If you’re thinking about moving to California, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is how much it’s going to cost you. And there are a lot of factors that go into the cost of living, including the type of housing you need and what amenities are important to you.
California is one of the most expensive states to live in, but this is primarily due to the state’s large population and the high cost of living in major cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles.
The state does not levy an income tax, but it does levy a high sales tax. California’s average cost of living is $68,328, which is significantly higher than the national average of $51,740.
While California is known for its sunny weather and beautiful beaches, it also contains Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth, as well as Redwood National Forest and Sequoia National Park, which contain some of the oldest trees on the planet.
Let’s look at the most expensive places to live in California so you know where to go (or not go) next.
Most Expensive Places to Live in California
20. Stinson Beach
Stinson Beach is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a median home price of $4.4 million. The coastal town is located about 30 miles west of San Francisco and about 20 miles north of San Francisco International Airport.
It is popular among surfers, kayakers, and other beachgoers due to its pristine shoreline. Here’s what it’s like to live in Stinson Beach, the state’s most expensive zip code, which was recently named the most expensive in the country.
Stinson Beach is located just outside Stinson Gulch State Park, which also includes Red Rock Beach and the Dipsea Trail, a 7.4-mile hiking trail that travels through redwood forests and offers views of the ocean.
19. Portola Valley
With a median household income of $224,554, Portola Valley is one of the most expensive towns in California. Portola Valley is also California’s fourth safest city, with a crime rate that is 75% lower than the state average.
Portola Valley may be the place for you if you want to live in a low-key community surrounded by nature. It has no downtown area and a population of only 4,592 people.
The town is surrounded by parks and preserves, and there are trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Residents have panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean and are only a short drive from Stanford University.
Ross, known for its small-town atmosphere and charming shopping district, is one of the most expensive cities in California with a population of over 2,433. With a median home price of $3.8 million, it’s no wonder why. But that doesn’t mean all homes are priced out of reach.
In Ross, the median household income is $199,531 and the median family income is $228,438, according to Census data. The town has a mix of historic and modern homes in varying price points from the low $1 million to over $20 million.
What makes it so expensive? Ross is located in the Bay Area, one of the most expensive regions in the country. It is a small town with a limited housing inventory. This drives up prices even further. Ross is home to several high-end shops and restaurants.
And, many of the town’s residents are employed by tech companies or other high-paying industries. The town has excellent public schools, families move to Ross specifically for the schools, which drives up demand (and prices).
Atherton is located on the San Francisco Peninsula and is bordered by Menlo Park to the east, Redwood City to the south, West Menlo Park to the west, and unincorporated San Mateo County to the north.
The town has a population of about 7,000 people and is home to many tech billionaires. The median home value in Atherton is over $8 million, making it one of the most expensive places to live in the United States.
The high cost of living in Atherton is due to several factors, including the town’s proximity to Silicon Valley, its excellent public schools, and its safe and exclusive neighborhoods. Despite its high cost of living, Atherton is a desirable place to live, and its residents enjoy a high quality of life.
Belvedere is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a median home value of $4.9 million. The median home value has been on the rise for the past ten years and is still increasing.
The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,590, and the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $6,500. Belvedere has a population of about 2,100 people.
Belvedere is located on an island in San Francisco Bay. It is connected to Tiburon by a causeway, which includes a bike path that connects to the Tiburon Bike Path.
There are several factors that contribute to the high cost of living in Belvedere, including the city’s location, its amenities, and its reputation. Belvedere is located in the Bay Area of California, one of the most expensive regions in the state.
The city is also home to many high-end restaurants, shops, and businesses. In addition, Belvedere has a reputation for being an exclusive and affluent community.
15. Newport Beach
The city is located close to other expensive cities, including Laguna Beach and Newport Coast. It has a short 7-mile coastline but boasts some gorgeous beaches like Crystal Cove State Park.
Why is Newport Beach so expensive? The city is located in Orange County, which is one of the wealthiest regions in the state. The city is home to a number of affluent neighborhoods, including Corona del Mar and Balboa Island.
The city has a large number of luxury properties, such as waterfront homes and mansions. The cost of living in Newport Beach is also exacerbated by the high cost of living in California overall.
14. Santa Monica
Santa Monica is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a median home value of $1.8 million according to Zillow. Rents in Santa Monica are also high, at $3,740 per month for a one-bedroom apartment and $5,700 for a two-bedroom unit as of July 2017, according to Rent Jungle.
Santa Monica is an expensive place to live for many reasons. The city is situated on the coast of Southern California, it has sunny weather and a laid-back vibe that attracts people from all over the world.
It’s a major tourist destination, which drives up prices for everything from housing to food and entertainment. Santa Monica is home to many high-end stores and restaurants, as well as some of the most prestigious schools in the state.
Burlingame is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a cost of living index of 379.0. It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, about 20 miles south of San Francisco and 30 miles north of San Jose. The city is a suburb of San Francisco and has a population of 32,254.
Burlingame is popular among commuters as it has one of the best-connected public transportation systems in the country. The city’s bus system connects Burlingame to downtown San Francisco, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), and Caltrain. The average cost for a two-bedroom apartment in Burlingame is $2,517.
There are several reasons that trigger the high cost of living in Burlingame. One is the area’s proximity to Silicon Valley, which has made it a desirable location for tech workers and businesses.
Another factor is the limited amount of land available for development, which has driven up real estate prices. Burlingame has a high quality of life, with excellent schools, parks, and restaurants.
Related: Why is San Jose So Expensive?
12. Palo Alto
Palo Alto is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a median home value of $3.7 million. The city is also one of the highest-earning municipalities in the United States, with a median household income of $158,271 and a poverty rate of 6.1%. Palo Alto is an expensive place to live for a number of reasons.
The cost of housing is sky-high. The average price for a one-bedroom apartment in Palo Alto is $3,500. This is due in part to the limited supply of housing relative to demand.
Prices for basic necessities like food and gas are about 30% higher than the national average. Palo Alto is home to a number of high-priced industries, like tech and venture capital.
As a result, the average salary in Palo Alto is also quite high, at $125,476 per year. But even with a high salary, it can be difficult to afford to live in Palo Alto.
11. Los Altos
Hidden away in the undulating hills of San Francisco’s tech epicenter, Los Altos is a short drive from Palo Alto and Menlo Park, home to Facebook and other internet mega-corporations.
Los Altos has some of the best schools in the Bay Area and one of the lowest crime rates in California. Los Altos is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a median home value of $4,150,436 and an average monthly rent of $2,901.
What makes Los Altos so expensive? The town is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, one of the most expensive regions in the country.
Los Altos is a highly sought-after location for its excellent schools, safe neighborhoods, and close proximity to major tech companies. As a result, there is a large demand for housing in Los Altos, which drives up prices.
Many of the homes in Los Altos are older and lack the modern amenities that buyers are looking for, further driving up the cost. Therefore, it is not surprising that Los Altos is one of the most expensive places to live in the country.
10. Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills is located in Los Angeles County, about 10 miles west of downtown L.A. The city has a population of 33,015 and covers 5.7 square miles. The city’s population has grown by 2% in the last five years.
So what makes Beverly Hills so expensive? A big part of it has to do with location. Beverly Hills is conveniently located near downtown Los Angeles, as well as many popular tourist destinations.
The weather is also mild year-round, which makes it a desirable place to live. Beverly Hills has a reputation for being a safe and affluent community.
That reputation has helped to attract wealthy residents and high-end businesses, further driving up prices. Beverly Hills has strict zoning laws that limit the supply of housing, making it even harder for people to find a place to live.
9. Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is a beautiful city located on the Central Coast of California. With its mild climate, picturesque setting, and ample amenities, it’s no wonder that Santa Barbara is often considered one of the best places to live in California. However, such desirability comes at a price.
The median home price here is $1,681,033, which is just a bit more expensive than in San Francisco, and even the rentals are pricey, with a median value of $2,290 per month. A number of factors contribute to this high cost of living.
Santa Barbara is a relatively small city with limited land available for new construction. This limited supply helps to drive up prices, as there is greater competition for available homes.
Santa Barbara is a popular tourist destination, which contributes to higher prices for hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. The city has high taxes and a high cost of living, which further increases the price of living in Santa Barbara.
- City population: 156,177
- Median household income: $67,914
- Median home price: $733,725
- Median monthly rent: $2,145
- Unemployment rate: 9.3%
- Poverty rate: 14.2 %
Salinas is one of the most expensive cities in California with an average cost of living in Salinas is nearly 40.5% higher than the average cost of living in the rest of the country.
The median rent for an apartment in Salinas is $2,145, and the median price for a home is $733,725. The high cost of living in Salinas is due to a number of factors, including the city’s proximity to San Francisco, its mild climate, and its strong economy.
The city’s close proximity to major attractions like Monterey Bay and Carmel-by-the-Sea make it a desirable place to live. Salinas is home to a number of excellent schools and employers.
The city has a strong economy that attracts people and businesses, which further increases competition for housing.
7. Santa Ana
- Cost of living: 46.3% above the U.S. average
- City population: 332,610
- Median household income: $72,406
- Median home price: $806,406
- Median monthly rent: $2,053
- Unemployment rate: 3%
- Poverty rate: 15.7%
The city has a diverse population, with people from all over the world calling Santa Ana home. The city is also very welcoming to new residents, and there are plenty of things to do.
There are excellent schools, parks, and museums, and the city is just a short drive from Los Angeles and San Diego.
The weather is another huge selling point for Santa Ana – it’s sunny and warm all year round! Santa Ana California is one of the most expensive places to live in California, with a median home price that is over $806,406, and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is nearly $2,053 per month.
The high cost of living in Santa Ana is due to a number of factors, including the high demand for housing, the limited supply of homes, and the high cost of living in general in California.
Santa Ana is also a desirable place to live due to its proximity to Los Angeles and its wide range of amenities. This makes people pay a premium to live in Santa Ana.
6. Los Angeles
- Cost of living: 76.2% above the U.S. average
- City population: 3.973 million
- Median household income: $71,358
- Median home price: $991,551
- Median monthly rent: $2,734
- Unemployment rate: 5.3%
- Poverty rate: 16.89%
- Cost of a half-gallon of milk: $4.66
Los Angeles is a major city in California, United States of America. It is the second most populous city in the US after New York City and the third most populous city in North America after Mexico City and New York City.
Los Angeles is also the seat of Los Angeles County, which is the most populous county in the US. Los Angeles is known for its Mediterraneantropical climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood entertainment industry, and sprawling metropolis.
It has been ranked as the third-largest economy in the world and is home to six Fortune 500 companies. The city also has a diverse economy with agriculture, petroleum, fashion, technology, and tourism being some of its major industries.
Los Angeles is a global city with a diverse economy that includes aerospace, finance, film & television production, international trade & investment, manufacturing & logistics, new media & information technology, professional services such as law & medicine, and research & development.
The Greater Los Angeles metropolitan area has an estimated GDP of $880.23 billion (2020), making it one of the largest economies in the world.
5. Santa Barbara — California
- Cost of living: 117.9% above the U.S. average
- City population: 90,911
- Median household income: $81,618
- Median home price: $1,824,110
- Median monthly rent: $2,550
- Unemployment rate: 6% (2021)
- Poverty rate: 12.5%
- Cost of a half-gallon of milk: $4.66
Santa Barbara is one of the best and most affluent places to live in California. It has a Mediterranean climate, meaning that it has warm summers and mild winters.
The average temperature in Santa Barbara is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Santa Barbara also has beautiful beaches, including Elwood Beach and Leadbetter Beach.
The city is home to a number of different art galleries and museums, as well as a variety of shops and restaurants. Santa Barbara is also known for its wine industry, and there are a number of wineries located in the city.
Santa Barbara is an expensive place to live for a number of reasons. Santa Barbara is a desirable place to live, with good weather and a lot of amenities. This causes high demand for housing, which drives up prices.
Santa Barbara is a relatively small city, which means that there is limited competition for jobs and businesses can charge higher prices. Santa Barbara has a large tourist industry, which leads to higher prices for food, lodging, and other services.
4. San Diego
- Cost of living: 60.1% above the U.S. average
- City population: 1.415 million
- Median household income: $83,454
- Median home price: $981,548
- Median monthly rent: $2,916
- Unemployment rate: 3.2%
- Poverty rate: 9.5%
- Cost of a half-gallon of milk: $4.66
San Diego is a beautiful, coastal city located in southern California. It is known for its pristine beaches, year-round sunny weather, and abundance of outdoor activities. San Diego is also home to a large number of military personnel and their families, as well as a thriving tourist industry.
The city has a very diverse population, which contributes to its unique culture and vibrancy. There are several factors that contribute to the high cost of living in San Diego. One factor is the city’s location.
San Diego is situated on the coast, which makes it a desirable place to live. The climate is mild and sunny all year round, which attracts people from all over the country. The city is also home to a large number of military personnel and their families.
This leads to high demand for housing and limited supply. Another factor that contributes to the high cost of living in San Diego is the city’s economy.
The unemployment rate is low, and the average salary is high. This attracts people from all over the world who are looking for good job opportunities. San Diego has a large tourist industry.
Visitors come to the city to enjoy the sunny weather and wonderful attractions. This influx of tourists drives up prices for restaurants, hotels, and other businesses.
3. San Jose
- Cost of living: 115% above the U.S. average
- City population: 1.029 million (2020)
- Median household income: $117,324
- Median home price: $1,437,021
- Median monthly rent: $2,972
- Unemployment rate: 2.40%
- Poverty rate: 8.27%
San Jose is one of the best cities to live in California. The city has a Mediterranean climate, which means that it enjoys warm weather all year round.
The city is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, making it a great place for tech-savvy residents. The city is also home to a number of large companies, including Google and Facebook.
This leads to plenty of job opportunities available in San Jose. Moreover, the city offers a wide range of amenities, including excellent schools, parks, and museums.
In short, San Jose has something to offer everyone. What makes San Jose so expensive? There are a number of factors that contribute to the high cost of living in San Jose.
The first is the Silicon Valley tech industry, which has driven up housing prices and made basic necessities like food and child care much more expensive.
The second reason is the lack of affordable housing options, which has forced many residents into long commutes or cramped living situations.
The city’s proximity to San Francisco, which is one of the most expensive cities in the world. San Jose has a large number of high-end restaurants and stores, which add to the overall cost of living.
- Cost of living: 74.4% above the U.S. average
- City population: 422,575 (2020)
- Median household income: $80,143
- Median home price: $981,287
- Median monthly rent: $2,200
- Unemployment rate: 3.40%
- Poverty rate: 17.63%
Oakland is a large city located in the Bay Area of California. It is the third largest city in the state with a population of over 422,575 (2020) people. The city is known for its diverse population, arts and culture scene, and vibrant nightlife.
Oakland is also home to a number of professional sports teams, including the Golden State Warriors of the NBA. The city has a Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and warm summers.
Oakland is considered one of the best cities to live in the US due to its excellent public schools, safe streets, and affordable housing. The cost of living in Oakland is high, but it is still cheaper than nearby San Francisco.
Oakland is an ethnically diverse city with a large Hispanic and African American population. The city also has a large number of immigrants from Asia, particularly from Vietnam and China.
What makes Oakland so expensive? There are several factors that contribute to Oakland’s high cost of living. The strong demand for housing in the Bay Area.
With the tech industry booming in nearby Silicon Valley, many people are moving to Oakland in search of affordable housing. This has caused prices to rise sharply in recent years. Another factor is the lack of supply of new housing units.
Due to strict zoning regulations, it is difficult to build new housing in Oakland. Oakland is an urban area with a lot of amenities and close proximity to major cities like San Francisco and Berkeley. This makes it a desirable place to live, and thus drives up prices.
The city has experienced significant gentrification in recent years, as more people are moving to Oakland for its proximity to San Francisco and its vibrant culture. This has led to an increase in demand for housing, which has in turn driven up prices.
1. San Francisco
- Cost of living: 169.3% above the U.S. average
- City population: 874,784 (2020)
- Median household income: $119,136
- Median home price: $1,576,808
- Median monthly rent: $2,681
- Unemployment rate: 1.9%
- Poverty rate: 10.0%
San Francisco is often cited as one of the best and wealthiest cities to live in California, and it’s not hard to see why. The city boasts a diverse population, a mild climate, and a wide range of cultural and recreational activities.
San Francisco is also home to some of the best public schools in the country, and its residents enjoy a high standard of living. The city’s proximity to Silicon Valley makes it an ideal location for tech workers and entrepreneurs.
San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in California. The cost of living in San Francisco is nearly double the national average, and rent prices are some of the highest in the country.
The high cost of living is due to a number of factors, including the city’s strong economy, limited housing supply, and high demand for housing.
The strong economy in San Francisco is driven by the city’s status as a major tech hub. The city’s relatively small size, its location on the West Coast, and its popularity as a destination for both tourists and new residents.