Priuses are extremely common even in smaller California burgs. Anywhere near the LA metro area there will be no shortage of people who can work on them. There are dealerships all over the place. I agree that the Prius is an excellent choice if you have a commute of any length. If you have a shorter commute the savings on fuel will take a long time to pay for the higher purchase price. If you have a shortish commute the Honda Fit would be a good inexpensive choice. It’s remarkably roomy, and a very good value. The Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, and Mazda2 are other inexpensive, well made very small cars. None will be very comfortable for a long commute as they are noisier and don’t ride as well as bigger cars.
If you want something a little larger than the Fit, the Mazda3 is an excellent choice, very efficient, reliable, and even fun to drive. It comes as both a conventional sedan and as a handy hatchback. The ubiquitous Civic and Corolla are popular and very reliable, but also fairly dull. The Corolla is exceptionally roomy and has a nice interior. The Hyundai Elantra is another popular car in this category, and can be a good deal.
The mid-sized Mazda6 is also an excellent car, but in a class with many other fine cars. They are very economical and get gas mileage very similar to compacts (highway mileage.) The Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima are also fine vehicles in this class (plus several others).
It used to be that conventional hybrids got the stickers to use car pool lanes, but now they are reserved for certain plug-in vehicles, most not very practical as an only car.