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East Coast vs West Coast Cars
October 15, 2010 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Am I stupid for buying a car in LA when I am moving to Boston in six months? Are "west coast" cars different than "east coast" cars?

I live in LA and need a car to get to work. So I am planning on buying a new car.

However, six months from now I am being transfered to an office in Boston, where I will live for the foreseeable future.

My friend swears that new cars sold on the West Coast are different (different engine parts, fluids, etc..) than cars sold on the East Coast. And, therefore I will have a very hard time trying to sell my car in Boston, whenever I end up doing so.

I have never heard of anything like this before. Is he wrong?
posted by Spurious to Technology (27 answers total)
 
Uh, no.

While California has higher admissions standards (and may have actual hardware differences instead of just slightly different software settings, depending on the car), warm-weather cars are highly, highly in demand in those areas of the country where snow and salt take their toll on the used car market.
posted by Oktober at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2010


More information: the car is a Ford Taurus, not a convertible or any other type of "warm weather" car.
posted by Spurious at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2010


This sounds like nonsense to me. My husband sold our old car (which he'd used primarily in Boston) to my Dad to drive in San Diego, and we had zero problems. People maintain cars differently depending on the weather (you aren't going to need antifreeze in LA, and your undercarriage will rust faster in Boston) and I'm sure that some industrious folks modify their cars to maximize how well they run in a particular climate. But cars come out of the factory the same regardless of where in the US they're going to be sold.

If anything, you'll have an EASIER time selling that car in Boston than you would a "local" car of the same age, because NE winters are hell on cars and yours will be in much better shape. "Driven for six months in sunny LA!" would probably be a selling point, particularly if you get it shipped across the country instead of driving it.

So yes, I think your friend is completely wrong.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:50 AM on October 15, 2010


In New England used cars from Florida or California are more valued because they've been less exposed to harsh winter weather (and road salt) than cars driven locally. Your friend may be referring to modifications that meet the more stringent emissions standards in CA but I don't think that's even an issue with cars being built today.
posted by otio at 9:56 AM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe he's thinking that the gasoline is different in different parts of the country? That's a "fluid", I suppose...
posted by madcaptenor at 9:56 AM on October 15, 2010


More information: the car is a Ford Taurus, not a convertible or any other type of "warm weather" car.

You misunderstood him. He's not saying it's a car for warm weather; he's saying it's a car that's been in a warm weather envrionment. Therefor, it has less winter-related wear and tear.
posted by spaltavian at 9:57 AM on October 15, 2010


Nonsense. It won't last as long in New England (road salt takes its toll on a car) but there's nothing intrinsically different between the cars. You might MIGHT need to get snow tires in Boston, but that's with antifreeze and such.
posted by maryr at 9:58 AM on October 15, 2010


Some manufacturers (Toyota comes to mind) have different option packages and availability by region. However, the underlying cars are identical; it's just a question of whether or not you can Option Package 45T separate from the moonroof or things like that. You can figure this out really easily on the internet, and you can double check that you are getting the car configured in a way that makes sense for the area you are moving to. For example, if heated seats were offered, those would be a lot more valuable to you in Boston than they would be if you were to stay in LA.
posted by Forktine at 10:11 AM on October 15, 2010


BTW -- when you get to Boston follow these winterizing tips.

From October through December many dealers and autoshops offer specials to do it for you (e.g. change windshield wipers, check belts, 50-50 coolant/water, Change the engine oil and adjust the viscosity grade, etc.).

Oh, and as mentioned, ship your car, if you can afford it.
posted by ericb at 10:14 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing - you say "new car" but if you are planning on buying a used car, be aware that they might be slightly more expensive on the West Coast, but also in better shape, because of the lack of salt damage to the body.
posted by wholebroad at 10:18 AM on October 15, 2010


As someone already mentioned, the only mechanical difference might be some extra or different equipment that brings the car up to California's emission standards.

I suppose you might arguably want to swap out your coolant and/or oil to accommodate colder New England temperatures, but we brought a 2002 Saturn SL-1 with us from L.A. to Massachusetts and it was perfectly fine with no extra "weatherizing".

The bigger hassle by far was getting the car registered in Massachusetts; in our case it was a leased car, and the Mass. RMV put us through several ridiculous Catch-22 scenarios before we got everything straightened out... most of them having to do with the fact that the RMV's beauraucracy assumes that you have the actual, physical title of the vehicle in your possession... with a financed car, this is of course not the case, and it's not like the finance company is going to send the title to the RMV for their inspection. But all of this seemed to completely mystify everyone we talked to; it was like we were the first person in history to try and move to Massachusetts with a leased car. In the end there was an "electronic title" procedure that took forever and left us unable to drive our car for about a month. I don't know if purchase vs. lease would make a difference in the process, but if you do bring the car, I'd start that ball rolling a month or two (or even three) ahead of your actual move.
posted by usonian at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2010


As an example, in Virginia, I know of a business that specializes in used pickup trucks or, as their big sign on the roadway makes clear: "Hand-Picked Western Trucks."

What they mean by this is a particular range of options with the sweet spot being centered around double rear-wheels, four-door cabs, and big diesel engines. Now there's probably nothing particularly "Western" about that. You could probably order such a truck new from your local east coast dealer. But you'd have to order it. They wouldn't have one in stock because there's limited demand for those particular options here. They are apparently much more popular out west, where there's more farming and ranching and so on. And so the small market segment on the east coast that really wants that particular kind of truck can fine good used ones from this specialty dealer.

Similarly, while there probably are some minor physical differences in the car in question to meet California emissions requirements, it's probably minor at best. The reason people are saying warm-weather western cars would be in demand in New England is because they're used cars that haven't rusted out because of all the salt. I know that used cars from southern states are frequently shipped north to auctions where their longevity compared to the local stock gives them a bit more value.
posted by Naberius at 10:36 AM on October 15, 2010


No difference what so-ever. Your Taurus will require 5w30 or 5w20 weight motor oil, which is fine for winter climates. You can have the anti-freeze tested just before the winter season sets in to ensure that it will be effective for the winter. (This should be done every winter by everyone, regardless of what the car is/where it was bought). All other fluids are the same, no matter what state the car is sold in.

As mentioned, there may be extra emissions equipment equipped on the car, but it won't effect winter performance. Think of it being a bit more eco-friendly.

The only thing you may need are a set of winter tires for the front wheels (it's a front-wheeled drive car, it doesn't matter what tires are on the back).

FWIW, I am a mechanic.
posted by peewinkle at 10:50 AM on October 15, 2010


Just a tangential thought- do you need a car in Boston? Are you sure? Because it will be really expensive to own a car there unless you know you will be in a suburban house or building with dedicated free parking, and you may want to rely on public transit like many East Coasters. You might come out ahead leasing or doing Zipcar in LA for the next six months and then having no car at all in Boston.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:52 AM on October 15, 2010


Just a tangential thought- do you need a car in Boston?

Yep, this. If you'll be in Boston Proper (or Cambridge), a car is a huge pain in the ass. Very limited parking, a fair amount of sideswiping when you're parked, and MA has very high insurance.

I lived here for about 12 years without a car. You don't really need one.
posted by dzaz at 10:59 AM on October 15, 2010


If you're at all beyond the T in Boston, you'll need a car.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:59 AM on October 15, 2010


(Speaking as someone who lived in Cambridge but worked in Stoneham.)
posted by ocherdraco at 10:59 AM on October 15, 2010


The only real difference I can think of is, I grew up in Alaska where almost every car had a block or oil pan heater. A plug dangles out of your front grille, and you plug this into your house current at night via a long awkward orange extension cord.

I'm not sure if Boston has a severe enough climate to warrant block heaters, though. I'm sure someone would have mentioned it already, if that were the case.
posted by ErikaB at 11:57 AM on October 15, 2010


If you buy a car six months before moving to Boston, Massachusetts is going to ding you for the sales tax on that car, even if you already paid it in California.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:02 PM on October 15, 2010


Yep, this. If you'll be in Boston Proper (or Cambridge), a car is a huge pain in the ass. Very limited parking, a fair amount of sideswiping when you're parked, and MA has very high insurance.

Absolutely this if you live in Boston, Cambridge, Brookline, or Somerville.

Some parts of Watertown you can do just fine without a car. Same with some parts of Newton. And on the north side of the city, some parts of Medford are fine without a car as are some parts of Belmont.

But even then, a ZipCar account can cover you for when you would need a car.

(Speaking as someone who lived for three yeas in Somerville, three years in Boston, and now living in Salem, where we do have car because of Dr.E's job but could possibly make do without one.)
posted by zizzle at 12:33 PM on October 15, 2010


you aren't going to need antifreeze in LA

This is not true. You always need antifreeze, because its purpose is not only to lower the freezing point of water but also to raise the boiling point. Once the coolant starts to boil you get pockets of steam which does not conduct heat nearly as well as liquid water, weakening the coolant's ability to remove heat from the engine and causing a runaway overheating condition that can potentially destroy an engine. In addition it contains additives to prevent corrosion. While sometimes you can get away with a little less in warm climates (e.g. 60%/40%) you always need antifreeze.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:42 PM on October 15, 2010


It was true, long ago, in the before-time. California emissions were stricter and California cars required extra hardware. However, California lead the nation and our standards are became national, as I understand it. Or manufacturers got tired of making special cars for us left coasters and just adopted them for everyone out of simplicity.

You might be making a mistake of a different kind. If you bring an out-of-state car into California, you need to pay an extra tax. There might be something similar in Boston.
posted by chairface at 1:54 PM on October 15, 2010


Re: rust and resale value, if the car you buy in LA is old enough that a similar model in Boston would have rusted out long ago, good luck getting people to believe it's not a rustbucket when you try to sell it.

I was completely unable to sell an '83 BMW 320i from Oregon (we don't salt the roads in Portland) in Chicago about a decade ago. I listed it for $1800 and got a couple offers for $400, accompanied by disbelief that it was rust-free and accusations of lying. Once I got it back to Oregon, it was a lot easier to sell.
posted by MonsieurBon at 2:07 PM on October 15, 2010


The only possible worry is if you move in the dead of winter and have summer weight oil in the car or water in your windshield washer resiviour. If you are driving to Boston I'd get an oil change as soon as I got there and I'd make sure my windshield washer fluid was of the antifreeze type before I started.

The only thing you may need are a set of winter tires for the front wheels (it's a front-wheeled drive car, it doesn't matter what tires are on the back).

It very much matters what kind of winter tires are installed at the rear. Winter tires should be installed in complete sets of four. If you are installing used tires the best tires (IE: deepest tread) should go to the rear irregardless of wether the car is FWD, RWD or AWD. Four winter tires is even the law in Quebec.
posted by Mitheral at 2:32 PM on October 15, 2010


Since 2004 all cars in CA have to have a LEV emissions rating. However, apparently CA and MA follow the same emissions standards, so it shouldn't matter.

You will probably want to get all weather tires instead of summer tires, if that is an option.
posted by kenliu at 9:59 PM on October 15, 2010


If you buy a car six months before moving to Boston, Massachusetts is going to ding you for the sales tax on that car, even if you already paid it in California.

Not true. If a tax has been paid to another state the user can fill out RMV MVU-29. An affadavit that may exempt him from some or all of Massachusetts 6.75% sales tax, but not a penny of the excise tax.
posted by Gungho at 6:40 AM on October 16, 2010


Massachusetts RMV:
Vehicles Exempt from Massachusetts Sales Tax || To Process an Out-of-State Conversion || Bringing Leased Vehicles to Massachusetts.
posted by ericb at 1:09 PM on October 16, 2010


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