When my husband came to the USA, he did not want to rent a car. As a true European, he thought that he could walk from the hotel to the grocery shop, from the movie theater to the restaurant. It took him only two weeks to surrender : when one lives in the suburbs, one has no choice but to get a car.
Let's dig a bit
Buying a car is an experience by itself.
Car salespeople generally have a very low salary and get paid with commissions when they sell a car. So they do everything they can to make you buy.
When you arrive on the parking lot, they already screen you by letting you look at the cars, seeing how you interact together and what kind of cars you are looking at. Then, the show starts. They offer you a cup of coffee, water, a soda, and try to learn as much as they can from you, and connect on a personal level with you. They try to become your friend.
They will also try to sell you what they have in inventory first and foremost. Because on their parking lot, they literally have hundreds of cars of all kinds of shapes, colors, sizes and prices. They rarely try to sell you what you want, they more try to get rid of their inventory. So you have to stand firm for what you want, unless you might end up with a car that you will not really like. They will never be shy to let you test a car, this speeds up the purchase.
Choosing your car options.
The regular technologies are very much more developed than what we had back in Europe : heating and cooling seats, digital keys on the doors to unlock them in case you forget your keys, ecoboost motors to reduce the fuel consumption, numerous cup holders to host your coffee, ice tea, water and any other drinks, a system on your key to start your car from inside your home so that it can be heated before you get in . My pick up truck, one of the most well-known brand in the USA, has 10 speeds, not 11 or 9, 10. What about the fuel consumption ? 12 to 15 liters per 100 Kms are the norm.
You can also build your own car on Internet and order it directly by internet. So from the comfort of your coach, you can build your next drive :)
The bigger the better
In the States, kids can drive as early as 16 years old. But they only can drink at 21. In my neighborhood, teenagers as small as 5 feet (1.5m) drive big pick-ups ; they can barely reach the steering wheel. What’s the logic there ? I still do not know.
(note from Anne Marie : my theory is that it is about safety : you give huge pick-ups to kids in case they get an accident... safety first!).
Protect your car in your garage - or not.
This leads to very funny situations. For instance, five people in the same house (two parents and three kids) can own up to six cars : one for each person and a weekend convertible car. But do not even try to get one into their garage because it is already full of stuff, overflowing even. Where we live, people have everything in their garage but cars : washing machines, dryers, treadmills, weight benches, etc. All up to the ceiling. In fact, their garage is where they store everything they do not use anymore. We are the only ones in our street to put both our cars into our garage every night.
Your car - your life.
You can do whatever you want in your car. When commuting to and from work, I have already seen women putting makeup on, men shaving, people brushing their teeth (I still wonder where they spit the toothpaste), eating burgers (what about their pants after this ?), all while driving.
And you can also do so many weird things from your car : of course, getting food from several well-known fast food chains, but also depositing a check to your bank, withdrawing cash, getting your medication from your pharmacy, all that without leaving the comfort of your car seat.
So based on that
The Americans cannot live without their cars because the regular American towns are not built for walkers, only for drivers. You, foreigner criticizing big cars, will leave here in a 'made for driving' city so be ready, buy a great car.