Buying a Used Car in LA

Picture courtesy of DaveElmore Flickr

Picture courtesy of DaveElmore Flickr

There are many differences between the ways of life in Los Angeles and New York city. One of the biggest differences between the two cities are the modes of transportation. The vast majority of New Yorkers do not own cars because of the advanced subway system. In Los Angeles, we do not have an extensive subway system that can get us from one part of the city to the other in a matter of minutes.

So, it is a must that you have a car to get around in LA effectively and efficiently. The car you purchase doesn’t have to be spectacular, but it should be able to withstand the everyday rigor of the infamous LA traffic and the massive potholes you will encounter from time to time.

You should strongly consider bringing a car to LA that has already been paid off because sales tax is rather high in Los Angeles (around 10%). However, if you don’t already have a car to bring or have shipped upon your arrival, I have compiled a few tips and resources to use when looking to buy a used car in LA:

Kelley Blue Book

Kelley Blue Book is a trusted resource for prices, values, and expert and consumer reviews on new and used cars. It is a must that you look here first to get a general idea on how much you should spend on any particular car.

True Car

True Car is a free online tool that can save you some money when looking for a used car. It collects data from about 25% of all car sales in the U.S. and gives you an average of what a specific car should be selling for.  I would definitely use this tool to give you some clarity on what you should actually be paying for your car.

Smog Certificate

If the car you’re seeking to purchase was manufactured in 1998 or before, it will need a smog certificate from the state of California. Click here for details.

 Ways to Test the Reliability of A Used Car

  • Pump the brakes hard several times to ensure they are even
  • How does the engine sound? Rev it up a few times and listen for any strange noises
  • Make plenty of starts and stops
  • See if the car will drive straight with your hands off the wheel (Briefly of course)
  • Listen for noises throughout the test drive
  • Check for leaks

If you do not feel comfortable performing these checks on a potential car you’re thinking about purchasing, by all means, I suggest taking it to a mechanic.

 A Few Cars that are Ideal in High Traffic Cities 

  • Honda FCX Clarity
  • Honda Civic GX
  • Toyota Prius
  • Volkswagen GTI

These are just some general tips to get you started on your quest to buying a used car. Good luck!


Justin Resarieo is a creative entrepreneur and graduate of The University of Alabama. He has lived in LA for 6 years and enjoys the weather, creativity, and opportunity the city offers.


  • Reply August 12, 2011

    versel johnson

    Great advice and I can attest to the Toyota Prius.

  • Reply August 6, 2014


    Hi Justin,

    I don’t know whether you’ll have an answer for this, but thought it was worth asking. Are there any dealerships you would recommend or warn someone to stay away from? I’m moving to LA in a couple weeks and will be looking to purchased a used sedan/compact car, probably Toyota or Honda. Would be helpful to know if there are any dealerships I should seek out or avoid. Thanks!

    (I also realize this post is several years old…but hey, maybe you still check this.)

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