If you are lucky enough to have a car of your own, the world is your oyster. In particular, the plans of when you arrive and leave various events are yours to decide.
Be upfront with people that you're giving a lift to. Tell them what time you'd like them to be ready, and if you're running late, ring them and tell them the new time. Don't make a big deal about how fantastic you are for giving them a lift. Tell them the time you plan to leave the party, as well, and give them some notice before that time on the night. Telling people you want to leave in about half an hour gives them time to get their affairs in order, as it were.
It's important to be able to ask for a lift without putting the driver on the spot. It's generally best to organise a lift to and from an event as soon you can. Waiting until the driver is almost out the door is extremely bad form. Never assume you can get a lift. Even if you live next door to your best friend and they've got a car, you should still always check. Don't go to the party assuming you can magically score a lift back from some random person.
Don't ask for lifts from people whom you otherwise don't like. It's poor form, and makes you a user. Don't be that person who only ever contacts someone when they want to be driven somewhere, it's disrespectful and a bit cruel. Other people don't exist merely to do your bidding.
Avoid being passive-aggressive. When asking for a favour, always be direct and polite. Ask for what you want, but make it clear that it's fine if your friend can't grant the favour. Don't put people on the spot, or make them feel as though they have to offer you a lift. It's rude, and it will make them resent you. If they're unable to give you a lift for whatever reason, and you make them feel as though they have to give you a lift, they will feel awkward and uncomfortable. Being direct (but polite!) means they can turn you down without feeling too bad, if they have to.
Here is a correct way to ask for a lift:
"If you're planning to drive to Heather's party, would I please be able to get a lift with you, there and on the way back? It's fine if you can't, though."
The following method is incorrect.
"So... it's a really long way to Heather's party, isn't it? It's going to be really hard getting there by public transport."
If the person you ask is unable to give you a lift, be gracious. Make sure they know it's not a big crisis. If they're not planning to even attend the event, don't try to make them go just so you can get a lift.
If you're lucky enough to score a lift somewhere, there are certain things you should do.
- Firstly, let the driver decide what time they will pick you up, and make sure you're ready to go at the agreed time. If the driver is late, don't complain.
- Likewise, the driver should decide when to leave. If the driver is feeling ill, or tired, or has work the next morning, be happy to go at that time. You can check what time they're planning to leave before you get to the party, so that if their preferred leaving time is completely incompatible with yours, you can organise another way home if necessary.
- Don't ever make your lift wait around for hours while you flirt with that boy you really, really want to sleep with, unless you've discussed it with your lift beforehand and he or she is fine with waiting a bit longer in aid of your romantic pursuits.
- Don't get excessively drunk, to the point where your lift has to leave early to take you home, or to the point where you throw up in their car or have to be carried out of it. If you throw up in someone's car, you'll probably never get a lift from them again, and your other friends may be wary of driving you anywhere, too.
- Never offer a lift to a third party on behalf of the driver without checking with them first. Ever. You can ask the driver for a lift for yourself and others, but it's extremely rude to show up with a friend who hasn't been okayed by the driver, even if it's someone you're trying to sleep with.
- Remember to thank the driver, when they pick you up and when they drop you off. They're your friend, not a taxi driver.
- Give the driver clear instructions about where your house is.
- Never, ever, criticise the car or the driver, unless they're driving in a way that makes you feel extremely unsafe (as in, they're driving over the speedlimit, or running red lights). Avoid being a backseat driver as much as you can.
- Never feel compelled to get in a car with a driver who is under the influence of any substances.
The partner or love interest of the driver gets automatic shotgun. Don't quibble about this. Aside from that, the rules are pretty relaxed. If the car is very full, it's poor form for extremely skinny people to call shotgun. The smallest people should go in the back, so it's not too uncomfortable there. However, don't say "Well, Jane, you're a prizewinning heifer, you ride upfront." That's not good etiquette. Rather, if you're slim, just say you're happier in the back. Unless you're the partner of the driver, of course. However, injured or pregnant people should probably be given shotgun, even over the partner.
Unless you're a completely broke student, I find it's impolite to always ask for petrol money. If you're driving someone to Katoomba, asking them to pitch in $5 or $10 is fine, but if you're driving them from Glebe to Stanmore, and it's on your way anyway, it's better to be a bit gracious. After all, friendships tend to even out in different ways. If you are asking for petrol money, it's best to organise it when the lift is organised, rather than getting to your destination and holding out your hand.
However, if you're the one getting the lift, you should always offer petrol money, certainly the first time you get a lift with someone. If they refuse, offer to either pay the toll, if it's a toll road, or at least to buy them a coffee next time you're together. If you live nearby close friends who are happy to give you lifts, obviously you don't have to do that every time, and continuously offering petrol money may offend them. Just try to grant them favours when they ask, if it's in your power.