Cost of Living in California Cities: These Are the Top 5

Updated On October 6, 2023
California Los Angeles at night

It is the most populated U.S. state and the third-largest by area.

The state capital is Sacramento.

An interesting fact is that this state has the fastest declining population and economy in the USA.

More people leave California for other states yearly than move into California from other states due to the high cost of living.

Hence, in this post below, we will discuss the actual cost of living in California and which cities in this state are the most expensive for living.

Is it Expensive to Live in California?

As has been noted, it depends where you live.

Big cities are expensive, particularly San Francisco.

Keep in mind that California is the third-largest state in the U.S. after Alaska and Texas, so the cost to live there varies seriously from city to city.

In fact, cities vary from 5–98% higher in cost than the average cities in America.

The cost of living in California is $2290, which is 1.29 times more expensive than the average in the United States.

After all, California ranked in 3rd place as the most expensive state for living in the United States.

Let’s see this through costs about housing, utilities, food, and transportation, and in the end, we will show you the top five most expensive cities in this state.

Housing Costs

First of all, for most people, housing is the main factor of the budget.

In that matter, we could say that California houses are expensive in some cities like San Francisco, but then, in Sacramento, they are incredibly cheap.

The average housing value in California is $568,500 compared to $240,500 in U.S average value.

As for rent, the prices vary because of the location of the apartment.

Whether the one-bedroom apartment is in City Centre or outside of the Centre, it costs up to $1,400.00 to $2,886.00.

Sure, prices like those can take the wind right out of your sails.

But remember, California is a large state.

So, there is still hope in finding housing prices within your budget limit when you look across the whole state.

Utility Costs

On average, Californians pay a little higher than most states for utilities like energy and phone use.

While Bakersfield might have cheaper housing, it has one of the highest utility costs in California—nearly 43% higher than the national average.

For example, the bill for electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage per month is around $80.00 to $350.00.

On the other side, for one min. of prepaid mobile tariff local, in California, the average price is about $0.05 to $0.15.

Food Costs

If you want to have a meal in an inexpensive restaurant, you will probably pay up to $11.00 to $30.00.

As for fast food meals, the prices are almost standard, like in other states in America.

E.g., McDonald’s Standard Meal is around $8.00 to $10.00.

One liter of milk in a local supermarket is from $0.79 to $1.53, while a loaf of white bread is around $4.50.

Transportation Costs

Take a deep breath because California has the most expensive transportation costs in the United States.

Costs like car maintenance and gas prices guzzle away 27–45% more of people’s money than anyplace in the nation.

To point out, only a one-way ticket for local transport is from $3 up, while the monthly pass for transport is from $ 75.00-135.00.

Health, Fitness, and Education Costs

The average medical care is approximately from $1300 to $2000 per month for a family of four.

Moreover, a short visit to a local doctor, costs from $116 to $220.

Following, the pass from fitness club per one month can be from $20.00 to enormously $60.00, while a cinema ticket for one person is around $10.00 to $17.00.

As far as education is concerned, it is of particular importance to note that California has pretty low prices for education.

The Top Five Expensive Cities in This State

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is famous for glamorous movie stars, but the movie industry plays a small role in the whole economy.

The city’s shipping industry also plays a role, as the Port of Los Angeles is one of the busiest areas in the world.

Specific ZIP codes, such as the much-ballyhooed 90210, push up housing costs.

The average price for rent per month for one-bedroom apartment Downtown is $1956.

Dinner in a Restaurant for two is incredibly $69.5, and fast food meal, Equiv. McDonald’s is $9.05.

As for transportation costs, in Los Angeles, a local transport ticket in one way is $1.76, which is not so expensive price.

But, a monthly ticket for local transport is $96.4, and not everyone can afford this cost.

San Diego

San Diego is an attractive place where the climate is very nice.

However, you wouldn’t want to live here.

It is the most expensive city in California.

For example, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment here is $1.806.

Moreover, the average home cost is the most critical part of the cost of living difference.

Compared to the national average price, the cost of living in San Diego is $2541, which is in the top 2% of the most expensive cities in the world.

San Jose

The average cost of living in this city is $2754, which is in the top 1% of the most expensive cities in the world.

One-bedroom apartment in the downtown area, 40 m2 for rent, with utilities included, is $2,223.

Local transport tickets in San Jose are $2.99, and cinema tickets for one person are shocking $17.2.

Above all, a doctor’s visit in this city can cost you $127.

San Francisco

People decide to leave San Francisco every day, as the city’s staggeringly high cost of living and out-of-reach housing prices.

The average home prices are above $1.4 million inside the city, whose major industries include tourism, IT, and financial services.

As for rent, the price for a one-bedroom apartment Downtown, 40 m2 is $2470.

San Francisco becomes on top with the highest health care costs in California, 30% higher than the average city in the nation.

Due to that, a single doctor’s visit in this city will cost you $152.


The average cost of living in Fresno is $1831, which is in the top 7% of the most expensive cities in the world.

The most expensive part of living in this city is housing and renting.

The average price for home sales is $530,105, while the average cost per month for rent is $1,941.

As for other costs, we can say that they are approximately the same compared to other cities mentioned before.

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2 Comments on Cost of Living in California Cities: These Are the Top 5

  1. As a California resident, I can attest to the high cost of living in this state. While there are affordable areas, big cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles can be extremely expensive.

  2. Based on the information provided, it is clear that California is an expensive state to live in, with cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego being among the most expensive.

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