Two years in LA (part deux): Car

I've decided to put these entries in the view of a NYC actor transitioning over to LA, because that's what I am.  And also, to educate Jesse on what he will (yes, will) experience when he moves here.  A lot of this will be obvious, but I wanted to give a full spectrum of what it's like to live in LA.

Back when the "city" of Los Angeles was founded, I was told that a guy was essentially like "Hey, let's build this city and instead of building you know vertically with tall buildings, we just build horizontally, because we have like cars and shit now to get places!"

On behalf of anyone who's had the unfortunate experience of being on the 405 during rush hours (plural): Fuck you, dude.  Fuck you.

I wasn't very familiar with LA growing up, the only thing I remembered reading a comic book some 20-25 odd years ago that "you can't survive in LA without a car".  While that adage isn't necessarily 100% true (I did meet one girl who apparently got around for the past 6 years on public transportation), your quality of life is the most improved in any American city when you do have a car.

Coming from New York, you always hear things from LA people like, "OMG, rent is SO high, why would you ever want to live there, etc. etc."  It's probably because everything is so damn easy to get to without driving.  And for the rare instances you do have to take a cab, it's not so exorbitant that you couldn't do it from time to time.  It only costs a $112/month MetroCard to travel in the city.  And most other cities in the US have some sort of workable transportation system.  In LA, public transportation consists of buses and a very small network of rail systems.  I've used it once in the past two years, and that was to beat traffic going to Hollywood during Halloween (a shitshow on the 101).  You need a car.

Here's what I spent on my car that was given to me by my parents (no outstanding payments)

Registration: $100/year
Insurance: $1200/year
Gasoline: averaging around 25 MPG (conservatively), and saying I drive 10k miles a year, at around $3.75/gallon: 400 gallons/year ($3.75/gallon) = $1500/year
Oil changes: $100/year
Parking: $200/year (conservative)

Other items:

Broken windshield: $175
Rear brake repair: $190
2 new tires: $180
2 smog tests: $120
120k mile maintenance: $1100
2 parking tickets: $100
2 traffic tickets (FML, both non-speeding BS IMO): $300 plus points or whatever
1 car wash (don't really have to catch me to find me ridin dirty) $30

Dude, where's my car.

Dude, where's my car.


So for two years, living in LA and OWNING a decent car costs: $6,200 (yearly expenses for two years) + $2,195 (other items) = $8,395.  Having a MetroCard in NYC for two years costs a bit less than $2,700.

Not to mention if I were actually paying car/lease payments, that number doubles (and then there's the amortization/depreciation of the car itself).  And I think I still pay relatively low for insurance, so this is probably on the low end of what having a car (that you already own) costs to operate and maintain.

Speaking of insurance, I've been fortunate enough (knock on wood) to not have any accidents thus far.  In public transport, you might bump into someone when you or they are hurrying to their location.  On the freeway, in the same scenario you might crash...and die.

Besides the whole death thing, using a car is annoying.  You have to coordinate with friends, driving in your own separate car, get them to go to one place, find parking, etc.  Hangouts are very difficult to coordinate and organize, resulting in just less hangouts (I haven't hung out with people in ages that live maybe 10-15 miles away).  Then there's the whole drunk driving isn't good for your health aspect, which makes all bars close at 2 AM (unless you're at some shady place in Koreatown, obv) and require someone to be designated driver (or again, risk that death thing).  Finally, there's the whole, it's a city, I'm supposed to be able to do city things like walk out of my place and find something decent to eat, instead of having to get into my car and find something or God forbid, COOK EVERY NIGHT?


So what are the benefits of owning a car?  Well, you can leave and go wherever and whenever you want, and you don't have to deal with the discomforts of public transportation (panhandlers, crowded stations, sweaty environments), etc.  There's a privacy and comfort in getting from place to place in your own self contained unit.  For the rich and beautiful in LA, it's another way to flaunt wealth.

But as someone who values efficiency and efficacy, I like to get places quickly.  In NYC, I could probably get to anywhere I needed to be from home in around 20 minutes, maybe 30-40 minutes if it was a total hike at any time during the day.  In LA, during suboptimal times, it can easily take an hour or more to get to a place 15 miles away.  And if you don't live within LA county, you'd better have a damn good playlist on Spotify to keep you company during rush hour.  It's a crippling thing that really makes you have to plan your movements in advance (something to keep in mind as an actor getting from one part of town to another).  Because traffic is such a large topic in LA, I'll deal with the intricacies of that in another entry.  

Using a car was a very large adjustment to make from New York.  Sometimes I even wonder how the hell people survived here without GPS (I guess MapQuest, and then before then, like paper maps and gas stations, but yeah that must have sucked).  For better or worse, I'll be needing my jalopy for a while here.