Moving to Los Angeles: Relocation Guide & Tips
You can look forward to a move to Los Angeles, California; a city known for its pleasing Mediterranean climate, vibrant culture, and the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry. This is the second-largest city in the United States, after New York, and is surrounded by both ocean and mountains. A sprawling metropolis, Los Angeles invites those looking for cultural experiences and those of diverse financial and commercial interests to make the city their home.
When moving to Los Angeles, you need to be prepared for a change in your cost of living, depending on where you are coming from. California in general is more expensive than other states in the U.S., but Los Angeles is even higher. An example is taking the cost of living index of the U.S. on an average, you get 100. Los Angeles ranges around 195. L.A. ranks as the #41 most expensive city to live in out of 438 cities throughout the world, according to Mercer’s June 2018 Cost of Living Survey. It’s however not the most expensive place in the state, as San Francisco holds the top spot as the most expensive city in the U.S..
1. Cost of Living
Housing probably is the largest factor in the cost of living index in L.A. To purchase a home in the area, it might be wise to be prepared by getting pre-approved for a mortgage in advance of shopping. The median cost of an average home in Los Angeles fluctuates, mostly upward. The current median home sales price is $875,000, with L.A. recently ranked as the most unaffordable place to own a home. Prices, in fact, are expected to go even higher. Some who can’t afford those prices may just decide to rent instead.
Again, it’s definitely pricey in L.A., but the rents are more doable compared to purchasing. A studio rents for around $1200+, a one bedroom apartment $1500-1700, and a two bedroom at $2000+. Naturally, the nicer the neighborhood, the more the rents will be. But anyone needing to save on rent could feasibly move outside the L.A. city limits and find something cheaper. Click here to view available LA apartments for rent.
Food and Utilities
When you head to the grocery store to find food, don’t be surprised to see that some fruits and vegetables will be under the national average in cost. Wine also falls under the national average. The same is not true for other parts of your menu.
Heading to a restaurant? The average cost for a meal for two is around $56. Again, you can always find eateries that are less expensive. You can check out links below for listings of popular restaurants in Los Angeles.
Now to think about utilities! Setting up your account will be a simple matter with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Your bill will, of course, vary based on the climate of your neighborhood from month to month, but you can expect (for a studio-sized apartment of about 915 square feet) an average cost of $127 per month. Can’t do without internet! The cost will average about $40 per month.
In L.A., sales tax is rather high at 9.50%. There is no city tax as such, but this full sales tax is made up of 6% California State sales tax, .25% L.A. County sales tax, and a 3.25% special sales tax.
Having a Car in Los Angeles
It’s clear that driving a car to get around the city is the preferred way to travel. With the extensive network of freeways, it’s no surprise. But the downside is that the traffic is intense. Los Angeles is known as having very congested traffic, and according to the Stacker.com, L.A. ranks as #5 in the country and #47 internationally.
However, despite congestion, driving seems to be a necessity in this major city. A plus is that travel time can end up being shorter than many other large cities. Besides the freeways, there are major Interstate highways running in all directions. Interstate 5 runs through L.A. and then south all the way to Mexico. Interstate 10 is the major highway running east to west. You can always find a route that will get you where you want to go.
Gas prices can be high in Los Angeles and it’s common for them to run much higher than other parts of California. And add on to that insurance (likely around $100 a month depending on your zip code – higher for young male drivers). Attempting to live a life free from car driving quickly shows the commuter that any price could be worth it to have a car. Indeed, bus lines can be erratic and unlike New York, it isn’t easy to just walk out and hail a cab. The Metro can be as much as $20 for one trip. Carpooling can be a viable option when driving becomes expensive.
Cars are convenient, no doubt about it, particularly in Los Angeles. As shown in the graph above, lots of people think so.
While we strongly recommend owning a car in L.A., there are other options. To avoid driving altogether, the L.A. County Metro has many bus, subway, and light rail lines throughout the county. In the first quarter of 2018 as many as 95 million people boarded system wide. That’s a lot of people riding the lines, but they are avoiding the hassle and cost of owning a car.
The cost of a monthly pass to ride public transport is $100, which compares to other big cities. Discounts for monthly passes are available for seniors, the disabled and students.
One trip is $1.75, with reduced rates available as well.
Now for the fun part – exploring the Los Angeles neighborhoods! And there are plenty of them, with about 198 notable districts and neighborhoods. You’ll have to pick one relatively near where you will be working. A good rule is to stay no more than about 5 miles from your workplace. Then again, you might want to pick a neighborhood and find a job nearby. Whichever you’ll do, every neighborhood has its trade-offs, and you’ll need to list out the pros and cons after researching each area. Locating the perfect neighborhood in which to live can be complicated and challenging, but when you find the place that suits, you’ll be able to really settle in to the Los Angeles life.
A few neighborhoods to get you started:
Sunland-Tujunga is located in the San Fernando Valley near the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Sunland and Tujunga are each separate settlements but share a library, police force, high school and other agencies and councils. Here you will find Mount Lukens which is the highest point in Los Angeles.
Brentwood residents bask in the marine breezes blowing in off the Pacific. The area is hilly with ridges and canyons. One treat for residents is an area called Brentwood Village where you can find many restaurants and coffee shops offering a wide variety of food and drink.
Lake View Terrace is a suburb in San Fernando Valley. This community is surrounded by the Angeles National Forest, the Big and Little Tujunga Canyons and part of the Verdugo Mountains. If you have horses, this area has a large equestrian community and is zoned for keeping horses.
Venice is well-known for its beaches, canals and crazy pedestrian Ocean Front Walk where many performers and artists entertain. Originally founded as a seaside resort, its recreational beachfront still attracts people from all over.
Los Feliz, closer to downtown compared to those mentioned above, is nestled near the beautiful Griffith Park. It is a lovely little enclave with many hip shops and cafes, as well as the Vista Theatre, a 1923 movie palace.
4. Things to do in LA
Head out to Santa Monica on the coast. With the shops and rides at the Santa Monica Pier, you are sure to have a great time wandering and experiencing the waves coming in along the extensive stretch of beach.
For culture, L.A. does not lack! With around 800 plus museums and art galleries, you’ll get a fill of art, enlightenment and intellectuality. Visit the Natural History Museum, The Getty Center or the Museum of Contemporary Art.