Get me and my stuff from Point A to Point B (possibly via Point C?)
August 28, 2011 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Transitioning from car-free East Coast existence to Southern California sprawl. What's the most efficient way to do this?

It's finally happening. I'm really going Hollywood!

I'm in the planning and saving phase, looking to make the leap from Brooklyn to Los Angeles either right after the holidays or later in the spring, depending on certain job issues that are somewhat outside my control.

I can't figure out which the following scenarios is the best way to transition from public transit reliant East Coast urbanite to car commuting Angeleno.

A. Move out of my Brooklyn apartment, sell most of my stuff, ship the rest to SoCal*, fly across the country, sublet something, obtain a car.

B. Move out of apartment, ship stuff to my parents in New Orleans, fly to New Orleans, obtain a car, then load the stuff into the car and drive to California to get a place to live. One benefit of this is that it's possible I could buy a car from a family member who is about to replace theirs. Also it gives me a convenient place to ship things. It would also be really easy to incorporate this into seeing my family for the holidays.

C. Buy a car in New York, move out of my apartment, sell most things, load the rest into said car and drive across the country.

Things I'd want to bring to Los Angeles include some large-ish somewhat heavy and/or delicate personal items and books. No furniture.

The car I'm hoping to buy in New Orleans would be the classic AskMe recommended 2005 Honda (a hybrid!), in good condition. Which I'm hoping said relative would give me a hefty discount on. Or even maybe just... give me? Is it worth detouring through a third city simply to get a great deal on a car like this? I am vaguely aware that driving cross country will be more expensive than shipping prices + flights and might negate any savings I could get on a vehicle. But I haven't actually done the math.

What's the best situation to be in if I decide to buy a car that would require financing? Is it important to have a well established permanent address in that case?

Please assume I have read lots of previous AskMes about what to look for in a used car.

This is NOT a question about finding an apartment or a job in Los Angeles. I have a general plan of attack for both things.

*How do you ship things cross-country to a strange city where you know very few people and don't have a home yet?
posted by Sara C. to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I made a similar move some years back from Maryland to L.A.

I packed my stuff and left it with my parents, flew to L.A. and bought a car. Once I found a place, I had them ship my stuff.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:44 PM on August 28, 2011

First problem with buying a car anywhere but California, there are lots and lots of rules about bringing cars into California. Make sure to see if the car could pass smog inspection.

Here's the webpage to determine how much you will have to pay for registration fees in California.

I'd almost argue against purchasing out of state because of the hassle and possible fees, but if you're getting a good deal from a family member, it might be worth it.

*How do you ship things cross-country to a strange city where you know very few people and don't have a home yet?

You need something like a Storage POD. From what I've seen they deliver them right to your door, you fill them up, and then they deliver it to where you want. They can even store them for awhile. I live in an area with a high military population and I see them regularly in my apartment complex when people move in and out.
posted by zabuni at 4:45 PM on August 28, 2011

Oh, and I'm not advocating for PODS as a company, there are plenty of other companies that do the exact same thing. I've seen people use Door to Door around here also.
posted by zabuni at 4:49 PM on August 28, 2011

Response by poster: I don't necessarily have anyone in New York who I would trust to ship me these things after I'd settled into life in L.A. In New York I really only have friends. Friends who don't want me to move away. Friends who covet my stuff.

Not to mention that nobody here has the space to store my things, and factoring a storage unit into the picture just makes all this seem even MORE complicated.

If I got something like a POD, wouldn't I still need a shipping address? Or would they take my stuff, store it, and then I would tell them where to deliver it later?
posted by Sara C. at 4:58 PM on August 28, 2011

How much stuff are we talking about here? You said no furniture but how large are the large-ish items? Could you fit everything in a small car like the Honda? Or is it so much you'd need to rent a U-haul trailer (or similar)?

Or would they take my stuff, store it, and then I would tell them where to deliver it later?

Yes, they* will do this. Or at least I had this done when I was moving from Paris back to the U.S. a few years ago. They may ask for your parents' address just in case -- they don't want to have to hold onto a bunch of stuff in case you skip town. Also, the company I used would not hold items indefinitely, I think they gave me a couple of weeks for "free" (ha) and anything after that I'd have been charged an additional amount.

*depending on who "they" is.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 5:06 PM on August 28, 2011

Best answer: I'm in the middle of the exact same moving situation (Brooklyn-to-LA) myself. Definitely go with Plan A -- flying is cheaper (relative to driving) than it used to be, and Zabuni is right about the hassle of bringing a car into California. Moishe's does both moving and self-storage in Brooklyn, so you can keep your stuff in a locker and then have them ship it out when you've figured out where it's going.
posted by patnasty at 5:12 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Non mobbed up movers specializing in THIS VERY THING. We're currently using them the other way. Will store your stuff for nominal fee until you know where you will live...... and they know how to deal with both brooklyn & LA....

.Next Q please!
posted by lalochezia at 5:16 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Marked patnasty's answer as a temporary "best" because, Moishe's, duh, but obviously there can be many great answers. Keep 'em coming!

Patnasty - re the bringing a car into California hassle, what about hassles trying to obtain a vehicle if I need to take out a car loan but don't have a permanent address? How do you go from zero to reliable vehicle with the least amount of drama?
posted by Sara C. at 5:23 PM on August 28, 2011

Oh, and re: bringing a car in from out of state: while there's certainly a lot of paperwork you'll have to do as noted by a couple people above, I had no problem bringing my car ('97 Mazda Miata) from Kansas City, MO when I moved to San Francisco several years ago. YMMV (heh) but I wouldn't think a 2005 Honda would have difficulty passing the smog inspection.

If I were you, I'd pack up my stuff, store it with a storage/shipping company, fly to see family in New Orleans for the holidays, get the car and then drive to LA and find a place to live -- having a car will be critical for getting to apartment viewings. Also, you will absolutely need a permanent address (can you use your parents' address?) and some sort of credit history in order to get a car loan.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 5:29 PM on August 28, 2011

Given the assumptions built into your question, I will mention that depending on your job and where you choose to live, you don't actually have to live a car dependent life here.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:43 PM on August 28, 2011

As @mandymanwasregistered says, try going Carless. Tons of people do it. Will it be a different experience? Yes. Welcome to Learning!
posted by alex_skazat at 7:53 PM on August 28, 2011

Response by poster: I'm totally open to living car-free in Los Angeles, but I'm worried it's not realistic for me. Not because I just LOVE cars and traffic and driving around, but because I work in the film industry and have been warned up, down, and sideways, that I'll pretty much require a car. If I can get by without one, great! But if I need one, I want to be able to get one. And I want to at least think about the best way to do that BEFORE I'm in some kind of awful catch 22 where I need a car to get/keep a job but can't afford a car because I don't have a job.

But, sure, I'm open to being carless. I just want to consider the best way of doing this before I get myself into a bad situation simply out of stubborn idealism.
posted by Sara C. at 8:06 PM on August 28, 2011

Best answer: Being carless in LA if you work in entertainment is only realistic if you have an office job (like being an assistant) pretty close to your house. If you need any flexibility - if you're a temp, or a PA, or you're a creative and need to go on meetings - it won't work.

I think you're better off getting a car (if you can finagle it) before you get here. A 2005 Honda should be able to pass the smog test. And having a car right away will make it much easier to drive around and look at apartments. Plus you won't have to deal with car shopping and financing in a new city.

As for your stuff, a company like Door to Door (we've used them and have been happy) will drop off a box at your house, you pack it up, they store it until you ask them to drop it off at your new home. Downside is that even doing it cheaply like that, moving stuff from NY to LA is going to be really, really expensive. How much are you budgeting for your move? If money is not a big issue, I would pack up your stuff in a pod, go visit your family, buy the Honda, drive out to LA, rent a new apartment, and have the pod dropped off. I think that's the easiest (but not necessarily rock-bottom-cheapest) way to handle this.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:03 PM on August 28, 2011

Best answer: If you're going to look for a car in LA, you may have to rent a car to achieve that, if the car dealerships or private parties aren't near transit. Just something to keep in mind in calculating costs.

It sounds like you prefer B or C. The only thing about that idea that concerns me is the wear and tear on the car. But trustworthy family members are so much better to buy from. And 3000 miles / 30 mpg * $4 gas compares favorably to the cost of a plane ticket and shipping. 1800 miles (NOLA to LA) / 40-45 mpg * $4 gas + a plane ticket and shipping might still come out cheaper if you got a deal on the car. Will you enjoy the cross-country drive? Will you feel a lot better arriving in an intimidating new city in 91 cubic feet that feel like home already? Will you worry constantly about your stuff getting stolen from the car? Factors like those would be the tie-breaker for me.
posted by salvia at 11:17 PM on August 28, 2011

I made a similar move about 10 years ago to move out to LA from NY/NJ for the entertainment industry. I actually bought a car from a family member before moving to LA. My mom and I went to LA for a few days about a month before I was planning to move permanently. During those few days I rented an apartment to be available for move in a month later. When I made the move I decided to fly out and ship the car. It was just easier that way and not much more expensive then driving. Because I had my family, I was able to box everything and then just ship it right before I left, setting up the arrival of my things within a day or two after getting to LA. It worked out well for me. I'd say it's better to get a car on the east coast and drive it or ship it to LA. This way you have a car right when you get there. While there is public transportation, trust me you DON'T wanna have to use it. In LA you really MUST have a car. LA is huge. It could take an hour to drive from one part of LA to another. Double or triple that with public transportation. It sucks. As far as the rules for bringing in out of state cars to LA...yes you'll have some paperwork, and fees to take care of but it doesn't have to be done right away. You're supposed to, but there's a grace period. Do it within the first few months and your fine. And maybe wait a little longer if you're not sure you're gonna stay in LA. I had a friend who lived in LA for 6 years and never changed his out of state plates or license. He ended up moving back home and he never had to changed his plates or license. LA is very different from NY. But if you wanna be in the film industry it's the place to be! I love it here and greatly prefer it to NY. I wish you lots of luck!
posted by ljs30 at 8:04 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Re shipping vs. some kind of pod setup: I've priced out the cost of sending 10 biggish heavyish boxes cross country via UPS or FedEx - comes to something like $200-300 depending on service and weight. Obviously if I went that way, I'd probably need at least a few weeks of storage on the other end, so it would end up costing a little more than that (haven't been able to price out a storage company or Mailboxes Etc yet). If a pod is anywhere less than $500, I'll probably just go for that to make life easier.

Re driving cross country: it's definitely something I'm looking forward to doing! If it's not cost effective at all, fair enough. But I'm a huge fan of road tripping, and it's been years since I've had a good long car trip.

This has all been super helpful, guys! Thanks for all the answers.
posted by Sara C. at 8:30 AM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: Hmmm. Not sure how the auto-loan/permanent-address deal would work wherever you were planning on buying the car. I'm still using my Brooklyn address while in transition and my ex-roommate is alerting me of important mail in exchange for a place to stay in LA this winter. What's the situation with the apartment you're vacating? If you don't have a roommate or subletter, you could probably work something out with your landlord for a small fee. But yeah, if getting the car from your relative means not having to take out a loan, it's almost certainly worth any attendent hassles.

If you do end up waiting 'til LA to buy a car, and you need something to get around in right off, I'm told Excel car rentals in the Valley is the place to go, that they're a couple hundred a month instead of a week.

Also, you might want to look into having the storage handled on the California end. I'm betting you could UPS your boxes right to an LA storage facility, and probably pay less *and* have access to your stuff while you're looking for an apartment. (I'd have done the same if I weren't going to be semi-homeless on the East Coast for a while before heading west.)
posted by patnasty at 9:33 AM on August 29, 2011

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