Many people dream of moving to California because of the warm weather and palm trees. But some are also scared to make the move because many of best places to live in California tend to have an extremely high cost of living.
If you're looking for affordable places to live in California, the northern part of the state is your best bet as the cost of living in Northern California is much lower than in SoCal. And some of the cheapest places to live in California, like Eureka also offer some of the best quality of life.
15 Cheapest Places to Live in California
- San Pablo
- Long Beach
- Costa Mesa
The cheapest place to live in California is Eureka. This historic port city in Northern California has a wonderful climate and unique charm and features a quaint old town full of Victorian mansions and other historic attractions. Median property values in Eureka are $328,000. Besides being affordable, Eureka is also often rated as one of the best places to live in California.
Stockton is another one of the cheapest cities to live in California. This quaint Northern California city is located in the San Joaquin Valley. It’s a low-key, suburban city with a warm feel. Median property values are only $335,000. Stockton is known for social problems like crime and homelessness, although residents report that there are plenty of good areas, in addition to the rougher parts. It’s maybe not the best city for families, but it’s fine for young or single adults looking to save money and still live in a city with opportunities and a suburban ambiance.
Clovis is an affordable, quiet, medium-sized city in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, just outside of Fresno. Known as the gateway to the Sierras, Clovis is positioned at the bottom of the Sierra Mountains. It’s a quaint city with gorgeous natural beauty. Median property values are just over $375,000, making it quite affordable by California standards. It’s a quiet residential area that’s great for families and working professionals who like the affordability and slow pace of life. Yosemite and Death Valley are both just a quick drive from Clovis, making it a great town for nature lovers.
Sacramento is the cheapest large city to live in California. It's also the capital of California and one of the state's most diverse cities. It has its own funky local culture and also features easy access to popular destinations like San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. Life in Sacramento is also much more affordable than some of California’s other major cities, and the median home value is only about $399,000. What Sacramento lacks in glitz and glam is more than makes up for in authentic local culture and high quality of life. It’s one of California’s overlooked gems, and it’s great for young adults and families looking to save money.
Vallejo is another one of the most affordable places to live in California. Vallejo is a waterfront city in the San Francisco Bay area. The city is home to a variety of tourist destinations like Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and the 1911 Empress Theatre, so there's a lot going on in Vallejo. Median property values are only around $440,000, and the cost of living is much lower than in other parts of the Bay area. It’s a great place to raise a family and provides easy access to San Francisco and other attractions.
Redlands is an affordable California city in the heart of San Bernardino County’s Inland Empire. It’s a low-key, suburban area with quaint charm. With property values around $458,000, Redlands is a great place to live for those who want a safe suburban area with relatively easy access to Los Angeles.
Murrieta is one of the cheapest cities to live in California's Inland Empire. This quiet, landlocked city in Riverside County is one of the fastest-growing cities in the state and offers quality public schools, a sparse suburban atmosphere, and a low crime rate. Median property values are around $484,000, and the area has a low cost of living. It’s a great city for families and those who don’t mind being a bit removed from the beaches and tourist areas.
Vacaville is a mid-sized city in Solano County, Northern California. It’s positioned halfway in between San Francisco and Sacramento, providing residents easy access to either city. There are plenty of shopping and entertainment options in the city’s historic downtown. With median property values around $496,000 and a laid-back semi-urban atmosphere, Vacaville is a great bet for those looking to save some money without sacrificing their quality of life.
9. San Pablo
San Pablo is a suburb of San Francisco that is an affordable pocket in a notoriously expensive city. It’s a great area for those who are looking to move to San Francisco for work or other opportunities and need an affordable place to live. Median property values are only around $520,000. It’s another hidden gem that features great schools and a low crime rate. It’s a quiet, suburban area that is perfect for those who want easy access to Berkley and San Francisco but don’t want to pay the prices.
Oxnard is a quiet seaside community in Ventura County. It’s an agricultural community that offers residents peace and tranquility without the exorbitant costs of many beach cities in the area. Median property values in Oxnard are around $530,000, making it one of the Cheapest places to live in California near the beach. Oxnard also has a small-town charm many residents love.
Temecula is a quaint city in Riverside County, California. Right in the heart of the wine country, Temecula is surrounded by gorgeous rolling hills and vineyards. It’s a popular tourist destination because of its spectacular scenery and mild weather. Yet, with property values around $540,000, it’s much more affordable than other Southern California towns. Temecula is great for young families who want a safe, affordable city with a high quality of life in SoCal.
12. Long Beach
Long Beach is one of the cheapest cities in Southern California. A coastal city in the Southern part of Los Angeles County, Long Beach is the seventh-largest city in California, and it’s a quiet beach town about 30 minutes from downtown LA. Long Beach is perfect for those who want to be close to the city but avoid city prices. The median property value in Long Beach is about $640,000. While you can find some expensive real estate near the beach, the inland neighborhoods are more suburban, and the cost of living is low. It’s a great city for those who want to be close to the action, but don’t want to be in the center of town.
Anaheim is one of the cheapest cities to live in Southern California. Anaheim is a great area for those who want a bit more of an urban feel but want to live somewhere more affordable than Los Angeles. Home to Disneyland, the Honda Center, and Angel Stadium, Anaheim has a lot going on. Plus, The median property value is around $672,000, making it much more affordable than other areas in Orange County.
Placentia is another quiet town in Orange County, a bit more inland than Costa Mesa. Placentia is sandwiched between Anaheim and Yorba Linda and offers residents a slow pace of life, a low crime rate, and affordable living. The median property value is around $765,000. It’s a great city for those who love the California weather but don’t mind being a bit removed from the beach. It offers residents a plethora of entertainment and shopping options. Plus, the ocean is only a quick drive away if you want to go on the weekends.
15. Costa Mesa
Costa Mesa is a sleepy suburb in Orange County, sandwiched between Santa Ana, Irvine, and the Pacific Ocean. Costa Mesa is one of the cheapest places to live in all of Orange County – an area is known for affluence. The median property value is $890,000. It’s a quiet suburban area that is a hub for retail and manufacturing. It’s a great area for those who want the peace and amenities of a Southern California suburb without the exorbitant costs. It’s a perfect area for families and young professionals who want to be close to the beach.
Is Northern or Southern California More Expensive?
On average, Northern California is considerably cheaper than Southern California, as long as you avoid San Francisco and the Bay Area. Southern California is one of the most expensive areas in the country. But you can always find affordable pockets if you look in the right places.
Cheapest Places To Live in California Bottom Line
California certainly isn’t the cheapest state in America, but you can always find affordable places to live if you’re willing to do your homework. All of these cities not only offer a low cost of living compared to others in the state, but they also provide a lot of value to residents. So even though LA and SF are pricey, California has plenty of affordable cities to live in.