Moving from SF to Silicon Valley - need advice on cars and housing
September 19, 2011 5:55 PM   Subscribe

So I've lived in beautiful San Francisco, California since 2005, but I've recently started a job down in Sunnyvale. I can take Caltrain down there, but it's an hour's trip plus half an hour on either end to get from home/work to the Caltrain station in question. This is not sustainable, so I'd like to move south. I'm 31, single, and a city boy from way back, so moving to The Suburbs gives me pause. Also, I sold the only car I've ever owned back in '05 shortly after I moved here. So I have two questions:

1) What does one need to know about buying a used car in the Bay Area? Keep in mind that I don't have a car right now, want something cheap but reliable, and due to a bad experience selling the aforementioned car in 2005, have an absolute horror of getting ripped off and will do nearly anything to avoid that.

2) Where should a reluctant suburbanite-to-be relocate to outside the City? I know I'm being horribly prejudiced here, but I see everything south of SF as a complete cultural desert from Daly City to LA. Where's the best place in SV to meet interesting people? Mountain View looks nice, but that's just based on what I've seen at the Caltrain stop (much of which has been people going back up to SF).

I've seen these two posts, but I wanted to check in and see if there was any new information, and to get a better read on the whole car thing.

posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you move to some place along the Caltrain route, getting back to the City is easy. Mountain View has a lot to recommend it. Good coffee, bookstores, restaurants, and (I'm told) some good bars. There's a farmers market at the train station on Sunday. Consider taking the train down some weekend, and spend some time walking around. It's small, but walkable.
posted by dws at 6:16 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Depends what you mean by "ripped off." Do you mean that you absolutely want to get the best possible deal (and avoid paying extra to middle men), or you want to avoid at all costs the possibility of being defrauded out of thousands? Because if you just want to make sure you avoid getting totally swindled, and don't mind voluntarily paying a bit more to ensure it doesn't happen, just go to a dealership. Skip the private parties.

As for what kind of car to buy, I was just talking to a mechanic friend recently and apparently folks who fix cars for a living are convinced that, in the mid-2000's, Honda started getting things really, really right. As in, a Civic from that era should last you for 350K+ miles if you do even a minimally decent job taking care of it.
posted by rkent at 6:37 PM on September 19, 2011

So, you're a guy with a job in Sunnyvale. Not a lot to tell what you might think is "interesting." Probably best to just ask your coworkers.

The way to buy a decent used car is the same as it's been for quite some time now: have a mechanic check it out before you pay for it. Many times they'll tell you whether it's worth what they're asking.
posted by rhizome at 7:13 PM on September 19, 2011

A former SF resident here, now living in Menlo Park. Nothing down here is going to be really like SF, but parts of the Peninsula are perfectly reasonable for a city-type person to enjoy. If I were you, I would look at housing within an easy walk from downtown Palo Alto, California Avenue, or downtown Mountain View Caltrain stations. Menlo Park is fine, but the downtown is smaller and boy do they roll up the sidewalks at night.
posted by ambrosia at 7:55 PM on September 19, 2011

Nthing Mountain View and Palo Alto.
posted by salvia at 10:29 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

What are your interests and how do you like to spend your evenings? That's the most important thing to ask yourself. I just moved to the peninsula after nearly ten years in the city and for me it's OK - I didn't do a lot of city-specific things, I'm mainly a homebody and as long as I have food and liquor easily accessible, I can be happy.

Do you need other kinds of stimulation? Art? Music? What's important to you to have within walking distance? Where are your friends? How will you meet up with them? If your friends are like you, they may not want to travel to see you. Are you prepared to travel to see them?

As for buying a car, the advice here is good. Are you more interested in something flashy and expensive, or cheap and dependable? Make your decisions, look at a few things and have a mechanic check them out if you're serious about buying. FYI, used car prices in craigslist are generally cheaper than they are in the city.

Good luck and congratulations on having a job you like enough to leave the city.
posted by bendy at 11:14 PM on September 19, 2011

Palo Alto can be expensive and space can be scarce and competition steep from students going to Stanford. Since school is back there'll be less competition but much less available since leases typically come up in July/August around there.

Both Palo Alto and Santa Clara have utilities owned by the city which are a damn sight cheaper than PG&E for power.

Get south of El Camino if you can. This would probably mean looking towards Cupertino, West San Jose or the southern part of Santa Clara. Forget Los Altos it'll be too expensive. The biggest benefit to this is if you're closer to 280 you'll like the drive better getting back to the city than 101.
posted by Talez at 12:34 AM on September 20, 2011

You're lucky that the suburbs in the Bay Area are much cooler than 'burbs surrounding a lot of other cities. The South Bay actually has some really cute places - Los Gatos, Los Altos, Mountain View come to mind. I stayed with my aunt in Los Altos after Hurricane Katrina while I was attending Santa Clara University, and I liked studying in downtown Los Altos.
posted by radioamy at 7:50 AM on September 20, 2011

Memail me if you want the name of a good mechanic to check your (prospective) car in Palo Alto.
posted by freezer cake at 4:15 PM on September 20, 2011

Mountain View is a reasonable bookshop/cafe kind of town. It's a small town, not a city, but without knowing what you like about SF, it's difficult to make suggestions. Most of San Jose feels suburban, but downtown is a fine urban place to live, with some old Victorian housing, some new trendy housing, and lots of (mostly techy) people doing a variety of interesting work.

When you move, try to stop saying "The City" like there's only one in the area; it sounds more pretentious as you drift further from SF.
posted by orangejenny at 7:15 PM on September 20, 2011

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