It’s been confirmed - in mid-May, about half a dozen friends and I are taking a one-way flight into LAX, two of us are buying cars, and we’re driving back to Ohio/Pennsylvania.

I am one of those who will be car-buying - and this is where I ask for Oppo’s help. Not only do I have no idea what car I will be buying (or my budget, though that will be figured out in a month or two) but I’ve also never been to California or thereabout.

Ideas for cars

This car will replace the rusty-but-trusty 2002 Crown Vic P71 I’ve had for almost 5 years. Requirements are to be “the daily” which includes winter (aka brine fog) for 4-6 months out of the year, and needs to be reliable to be the “one good car” that no matter what I get into, there’s something to get me to work on Monday.

Now, this is Oppositelock and I am a sick man, so this can’t be any boring old car (especially since I’m travelling over 2,500 miles to get it). Looking for RWD or AWD (LSD preferred for RWD). Manual strongly preferred. New enough to not fall apart, and old enough to have some character and cost me <$10k at most (actual budget TBD). Bonus points for a wagon since I have hauling needs sometimes.

Samples of cars I have (at least passively) considered include: e36 328iS, first-gen IS300 (incl. sportcross, though no manual boooo), 80 series land cruiser (vetoed because fuel costs), volvo 740 (may not be reliable), e38 740 (will not be reliable), assorted WRXes (costly), and some others I can’t think of right now.

Other considerations

Being that we will be in CA for 2-3 days (then have a week planned for the drive back to be touristy) a lot of this will come down to what’s available at the time. I’m sure there’s some Oppos in southern California that have some ideas and can keep an eye out come closer to May... right? Maybe some who have a set of ramps to change oil on?

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How does one buy a car in CA? Do we need a notary to do the title? How do your transit tags work (since I have to drive it home)? What are the odds there is a branch of my bank out there so I can pay cash? Any suggestions of Things to do while in the area, and a good place to stay (out of the city) a couple nights?

Thank you in advance, and expect to hear more about this trip (and car-picking) as it comes together,