Many Los Angeles visitors arrive in personal cars or rented ones. The major highways into Los Angeles include I-5 from San Diego or Sacramento, US Hwy 101 from the north, I-15 from Las Vegas and I-10 from Phoenix. Use this distance calculator to find out how far Los Angeles is from other places in California.
Time Considerations for Driving to Los Angeles
More people visit Los Angeles from the San Francisco area than anywhere else and most visitors fly into LAX, so we'll use that trip as an example. Here are the facts
- A flight from SFO, Oakland or San Jose to LAX takes a little more than 1 hour
- You need to arrive at the airport at least 1 hour early to check in
- It could take up to 1 hour to get to the airport and park
- On arrival in Los Angeles, it will take at least 30 minutes to get off the airplane and pick up your luggage
- It will take at least another 30 minutes to pick up a rental car or catch a shuttle
That all adds up to 4 hours. Depending on where you live, it could take 5 to 6 hours to drive to Los Angeles from San Francisco via the shortest route, and less if your destination is on the road between your starting point and the airport.
When you first think about it, the advantages of flying should to improve with longer distances. That's true if time is your primary concern. However, two or more people who have plenty of time may find costs about the same whether they drive or fly, even for trips that might take two days of driving.
Cost Considerations for Driving to Los Angeles
- Get the distance between many California locations and Los Angeles here - or look it up at your favorite online mapping website. Use that, your gas mileage and the current gasoline prices to figure out how much gasoline will cost.
- For a single person who has flexibility to plan ahead and choose lower-priced times of day to travel, the cost difference between flying and driving in a fuel-efficient automobile will probably be small.
- The cost advantages tip toward driving if two or more people are traveling.
In 2007, VIA magazine (northern California's AAA publication) compared flying and driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Staff members (each with a child) made the trip on the same day. At then-current costs, they found driving less expensive, but tedious and time-consuming. Flying was fast but stressful.
In response to that article, economics professor David Tufte from Southern Utah University offered a different analysis, taking into account less obvious factors:
- Greenhouse gas emissions (about the same in each case)
- Risk of a fatal accident
- How much someone would have to pay you to be on the road when you'd rather be doing something else