireworks, you will also be able to buy the small poppers from the grocery store to have fun with your friends (yes, these are considered fireworks in most states!) So either way, it's a win-win.

6. Change Your Name

Do you hate the name your parents gave you? Well, good news, now that you are 18, you can change it to anything you want, including Phoebe Banana Hammock, as Lisa Kudrow’s character did in the popular show Friends.

Note that most name changes require extensive paperwork, and this isn’t a process that is complete in a single day.

7. Go to the Doctors Alone

While most states allow kids aged 15 and 16 to see a doctor without a parent present, they are still required to get a parent’s permission before medical procedures or large operations. Now that you are 18, this is no longer the case, and you can get any surgery you want–as long as you have the funds for it.

8. Buy Spray Paint

Spray paint, like fireworks, is an age-restricted product in the United States. Once you turn 18, you will be able to buy all the spray paint you want legally.

9. Cough Syrup

Cough syrup is a restricted product in most states because it contains a drug that can get you high. You have to consume a lot of it, though, and even though you are 18, now you will be restricted to only buying certain quantities per day though you can buy it legally.

10. Join the Military

Were your parents against you enlisting when you were 17? This is no longer a problem once you turn 18. You are allowed to join any branch of the army you would like, as long as they will take you!

11. Work in a Bar

In some states, you are legal to serve alcohol at 18, even though you still can’t drink it. This means you can get a job serving tables in a bar or even begin training as a bartender if that is something you would like to pursue.

12. Open a Bank Account

When you turn 18, you gain a certain amount of financial freedom. You no longer need your parents to sign for you to open a bank account. While most banks still have a minimum opening balance, feel free to embrace your financial freedom and open a bank account on your 18th birthday.

13. Apply for a Credit Card

Along with your financial freedom comes the beginning of building your credit score. You can now legally apply for a credit card that is in your name that you can use for whatever purpose. Just remember that your debt is now your own and to always spend responsibly.

14. Move Out

Once you are 18, you are no longer required to live with your parents by law. You can also legally rent an apartment in your own name. Say goodbye to your parent's basement and hello to your own private pad–just make sure you have enough money to afford rent!

15. Buy a Home

Not only can you now rent your own apartment, but if you have the money, you can also apply to buy your own home. You’ll need to save a lot of money to make this dream a reality, however, so don’t get too carried away and start house shopping just yet.

16. Buy a Car

Even though you may not be buying a house just yet, you might have enough cash to put down on your very first car! At 18, you can apply for a car loan and purchase a car without needing your parents (or anyone else) to co-sign.

17. Get Married

While getting married at 18 is not advised, you can legally do so without your parent's permission. So if you’ve got that special someone, this is now an option!

18. Adopt a Child

Adopting a child at 18 may sound crazy, but this comes into play for families in foster care or without parents. If you turn 18, you can legally apply to adopt your younger siblings, who are still in foster care.

You need to be prepared, though, because before allowing you to adopt your siblings, a judge will want to see that you have a secure place to live, a way to make money to support your siblings, and more. This is a huge hurdle, and it can take years for you to get full custody of your siblings.

19. Book a Hotel

Most hotels allow you to start booking your own rooms once you are 18 years old! (Do note that some properties require you to be 21 before you are legally allowed to book rooms). But if you want to go on a vacation by yourself without your parents, that is now a possibility. Just make sure you sign up for that credit card first, so you have one to give the hotel.

20. Donate Blood

Feeling generous? At 18, you no longer need a parent's permission to donate blood. You can also donate plasma, which many states will pay you to do. This is one way to get a little extra cash for all those new purchases you are looking at.

21. Write a Will

Are you feeling like life is just too short? Well, now that you are 18, you can create a will and let your friends and family know what you want to happen when you die.

22. Buy Stock

Want to build an investment portfolio? You can now do so without the help of a parent or guardian. You are also now allowed to take control of any investment accounts your parents may have started in your name when you were younger.

23. Travel Internationally

Have you always wanted to go to Mexico? Or maybe Jamaica? Now that you are 18, your parents don’t have to sign anything for you to leave the country. You can buy a plane ticket and just go.

24. Adopt a Furry Friend

Feeling lonely in your new apartment? Well, you can head to the shelter and get a little furry friend like a dog or cat to keep you company! The shelter may have some additional requirements, however, such as requiring a yard for you to adopt a dog, so be sure to look at these before you go.

25. Go Skydiving

Are you looking for a way to truly experience your newfound freedom? Nothing like a little skydiving! Your mom can’t even say no, because this is one of those things it is now legal for you to do!

Reference Legal Explanations

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  • "What Can You Do at 18 Legally?". Legal Explanations. Accessed on February 29, 2024. https://legal-explanations.com/blog/what-can-you-do-at-18-legally/.

  • "What Can You Do at 18 Legally?". Legal Explanations, https://legal-explanations.com/blog/what-can-you-do-at-18-legally/. Accessed 29 February, 2024

  • What Can You Do at 18 Legally?. Legal Explanations. Retrieved from https://legal-explanations.com/blog/what-can-you-do-at-18-legally/.