Re: Wouldn't work there, unless I planned on living there until the end
When switching countries you need to look at what tax treaties exist. In theory it should allow you to claim back tax from one side.
As for the American Way, all sorts of things seem to be set up to make you spend your money. California in particular has the smog test for cars, for which you pay eight or so dollars for a certificate and something a lot more to whoever does the test. Unlike in the UK where the MOT test has a maximum price mandated by government, California does the true market economy of letting all the smog testers compete with each other on price, although in practice most of them end up the same. If you've got a modern car, it's ten minutes interrogating the car's engine management system and you're about seventy dollars lighter. That's a good hourly rate. Sadly it's not possible to just read the numbers yourself.
If you want to do anything to your house you need a permit. I can see that for structural stuff that may be sensible, given the earthquakes, but you're supposed to do the same for all sorts of other stuff too. Much stuff has to be inspected by someone with the appropriate license (with an 's'), so that's even more money required.
On the subject of taxes, it usually costs you money to do that - a lot of people pay someone to do all the paperwork, or buy a commercial software package to do it themselves.
As for the comments about petrol prices, it does vary wildly. Back in January (when Cambridge were still in the FA Cup) it really did get down that low. At the moment it's floating around three dollars a gallon. Don't forget the obscene amount of tax and duty on UK petrol - if the crude price doubles then it can cause the pump price in the US to nearly double, whereas in the UK it's going to go up 20% because most of what you pay is a fixed amount