California is the second most expensive state to live in. With median home prices around $547,900 and notoriously high costs of living throughout the state, you might be discouraged from moving to the Golden State. But there are ways to get the best of both worlds! If you’re willing to compromise on which city you live in, you can find affordable housing, safe neighborhoods, and excellent West Coast amenities. Below, we’ve shared the eight most affordable places to live in California!
- Population: 367,555
- Home Price: $214,600 median purchase price; $1,005 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 15% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 6.5%
- Distance from Beach: About 126 miles (Channel Islands Beach)
The ninth largest city in the state and one of the most affordable cities in California, Bakersfield is about two hours from Los Angeles and rapidly growing with families seeking affordable, spacious housing and job opportunities in the area’s oil and agriculture sectors. Not only does the city strive to provide a family-friendly community for its residents, but it also takes pride in its contributions to the “the Bakersfield sound,” a style of country music popularized by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
Things to Do in Bakersfield
Visit Metro Galleries in Downtown Bakersfield to see rotating exhibitions featuring up-and-coming West Coast artists. Get tickets for cult-classic films, country concerts, and international ballet productions at Fox Theater. Hunt for cool antiques and vintage finds at Timeless Antique Gallery or Five & Dime Antique Mall. Take the kids to the Celtic Music Festival in the fall or the Macaroni & Cheese Festival in the spring. Grab a burger and fries at the classic Woolworth Diner. Enjoy farm-to-table dishes like Vegetarian Buffalo Wings or Cowboy Tacos at Locale. Sip on a handcrafted cocktail at The Old Fashioned Social Drinkery. Or grab some happy hour drinks while you shoot pool at The Library.
- Population: 89,377
- Home Price: $270,900 median purchase price; $955 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 27% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 5.8%
- Distance from Beach: About 191 miles (Muir Beach)
Less than two hours from Sacramento, you’ll find a perfect spot to put down roots in beautiful Chico! Nicknamed the City of Trees, Chico is bursting with almond trees blooming in pink and white. California State University Chico is the cornerstone of this town, and it’s a major draw for those hoping to attain degrees from the school’s top-rated nursing and fine arts programs. If the gorgeous trees and convenient access to higher education aren’t enough, perhaps the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co headquarters and the indie craft beer scene that goes along with it can convince you that Chico is a great place to live!
Things to Do in Chico
Go hiking, horseback riding, or stargazing in the 3,670-acre Bidwell Park. Head to Bidwell Mansion State Park to explore the Victorian house that once belonged to California pioneers John and Annie Bidwell. See the world’s biggest yo-yo and unique yo-yo memorabilia at the National Yo-Yo Museum. Find anything from food to jewelry made by local artisans at the aptly-named Made in Chico. Dig into massive portions of chicken katsu at Halo Hawaiian BBQ & Poke Bar. Settle in for Taco Tuesdays and happy hour drink specials at The Lab Bar & Grill. Or grab a self-serve beer, cider, and wine on tap at The Commons.
- Population: 102,148
- Home Price: $263,500 median purchase price; $1,093 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 40% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 5.4%
- Distance from Beach: About 160 miles (Del Monte Beach)
If you’re searching for the cheapest areas to live in California, look no further than Clovis! Part of the Fresno metro, this Central California city is comfortably-sized, full of young families, and within three hours of both San Jose and Yosemite National Park. Clovis also has the benefit of the San Joaquin Valley’s rich soil, so the all-year growing season allows for fresh produce and plenty of work in the agriculture industry. With highly-rated schools, beautiful weather, and affordable housing, Clovis is a California gem you’ll love!
Things to Do in Clovis
Take the family to Wild Water Adventure Park, the largest water park in California. Wander the Clovis Botanical Garden to delight in the volunteer-tended blooms. Get your thrill on at MB2 Raceway for go-karting on a high speed track. Visit the annual ClovisFest, a local celebration with hot air balloons, hundreds of food and art vendors, and cultural dance performances. Head to Old Town Clovis, where you can find vintage boutiques, antique stores, a year-round farmers market, and events like Glorious Junk Days. Try the Filet Mignon Tacos or Braised Pork Belly Sliders at The Gastro Grill. Or order the Athena gourmet signature burger with a side of roasted potatoes at House of Juju.
- Population: 27,002
- Home Price: $241,700 median purchase price; $844 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 2% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 5.7%
- Distance from Beach: About 5 miles (Samoa Beach)
Living on the West Coast doesn’t always include sunburns and high price tags—just look at Eureka! This harbor town stays around a comfortable 50 degrees all year long with rolling fog from the ocean and fresh air from Redwood National & State Parks. It’s one of the cheapest places to live in Northern California while still being incredibly picturesque. Eureka is a huge producer of oysters, but it’s better known for its intricate Victorian architecture. Located about halfway between San Francisco and Portland, this quirky seaside town is one of the most affordable places to live in California!
Things to Do in Eureka
Get your surf on at Samoa Beach, or take a harbor cruise in Humboldt Bay. Tour Carson Mansion to learn more about its Queen Anne-style architecture. Visit Sequoia Park Zoo to see red pandas, gibbons, and peccaries. Get in the spirit of Eureka with the Kinetic Grand Championship, where racers invent an artistic vehicle capable of traveling both through water and on land. Satisfy your sweet tooth with craft chocolatier Dick Taylor Chocolate. Travel back to 1890 with Samoa Cookhouse, where you can eat breakfast served in the lumber camp style. Get the raw oyster sampler at Humboldt Bay Provisions to taste the local seafood. Or stop by Lost Coast Brewery to try their Great White Belgian, Sharkinator White IPA, or Tangerine Wheat.
- Population: 205,228
- Home Price: $289,400 median purchase price; $1,167 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 31% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 6.7%
- Distance from Beach: About 55 miles (Newport Beach)
You’ll need to pick up the pace when you move to Fontana because these West Coasters take pride in being a city of speed! Fontana was known for drag racing in the 1950s, and the racing spirit continues today with NASCAR and IndyCar races at Auto Club Speedway. Located just outside the Los Angeles metro, Fontana is a great spot to live cheaply in California while still getting close proximity to everything LA has to offer. With job opportunities in the local healthcare industry and with regional trucking companies, as well as close proximity to the beach and incredible food, you’ll love living in this affordable California city!
Things to Do in Fontana
Check out the abandoned Kaiser Steel Plant (the setting for the steel mill scene in Terminator 2) next to the speedway. See photography, paintings, and other artwork from up-and-coming artists at the Art Depot Gallery. Get in a few laps with an exotic supercar with the Exotics Racing driving experience at the speedway. Hit the links at Sierra Lakes Golf Club, then hit The Lakes Bar & Grill afterward. Enjoy a murder-mystery show during dinner at Center Stage Theater. Add a little spice to your life with Shrimp Micheladas at The Hot Spot. Visit family-owned restaurant Spice Jar for authentic Punjabi dishes like Chicken Vindaloo and Fish Curry. Or find the best pupusas north of El Salvador at Salvi’s Pupuseria & Restaurante.
- Population: 204,752
- Home Price: $362,900 median purchase price; $1,396 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 23% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 5.7%
- Distance from Beach: About 5 miles (Mandalay Beach)
If you’re looking for a coastal hidden gem with affordable beachfront homes, this is the place for you! Just northwest of Los Angeles along miles of barely-populated coast, Oxnard is one of the least expensive places to live in Southern California. With convenient access to the beach, career opportunities in the agriculture and forestry industries, degree advancement options with local Oxnard College, and quirky local events like the California Strawberry Festival, this SoCal city is a great place to settle down.
Things to Do in Oxnard
Enjoy surfing, whale watching, swimming, or sportfishing at Hook’s Landing. Learn more about marine species at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Check out the rotating exhibits at Carnegie Art Museum. Visit Historic Heritage Square, where you can tour beautiful Victorian-style homes and participate in themed, costumed events like high tea. Try the Lamb Curry or Mushroom Masala at The Masala Twist. Treat yourself to local favorite The Best Breakfast Cafe for Southern-style omelets and cinnamon apple pancakes. Grab a glass of vino at award-winning wineries like Magnavino Cellars or Herzog Wine Cellars (which is the largest supplier of kosher wine in the United States).
- Population: 70,442
- Home Price: $326,800 median purchase price; $1,177 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 25% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 4.1%
- Distance from Beach: About 63 miles (Laguna Beach)
Just outside of the Los Angeles metro is Redlands, one of the best inexpensive places to live in Southern California. Not only does Redlands offer convenient access to outdoor recreation in the San Bernardino Mountains, but the city is also chock-full of gorgeous spots like Panorama Point and incredible Victorian-style houses that have been featured on TV shows like America’s Castles! Redlands is also home to the University of Redlands, bringing students to the area, as well as those interested in working in education.
Things to Do in Redlands
Step back into the past with the must-see Lincoln Memorial Shrine and Historical Glass Museum (the largest glass museum in the West). Tour haunted spots throughout the city like Mariposa Elementary School and Morey Mansion. See a performance from the critically-acclaimed Redlands Symphony. Check out the free Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival, which is the longest continually-running music festival in America. Take the kids to Splash Kingdom Waterpark for some fun in the sun. Experience the year-round Downtown Market Night for a fresh take on farmers markets. Visit Sugarbee (seen on Cake Wars) for butter cakes and cookie tarts. Or try creative grilled cheeses like the Pepperoni Pizza or PBC&J at Cheesewalla.
- Population: 95,607
- Home Price: $322,600 median purchase price; $1,416 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 50% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 4.4%
- Distance from Beach: About 65 miles (Baker Beach)
Considered to be a part of both the Sacramento Valley and San Francisco Bay Area, sunny Vacaville is one of the most affordable places to live on the West Coast. Fun fact! This NorCal hidden gem is home to several rare and endangered plant species like the dwarf calicoflower and Contra costa goldfields, which you can see at multiple parks and trails. But most importantly, Vacaville is an excellent place to raise a family, thanks to its safety and good schools, which is why so many young professionals and families are moving into the area.
Things to Do in Vacaville
Stretch your legs on the trails at Lagoon Valley. Visit Morningsun Herb Farm to learn more about botany and nature. Celebrate Fiesta Days, a Vacaville tradition with parades, costumes, and street vendors. Get in some antique shopping at Vacaville Vintage Market or find designer brands at Vacaville Premium Outlets. Check out the legendary California landmark The Nut Tree, which offers everything from shopping and dining to rides and activities for kids. Chow down on the best street tacos in Vacaville at Chevela’s. Or stop by Buddha Thai Bistro for drunken noodles and pad thai.
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City statistics from AreaVibes