With its stunning coastlines, majestic mountains, forgiving climate, and laid-back lifestyle, California is one of the most sought-after places to live in the United States. In addition to all of that, the Golden State has many attractions, with something for virtually everyone: lakeside towns, beachside cities, national parks, entertainment, impeccable food options, and so much more. Since California is such a desirable place to live, it has a reputation as one of the most expensive states in the nation. This also means high prices for housing and an overall higher standard of living.
New York City is notorious for apartments with low square footage and expensive prices. However, San Francisco now outranks Manhattan as the most high-priced real estate market in the entire country. With a budget of $1 million, you’re likely only limited to homes under 1,000 square feet.
California’s state median home value is $578,267, with the median rent for a one-bedroom at $2,657 a month. With these numbers, you might be hard-pressed to find affordable places to live in this state. Thankfully, when we look beyond the best-known cities, there are still some economically sound places to live in California. As long as you know where to look, California is not entirely out of reach financially.
Unfortunately, if you are looking for the absolute cheapest places to live in California, you won’t find them among the following list. That is because, most of them suffer from extreme heat, soaring unemployment, and high crime rates.
Instead, we’ve located some of the best communities that allow you to own a piece of California beauty, without breaking the bank. Many of these locations offer not only affordability, but also good employment opportunities, low crime rates, educational facilities, recreational activities, and housing availability. Read on for our list of the cheapest places to live in the state of California.
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- Population: 16,931
- Median home value: $267,815
- Average rental rate: $1,837
- Median household income: $73,683
Imperial is a small agricultural city that is nestled close to the Mexican border. This vibrant community is home to around 17,000 people in a desert valley two hours outside of San Diego. It is a quiet, comfortable, quaint city with fresh air and low humidity. While the summer heat in Imperial can be rough, they experience very pleasant winter months.
Residents in Imperial spend their free time engaged in plenty of outdoor activities. There are tons of recreational facilities in Imperial that transform this agricultural center into a popular desert tourist attraction. With three year-round golf courses, and activities such as riding dune buggies, camping, and bird watching, there is no shortage of things to do in Imperial, California.
In addition to being an affordable place to enjoy California sunshine, Imperial offers cultural diversity and a relatively low crime rate. Settling in Imperial allows you to relish in that Southern California lifestyle, at a much more affordable cost. The cost of living in this area is considerably lower than most metro areas in the state.
- Median home value: $284,200
- Average rental rate: $1,177
- Median household income: $68,682
Clovis is a mid-sized city located in Central California near the Fresno metropolitan area. This city is largely agricultural and is considered to be one of the best sources for local produce in the area. Nicknamed the ‘Gateway to the Sierras,’ Clovis rests at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and is in close proximity to Yosemite National Park along with Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon.
As a result, residents of Clovis are generally found exploring the great outdoors in the form of mountains, lakes, and parks that exist right outside the city. Whether it’s cycling, jogging, or hiking, there are a number of trail options that encircle the city and are great for use in the summer months. Aside from outdoor activities, there is also plenty to do in town to keep you busy such as theaters, galleries, museums, and indoor gaming centers.
Although smaller cities that are closer to the metro area are known to struggle with high crime rates, Clovis remains unaffected with its comparatively low crime. Schools in Clovis are also well regarded, ranking among the best in the Fresno area. In general, residents appreciate Clovis’ charming downtown, friendly population, good schools, and low cost of living.
- Population: 110,000
- Median home value: $354,600
- Average rental rate: $1,868
- Median household income: $77,807
Nestled between the Bay Area and Sacramento Valley, and just an hour outside of San Francisco, is the quiet community known as Vacaville. The people of Vacaville enjoy many festivities all throughout the year including the family-friendly “Fiesta Days.”
This city is the perfect place for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and settle in a place with a true small-town atmosphere. With its captivating history as an agricultural hub and a historic pitstop on the 1-80 corridor, Vacaville has a vibrant, rich culture.
Vacaville is a thriving destination for outdoor activities, dining, agriculture, shopping, events, and more. Not to mention, it is also situated within minutes of the Sonoma and Napa wine countries. Vacaville offers an exciting escape from city life, with spacious neighborhoods and an affordable cost of living. You can enjoy rolling hills and a stunning, serene countryside when you settle in Vacaville, California.
- Population: 206,732
- Median home value: $332,600
- Average rental rate: $1,793
- Median household income: $62,349
Located in Southern California and about an hour north of Los Angeles, Oxnard is a stunning city with over 20 miles of coastline. Oxnard is one of my personal favorite places in the state, as it offers beachfront living without the expensive price tag.
In addition to the miles of white sand beaches, this city has some of the best taquerias in the state, an electric nightlife scene, historic Victorian architecture, and so much more. Famous for their strawberries, Oxnard also hosts the very popular California Strawberry Festival each year.
Nicknamed the “Gateway to the Channel Islands,” Oxnard’s picturesque harbor is the closest access point to the National Park and marine sanctuary. Residents of Oxnard enjoy surfing, kayaking, whale watching, strolls along the coast, golf outings, and winery visits. If you want affordable beachside living, Oxnard may be the place to call home.
- Population: 70,765
- Median home value: $350,900
- Average rental rate: $1,501
- Median household income: $68,956
Less than two hours from Los Angeles, Redlands is the heart of the Inland Empire (IE). It offers a quiet slice of small-town charm with a weekly farmers market, historical architecture, an eclectic brewery, an outdoor amphitheater for events, and plenty of outdoor activities. Redlands is surrounded by a picturesque mountain landscape and is situated just below the San Bernardino National Forest, allowing easy access to numerous hiking trails in the area.
Home to the University of Redlands, there are tons of educational job opportunities in the area. Redlands’ location between both Palm Springs and Los Angeles makes it an easy drive to reach the desert, the mountains, and the beach. For exceptional shopping and dining experiences, Downtown Redlands is the place to be.
- Population: 79,133
- Median home value: $261,000
- Average rental rate:$1,252
- Median household income: $59,141
Perris is just an hour away from Disneyland, but far enough away from the theme park so that it doesn’t feel like a tourist destination. Located in Riverside County, Perris is a very peaceful community with little traffic, affordable homes, plentiful shopping, and a comfortable standard of living.
The city’s position between San Diego and Los Angeles offers access to the beach, the mountains, the desert, and the city in a matter of hours. Perris’ central location means a vast array of both business and recreational opportunities.
It is well-known for Lake Perris which offers a variety of recreational activities and is very popular in the summer months. One of the most unique characteristics of this city is the fact that it is widely recognized for offering many types of aerial activities such as hot-air ballooning and skydiving. If you’re looking for a more rural, slow-paced, and affordable place to live in California, you should consider Perris.
- Population: 110,722
- Median home value: $394,600
- Average rental rate: $1,692
- Median household income: $87,115
Temecula is situated between Los Angeles and San Diego. It is an Inland Empire gem that features a historic town square surrounded by rolling hills, vineyards, and distant mountain views. People flock to Temecula for their hyper-local cuisine, hot-air ballooning, and hiking. The climate in Temecula is Mediterranean-like with temperatures ranging from the 80s and 90s in the summer, and the 60s and 70s in the wintertime.
Arguably the biggest draw for Temecula is the nearly 50 wineries that exist in the Temecula Valley alone. French, Spanish, and Italian grapes grow and mature in this unique atmosphere, providing small-batch vintages. In addition to the wineries, Temecula is home to many golf courses and the largest casino in the state.
The downtown area is full of charm with weekly Farmer’s Markets and a historic district. As far as jobs go, the wineries offer a booming tourism industry with plenty of career opportunities for those who reside in Temecula.
- Population: 90,660
- Median home value: $286,700
- Average rental rate:$865
- Median household income: $45,337
Located nearly 90 miles north of Sacramento, Chico is the most populous city in Butte County, California. Nicknamed the “City of Roses,” Chico is home to a variety of attractions for the whole family. The city is the educational, cultural, and economic epicenter of the northern Sacramento Valley. It is home to both Bidwell Park, the 26th largest municipal park in the country, and California State University, Chico.
In addition to education, health care is a major industry in Chico. It is also the birthplace of one of the largest craft brewers in the country: Sierra Nevada. In fact, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. played a major role in America’s craft beer revolution. Although craft beer is very much loved in Chico, you’ll also find fantastic dining options throughout the city.
Chico’s location in the state offers great weather, and you’re still never too far from the ocean. The cost of living in Chico is considered to be much lower than the national average.
- Population: 109,106
- Median home value: $428,600
- Average rental rate:$2,107
- Median household income: $66,485
Ventura has been on ‘Livability’s 100 Best Places to Live’ multiple times, making it exceptionally hard to believe that this city is affordable. Although it isn’t as cheap as some of the other options on our list, by California standards, a median home value of $428,600 isn’t all that bad. Ventura is a vibrant town that embodies a casual soul and surprising appeal.
Downtown Ventura is home to top-notch dining, shopping, art galleries, museums, and is located right by the beach. Residents of Ventura enjoy a number of additional amenities including Surfer’s Point, the site of many surfing competitions, along with five college campuses.
It is the epitome of a California beach town bursting with surfers and palm trees. With an average of 300 days of sunshine every year and year-round temperatures averaging in the 70s, Ventura is the perfect place for those who seek endless summers.
- Population: 69,127
- Median home value: $456,500
- Average rental rate: $2,191
- Median household income: $87,120
Located an hour north of Los Angeles off the 101 Highway, Camarillo is quintessential Southern California living without the crowds. Known for its massive open-air shopping center, Camarillo Premium Outlets, this little town is a well-kept secret for raising a family. Although it is a little pricier than others on our list, Camarillo still has a comparatively low cost of living.
Camarillo is a small town with a low cost of living, a very good quality of life, and plenty of activities to do with the kids. Although it is small, this town is perfectly situated for quick day trips to both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
Camarillo also has a weekly Farmer’s Market, historic downtown, and tons of activities for all ages. The weather in this area is also perfect for year-round outdoor adventures such as hiking, camping, jogging, or walks in nature. Or, if the beach is calling you, it’s only a 15-minute drive west to reach the Pacific Ocean.
Cost of Living in California Cities for 2020
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