10 Cheapest Places to Live in California

Updated On February 17, 2024

As the home of top tourist attractions, including Disneyland, Beverly Hills, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the cost of living in California is 35% higher than in most other US states.

California is among the top three most expensive places to live in the US.

With soaring housing costs, there’s no wonder so many Golden State locals are seeking cheaper living alternatives.

So, is it possible to find cheap or affordable housing in California?

If you’re looking for some of the cheapest cities in California for an extended stay or relocating to the Golden State – this guide is for you!

The good news is – there are a few inexpensive hidden gems in the area.

Our guide provides a glimpse into some of the cheapest places to live in the Golden State.

Cheap cost of living data is based on a comparison to some of the state’s more expensive options, like Los Angeles, San Diego, or Santa Barbara, where housing costs can skyrocket into the millions.

What Factors Influence California’s Cost of Living?

  • Housing Costs – Rents, Mortgage Payments, Property Taxes, Homeowners Insurance
  • Utilities – Electricity, Natural Gas, Water, Sewer, Trash Disposal
  • Taxes – State. Local, Income, Sales
  • Transportation – Vehicle Costs, Gas, Maintenance, Insurance, Registration Fees, Public Transit
  • Healthcare – Insurance Premiums, Copayments, Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses

10 Cheapest Places to Live in California

The average cost of living in US cities can vary by region, amenities, and other factors.

Housing data reports show that most Americans pay an average rent or mortgage cost of around $1,700.00 per month.

California is among the US states reporting some of the highest costs of living in the land, along with Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York.

For perspective, potential residents should know that the average cost of rent for a two-bedroom apartment in California cities can be as low as $1,400.00 and as high as $3,200.00.

Low-cost cities below offer affordable housing options on the lower end of the cost spectrum.


1. Bakersfield

Kern County residents living in Bakersfield enjoy living in serene surroundings where locals pay lower taxes than many other states around the country.

Prospective residents should know that while prices for housing, food, health care, transportation, and services are more expensive than in most other states in the US, these costs are less than half of those of neighboring cities in California.

Bakersfield’s residents pay an average of around 23% less than their neighbors for the costs of housing and everyday services.


2. Eureka

Towering redwoods and crisp Pacific air in this Victorian-themed town beckon potential homeowners to this coastal California town just north of the bustling city of San Fransisco.

The costs of living in Eureka include lower rents that fall between $1,300.00 – $2,000.00 for a small apartment with up to three bedrooms.

Cost of living reports show that a single adult spends just over $36,000.00 per year on living in Eureka.

These costs will increase for married couples and families with children.


3. Fresno

California’s residents seeking solace from the state’s extremely high housing prices find refuge in the San Joaquin Valley south of San Francisco.

Fresno’s residents enjoy an excellent quality of life with buzzing busy streets and an agricultural feel on the outskirts of town.

Locals pay lower costs of living than many of its nearby neighbors in the Golden State.

Neighborhood data reports show that Fresno residents can expect to pay just under $300.00 per month for utilities, and around $1,325.00 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.

Desert Edge
Desert Edge

4. Desert Edge

Desert Edge residents trade high prices and towering cityscapes for the lowest rents and homebuying costs in California’s Mojave Desert.

While the cost of living in Desert Edge may cause sticker shock for newcomers from cheaper states, residents find solace in this hidden neighborhood featuring farmer’s markets bursting with fresh produce and easy access to amenities like Joshua Tree National Park.

Homeowners and renters in Desert Edge pay almost 13% less than their neighbors for everyday costs like housing, food, and healthcare, representing the lowest total cost of living in the state.

Big River
Big River

5. Big River

Big River makes the list of California’s cheapest cities to live in with its quirky community situated along the Mendocino Coast.

People living just outside of major metropolitan areas like in Big River pay about $1,320.00 per month for rent on a two-bedroom apartment.

The median home prices in this area are much lower than almost every other California town, with average prices at around $114,000.00.

Big River is also relatively safe for residents when it comes to concerns about violent crime rates, which are lower than the national average in this area.

East Valley
East Valley

6. East Valley

Living in the East Valley just outside of San Bernadino, CA gives locals affordable access to a suburban community with easy access to city amenities.

East Valley costs are substantially less than living in most other areas of the state and 5% lower than the national average.

Homeowners pay lower costs for buying a home and renters pay more than 50% less than the state and national averages for rent in this quiet town with a peaceful and close-knit atmosphere that is ideal for families with children.


7. Lancaster

Neighborhood reports from Best Places cost of living calculators say Lancaster’s newcomers can expect a unique blend of natural beauty, historical charm, and aerospace ambitions in this California town.

Renters in Lancaster pay between $1,300.00 for a small studio, $1,400-$1,700.00 for a one-bedroom apartment, and between $1,880.00-2,150.00 for a two-bedroom in this area.

Lancaster transplants can also find lower costs for health care and groceries in this otherworldly California town which features breathtaking rock formations amid majestic redwood trees.


8. Palmdale

Palmdale, CA sits just 60 miles outside of the busy Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Anaheim Metro area with a laid-back pace and friendly family atmosphere.

Rent Café reports an average rent for a small apartment coming in at just under $2,000.00 per month in Palmdale.

Although this number is higher than most other US cities, Palmdale’s local rent costs pale in comparison to those of nearby metro areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco, whose rents average between $2,719.00 and $3,267.00 respectively.


9. Stockton

California home seekers can find Stockton CA nestled inconspicuously in the San Joaquin River.

This affordable town offers a blend of waterfront charm with an urban feel.

Homeowners and renters in Stockton enjoy a reasonable cost of living that is 14% lower than the costs of buying or renting a home in other California cities.

Their current cost of living is noticeably higher than other US cities by more than 20%.

However, residents pay lower costs for food, healthcare, and services here than in the rest of the Golden State.


10. Victorville

Victorville homeowners pay less to buy a home than around 5% of their California neighbors in this desert town located along historical Route 66.

Neighborhood housing reports show lower housing costs and taxes that make this area attractive to singles, couples, and families with children with dreams of Wild West Adventures and mosaic desert sunsets.

This California city offers a unique landscape where history, community spirit, indigenous cultures, and adrenaline intertwine.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Factors Contribute to the Low Cost of Living in California’s Cheapest Cities?

While the state of California offers some of the highest living costs in the nation, residents of its cheapest cities pay substantially less for housing, food, and transportation costs.

Incoming residents will be happy to know that although housing costs can be exorbitant, California pays some of the lowest taxes in the US.

This is another contributing factor to the low cost of living in affordable cities.

What Housing Options are Available in California’s Cheapest Cities?

Newcomers to California cities will find a variety of Victorian-style homes for rent or purchase in its cheapest cities.

Low-cost living options also include apartments, duplexes, luxury rentals, and subsidized housing.

Find new rental homes and local homes for sale by visiting real estate websites and local classified sites online.

What Should I Know About California Weather Before I Move There?

Living in California means that weather systems and climate can vary drastically between regions that are just a few miles apart.

Common local weather concerns include strong Santa Ana Winds, and droughts which can substantially affect water availability for everyday use and when uncontrollable wildfires strike.

What are Some of the Benefits of Living in California?

California is one of the most well-known and most visited states in the US.

The Golden State is home to a ton of popular local attractions including Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Universal Studios, Disneyland, and wonders like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco.

Locals also appreciate the Mediterranean climate that brings war, dry summers, and cool wet winters where residents can enjoy most outdoor activities year-round.

What is the Crime Rate Like in California’s Cheapest Cities?

The crime rates in California’s cheapest cities vary by location.

While some of the cheaper towns in the state report high levels of violent crime or property crime, others report almost non-existent levels of crime.

Find more information on local crime rates by visiting online neighborhood research sites like Neighborhood Scout or Best Places to learn about violent crimes and property crimes happening in California cities.

Newcomers need to do their due diligence and research neighborhood crime statistics before buying or renting a new home in one of the Golden State’s cheapest cities.

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