Home / Wrenching / As Someone Who Loves Cars, I’m Struggling To Decide If I Want To Move From Detroit To LA

As Someone Who Loves Cars, I’m Struggling To Decide If I Want To Move From Detroit To LA

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I’ve been struggling with this question for years. I just keep going back-and-forth — I love Detroit; it’s the greatest city in the world for car people, and I won’t even hear arguments to the contrary. I can buy running motors for $145, rent a house with a proving ground out back for under $1,000 a month, hang out with car enginerds and designers on a regular basis, tour incredible junkyards and snag dirt-cheap parts every weekend, spend a reasonable amount of money on gas, and just generally do dumb car stuff with great people for cheap. This place really is the Motor City. But I don’t know if I can stay.

You all know me as the rusty Jeep guy from Detroit, but I’m not from here. I have no family here, no childhood roots, and fewer and fewer ties as many of my friends seem to all move away. But I have stayed for nine years — the longest I’ve ever lived in one place. It’s counter to my nature as an “Army Brat,” and indeed, in the early days after my move here from college, I thought for sure I’d be rolling out within a couple of years. But I stuck around because the car culture is unbelievable (and also because I travel out of the country for usually a month or two out of the year, so this keeps things spicy).

 

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Watch the Instagram video above, and you’ll see what I did today. After waking up, I drove to the legendary Pasteiner’s Cars and Coffee meetup, then headed to a junkyard and gawked over awesome machines with a cool reader named Nick (plus I ran into the legendary engine-carrier, Jeremy Benson, who was wrenching on a Ford Ranger), then helped Nick get unstuck from my muddy backyard “Proving Ground,” and then I just drove around in my brother’s 1966 Mustang to a bunch of car parts stores (and obsessed over how cheaply I can get high-zinc Diesel Oil and high-quality Purolator filters). It was a great day in the month that caps the beginning of half a year of absolutely perfect weather followed by genuine frigid hell.

I know how good I have it here. I can experience things that translate to great content that can help this site thrive, and that, of course, is really important. I have space; cars; a low cost of living; friends and neighbors who genuinely share my passion; specialty car shops run by old-timers who will (cheaply) machine my cylinder heads, replace my leaf spring bushings (and make me custom U-Bolts), braze up my leaky radiator, rebuild my starter motors and generators; no vehicle safety or emissions inspections; a big airport that will get me to Hong Kong, Germany, Australia, or wherever the hell I want to do dumb car things next; car shows damn near everyday; access to tremendous automotive knowledge, and on and on.

Prior to my arrival in Detroit, I had mixed feelings. After having seen documentaries about abandoned Detroit neighborhoods, and after living in the city and witnessing the blight in person, I initially wondered: “Is this still the Motor City?” After nine years I know that the answer is, well, not really — it’s actually the Motor Suburb, but it’s still freaking incredible.

Then why leave?

Well, for one, I don’t know if I’m built to live in one place too long. As I’ve said before, I have no roots anywhere, and my childhood showed me the incredible richness I can get out of life by experiencing new places. And not just a few weeks at a time; many months or years — enough time to really embed myself into new cultures. Remaining in one place is something with which a lot of children of service members struggle.

I’m not going to complain about the winter or the salt; those are what they are, and I’m not sure how much they’re factoring in my decision, anyway. My main considerations involve shaking things up and experiencing something new, and also possibly diversifying my social life outside of work. Regarding the latter point: Is suburban Detroit the ideal place for a single 30 year-old dude to thrive socially? It’s possible that LA is no better, honestly. I don’t have the answers.

Why LA? You’re all now wondering.

It’s tricky. I mean, part of me wants to move to Germany to be with my family — buy an Audi A2 and Renault Twingo, and road trip all over the place. Another part of me wants to move to Kansas or Arkansas, buy a big-ass plot of land, and just go absolutely crazy buying cars by the dozens (though the social scene could be a concern). I anticipate one of those happening at some point. But L.A. offers some opportunities right now; for one, it’s becoming more and more Motor City 2.0. Dozens of my engineering friends from Michigan have moved out west to work for budding EV companies. There’s a lot of great electric vehicle stuff going on over there, and I’d like to be able to explore that side of car culture. I’ve reached a point of diminishing returns when it comes to discovering Detroit’s car scene — the idea of exploring a new one excites me.

Of course, there’s theoretically a decent social scene filled with diverse people — something appealing to me at this point in my life. There’s also The Autopian’s main supporter, Beau Boeckmann and his amazing team — working with them in person could afford our site a number of great opportunities. And really, that’s where my priority needs to be above all else: Trying to do what’s best for this company and its readership; if working with my team out in California helps us, and if it also happens to scratch other itches of mine, then that seems smart. LA is not exactly wrenchtopia, but I’m doing more editing than anything these days. Plus, most of my wrenching seems to be happening on other continents, anyway.

Plus I bet the off-roading is great in California, and the weather will mean year-round wrenching and no rust. Let me repeat that last one: NO RUST. I’ve been in basic training these past nine years; just imagine me wrenching on California cars — I will be a wrenching god!

Obviously, cost of living in insane. Wrenching on junkers on the side of the road in LA sounds, honestly, no worse than fixing crap-cans in 20 below weather here in Michigan, but still not great. Gas is expensive, emissions inspections would definitely preclude my Jeep J10 from going out there (I’d be rolling in the Mustang and my future overlanding rig, my $350 Holy Grail ZJ. Also my FC, though I realize three cars out there will be rough), and I have my concerns about car culture in LA. Is it too exclusive? Is it difficult for the less privileged to get into the car scene? Is it all about wealth flaunting? (For you LA natives, my apologies for the ignorance. That’s just how it looks from the outside). Is a haggard, balding, recovering trenchfoot-er who’s suffered far too many harsh winters wrenching on rusty heaps going to stand out among all the good looking models? Will everyone I interact with either avert their eyes or instantly vomit?

To these, I have no answers.

Honestly, I have no answers to any of this. I do know that I’d want to return to Michigan later in life, because this place feels “free.” There’s very little bullshit here except for an occasional police officer from some fancy suburb pulling me over for passing him in a snowstorm. But otherwise, I can do what you want, and have plenty of space for it.

As for right now? I’m getting antsy, and lots of people in my life keep telling me that hoarding cars in suburban Detroit maybe isn’t the optimal long-term strategy. They’re probably right. Honestly, I could see myself blinking once and then all of a sudden another nine years pass by, I’m still here hanging out with a fleet of cars at age 39, with a stack of ordinance violations on my counter. Honestly, depending on the cars in my fleet, that sounds kind of epic. But also not — again, I’m conflicted.

One thing I’m not conflicted on, after spending the past four hours researching, is how to minimize the cost of maintenance of my fleet. I have found that base-model Purolator oil filters, when purchased in bulk, can be had for less than pretty much any oil filter you can buy, including Walmart Super Tech oil filters (some of which I’m pretty sure are just rebranded Purolators). Check it out — $29.21 for twelve Jeep 4.0/Mustang filters! That’s just $2.43 a pop! As for my Jeep 258 filters, those were a bit more expensive at about $2.80, but still dirt.

These filters, along with diesel engine oil — which is high in zinc (which is good for flat-tappet engines like those in my vehicles), and, when purchased in 15W-40 weight can be had for pennies — basically mean I can change my oil for less than $20. I spent quite a bit of time researching whether I can use my Jeep’s TL14670 filter on my brother’s Mustang. Turns out, I absolutely can. I also read through service manuals and owner’s manuals to see if 15W-40 is an acceptable oil for the Ford 289 and Jeep straight six, and it turns out the answer is yes, in the summer (I don’t drive these vehicles in the winter, anyway). This is all great from a cost-of-maintenance standpoint.

From the Mustang manual (it even says oil as thick as 20W-40 will work):

From an old Jeep manual:

 

Anyway, that was a hell of a digression, but that’s what my day was like today. Car show, junkyard, mud pit, trips to car parts stores and far too much research on oil change cost minimization. This is normal, right?

 

QuizMaker

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180 Responses

  1. Is there an option to park an RV and your 3 cars in a Galpin back lot in LA? Your biggest problem is going to be housing expense, especially if you need to park 3 cars. The Mustang and FC are emissions exempt, and CA doesn’t do safety inspections either. The ZJ is likely old enough that it’s a tailpipe test, and it’s honestly not that hard to pass smog on stock emissions equipment.

    Beyond the ostentatious display of wealth, there is a whole other subculture of keeping shitboxen on the road on a shoestring budget, necessitated by the shitty transit situation, and enabled by the lack of safety inspections. However, being a snow-free climate, body longevity is less prized over mechanical reliability, which explains the prevalence of Japanese makes in CA. There might not be that many XJs here, but you might have fun in LA regardless.

    The problem is figuring out the housing and car storage situation, and I cannot stress that enough. Anywhere in Urban California is a non-starter until you figure out if housing will be affordable for you.

  2. Probably too late to chime in, but what the hell.

    My suggestion is keep your homebase where you’re at and work something out with the landlord for garage improvement. See if you can DIY or farm out some insulation and drywall (if it doesn’t have it already), maybe even add on a stall, and improve the HVAC situation, then try to get it taken out of your rent over a period of months. It’s a win-win and then you can travel whenever you get the itch, but if you need to work in the garage over the cold months, you won’t die from hypothermia or lose your butt on the electric bill.

  3. My dad long talked up L.A. as some great place when I was a kid (he got to go out there semi-regularly for work). When I got my current job I spent 3 weeks out there training. I can 100% tell you that after spending 3 weeks out there I have negative interest in ever moving to L.A. Traffic sucks, gas is painfully expensive, everything is brown, the state burns for 3 months a year, and on top of it your one thing you love, cars, is going to be scrutinized and many will not pass muster. There are cool car scenes there but to live there, full time, HARD pass for me.

  4. And the answer is – ask Steve Dulcich if you can park a trailer behind his shop.
    You’ll be surrounded by grapes, motors, and a ton of incentive. Maybe knock Freiburger around a bit. Lol .
    I think it would be epic.

  5. I think every car enthusiast in Detroit has these same thoughts every winter. When it was snowing in April I would have moved to LA right with you. But now that the weather’s warming up there’s no place I’d rather be.

  6. “Dozens of my engineering friends from Michigan have moved out west to work for budding EV companies.”

    The thing is, they moved out there to make EV startup money. I’m just guessing here, but I bet Autopian startup money doesn’t go as far in LA. The only way I’d move to a crazy high cost of living location like LA is if I were going for a crazy high salary job.

    I voted 6 months in the sticks and 6 in Germany. Plenty of diverse car culture available, and moving around a lot might help with the wanderlust.

  7. You’ll have a great time in L.A. You don’t have to live right in the city. You can find your nook where you can have cars, enjoy the weather, go offroading, drive the best driving roads in the country, plus all the other non-car shit L.A. has. I moved here 22 years ago and don’t want to be anywhere else. It’ll be nice to see you, too. Torch has been gone too long, we need another weirdo.

  8. I did it! I lived in SoCal from ages 25-32. One year was in Carlsbad (North San Diego County) and the rest was the South Bay of L.A. I grew up in WV and wanted the. hell. out of there, and my gf was an actor that wanted to try to ‘make it’.

    I loved it and am glad to have done it. The weather was great, and in the South Bay I didn’t need to climate control my home. I rode motorcycles EVERYWHERE, all the time. When I got divorced it was a great place to be single. Some things *do* wear on you though. To wit:

    – I was a young engineer with a decent job. I grew to hate feeling so poor. It really feels like people are loaded and also don’t have to work. You’re not avoiding a crowded restaurant just because you left work at 1pm.
    – Traffic. It’s real, and all the time. If you’re not on two wheels you’re going to be sitting for a while.
    – Vanity. If folks move there to be in the entertainment industry, they’re there to focus on themselves. Sifting through that to make meaningful relationships can be tough. You get the hang of it after while, though.
    – Smog checking cars got to be tiresome. Young me wasn’t a confident wrencher, so smog was always a concern. You learn to deal. I moved from LA to Denver and still had to deal with it.
    – Cost. It’s not cheap to live in a 60 year old one bedroom apartment, and good luck storing your fleet there. Roommates are common with 30+ yr old actors still trying to ‘make it’, but I bet you don’t really want to do that.
    – Water. The west is running out. This wasn’t a concern to younger me, but it is real and scary now.

    If you’ve got the itch, do it. Life is short. Just go in with realistic expectations.

  9. Grew up in the Midwest but got out to LA for a few years in my decade-long tour of the continent. You would be absolutely remiss if you did not take the opportunity to experience LA car culture. Everything’s expensive out here (I’m in Central/NorCal now), so maybe you can’t swing it forever, but you’ll have a blast while you can. And then you’ll be able to confidently decide how far to move from LA when the time comes. “Rustless” California is huge and it’s easy to access AZ and NV, too.

    I would recommend searching in the Valley or somewhere in South LA/LBC if you want space for more than one car.

    1. I failed to mention this in my comment. I didn’t start hanging out in Long Beach until after I had accepted a job in Denver. So much hot rod stuff, then you hang out in a bar owned by Social D’s drummer OR the bar that played Fangtasia in True Blood. Had I found the LBC sooner I would still be there. Likely with a flipped-up trucker hat, some throat/head tattoos, and maybe a lead sled.

  10. LA is a great place, and possibly one the best places on the planet for car culture. Were I you, and I thank the gods old and new that I’m not (all love, respect and envy, but I couldn’t…), I’d head a little north or south or east of LA, buy a lot with a shop and live it up. Out back, a stack of unused engines. Pile of used tires under some tarps at the side. Some chain link fence, maybe. Inside, a couple of lifts and a pit, and a gleaming electric conversion bay.

  11. I say go west. You can always move again.

    Someone commented about Texas, and specifically Austin. I live in Austin and there is not much of a car culture. Sure we have F1 and they do Radwood at race track, but you rarely see people driving their vintage/classic car as a daily driver other than old work trucks.

    I grew up in CA but moved to TX after the army and one thing I miss that I still see when I go home is people just cruising around in older cars as their DD. Plus the self-service junkyards in the central valley are great.

  12. Not knowing you except through your public writings, I would rank these as your highest life priorities:

    (1) Interesting People
    (2) Car EXPERIENCES
    (3) Rusted Jeeps (but almost CLICHE for you now after 9 years)
    ….
    (7) Basic life amenities (e.g., food, shelter, clothing, basic medical care, retirement savings, immediate family relationships, etc.)

    “CALIFORN-eye-EH…here I come”, says DT

  13. I’d look into Texas and Tennessee. Better climates, exciting cities, (Austin, Nashville among others). Low property taxes and no income taxes. A house, 5 acres, and a poll barn for wrenching should be attainable out past the ‘burbs and still have easy access to interesting people. Jeeps of all stripes are beloved in either locale.

    1. Near-Nashvillian here. A decent house with a detached shop on an acre or so will be within an hour of the airport (BNA is huge!) and can confirm things are very chill property tax-wise as long you’re not in Davidson County.

      You can get a nice house with some land 30-50 miles from Nashville for $400k or so.

  14. I can’t tell you how to live your life. Though, if I could, I would vote for living in Jason’s RV ON JASON’S PROPERTY. I’m speaking solely as someone who would thoroughly enjoy the articles, videos, and fax-machine spam which would result from the two of you being in such close-quarters on a nearly constant basis.

    I would also need Jason’s wife to be a contributor as well, because we definitely needs some insight from that perspective.

  15. LA County… No. Just no. Surrounding counties… maybe. Moved to Temecula valley area a year ago from the Midwest. About an hour to the beach. Another hour to the mountains. A little beyond that is the high desert. And, about an hour and a half to LA (but I generally refuse to go there unless family is visiting and they want to do Disney or Universal). All I will say is that LA County is blue and once outside the county it turns purple or mainly red pretty fast.

    Land may come at a premium here though and with that personal wrenching freedom. So, move to Arizona. Freedom to wrench. Land. And, you could try the Phoenix area for the social experience. Just my two cents.

  16. Dave

    As great as LA sounds, it is a sirens song. Stay in Detroit and travel! Trust me, the sweet song of warm weather and sandy beaches is strong but why would you want to leave Motor City!?

    I have been following you for YEARS….LA will leave you wanting. Sure, they have rust free cars but do you really want BMWs, Mercedes and Range Rovers!? NO! You want “classic” American cars…ones that will only be found in Detroit.

  17. DT,
    I feel you on the wanderlust being stuck in Ohio for the past 8 years with even less frequent vacations than you have experienced but I cannot recommend LA. Being single your main fight is going to be parking and wrenching space while being close enough to a social scene, it will just be a different kind of trap where you are too broke to do shit, I lived it when I was in the DMV.
    You don’t have the wife and kid I do yet so I would recommend taking advantage of your mobility now and really do some travel, the rusted out jeep version of long way round/up. The experiences you have and people you will meet will be the ones you tell your grandkids about.

  18. I’ll speak for myself and my many gear head LA friends: Come on out! We’ve got the Sierras nearby, Joshua Tree, and plenty of BLM land for off-roading, great wrenching weather (most of the time) whether you’re in a garage or on the street, and the Petersen Museum is an incredible place to get lost while looking through the most beautiful and bonkers cars in history! Not mention more Cars & Coffee meetups than you can shake a stick at. I’ll personally offer up a beers and tacos hang in the South Bay in exchange for picking your brain about XJ frame weld repair best practices (my 2001 grew up in Minnesota…)

  19. Here’s a suggestion…Live out there part time during the Midwest Winter months.
    I’ve been visiting my Dad in Orange County since 1988 from South Dakota and it’s a wonderful place to visit for short periods of time.

  20. LA county local here.

    The car scene here is only exclusive and wealth flaunting if you chose to surround yourself with people like that. It seems like that’s the default around here because that’s what all the rich people do and what makes it into the press, but the reality on the ground is much more varied and interesting. For every rich guy with some 1 of 500 special edition car there are 20 average Joe’s driving something they love no matter how rough around the edges it is. Pick a car culture niche and you’ll find enthusiasts with the same interests as you and a couple a shops dedicated specifically to your needs.

    Having seen how cheaply you like to do things, I think the biggest challenge to you will be the high cost of living, but the tradeoff is year-round wrenching and driving weather, so doing what you do best will be infinitely more pleasant here than in Detroit in that regard.

    I hear you on the whole smog testing thing, but I feel that with only having three vehicles you will have a lot more time to keep them in good running order so you should more than likely be able to pass the tailpipe test without too much trouble. It’ll definitely be significantly easier than what you tried to do in Germany with your van.

  21. I feel your pain, it would be my dream to have a garage big enough for all the cars I own inside my head (too expensive in reality) and a property big enough to build a race track, but even a couple of hours outside Sydney (Aus) the price is still similar to the city. I think to head somewhere like Reno would be great so you have space and still access to airports. But I am sure there will be some great stories about Tracey vs LA county, probably due to rust and pollution laws. Can’t wait to see where you end up!

  22. Just to throw an over the top idea out there and expand on the “live in Jason’s RV” option:

    Get a “toter-home” with an enclosed trailer, keep a few of your cars and travel around with them in tow. It could be like the whole #vanlife thing turned up to 11, while keeping a few of your favorite rides and getting to wrench on them in different locations.
    Just imagine DT pulling up in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, unloading the now running Golden Eagle and setting a time up Pikes Peak. Or visiting a junk yard in every state and buying a part, then putting together the “Ultimate Budget Overlanding Grand Cherokee” project with pieces from each and every state.

    Just an idea….

  23. I’d say take the adventure. I have lived in a few states with California and Washington being two of them, and currently I live in Michigan (Detroit/Ann Arbor area), which MI has been my longest tenure, and honestly, once my daughter graduates we’re packing up and moving out west. Not sure LA is right for us (bigger fans of San Diego); but we’re ready for another adventure.

  24. I really like parts of California, but L.A. isn’t one of them. You couldn’t pay me to live in L.A.. As for the rest of California, the drought and constant fires are a big problem, but then I live in the Colorado Front Range, and sadly we probably aren’t far behind.

  25. Lived in Orange County for 2 years before coming back to TN. Here’s a few pros/cons/thoughts:
    Unless you are very rich or extremely poor, the government/community doesn’t give two shits about you, your rights, well-being, health, etc
    Lots of random costs-car registration will run you several hundred per car. Gas in LA city limits was typically $3/gallon higher than in TN. Random services are much more expensive (boarding two dogs went from $35/night to $120/night if I drove 45 min).
    Rental companies are horribly aggressive and will take advantage of you at every turn. Thought there would be consumer protections in CA as it’s so liberal, it’s 10x worse than TN.
    While there’s a large variety of things to do and resources around the area, it’s hard to take advantage of due to traffic. A 10 mile drive can be 45 min during off hours and 2 hours of hell during rush hour.
    The homeless problem (regardless of your opinions on it) is mortifying in LA and San Diego proper. They’re everywhere, including parks and landmark destinations, their shit (figurative and literal) and trash is everywhere, drug needles scattered. Sidewalks are completely taken over by tents and trash. Most of OC was better as the beach cities would arrest them and nobody would drive them back from the jail.
    Expect lots of add ons to the rent price. Random exorbitant fees, paying for parking, etc.
    Your cars will not be safe, esp. if street parks. Car burglary, theft, and cat. converter theft is super common. I lived in a nice gated apartment with night time security, and kept a sensitive alarmed disk lock on my motorcycle, but my saddlebags got ransacked at least once a week. My friends car got broken into there, and I know of several motorcycles stolen. Nobody cares as the people doing are ‘victims’ and shouldn’t be prosecuted. You’re on the hook for it and F*** you if you’re not happy to do it.
    The ocean/beach is too cold to properly enjoy 9 months out of the year if you want to get in without a wetsuit.
    Temps in the summer will regularly hit 110+ if you are even moderately inland. Possible rolling blackouts during this time.
    Between heat and smoke you’ll spend almost as many days stuck inside as you do for winter in a semi normal place.

    That said: we had a really nice trail 3 miles away that ran from the mountains to Newport Beach. Used to ride my bicycle down it all the time and swim in the harbor before going back. No winter blues. Access to OHV land and trails is amazing. My greatest regret is not doing more off-roading in San Bernardino national forest. It’ll take 2+ hours to get out of the city, but you can take off on Friday and make it to some truest amazing places for a normal weekend. I’d buy a house in SBNF in a heartbeat if I thought my wife could handle the mountain winter.

  26. Come to Richmond! Great social scene, lots of good beer, lots of cool cars, and close access to hiking/camping sites. Also, I believe at some point you mentioned you had family here. There ya go, Richmond is the answer.

  27. Just registered and un-lurked myself to pitch Albuquerque, New Mexico. I can’t promise that our city is the best car town, but you will encounter any number of interesting used and broken down cars. Not just those but you will experience the milagros of the cars held together by sheer prayer. Not just within the greater metro area but in any direction, you will discover a whole variety of roads that will make for interesting test drives and quick scenic getaways.
    What can be better than a city bisected by a river surrounded by a quite flammable cottonwood forest whose Easternmost boundaries are marked by a beautiful mountain (Sandia Peak) and the West Mesa. Not to mention the furthest western outskirts fringed by a remarkable volcanic crater/caldera remnant. You’ll discover a city full of top-notch roads and stretches full of outright
    “car-niverous” potholes. Central is the classic Route 66 whose downtown stretch is full of well-preserved Southwest Deco, Mid Century, and tonnes of restored Rt 66 neon signage that puts my own hometown (Las Vegas, Nv) to shame. Even though you’re in the metro area: North Valley, South Valley, and Corrales feel like rural places-in many spots feeling like you’ve returned to the Spanish Colonial Era, American Territorial Era, or Pre-WWII NM.
    Yes, we’re less than a 50 minute drive to Santa Fe, but why spend all your money there when you can enjoy a far more casual and less expensive night and day around town. We are a Foodie Paradise: not just for the legendary New Mexico cuisine (which there’s nothing like it and would you like everything served Red, Green, or Christmas!) but for a taste of practically any ethnic cuisine you could imagine. You wouldn’t know it because we’re a minority-majority city full of Hispano/Latinos and Native Americans, but you would be surprised at the thriving scene of Viet joints-this being a local secret, but a taste of the many unexpected surprises you will find.
    I know I sound like an absolute booster but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our horrible drug and alcohol addictions tied to poverty that fuel the horrible crime rates. While Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul are fictional, the background is tragically real.
    You would fit in well with the strange mix of folks who inhabit Albuquerque.

  28. It doesn’t have to be LA, You could try the high desert. Just avoid Barstow and Adelanto as those two towns add an extra 30/45 minutes to what is already a hellish commute to LA of about 1:45 to 2 hours from Victorville. On the plus side, lots of places to off road, just as many to buy parts from. And I have a rust free WJ that needs an off roading buddy. Just needs a little TLC to avoid overheating. PS: If you want to see how far an EV will go offroad, I have pictures of where I got stuck.

  29. As a former army brat who was then army himself (2 years in Katterbach!) I still miss Germany! I fed my moving jones by being an expat for 25+ years, but am finally settled. Bavaria is the only choice.

  30. David, just follow your heart and do what you think it’s best for you.
    As someone who spends most of his time in the CA-Baja border I can tell you LA is fascinating but it’s more expensive than any other city I’ve visited except for SF.
    Yes, you can forget about wrenching and hoarding half a dozen cars altogether but if you move eastbound closer to I-15 you’ll get cheaper rents and bigger lands to store up to 3-4 cars. Think about Ontario, San Bernardino or Riverside counties.

    There’s another advantage about living in So Cal (and border states in general): you can get way cheaper cars in Mexico. Clean titled cars in Tijuana are way cheaper than the same car in San Diego, just make sure the cats are still there because it’s a common practice to get them gutted and re-sold. I’ve purchased half a dozen cars there and haven’t had problems with any of those although I admit we had to have an aftermarket cat done on my sister’s 08 Beetle we purchased for $1800 last year.

  31. I moved from the midwest to LA and back, starting around 15 years ago. I would recommend it highly, even if it is only for a couple of years. LA is full of transplants, so being from elsewhere really doesn’t matter. Yes, there is a lot of conspicuous consumption and a lot of abject poverty, but there is a lot of the middle as well. Great food is really inexpensive, and some of the best stuff in the world can be found in 60-year-old strip malls next to gas stations. One great thing is a lot of the best taco stands are colocated with car washes, of which there are many.

    Speaking directly to car culture there is no better place on the planet than LA. It truly is a place where everything can have its own scene. Honestly, the weather has a lot to do with it. Cars can last forever and when I moved out there in 2004 I was able to pick up an E30 325 Convertible for $2900. Obviously, those days are long gone everywhere but the point remains. Whatever money you have buys a better car in SoCal than anyplace else. It is also where the best of DIY American car culture originated. T-buckets, hot rods, dragsters, dune-buggies, muscle cars (Jan & Dean, Beach Boys, etc.), James Dean, Mulholland Drive and everything that evokes, Steve McQueen, crazy customs over the top customs, movie & TV cars like the Batmobile (George Barris, Ed Roth, etc.), many automotive design studios (Art Center College of Design’s leading automotive design program), multitude of race and off-road cources/tracks, thousands of miles of great driving roads, The Peterson Automotive Meusum, huge JDM, an endless supply of other specialist communities, and more density of interesting and amazing cars than anyplace in the world while having the best electrical charging infrastructure in the country.

    Sure, some places might have a couple of the things from that list but no place has all of them much less is a leader in most. It is an world of endless automotive possibilities that ranges from run down but loveingly run back alley shops to people who can charge as much as a lawyer to detail your super car. The only limitation is your ability and imagination.

  32. As a recent west coast to Detroit transplant, who is also not about to tell anyone how or where to live, I just want to chime in on the cost and hassle of a 2800 mile move. I did so with 3 cars (shipped two, drove one), and a 2600sf house of stuff plus a 20×24 shop and it was an experience I care not to repeat. Ever.

    I will add, the fire season smoke on the west coast is no joke, and it makes venturing outside in August miserable. There is also a lot less water out there, and even less in some of the other locations being tossed around here in the comments. This will become an issue, and the costs associated with remediating that problem (moving again?) will not be cheap.

    Lastly, and selfishly, moving to Detroit and getting front row seats to The David Tracy Show was definitely something that ended up in the “Pro Column” would be missed.

  33. From a purely business perspective it sounds like being in LA could have positive results. You can still fly anywhere globally probably cheaper from LAX than from Detroit. I bet someone could hook you up with somewhat affordable (for LA) housing. Use the time in LA to plan and save for your your long term goal in the midwest. Des Moines has been up and coming for years and would be a good place for the next chapter of your life in 5-10 years.

  34. David, whatever you do, just stay out of Sedona, AZ. I love my home and property value too much :).

    If I were you, I’d head to CA. As you get older, winter becomes less and less fun.

  35. Don’t. Just don’t.

    From a content perspective: there are already too many bloggers & vloggers doing the LA car thing. It’s been done. Keep your unique perspective and your unique collection. If you want out of the rust belt for whatever reason head south, but not west. There’s plenty of car culture in places other than LA. You live in Detroit – you should know that.

  36. Other than the weather 6 months a year, this (Detroit area) is the place to be for a car guy. I say stay here, but travel in the winter. If you could figure out some sort of Snowbird arrangement (Snowbird is not a Pontiac), that would be ideal. If you do move, we do require a new Autopian member to be stationed here.

  37. I will also suggest TN – the “sticks” option! We have BNA (Nashville International Airport, Delta hub, etc). We have Windrock Park (73,000 acres of intense wheeling and rock crawling). We have no state income tax, no smog checks (debate for another time) and though we have sales tax on vehicle sales, the DMV is more than happy to accept that you paid $500 for that old rustbucket. There is land and shop space aplenty along our many interstates and though Nashville is a boomtown, an hour outside the city is still affordable and has the best of both worlds IMO.

  38. I did the MN to LA and back to MN.
    it was a great experience, i would do it all over again. But ultimately not where i wanted to be long term. i missed seasons and the country and privacy. plus i left an old mazda wagon (disassembled) carcass in my college parking lot. i never got caught because the westwood cops had never seen that one before. …(head scratching)
    live RV style find a shed out of the city to store your stuff.
    …i would vote for that.
    ramble enjoy your youth and some ladies, …the electric scene is ultimately where cars are going.

  39. I’d say come to Arizona. Not Maricopa or Pima counties though (they require emissions testing). Some of the smaller locales outside of the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas. The off roading is fantastic (which it is not in California, there are surprisingly few places to go in Cali) and you don’t have to worry about rust ever again.

  40. I thought I had my answer – but it kind of depends. My original answer assumed the budget was “not Scrooge Mc. Duck.” I would be tempted to go the extreme route on “Detroit – but travel” (doesn’t have to be Detroit, but similar cost of living) and spend half your time – particularly the cooler months – on the road somewhere. Between your plans for Australia, overlanding in South America, German adventures, etc. you’re halfway there already. It seems like wasted opportunity and money to have a small apartment in an expensive city. You have the readership to find places to wrench almost anywhere, so this feels like the reasonable option.

    If Beau & Co. (owning dealerships) can be a source of free parking and after-hours wrenching space you might be able to have your cake and eat it too. There will be other expenses/hassles, but could be fun for a while.

    The final scenario – if the funding for this site has left your pockets full (doubt it – new businesses aren’t usually like that unless you’re laundering money) go to LA and start a your own auto shop. One of those places where you rent out time to gearheads who don’t have their own space. Your readership will flock there and you’ll have a steady stream of stories just flowing through the front door.

  41. I can sympathize with your location debate. I moved all over growing up. Not because I was an Army brat, but because my dad was a manufacturing turnaround specialist who wasn’t built with a filter between brain and mouth, so the half-life for him telling his boss (usually the owner) of Company X to stick something where the sun doesn’t shine was about 2 years. Because of that, being nomadic comes natural to me. But “home” was the Syracuse/Rochester region of upstate NY, so hollowed out northern city with 6 months of winter misery and 6 months of perfect weather is what I knew. After college I headed to DFW in Texas where I have remained, other than an unfortunate 12 months in Chicago where I learned my southern wife and winter do not mix, for 17 years.

    Working in tech, I have many times had opportunities to relocate to the Bay in California. The weather is glorious and its convenient to many different types of terrain (the coastal redwoods in Santa Cruz county are a spiritual happy place for me and a heck of a fun drive through the coastal range). Unfortunately the cost of living delta is so large that I have never reached critical mass to take that leap, and thats coming from someone who would be looking at Silicon Valley tech bucks and has a wife with a good job as a teacher. It would simply require too many changes to how we live, and the things we like to do, to make it work. A single wide on a lot I don’t own in South Bay would cost more than my 2800 sqft brick house in a great school district in DFW.

    Thats fundamentally the question you have to ask yourself: you truly know it would be a big, big lifestyle change for you. Is that a feature or a bug? If you are looking for that kind of change, an adventure in general, or it would be that big of a deal for bootstrapping this awesome new corner of the internet, go for it. I packed up my belongings after college, showed up in Texas with a job offer, 80 bucks in my bank account, and an old Grand Marquis with a bum transmission and never looked back.

    As for other locations people have brought up, I put my vote down for Texas just east of Austin or to find your patch of dirt in the KY-TN-NC-SC-GA region that is quickly becoming the new nexus for auto manufacturing. Detroit where be where the past was made in this industry, but where are the future EV plants, battery plants, and eventually design studios going to end up? I wager Austin, Atlanta, or Nashville are more likely than Detroit. Austin is a fun city, the hill country to the west of it is beautiful, and land is cheap east of the city. And East Texas is a barn-find hunter’s dream for 60s-70s vehicles with little rust.

    On the personal relationship sides, a big city has definite advantages over the compound in the sticks at this point in your life. Being a gigantic nerd who went to a gigantic nerd college, and then was wrapped in a very nerdy research job, I was a late entrant into the world of serious dating in my mid 20s. For us nomads, the number of transplants in a big city both provides a more diverse dating pool and potential partners that are more inclined to pick up and move elsewhere once you get that urge. Met the love of my life, a fellow transplant to Texas, in the back half of my 20s. We have been married 12 years, have a 9-yo daughter who (to my wife’s dismay), inherited my smart-ass sense of humor, and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. We are now contemplating a corporate relo to Torch’s neck of the woods, so the adventure continues.

    Make a decision, embrace the adventure, and don’t look back. Life has a funny way of making sure the path you are on leads you where you are supposed to be. Whether we can see it at the time or not. It’s an exciting time to be DT.

  42. I’m not going to vote. We made a head decision last year to move away from the city where our kids were born, where we have friends, with an amazing climate and roots to my ancestral homeland (I mean I’m 3rd generation in my country but still!) to come back to the city where we met and went to university. Attracted by a mildly lower cost of living, actually being closer to family and yes probably more money (for now). But our hearts are broken and aching. I know that sounds corny or cliched or whatever, but we miss our home, even if it was only home for 6 years. It was home, it was where we made home. We have been pretty nomadic until our son was born. We made a head decision, everything about moving here was the ‘right decision’ but actually it wasn’t. We are looking at moving back – maybe not now, but planning for a couple of years time. Listen to what your heart wants you to do, not your stupid head. I’m annoyed with my stupid head.

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