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San Francisco, CA DEALER RATINGS & REVIEWS
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San Francisco, CA Driving Tips and Experiences
Is a car necessary in San Francisco?
Nice to have
You can get by without
Don't really need one
No need at all
San Francisco, CA
I would suggest that drivers to the city study a map ahead of time, simply to familiarize themselves with the major East-to-West running streets and a handful of the major North-to-South running streets. While San Francisco can seem overwhelmingly difficult to navigate, it actually is not. The streets are laid-out in a grid, so if one can simply remember the names and orientations of about 10 key streets, then it's easy to regain one's sense of direction after getting turned around... Just be careful not to get forced onto entering the I-80 on accident, which leads to the Bay Bridge, because there's no turning back until you reach Oakland/Berkeley.
The most important thing to know about buying a car in the city is that it's better to leave the city to find an affordable dealership. Because San Francisco is so small and the commercial rental spaces are so expensive, there are only luxury automobile dealerships in the city. The handful of small, used-cars sales lots are completely untrustworthy and should be avoided. One could attempt to use Craigslist to buy a car, but honestly it would be easier just to drive across the Bay Bridge (10-15 minutes) and find a well stocked dealership in the Oakland/Emoryville area.
My favorite memory from driving in San Francisco came a few years ago on the night of the birthday of my friend Christine. My circle of friends and I would play a game with each other whenever it was someone's birthday: we would blind-fold the birthday boy/girl and drive them around and around and around San Francisco. Since the city is so compact and there are so many hills, it's easy for the blind-folded person to lose track of where they are. Then after all of the twists and turns, we would ultimately drive to a restaurant that was only 2 or 3 blocks away from our starting point. Occasionally, we would actually drive someone to a far away restaurant. On the day of Christine's birthday, I was driving and trying so hard to get her turned around and lost while blind-folded that I myself got lost in San Francisco. I entered a neighborhood that I wasn't familiar with, and after a few minutes I was sitting at a red light trying to figure out where to go (we did not have working GPS). As I was sitting at the red light, I suddenly realize that the street that I was on was not a one-way street, rather it was a 2-way street and I was sitting in the left-hand lane, facing oncoming traffic opposite me across the intersection. As the light turned green, I quickly signaled and tried to cut-back to the right-hand lane. When I looked over the car that was yielding to let me back into the correct lane was actually a San Francisco police car. I made eye-contact with the officer who scowled at me, then I saw him glace over and see my blind-folded friend Christine in the back seat. All of a sudden he turned on his lights and sirens!... but he looked away from me and sped off to handle some more important dispatch call. Whew!
California Street. California Street is one of the quintessential San Francisco streets. It has tons of super-steep hills and there are even cable-car tracks running along some portions of it. Therefore, there are times when you can be driving in your car and a cable car will be moving along next to you in traffic. California Street also passes through Chinatown and the Financial district. The views along California Street are phenomenal!
San Francisco, CA
Check Google Maps often for up to date traffic reports. You don't wanna be stuck in traffic that you could have otherwise avoided. Also, ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are great, but be careful not to use them during rush hours or the holidays, as prices can be though the roof.
Buying a car in the Bay Area is great because of the amount of choices there are. If you are on a budget, you can look on craigslist or go down to a local used car shop where you are bound to find a good deal if you know what you're doing. If you have a little bit more money and want to splurge you can go down to the Porsche dealer and find whatever high end car you want to indulge yourself in. The density of population lends it hand in helping you as a customer find the car that you are looking for, used or brand new.
I think one of the highlights of driving in the Bay Area is how beautiful the scenery in such a densely populated area can be if you are in the right place at the right time. I was on my way to Antioch, CA located in the East Bay Area, when I found myself on the off ramp for highway 4. The sun was just setting and the way that it lit up the sky around Mt. Diablo was something that I have never forgotten. San Francisco is also a great place to drive by some great views if you know where to look and how to avoid the traffic during rush hour.
Highway 13. Highway 13 is a pretty small highway for the bay area in that parts of it only have 3 lanes on both sides - a rarity for a place this densely populated and near Oakland. It is my favorite to drive because at the Lincoln exit you can see the LDS Temple peeking through the trees and as soon as you exit it is in plain view for you to see. It sits on a hill in Oakland that overlooks the whole bay area and gives you a really unique way to see the city, especially at night.