Cost of Living in Santa Barbara (Taxes, Housing & More)

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante

California is one of the most expensive states in the United States. The cost of living is much higher in California than in most states, but it is worth it for what you get. Santa Barbara is among the most beautiful, unique, and cultured California cities, but what is the cost of living?

The median home value in Santa Barbara is $1,198,700, and it costs $2,303 in monthly bills to keep it up. Most Santa Barbara residents are renters, however, and they spend an average of $2,100 per month, plus $200 in utilities. Trips to the store are pricey due to high grocery costs, as well as an 8.75% sales tax rate.

Like anywhere else, there are ways to save money and stay on budget in Santa Barbara. Let’s take a look at how much it costs to live comfortably in Santa Barbara.

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Housing Prices in Santa Barbara, California

Housing costs are high in Santa Barbara, and the median home value is $1,198,700. The high cost of buying a home goes along with high monthly costs that average $2,303 per homeowner. Between $500 and $700 of those monthly costs are in bills, repairs, and maintenance, and the rest is mortgage payments.

LocationMedian Home ValueHomeownership Rate
Santa Barbara$1,198,70041.1%
United States$295,30065.1%

The majority of Santa Barbara residents are not homeowners, and high housing costs explain that. Builder-owners in Santa Barbara generally pay $275 per square foot or more, on average, to build a new house. The average income in Santa Barbara is $65,916 per year, it’s not enough for most residents to build a home.

You can also purchase apartments in Santa Barbara, but it is quite expensive as well. Expect to pay between $680 and $920 per square foot to own an apartment in Santa Barbara. Large apartments with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms can cost as much as $4,500 per square foot in the city.

Average Rental Prices in Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara residents spend an average of $2,100 each month in rent, and almost 60% of residents are renters. Typical apartments in Santa Barbara are less than 700 square feet, and larger apartments can cost $3,300 per month. You can find rentals for as low as $1,800 per month for a 1-bedroom outside of the city’s center.

California CitiesAverage Rent Prices
Santa Barbara$2,100
Los Angeles$2,524
San Diego$2,237
Simi Valley$2,043

As you can see, Santa Barbara is one of the more expensive cities in California. Santa Barbara is a part of Santa Barbara County, and it is the most expensive city. You can pay more or less for an apartment in Santa Barbara, based on the neighborhood that you choose.

Santa Barbara NeighborhoodsAverage Rent Prices
Eastside Santa Barbara$1,700
West Downtown Santa Barbara$1,800
Lower West Santa Barbara$1,900
West Mesa$3,400
Alta Mesa$2,400

Average Utility Bills in Santa Barbara, California

Utility bills can soar all the way up to $200 per month in Santa Barbara if you aren’t careful. Low energy consumption is encouraged in California, and it can shave a lot off of your bill. Electrical costs come at a rate of 15.98¢ per kilowatt-hour, and it adds up to $100 per month fast.

Other costs that go hand in hand with utilities are cable and internet bills. You can spend between $40 and $70 per month, or more, on internet bills in Santa Barbara. There are cable services in Santa Barbara with plans that run from $20 per month, to $60 per month.

Taxes in Santa Barbara, California

California is known for having some of the highest taxes in the country, and Santa Barbara is no exception. Though, while income and sales taxes are generally high, effective property rates surprisingly come in below the national average.

Because of the high taxes in Santa Barbara, this contributes to the city’s overall high cost of living. Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect:

Santa Barbara TaxesAverage Rate
Property Tax0.66%
State Income Tax1% – 13.3%
Sales Tax (Santa Barbara County)7.75%
Gas Tax51.10 cent per Gallon

Sales Tax in Santa Barbara, California

The state of California collects a sales tax on goods and services. In fact, California is known for having the highest base sales tax rate in the country, at 7.25%. Though, counties and cities collect their own local sales taxes on top of this rate. Because of the numerous additional city and county sales taxes, most California cities actually have much higher rates. Less than half of the cities in California have a sales tax rate of 7.25%.

In Santa Barbara, the additional county sales tax is 0.5%, which brings the total sales tax to 7.75%. Considering that the highest sales tax in the state is 10.25%, this isn’t too bad.

Income Taxes in Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara income taxes are the same as the California statewide. The state has what is known as a progressive income tax. Instead of a flat rate for all income earners, the state income tax that you pay in California is based on income brackets.

California has ten total income brackets, with the lowest earners paying only 1% and the highest earners paying 13.3%. This top marginal rate is the highest in the country, but only applies to Californians who make over $1 million in taxable income. To put things in perspective, the following table outlines the income tax rates for single filers in California:

California Taxable Income (Single Filers)Income Tax Rate
$0 – $9,3251.00%
$9,325 – $22,1072.00%
$22,107 – $34,8924.00%
$34,892 – $48,4356.00%
$48,435 – $61,2148.00%
$61,214 – $312,6869.30%
$312,686 – $375,22110.30%
$375,221 – $625,36911.30%
$625,369 – $1,000,00012.30%

The low property tax rate helps to soften the blow of the exorbitant state income tax. Hawaii, Oregon, Iowa, New Jersey, and Minnesota are the only states close to California’s state income tax rates.

Property Taxes in Santa, Barbara

Mortgage payments and housing costs are high in Santa Barbara, but luckily, property taxes are low. The property tax rate in Santa Barbara is currently 0.66%, and the national average is 1.1%. However, when you stack the low tax rate against the high cost of houses in Santa Barbara, it is still expensive.

Your average Santa Barbara, California resident spends $3,643 every year in property taxes. That number applies to homes just under $600,000, but pricier homes add hundreds or thousands to the bill. In the rest of California, the average property tax payment for most homeowners is $3,440 per year.

There are several property tax exemptions available for residents of Santa Barbara, CA. Veterans can qualify for a Veteran’s Exemption totaling $4,000. You can also apply for Homeowner’s Exemption that applies to $7,000 of your home’s value, but only if it is your principal home.

Food & Grocery Costs in Santa Barbara, California

Food costs can take up a good chunk of your budget no matter where you live. In Santa Barbara, however, it can become quite costly if you dine out instead of buying groceries. A meal for two at a restaurant in Santa Barbara can quickly add up to $95, including drinks.

At a mid-range restaurant, Santa Barbara diners can expect to spend roughly $16 per person. Fast food is the only cheap restaurant dining option in Santa Barbara, and it averages $8-$12. If you want to save big, you can head to Ralph’s grocery store and stock up for the week.

Groceries are still somewhat expensive in Santa Barbara, and a gallon costs $4.25, on average. Other essentials, such as eggs are slightly pricey as well at $3.90 per dozen. Produce ranges between $1.20 and $4.00 per pound depending on the fruit or vegetable in question.

Education Costs in Santa Barbara, California

Private education can cost as much as $20,000 per year in tuition for Santa Barbara residents. Parents can pay $4,000 or more for private elementary education in Santa Barbara. High school, on the other hand, can easily cost between $9,000 and $20,000 for private education in Santa Barbara.

There are also several college education opportunities in Santa Barbara. One of the cheapest options for Santa Barbara natives is the Santa Barbara City College. In-state tuition can cost as little as $1,374 for residents, and $8,326 for non-residents.

There’s also the option of University of California Santa Barbara, and it costs $14,391 for residents and $44,145 for non-residents. The easiest way to save money as a parent in Santa Barbara is to utilize the public school system.

Santa Barbara EducationAverage Cost
Private Elementary Education$4,000+
Private High School Education$9,000-$20,000
Santa Barbara City College$1,374 (Residents) $8,326 (Non-Residents)
University of California Santa Barbara$14,391 (Residents) $44,145 (Non-Residents)

Transportation Costs in Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara only spans 42 square miles, but the high volume of cars and traffic makes it seem like more. There are over 11,000 commuters on the road daily in Santa Barbara, and the rush hours are the most congested. Still, one of the most iconic California sights is the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara.

The transportation cost of living index in Santa Barbara is 97, which is slightly lower than the national average (100), but significantly lower than the state index of 133.1. Transportation costs are another important factor that you must consider in order to determine the overall cost of living in a particular location. These include expenses such as gas prices, public transportation costs, and car insurance premiums.

Public Transportation in Santa Barbara, California

If you don’t have a car or want to save on gas, public transportation is a great option in Santa Barbara. Single-day passes can cost up to $6 per passenger, but you can save big with a $52 month pass. Seniors get discounts, and 30 day passes only cost $20 for them, and children’s month passes are $42.

There is train access to and from Santa Barbara, but the cheapest ticket is $7.75. However, the nearby Pacific Surfliner can cost as little as $2.85 per ticket, depending on your stops and zones.

Santa Barbara TransportationAverage Cost
Bus Day Pass$6
Bus Month Pass$52 (Adult) $42 (Children) $20 (Seniors)
Train Ticket$7.75
Amtrak Pacific Surfliner$2.85+

You also have the option of taxicabs in Santa Barbara, but traffic makes it expensive. You can expect to pay $2.60 right off the bat, and an additional $3.70 per mile after that. Due to high traffic, cab fares can quickly add up, and Uber rides may be a cheaper alternative.

Gas Prices in Santa Barbara, California

California is known for congested traffic, high gas prices, and even high car insurance premiums. Gasoline alone can cost all the way up to $3.39 per gallon for regular gas in Santa Barbara. If you meet the 656 gallons per year average, that can cost you as much as $2,223 every year.

Annual Car Insurance Premiums in Santa Barbara, California

Car insurance premiums are actually below the California state average of $1,864 per year in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara residents average $1,138 each year in car insurance premiums but driving history can add to that. The cheapest car insurance in Santa Barbara is Nationwide, and the most expensive option is Bristol West, averaging $2,730.

Santa Barbara Flights

Santa Barbara is home to the Santa Barbara Airport, but it is not your only option in the area. You can also make the drive out to Los Angeles International Airport, as well as Burbank Airport. Santa Barbara Airport is not as widely traveled as Burbank or LAX, but many international airports offer flights to it.

Right now, you can fly from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Barbara for between $295 and $322 roundtrip. However, it is much cheaper to fly the same distance to Los Angeles International instead, and you could spend $75-$150. Similarly, you could fly nonstop from Phoenix Arizona to Santa Barbara Airport for $202 roundtrip on short notice.

Airport shuttles only cost $1.75 per person, and they can save you time and money. Parking your car at Santa Barbara Airport before you depart for a trip can cost you $13 for each day. Because of that, consider taking an Uber or shuttle, or having a friend drop you off for long trips.

Entertainment & Miscellaneous Costs in Santa Barbara, California

Many of the most entertaining and cost-effective things to do in Santa Barbara involve history. The historic Old Mission Santa Barbara is open for tours that cost $12.00 per ticket. Another cheap day that you can spend in Santa Barbara is the $3-$5 per ticket Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

You can also have inexpensive fun at the West Wind Drive-In with general admission tickets that start at $8.75. Tickets for a regular movie theater in Santa Barbara typically range between $9 and $12 per person.

Some of the best times that you can have in Santa Barbara cost you nothing at all. Head down to the famous Stearns Wharf for some beautiful views, or the Thousand Steps Beach for a beach walk. It may not be free, but the Santa Barbara Zoo offers gorgeous sights for only $11.95-$19.95 that’s perfect for the family.

Related Questions

Is Santa Barbara safe?

Santa Barbara is safe for the most part, but you can never be too careful in any city. Crime is somewhat common in Santa Barbara, and it affects 1 out of every 39 residents. Violence is infrequent in Santa Barbara, and 1 in 197 residents experience it, whereas there were 2,684 recent property crimes.

Is Santa Barbara cheaper than LA?

Overall, Los Angeles is about 22% less expensive than Santa Barbara. Much of this cost savings has to do with the more affordable housing costs, which are approximately 41% less inn Los Angeles.

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Is it Expensive to Live in Santa Barbara?

Housing costs are high in Santa Barbara, and the median home value is $1,198,700. Santa Barbara homeowners also have to pay an average of $2,303 per month in mortgage and ownership fees. There are more renters than homeowners in Santa Barbara, and they pay $2,100 each month.

Parents in Santa Barbara spend a lot on private education, and it can cost up to $20,000 per year. There are many public schools available that can save you money as a parent in Santa Barbara. Other living costs, such as driving, are pricey and you can spend $2,223 per year on gasoline.

While Santa Barbara has a high cost of living and can be considered an expensive place to live, it is worth it in the quality of life. You have access to beaches, parks, zoos, unique restaurants, and nightlife. The high cost of living shouldn’t scare you away from Santa Barbara, but it is worth sticking to a budget so you can enjoy the beach city.

Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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