This article is all about moving to Los Angeles from New York.
The two biggest cities in the United States could not be any more different. While New York City is larger in terms of population, Los Angeles is infamous for its sprawl and slalom of freeways exceeding the landmass of the five boroughs.
But for those contemplating moving to Los Angeles from New York, it’s awfully reductive to simply refer to New York as a transit-oriented concrete jungle and LA as car-centric sprawl. Especially given that the NYC subway has rapidly deteriorated while LA’s transit system has expanded more in two years than the former has in at least two decades.
For New Yorkers moving to LA or contemplating it, here’s why you should or shouldn’t make that 2,300-mile jump as told from the lens of a fifth-generation Bronxite who did it at the tail end of 2021.
Pros and Cons of Moving to Los Angeles From New York
People often move for career-related reasons: you’re not getting job offers where you currently live and/or your field has more opportunities elsewhere. If you’re in any sector of the entertainment industry or media production, this is especially true of moving to LA. But if you’re moving for family, romance, or other personal reasons, there’s some considerations in moving to Los Angeles from New York.
A major pro is that housing isn’t as cutthroat as it is in NYC. It can still be challenging to find an affordable apartment in the neighborhood you desire, but apartments are overall more affordable in LA and there are more types of housing and living arrangements to pick from. But a downside is that your options for car-free living can be limited depending on your budget and the type of career you have.
You’ve likely heard a million times by now that transit is nothing like how it is back east. This is true once you’ve ventured far enough from Downtown Los Angeles. There is a real ground-level culture shock you may not expect if you haven’t spent enough time in SoCal yet. California sprawls for hundreds of miles and you can’t easily traverse three or more state lines in one day like you can in the northeast.
While it’s possible to live without a car in LA, it’s difficult to do so in most of California. Train travel is a common and economical way to go between NYC and other major east coast cities like Boston and Washington D.C. but you’re looking at a 12-hour ride to San Francisco and 9.5 hours to Tucson with no routes to Las Vegas or Phoenix. The sheer vastness of both LA and California in general is a major adjustment.
Proximity to Nature
We’re not kidding, you can be within city limits and encounter total wilderness. Los Angeles County is home to city, state, and national parks and they’re not small neighborhood parks to catch some shade and have picnics and birthday parties. Griffith Park is over 4,200 acres and Topanga State Park exceeds 13,000 acres, and Angeles National Park is over half a million acres and has specific destinations such as Eaton Canyon which is close to Pasadena and has breathtaking waterfalls.
Magic Mountain is over 12,000 acres of relatively unexplored wilderness in contrast to the park’s 557 miles of hiking and equestrian trails throughout the San Gabriel Mountains. It can be enough of a surprise to walk down a busy city block inHollywood then taking a turn to find yourself on what looks like a quiet suburban street: but whether it’s winding state forest retreats in Baldwin Hills or exploring clandestine movie stars’ estates in Laurel Canyon, the amount of nature and wide open spaces in Los Angeles is honestly staggering.
Even when you’re downtown, you’ll spot crows, monarch butterflies, and scads of plant life right outside your apartment. Coyote sightings are also a commonplace occurrence.. Coyotes are an important part of LA’s ecosystems but they’re appearing more often in residential areas as their natural habitats shrink. While most coyote encounters don’t result in danger to humans, it can be a concern if you have a backyard where pets regularly roam.
The mountains, beaches, and rollicking forests draw New Yorkers to the greater Los Angeles area and for good reason. But being so close to nature can have downfalls: namely, fire season in the late summer and early fall. SoCal was also hit with freak snowstorms in 2023 that have resulted in an unusually cold and gray early summer, but you’ll normally trade brutal winters for triple-digit summers. Even when it’s not very hot out, you need to get accustomed to wearing multiple types of sunscreen if you burn easily. You’re also trading a deciduous climate for a desert, so don’t be surprised when the temperature rapidly drops after sunset. You’ll miss that consistency throughout the day even if you won’t miss winter.
Housing in NYC vs. LA
Both New York and Los Angeles are notoriously expensive places to live and housing is obviously no exception. But there’s different dynamics at play with both cities and their respective metropolitan areas when it comes to housing costs, types, and policies.
In the simplest terms, it’s cheaper to rent in LA but far more expensive to buy a single-family home. New York rent is far higher, but buying a single-family home in the outer boroughs or metropolitan area costs less. The median sale price within New York City limits in 2023 is under $850,000 compared to $925,000 in Los Angeles. In comparison, the median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles in 2023 is $2,250 but it’s $4,250 for a 1-bedroom apartment in New York.
However, buying an apartment in LA can cost about the same or even less than it does in New York and with more amenities and expedited process. Nearly all apartments for sale in Los Angeles are condos which are owned in fee-simple like a single-family home. Whereas the prevailing form of homeownership in New York is stock co-operative where you will own shares in the housing corporation but technically lease the apartment. The co-op application and interview process are notoriously difficult and time-consuming, and your application can be forgotten or rescinded—even if you’ve made a cash offer the seller accepted!
As prospective renters or owners, New Yorkers moving to LA already played this game on the hardest difficulty setting and will be pleasantly surprised by both the sales and rental processes. Competition for rented apartments isn’t as fierce as it is back in Gotham where a tiny mice-infested walk-up will have two more applicants with higher incomes right behind you. Buying a house in Koreatown costs significantly more than it would in Queens, but buying a condo anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area is a far cheaper and simpler transaction with no board approvals required.
Best of all, LA is a city designed around creative and unconventional careers. New York landlords want to see an annual income of 30-40 times the monthly rent, which can be hard to quantify if you’re self-employed with unpredictable income. LA landlords tend to want your monthly income to be three times the asking rent. Property managers are also likely to fast-track your approval if you can prove you have enough cash to ride out the duration of the lease.
As an added bonus, more properties in LA County than ever are being covered under California’s new statewide rent control edict. This even includes market-rate and luxury rentals. Read our full guide on Los Angeles rent control to learn more about how it works in and around LA.
Job and Career Opportunities
Both New York and Los Angeles are bastions of the entertainment industry and major reasons why people move there. While there’s plenty of opportunities in film and TV in front of and behind the camera in both cities, moving to Los Angeles from New York becomes a more appealing prospect due to the cultural aspects and lower rent. However, there are also subsets of the industry that tend to have stronger presence on opposite coasts.
Plenty of successful writers and editors live and play in LA but the publishing industry remains a Manhattan stronghold. If you’re in the video games industry, independent game makers and the other professions that support them are more likely to find high-paying and steadier work in west coast hotbeds like LA and San Francisco.
People also argue that you can be an influencer anywhere, but LA’s firm enmeshment of the film industry keeps TikTok houses and individual creators going because it’s a lot harder to get a last-minute camera operator in Manhattan or anywhere else. The beauty industry also has plenty of presence in New York but Los Angeles takes it to the next level as far as job options and business opportunities go.
Overall, Los Angeles has more infrastructure at both state and private business levels to accommodate the film industry. You’ll notice it when you see signs in salons, restaurants, stores, and even offices and schools proclaiming “Ask us about filming here”.
For careers outside the entertainment industry, both cities are excellent places for entrepreneurial and creative types. Civil service and finance jobs are plentiful enough in the greater Los Angeles area, although New York is home to a larger number of government agencies and is the financial capital of the US. The aerospace sector also accounts for several major employers in the Los Angeles area and jobs in this field attract many new residents.
Cultural Differences You Don’t Always Notice
There’s plenty of obvious cultural and environmental differences between the two cities.
But when you’re moving to Los Angeles from New York, there’s so many subtle differences in day-to-day life northeasterners don’t pick up on right away. Here’s some of them to keep in mind.
Be Prepared for Inconsistent Business Hours
New York is the city that never sleeps. Los Angeles has a bedtime for the most part, although you’ll find the scant 24-hour drugstore and late-night taco joints. But the thing that will drive New Yorkers moving to LA up the wall is the utter lack of consistency with operating hours across the board – Los Angeles is a casual city and some businesses operate accordingly.
East Coast establishments tend to stay open til 9PM at least and you can usually expect the same operating hours daily. But this is not the case in LA. A brunch place may be literally only open just for that and you’ll find the chairs atop the tables at 2PM. But when you show up at noon the next day, it’s totally shuttered! Then you’re flummoxed that it’s 5PM on a Sunday in a busy shopping district yet Trader Joe’s is ushering you out because you’re too late to shop. Even though Apple Maps said they close at 9!
Don’t be surprised to find that stores, bars, bakeries, restaurants, and recreation areas close early by New York standards. They’ll also often be closed one or a few random days of the week and with completely inconsistent hours every day. This takes some getting used to and you might need to frequently check their websites and social feeds if you’re not a regular.
Los Angeles is a City of Cities
It’s very easy to demarcate where everything is in New York City and environs. The Bronx is the only borough where it eventually becomes Westchester County, Manhattan and Staten Island are islands, New Jersey is separated by the Hudson, Brooklyn and Queens are separated by the Pulaski Bridge and the Long Island Railroad tracks, and you can tell when Queens turns into Long Island proper. Each region, borough, and neighborhood has a distinctly different feel but with an overarching similarity.
LA has a similar dynamic as far as this feeling goes. But when you look at a map or drive or ride down the same boulevard for a long time, you may not realize that you ducked in and out of the actual City of Los Angeles multiple times. The borders are twisty and not clear-cut like the five boroughs and multiple bodies of water that separate the regions.
This can cause confusion when it comes to elections, taxes, tenants’ rights, and other civic aspects of daily life. You might semantically be in LA but your friends and family don’t understand why their care packages are addressed to West Hollywood or Santa Monica and not Los Angeles, and that it’s not the same as Jackson Heights, NY instead of Queens, NY with your old address. They’re literally different cities in the same county.
The NYC subway doesn’t leave city limits but LA Metro goes to multiple cities and counties. The Metro A line running from Azusa to Long Beach is currently the longest light rail in the world! Be mindful that once you’re farther outside city limits, use “Southern California” or “greater Los Angeles area” as a catch-all if you’re not sure where exactly you are or what to use as a demonym.
Lack of Centralized Nightlife Areas
LA definitely has rich nightlife and neighborhoods that are home to various cultural groups and subcultures. But the dynamic is drastically different compared to hitting the town in NYC. The Lower East Side, the Village, and Chelsea have long been the helms of Manhattan nightlife as is bar-hopping and pre-gaming before a show or club. But you can also just walk down Avenue A and expect to run into people in your community whether or not you have the same plans.
There are clusters of clubs, bars, and venues in LA but bar-hopping usually requires a designated driver or getting in and out of Ubers all night. A venue dedicated to one subculture could be miles away from the next closest one and you’re definitely not walking there inebriated and seeing who else you run into. This can make it harder to make new friends or get involved in scenes and find your new third places. Fortunately, Instagram makes it easy to stay connected to active venues and promoters, and music culture is thriving in LA more than it is in New York in the 2020s.
Donut Shops are EVERYWHERE
It’s a little ironic that a city so obsessed with fitness and healthy eating is literally the donut capital of the world. The infamously health-conscious metropolis is certainly not above Instagram-worthy galaxy donuts, cereal-dipped donuts, and classic unpretentious flavors like jelly and old-fashioned glazed.
Angel City has more donut shops per capita than anywhere else and it’s kind of hilarious that you’ll easily find your neighborhood donut shop a block away from the strip mall that has a smoothie bar next to a CrossFit gym.
Interested in learning more? Check out the documentary The Donut King on Hulu.
Is it Cheaper to Live in Los Angeles or New York?
Some aspects of life cost about the same while others are definitely cheaper in LA. Starting a family in both cities is expensive but buying a home is more tenable in the New York City area than Los Angeles. In contrast, renting costs less in LA and southern California in general. New renters also generally have more rights in the City of Los Angeles compared to New York City and California has stronger renter protections at the state level than New York.
However, New Yorkers moving to LA may be in for a shock when they find out their landlord requires them to have tenant insurance and that it’s common for them to make you pay for water, sewer, and trash pickup. In New York, you’re only responsible for electricity and gas. But even with these new utility bills, the total monthly load is still usually far less than what you’d pay in New York (and it’s a good idea to have tenant insurance regardless).
Childcare averages $1,430 per month in Los Angeles and New York is one of the most expensive places in the country in terms of childcare costs, averaging $23,000 per year or $1,916 per month. Pre-K and transitional kindergarten are universal in California as of the 2025-2026 school year. Pre-K is universal in NYC but not the state and proposals for universal childcare at the city level have picked up steam but not been enacted.
If you don’t have health insurance through an employer, spouse, parent, or government program, both Covered California and New York State of Health have similar thresholds for subsidized state healthcare versus a plan that qualifies for the federal advance premium tax credit.
LA is slightly cheaper than New York when it comes to average grocery costs. This varies by lifestyle, food allergies, and dietary needs but it roughly costs the same to go out to eat, although the pedestrian culture in New York makes it easier to find incredibly cheap meals on the go that you don’t have to cook. LA has its share of these gems as well, but lower rent and larger kitchens encourage more home cooking.
New York is notoriously car-hostile and many people opt not to drive at all unless their career or other circumstances necessitates it. While it’s expensive to maintain a car in both cities, it’s exponentially more expensive to do so in New York. Insurance alone is almost $500 less per year in LA. At $2.75 a ride or $127 for a monthly Metrocard, public transportation is also cheaper in LA.
Our detailed Los Angeles public transportation guide explains it more thoroughly, but Tap cards work with several agencies while the Metrocard only works with a few agencies. LA Metro monthly passes are $50 and single rides are $1.75. But unlike the NYC subway that never sleeps, LA’s public transit doesn’t operate as late or consistently. It’s possible to live without a car in LA but not to the ubiquitous level seen in New York.
Overall, it’s cheaper to live in LA than New York unless you’re leaving several generations of rent control behind instead of a market-rate apartment.
What Months Are Best to Move to LA?
If at all possible, aim for the end of the year. You’re more likely to snag a good deal on an apartment in November or December because winter just isn’t a popular time to move, especially moving to Los Angeles from New York. Though keep in mind that it takes longer for trucks and containers to reach the west coast because of snow and other harsh conditions.
Landlords tend to want to beef up their rent rolls before the year ends and many developments offer deals to attract new tenants late in the year, like a free month’s rent or a few months of free parking. You’ll also arrive before the pilot season influx, which kicks off in late January and runs until April or May and can make it harder to find an apartment (and thus cost more).
Is Living in LA Better Than New York?
Ultimately, this depends on your lifestyle, career, and your needs, wants, and goals.
Many New Yorkers who made the jump find themselves longing to go back to those centralized nightlife districts where one can faceplant into a huge slice of pizza at 3AM after carousing on a crowded block between hitting multiple clubs. Others who had to live above said clubs don’t miss all the drunk laughter and arguments at all hours of the day.
You might give up career opportunities leaving New York then gain completely different ones in LA, as the case usually is for people in media and entertainment. For those in film, TV, and video games in particular, moving to LA is often a rite of passage and a surer path to stable income. But in other industries, you might be taking a bigger risk unless you can work remotely.
It ultimately comes down to which aspects of living in LA or New York that you want the most and what you’re willing to give up. Once you’ve experienced in-unit laundry, you find yourself missing the homeland far less since it only exists in fairy tales and condos with seven-figure price tags back home.
When it comes to moving to Los Angeles from New York, there are culture shocks you might never get used to, but it’s hard to go wrong with lower living costs, miles of beaches, and having both abject wilderness and a bustling downtown close to your doorstep.