Your relative knew me from the Kentucky Derby Museum, and she wanted me to write you a letter about my experiences driving and why I gave up driving. As an Aspie living independently, I believe I am qualified to share my story and give you some advice. I am glad that you are branching out towards self-sufficiency. Not too many of us are blessed with these opportunities. You realise that rightly, you needed transportation not provided by your parent(s). A car is a good option. It was a good option for me until I felt I am better off without driving.
I was 24 years old when I got my license. I felt embarrassed when all my siblings have a car except me. Maybe it’s because of internalised ableism and self-loathing. Maybe because I thought the bus system in Fort Wayne sucked where I lived and I did not want to be with “weird” (read: poor and/or disabled) people. (Yes, there was a time I loathed myself because of my disability and what happened to me years back did not helped me one bit.)
My first car was a used car my husband got for $2000, a Ford Taurus. I drove that car until it gave out. It had scratches from driving too close to the curb or poles. Who knows? I managed to drive different cars. I even drove cross country from Indiana to Arizona.
I got older, and like most Autistic people who are ageing, my traits got more pronounced. I also sensed higher levels of anxiety. (I refuse to drive cross country today.) The worse part was that I had 5 accidents in 15 years. My insurance premium went too high for me. I also found out that due to my autism, I am more prone to these things.
This is where I considered alternative forms of transportation. What has helped me switch were my trips to Portland OR and Las Vegas. In Portland, it is completely normal and socially acceptable to take the light rail and buses. People from all walks of life use the TRIMET system to get around. If you ever have a chance to check out the Portland system, it is very user friendly. The Red Line starts at the airport so when I attended an Open Source conference, I just walked to the rail and take it to the stop nearest my hotel. I did not have to spend money on a rental. In Las Vegas, the city has a great system in which I can take the “Deuce” or the Express bus and go from the Strip to Downtown for a low price. Again, people of all sorts use these buses to get around. I got over that “weird people” hangup and learned to enjoy public transportation. I have to do that as it was classist nonsense and I am not rich nor abled. It is actually the more you accept oneself, the more you can accept others as they were.
Consider the cost: You can either buy a used car upfront and have a risk of higher repair costs, or buying it new and pay for the car for 3-5 years. How much you are willing to put aside per month for a car, gas, and insurance? AAA determined the cost to be on average $8876 per year, or about $740 per month. It can be a few hundred more or less, but you see that it takes a huge amount from your income. I myself cannot afford those payments, starting out in Kentucky after I became a widow. So, I decided to move closer to work, put my savings towards rent and groceries and would walk, Uber, or take a bus to where I go.
I am doing better without a car and I do not deal with driving anxiety and worrying about my finances. I would travel via bus to the Derby Museum on the city system. I no longer cared whether or not people viewed me as odd and/or broke just because I do not drive a car. I felt safe when riding a bus. I am ready to move to a different part of Louisville for a lower cost of rent and I insist that my future location be near a bus line.
So what do I suggest?
Look at your budget first. If you have a part-time job, try aiming for a full-time position at work. Consider: what are your goals in life? Your own living? The ability to get around without depending on your family? Call Easter Seals and see what they can do to help you. They may know people that can help you learn skills for independent living. Set aside money for an apartment near work or near a bus line to work. Figure out if you have some money aside for car expenses after setting aside money for an apartment. If I have to choose between getting a car or getting an apartment first, I recommend getting an apartment.
I like for you to look into your bus system and see what bus lines to take to get to work or to do errands. Learn how to use it, practice with your friends, learn to read the time table. If you have a smartphone or Internet access, you can use Google maps to look for bus schedules. If anything, you can get to know your city. You can also can get paratransit services and/or disabled fare pricing.
In conclusion, driving from my perspective did not work out for me. And if you feel that driving may not be an option, there is no shame in being without a car. NONE. I wish you the best as you are planning your adulthood.