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Navigating the Concrete Jungle: A Transplant’s Guide to Driving in Los Angeles

You’ve seen the movie – every movie set in Los Angeles in which the main character must get from one place to another by car. The flicks feature congested highways where traffic travels at speeds you could beat by hopping on one foot. 

Yes, you need affordable auto insurance for the fender bumpers and other unique risks driving in Los Angeles if you decide to move here or spend a lot of time in the City of Angels. But you also need a few L.A. traffic tips for navigating these city streets and highways. 

You’re welcome. 

Give Yourself Time 

If you’re coming here from just about anywhere else in America and you see that your destination is ten miles away by mostly highway, you give yourself ten minutes. After all, at 60 miles an hour, your car does a mile a minute. Right? 

Not even close. In Los Angeles, your ten-mile drive might well take you an hour. More than that, if you make the questionable decision to drive L.A. highways during rush hour. More on that later. 

The main point is you need to always count on the trip taking you more time than you planned. And isn’t it better to show up where you need to be with too much waiting time rather than getting there late? 

Plan Your Route Around Los Angeles 

Never just get in the car and head off to parts unknown. Not in L.A. Freeway driving is an adventure here. Always know where you’re headed and the smartest way to get there. 

Apps such as Google Maps and Waze offer real-time data that takes into consideration traffic accidents and even more congestion than expected to show you the best alternative routes. 

Just keep in mind others have the same apps, so they’ll be changing course at about the time you are. It’s possible that you’ll be exchanging one crowded route for another, but at least you’ll outsmart the motorists who don’t have the most relevant travel apps on their phones. 

Know the Weird Laws 

Freeway driving is different here. For instance, there are high-occupancy vehicle lane laws. If you’re used to less traveled highways, you might think of high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes as merely the fast lanes. But in Los Angeles, you can’t use them unless you have at least one passenger or two. 

And no, being pregnant or using blowup dolls don’t count as passengers. Others have tried. 

The idea behind HOV lanes is to reduce congestion by encouraging commuters to carpool whenever possible. The highways move the same human volume but in fewer vehicles. Makes sense, right? 

If you’re arriving here from elsewhere in California, you think you know all about HOV lanes. But in those “elsewhere” places, the special designation is generally only during rush hour. In L.A. it’s 24/7. So, avoid those lanes marked with a 2 or a 3 that regulate the minimum number of humans your car must contain to earn passage if you’re traveling solo. Otherwise, it could get expensive. 

L.A. also forbids all but hands-free cellphone use while driving. Tell your under-eighteen driver that they can’t even use hands-free mode while navigating city streets and highways here. 

And regardless of your age, smoking is forbidden even in your own vehicle if you’re traveling with minors. 

Learn all of that, and your trip is less likely to be further prolonged by the flashing lights of a city or county cop. 

View toward West Los Angeles on a hazy day; heavy traffic on highway 405; California

Avoid L.A. Rush Hour (if You Can) 

If you’re retired, work third shift, or are a remote worker, you have a valuable advantage: you can avoid Los Angeles rush hour. That, of course, is the block of hours in which most people are traveling to work (7 am to 10 am) or heading home (4 pm to 7 pm). 

If you work more traditional hours, it might be worthwhile to see if you can schedule your workplace arrivals and departures not during rush hour traffic blocks. 

Also, keep in mind that if you live in or near a popular nightlife neighborhood — and there are plenty of those — the traffic volume might not thin out much in the wee hours. It might actually get worse as the night goes on. . Refer to your travel app even when you’re sure you’ve dodged the traffic monster. 

Look for Hollywood Parking, But Plan for the L.A. Reality 

Once you’ve navigated the city streets and found your destination, just park your car right across from the building’s entrance. It’s usually free. Or at least that’s the way it works out for the hero in your favorite movie or television show set in L.A. 

That’s what’s known as Hollywood parking. The reality of parking in L.A. might be a bit more challenging. Remember our tip about pre-planning your trip from point to point? That includes your parking grand adventure. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. 

Quite a few of them, actually. Use apps like Spot Hero, Parkopedia, or L.A. Express Park & Meter to find and price the lots and parking spaces closest to your destination. Some even enable you to reserve and pay for that tiny patch of rented L.A. real estate. 

Let Others Take the Wheel 

The popular myth is that public transportation doesn’t exist and everyone must drive in Los Angeles. Like most myths, it’s just that. 

You’ve got buses and no fewer than six rail lines traversing the city. Learn the schedules and departure and arrival routes, and you might actually get a stress-free nap while getting from here to there. 

You’ve also got plenty of rideshare drivers and more than 2,300 taxi cabs roaming the city streets. In addition to making your daily commutes and errands easier, public transit and hired drivers who already know these streets can be more convenient and certainly more ecologically beneficial than driving the highways and byways by yourself. Give it a try. 

Before All Else, Make Sure You Have Comprehensive and Affordable Auto Insurance 

As with most U.S. states, auto insurance is mandatory in California. You can save money by buying the minimum coverage level, which is liability. 

Liability only covers other drivers, passengers, and personal property if you’re held responsible for an accident. (And since you don’t know these streets well, your risk is probably relatively high). 

The problem with liability coverage is that it won’t pay for any damage to your own vehicle if you are at fault. What happens if your car is totaled or so heavily damaged that you can’t afford to repair it immediately? Then how do you get to work or handle errands and other family responsibilities? 

With full coverage insurance, you’re much better protected financially in the unfamiliar streets and bumper-to-bumper traffic of L.A. 

If you consult an independent insurance agent, you can find the most affordable auto insurance. That’s because independent agents represent many insurance companies so that they can shop on your behalf for the best deals at the lowest possible cost. 

You can look forward to your new life in Los Angeles. You’ll find a vibrant city with (usually) ideal, sunny weather. Expect good times, but plan carefully how you’ll get from place to place. That will mean faster, smoother arrivals and fewer hassles. 

Consult Our Independent Agents for Affordable Insurance in California 

One of your first steps as you plan your move here should be a phone call to your independent Cost-U-Less Insurance agent. Just contact us at 800-390-4071 for affordable car insurance to help you navigate the city streets of this legendary city. You can also get a quick quote online or find a Los Angeles office and agent near you

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