Tips for moving to LA

If you’re planning a move to LA, here are a few things to help make the process a little bit easier.  These are tips that people have given me or they are things I’ve discovered during the few weeks I’ve been here.

  • There are specific websites that are great for finding places to live like Westside Rentals and  You can also utilize or Zillow.  What I have noticed though is that, there’s a large portion of the rental market that isn’t available online.  It was actually recommended to me that I get to LA and then drive around to find a place to live because a lot of smaller buildings won’t post online. In Seattle, I completely depended on craigslist but it’s not as popular here from what I’ve seen. So if you have the time, I’d recommend the driving around plus it gives you an idea of neighborhoods you’re interested in.  But if you don’t have as much time to do that, the above websites are really helpful or you can try for the bigger rental companies that have multiple buildings around the city.
  • Traffic here is an actual thing.  People don’t measure their journey in distance, they measure in time.  It’s something to get used to.  When I was in Seattle, I could say ‘I’m 4 blocks away’ and it would mean just a few minutes.  But here, 4 blocks could mean 10 minutes if you’re in heavy traffic.  Miles translate into minutes or longer.  It’s interesting though, the idea of having a commute that’s less than half an hour is something from what I’ve seen.  I’ve heard people say 45 minutes is a good commute. When I was going through the process of deciding which neighborhood to live in, I tried to utilize the mileage as a way to determine where I wanted to live. That was a poor way to look at it. So be prepared that a 10 mile commute can mean so much more than just a few minutes.  Especially if you hit traffic.
  • U-turns are a thing here. Rather than seeing signs that say you can make a u-turn, keep an eye out for the no u-turn signs.
  • You’ll need to retake the written test when you get your drivers license here.  There are some different road rules so definitely take the online practice tests on the California DMV.
  • If you need to register your car in southern California, I’ve found that AAA members can actually register the cars at a AAA branch rather than having to go to the DMV.
  • Make sure you do a smog test before you go to the DMV otherwise you’ll have a limited amount of time to do it after you pay for your plates. Smog test places are all over the city and if you find one that you’re interested in, it’s worth it to look online and see if they have any coupons. I managed to get one for a little bit cheaper which was awesome.
  • When you go to the DMV to register your car, you need to get it verified before you can actually get your plates.  Make sure you go to the side building first to get your vehicle verified before you go into the DMV.
  • Make an appointment.  And if you try to make an appointment on the website, be prepared that you have to do it multiple times because the website will keep blanking out and erroring.  You’ll get there eventually but it takes a few attempts.
  • Expect that when you make an appointment for the DMV, you may have to wait a few weeks to actually get in.  I tried to get mine a week out and it ended up being three weeks out.
  • There are special programs for southern California like focused on energy conservation activities.  When you sign up for your electric company, take a look at the offers on the website and you will be able to see some of the different programs you can participate in to lower your energy consumption and your bill overall.
  • Car washes are a big deal here. I loved the Costco car wash in Seattle and that doesn’t exist here.  The express drive through car washes are here but they’re harder to find surprisingly enough.  The full service car wash is the thing here and people’s cars are very clean.  I have a white car and it had seen better days before being driven to LA.  It was embarrassing to see how dirty it was whenever it was parked next to other white cars.  Plus, since it does not rain here, I don’t get the luxury of getting away with only washing my car once a year or so.
  • Sales tax differs by city. Some cities and counties around LA are significantly lower than other parts of the city.  Be prepared for that.
  • Vons Grocery Stores use Safeway reward numbers and Ralphs uses QFC.
  • Being by the beach can be about 10-20 degrees cooler than a few miles inland.  It’s actually quite impressive how much the ocean makes a difference which also means that be prepared for that with clothing.
  • Since it is warmer inland, if you’re working more inland – be prepared to enter your office with a jacket or a sweater.  AC is major here.
  • Some parking garages here are amazingly high tech.  I stumbled upon one in Santa Monica that has cameras everywhere so you know what levels are full and which ones you can park on (it has signs that will show you how many spaces are available).  And because of the cameras everywhere, if you forget where you parked – you can actually look up your license plate and it will tell you where you parked.

This is all I can think of for now.  I will definitely add more to this list as I get more used to this city.  Do you have any tips or things you think a newbie to LA should know?


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