If you’re moving to Los Angeles anytime soon, you’ll want to do a little research first. Find out some city essentials in this first-time resident guide.

moving to los angeles guide tips

Los Angeles is many things, but one thing it’s not is unintentional. Moving to Los Angeles is rarely ever done on a whim. There are precise goals in mind, calculated expectations, and many sky-high dreams. If you’re thinking of making the move, you’re not alone. So many hopefuls eventually end up here that the population of Los Angeles County is larger than 43 other states combined. In 2018 alone, it’s estimated that another 100,000 people will pack up and make the move to LA.

Maybe you’re a wishful thinker moving to Los Angeles without a job, or perhaps you’re a family looking to get away from the winter. Believe it or not, Los Angeles is a happy home to all walks of life, regardless of job title, age or marital status. The city of transplants has so much to offer, as long as you’re willing to sacrifice a little along the way.

However, despite good intentions, making a living in Los Angeles is a challenge for various reasons. Tons of people move here with high hopes only to move back to their hometown within a year or two. Don’t’ make that same mistake. These Los Angeles pros and cons will help you determine if moving here is truly an ideal change of pace for you. By the end of the article, you’ll have a good idea of what it’s like living in Los Angeles.

1. LA neighborhoods are spread apart.

Moving to Los Angeles: Picking a Neighborhood

Los Angeles is massive, both in its number of residents and its geographical size. To put that in perspective, there are more than four million residents that live in just over 500 square miles. The sheer size of the metro makes getting to know the city and its neighborhoods difficult if you’re looking to start a life here.

So how does one pick a neighborhood? Sometimes it’s as simple as sticking close to friends and family. Because traffic can be intolerable (more on that later), people tend to find a neighborhood and stick to it. This means that after a long work commute, residents tend to stay within their neighborhoods for social gatherings.

You might have friends in LA already, but if they end up living a few neighborhoods over, you’ll likely see them a lot less often than you thought. To make the most of moving to Los Angeles, worry less about where you’ll be working and more about where you’ll most enjoy socializing.

Once you pick a neighborhood, meet your neighbors and forge new relationships with these people. If you don’t feel comfortable meeting new people, it’s important to pick a neighborhood close to your existing friends within an area you’re comfortable spending most of your time outside of work.

Read: Los Angeles Neighborhood Guide for Newbies

2. Transportation is a nightmare during rush hour.

What to Expect with Transportation when Moving to Los Angeles

As we said before, living in Los Angeles isn’t without its sacrifices. Rush hour can be enough to scare people away from moving here, but is it as bad as everyone says? According to an INRIX data study, Los Angeles was ranked the #1 city for worst traffic across 38 different countries. They estimate that Los Angelenos have spent over 100 hours a year in traffic jams.
Unfortunately, this problem may not clear up anytime soon. Because the city is so spread out and public transportation does not reach all outlying suburbs, owning a car in Los Angeles is a must.

But there’s hope for the future. The Metro public transit system continues to expand into new territories with multiple projects in the works. This progress is in thanks to continued funding through various efforts like reallocating tax money from Measure M.

For now, there are a few ways you can deal with Los Angeles traffic like a seasoned resident.

Transportation Tips:

  • Use Google Maps instead of Apple Maps. This app can more accurately measure traffic in specific areas.
  • The 101, 405, and 10 are highways you should get familiar with, along with the main boulevards that connect varying regions and neighborhoods.
  • Avoid highways at peak traffic times which are generally between 7am—10am and 3pm—7pm. If possible, create a detour by driving through conjoining neighborhoods instead of getting on the Thruway.
  • Learn to accept traffic for what it is. Listen to podcasts or “books on tape” so you can use your time stuck in traffic efficiently. Many people multitask while stuck in LA traffic. We don’t recommend this! First and foremost, pay attention to the road.

3. Parking can cause headaches if you don’t read the signs carefully.

Parking signs are unnecessarily complicated in this city. Be sure to read signs more than once to be sure you understand whether parking is allowed. The last thing you want is to add “parking tickets” to your monthly transportation budget.

4. Most lucrative jobs in LA are highly competitive.

Job Market in Los Angeles County

Finding jobs in Los Angeles is tricky if you don’t know the right places to look. Though many people associate LA with Hollywood-related careers, the city is the largest manufacturing center in the US. You can find manufacturing jobs in many industries like apparel, automobiles, steel and electronics.

Los Angeles has also become a mecca for technology-related fields. In 2015, there were more than 610,000 workers in the Professional Services and Technology sector, with many more positions expecting to be added over the next two years.

Some other significant employers in Los Angeles County include Six Flags, UCLA, Warner Bros Studio (no surprise there), American Honda Motor Co, and Cedar Sinai Medical Center. The  Kroger Co., the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles School district also have numerous employees.

How to Compete for a Job in LA:

If searching the job listings is getting tiresome because it can be so competitive, consider using a staffing agency to get you started. These companies will help you hone in on your skills. Perhaps you want to be an actor but have experience as an executive assistant. Land a starter job in a field that will pay you the most based on your skills first. Then work on your dream job on the side.

5. It’s difficult to purchase a home in Los Angeles.

Expanded housing expenses can make the cost of living in Los Angeles up to 50% higher than the national average. However, when compared to living in NYC, the cost to live in Los Angeles is still significantly less. This cost savings is good news if you plan on relocating from NYC but bad news for the rest of us.

While the primary cost of living expenses are easier to predict regardless of the neighborhood (groceries, internet, etc.), housing is going to be the most significant variance in your budget. Because no matter where you’re searching, it’s a steep climb to get into the Los Angeles real estate market.

Is the Flexibility of Renting for You?

In your search, you’ll notice the housing market varies greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood. Despite the wide variety of home prices, the market may still be too costly and risky for first-time movers. Often renting is the best and only option.

Buying Might Be Cheaper Long Term

With interest rates slowly climbing and rents starting to skyrocket, it actually could be less expensive to own over the long term. The challenge? Coming up with a down payment.

Just like you might find in NYC, many young people living close to downtown opt to rent despite the increased costs, even with enough money for a down payment. Whether you decide to rent or buy is going to widely depend on both the neighborhood and your financial situation/comfort level.

6. Some people living in Los Angeles have bad attitudes.

What to Expect When Moving to Los Angeles

Because Los Angeles can be expensive and competitive, many people live here with a massive weight on their shoulders. To balance the hustle required to make ends meet here, residents must make a point to take care of their mental and emotional health in other ways.

Joining a gym, eating healthy and getting outdoors are ways more positive Los Angelenos create balance in their life. Remember when moving to LA to surround yourself with people who have positive spirits despite any difficulties they may face in their daily life.

7. There are tons of outdoorsy activities and things to do.

Annual Activities and Events in Los Angeles County

Even if you’re not an outdoorsy person, consider taking full advantage of all California has to offer. The unique combination of trails, beaches, and ideal weather make outdoor activities in Los Angeles County arguably better than most places in the country.

  • If sports aren’t your thing, the California Strawberry Festival ranks as one of the leading attractions in the country. This late spring family-fun environment offers an undeniably sweet and interactive experience that includes rides, concerts, food booths and more.
  • Inspire others or be inspired along with 25,000 athletes at the Los Angeles Marathon. Although this event caters to people from all over the world, there’s nothing that says “this is where I belong” like running a marathon on the city streets where you live.
  • If bringing your family to multiple museums seems expensive and unrealistic, mark your calendars for Museums Free-For-All Day. This annual event consists of various Los Angeles museums that open their doors one day for free.
  • Whether you opt to live in South Bay or even if you live further away from the ocean in the Valley, make time to visit the Santa Monica Pier. The Pier has been a landmark for residents and tourists alike for over 100 years.
  • Located in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, Griffith Park is an expansive green space covering over 4,300 acres. There are over a dozen different trails to explore, including one that leads to the iconic Hollywood sign.

8. LA is a perfect spot for professional sports fans.

Professional Sports Teams in Los Angeles

LA has never been short on professional sports teams like the LA Lakers, LA Clippers, and the LA Dodgers. But now the city is even more rich with the addition of the Rams and Chargers. This news comes after a nearly two-decade stint without a professional football team within the city limits.

So far the Rams have kept fans engaged, making their first post-season appearance in nearly 40 years in 2017. The Los Angeles Chargers have also sparked interest among LA sports fans in 2017, just missing the playoffs in their first season back since they left LA 56 years prior.

9. Earthquakes are a real concern for residents.

The San Andreas fault runs underneath some densely populated areas in Los Angeles, which makes the risk associated with a large-scale earthquake even more severe. However, with more than 300 days of sunshine a year, perhaps the beautiful weather makes up for the chance of a devastating earthquake hitting LA.

Smaller, less intense earthquakes are much more common in Southern California. If you’re moving from New York, this frequent rattling of walls might come as an unwelcome factor that will require some adjusting.

10. Moving to LA usually costs a lot of money.

When moving to any new city, there are certain things better prepared in advance. If you want to move to Los Angeles, it’s even more important to factor in the relocating unknowns because the cost associated with moving here is so high. Keep in mind some of these tips as you start to plan.

  • Factor how much you will need in savings before making the trip. This dollar amount will vary based on your specific move. If you’re going to Los Angeles without a job, add up necessary living expenses for three months and be sure to have that and basic moving costs on hand to act as a buffer.
  • Consider how to get your car there. In LA, more often than not you’ll need a car unless you’re living and working in a neighborhood like Silver Lake. Sometimes it makes sense to have your current vehicle shipped or to drive it across the country. Other times it would make more sense to sell your current car and buy or lease a new one in LA.
  • Pick your neighborhood before you get into the city. Narrowing down your choices before packing up and moving means you’ll have a better sense of what your actual cost of living will be. This doesn’t mean you have to sign a lease before getting into the city. It means you should start apartment/house hunting now.
  • Don’t get discouraged if you need two jobs to make ends meet early on. There will be many successful people in Los Angeles that could make you think you are failing. For every successful person you meet, there are numerous more working multiple angles to make a living.

Related: Create a Realistic Moving Budget With This Template

Ready to Make Los Angeles Your New Home?

Moving is stressful no matter what circumstances you find yourself. If you need help with excess belongings during your relocation, Life Storage offers various self storage options in the Los Angeles area, and we even offer free truck rentals. Have we missed an essential tip for new residents? Share in the comments below!

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Updated 4/30/18.

About the Author


Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann is a moving and storage expert. She attended the University at Buffalo and has worked in the storage industry for over five years. Here on the Life Storage blog, you can find Lauren covering everything from finding a home, settling into a new home and all the stages in between.

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