To Drive or Not to Drive in Southern California

For the past five years, I’ve lived without a car in New York City, and it’s saved me a ton of money.  This past week, however, I moved to Southern California, the land of gas guzzling SUVs and very little public transportation.  So the big question is, will I buy a car here?  Probably not, and here’s why.

I Live Close to Work


My new apartment is 13 minutes away from work by car.  By bike, it’ll take roughly 50 minutes (due to the lack of bike lanes in certain areas).  I plan to make this trek on my new Vanmoof Electrified S e-bike, which’ll hopefully cut the commute in half.  The best part is that there’s a bike only trail right in the middle of the commute that runs along a beautiful creek.  And on a rainy day, I can take a 30 minute bus ride, or Uber* or Lyft for just $9-12.

Rental Cars are Cheap


In addition, I found that I could rent a car from the local airport (only 2.4 miles away) through Kayak at just $40 for an entire weekend.  This is much cheaper than paying for a lease and car insurance,** even if I rented a car every weekend of the year.  Here’s the math if you don’t believe me:

Lease for a Toyota Corolla: $149 per month

Average Insurance Cost (2012): $68 per month***

Total: $217 per month (compared to $160 per month for weekend rentals)

Southern California is More Walkable than You Think


Even by NYC standards, my area is walkable.  Just to name a few, I have Trader Joe’s, CVS Pharmacy, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, T.J. Maxx, In-N-Out Burger, Panera Bread, TGI Friday’s, various high-end local restaurants and a shopping mall, all within a two-mile radius.

I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first.  So I researched a bit on Google Maps before moving out here, studying the different areas with Street View.  And while walking seemed like a reasonable option, I suspected that I may feel out of place as the only person on the sidewalk.  To my pleasant surprise though, there’re quite a few people walking around and quite a few people waiting for the bus at almost any given time.

My Apartment Complex has Everything I Need (and Expensive Parking)


Finally, my apartment complex has just about everything.  There’s a business center, gym, dog park, koi pond, basketball court, movie screening room and not one but two swimming pools.  With all that, I doubt I’ll venture off campus too often for entertainment.

Parking also isn’t cheap ($55 a month).  So as a result, I’ve paid for just one spot for my girlfriend to use when she visits on weekends.  In the event that we need another space for a rental, I’ll probably just use my parking space at work.


Well that’s about it – my four reasons to not get a car in Southern California.  Of course, this is still in the experimental stages so I’ll report back if anything changes.  But for now, hooray for the savings!

*Sign up on Uber with invite code 86066 and you could get a free or discounted ride (and I’ll get one too so thanks!).

**Rental cars usually come with liability insurance, and if you pay with a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred, you don’t need to buy additional collision damage insurance because you’ll already be covered by the credit card.  


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