Thinking about a move to California? Though California is the third most expensive state to live in—with housing costs around 134% higher than the national average—you shouldn’t feel discouraged from moving to the Golden State. There are several affordable places to live in California with safe neighborhoods, big-city amenities, and excellent West Coast attractions. Here are 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 11% 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 a rapidly-growing place to live about two hours north of Los Angeles. Families relocating to California can find affordable housing and job opportunities in top industries like oil and agriculture in Bakersfield. Not only does this affordable California city provide a family-friendly community for its residents, but it has also earned the nickname of “Nashville West” for its contributions to the “Bakersfield sound,” a West Coast style of country music popularized by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
Things to Do in Bakersfield
Get tickets for cult-classic films, international cinema, country concerts, and international ballet productions at Fox Theater. Support conservation and research efforts with a visit to the California Living Museum (CALM), which houses non-releasable native wildlife including black bears, foxes, birds of prey, and more. Stay active at local Bakersfield golf courses like the North Kern Golf Course, Kern River Golf Course, and The Links at Riverlakes Ranch. Immerse yourself in country music history in the museum, then head to the restaurant for live music and themed plates like Brad Paisley’s Fish and Chips or Dorothy’s Favorite Filet Mignon at Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace. Start your day off right with Steak Rancheros, a Hot Link Sandwich, or Avocado Omelette at 24th Street Cafe. Take a bite of award-winning Bakersfield BBQ dishes such as Brisket, Pulled Pork, and Pit Beef at PorkChop & Bubba’s BBQ. Fill up on Basque cuisine with dishes like Brochette of Beef, Tri Tip, and Oxtail Stew at Wool Growers Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge. Or enjoy farm-to-table dishes like the Western Burger, Chicken Aioli Sandwich, or Pulled Pork Cowboy Tacos at Locale.
- Population: 89,377
- Home Price: $270,900 median purchase price; $955 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 24% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 6%
- Distance from Beach: About 191 miles (Muir Beach)
Looking for affordable West Coast living with plenty of opportunities to enjoy some fresh air? Less than two hours from Sacramento, you’ll find Chico, one of the best and most affordable places to live in California! Known as 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 obtain degrees from the school’s top-rated nursing and fine arts programs. In addition to the gorgeous trees and convenient access to higher education, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. headquarters and the California craft beer scene that goes along with it will help 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. See the world’s biggest yo-yo and other unique memorabilia at the National Yo-Yo Museum. Get baked goods, fresh produce, and local crafts at the Chico Certified Farmers Market. Fulfill your need for speed seeing drivers race to the finish line and monster trucks cause havoc at the Silver Dollar Speedway. Enjoy local breakfast favorites like Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes, Cortez French Toast, and Roast Beef Hash at local Chico hotspot, Sin of Cortez. Experience brick oven pizza like the Bronx Bomber, Wild Mushroom, and the White Pie at Crush. Fulfill your hunger cravings with the Blackened Chicken Quesadilla, Carnitas Tacos, and the Rancher Burger at The Pour House. Sip on classic cocktails like a Manhattan while feasting on Stuffed Chicken Breast, Maine Lobster, and Grilled Vegetable Ravioli at 5th Street Steakhouse.
- Population: 102,148
- Home Price: $263,500 median purchase price; $1,093 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 62% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 5.4%
- Distance from Beach: About 160 miles (Del Monte Beach)
Known as the “Gateway to the Sierras,” Clovis is one of the least expensive places to live in California! Part of the Fresno metro, this central California city is comfortably sized, full of young families, and just a little over an hour away from 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 an inexpensive California city you’ll love!
Things to Do in Clovis
Adventure out to California’s largest water park and stay cool with the Blue Wave Pool, Banzai Pipeline, and the Sidewinder at Wild Water Adventure Park. Smell the flowers and delight in the beautiful volunteer-tended blooms at the Clovis Botanical Garden. 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 creative twists on a breakfast classic with a Bacon Cheddar Waffle, S’More Waffle, or Churro Waffle at Old Town Waffle. Sip on the Honey Pot Blonde craft brew and order Korean BBQ Pork Tacos, the Backyard Burger, and Creamy Goat Cheese at The Mad Duck. Fill up on gourmet burgers like the JUJU Bleu, Athena, and Betsy Ross at House of Juju. Treat yourself to rolled ice cream flavors such as Unicorn Sprinkles, Chocolate Lovers, and Strawberry Cheesecake at Roll Me Some.
- Population: 27,002
- Home Price: $241,700 median purchase price; $844 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 5% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 6%
- Distance from Beach: About 5 miles (Samoa Beach)
Living in California doesn’t always include sunburns and high price tags—just look at Eureka! This affordable California harbor city has an annual high temperature of 60 degrees with rolling fog from the ocean and fresh air from Redwood National and State Parks. It’s one of the most affordable cities in NorCal while still being incredibly charming with local events like the Eureka Street Art Festival and the Redwood Coast Kite Festival. This quirky seaside town is well known for its remarkable Victorian architecture, creative spirit, unique stores, and local artisanal businesses.
Things to Do in Eureka
Surf the waves at Samoa Beach or take a harbor cruise in Humboldt Bay. Learn the history of a U.S. military base and several local Native American groups—and maybe even see a ghost—at Fort Humboldt State Historic Park. Check out exotic animals such as Orinoco geese, Indian muntjacs, red pandas, and cotton-top tamarin at Sequoia Park Zoo. Get in the spirit of Eureka with the Kinetic Grand Championship, where racers invent artistic vehicles capable of traveling both through water and on land. Sample freshly baked pastries such as the Cherry Ring, Bear Claw Danish, and Raised Doughnuts at Cherry Blossom Bakery. Munch on the Kimchi Burger, Ultimate Supreme Sandwich, or Fried Chicken at Sixth and E. Fill up on Street Tacos, Fajitas Burrito, and Asada Fries at Amigas Burritos. Head out for a date night to enjoy the Wild Mushroom Cobbler, Margherita Pizza, and Polenta Lasagna at Brick & Fire.
- Population: 205,228
- Home Price: $289,400 median purchase price; $1,167 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 63% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 6.7%
- Distance from Beach: About 55 miles (Newport Beach)
If you want to move to one of the most affordable cities in California with a deep-rooted history in racing, look no further than Fontana. 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 about 50 miles away from Los Angeles, Fontana is an affordable spot to live in California while still providing almost everything LA has to offer. With job opportunities at top employers like California Steel Industries, Fontana Unified School District, and Burrtec, as well as proximity to the beach and incredible food, you’ll love living in this affordable city in California!
Things to Do in Fontana
Work out in the indoor gymnasium, swim laps in the 14-lane competition pool, or practice tricks in the skate and BMX park at Fontana Park. Tee off at the driving range or challenge yourself on the 18-hole course at Sierra Lakes Golf Club. Satisfy your need for speed as you get behind the wheel of a NASCAR-style racing vehicle at the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience. See photography, paintings, and other work from up-and-coming artists at the Art Depot Gallery. Start your day off with a homestyle breakfast of Chocolate Chip Pancakes, the Red Hill Omelette, or a Breakfast Burrito at Red Hill Coffee House. Enjoy Vegetarian Spring Rolls, Fried Tofu, and Seafood Pho at Sierra Noodle House. Add a little spice to your life with Fajitas, Menudo, and Seafood at The Hot Spot. Satisfy your hunger with authentic Punjabi dishes like Chicken Vindaloo, Fish Curry, and Samosa Chat at family-owned restaurant Spice Jar.
- Population: 513,807
- Home Price: $187,500 median purchase price; $901 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 9% of California cities
- Unemployment Rate: 7.8%
- Distance from Beach: About 141 miles (Moss Landing State Beach)
If you’re looking for one of the best places to live in central California, you should consider moving to Fresno! This affordable California city is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream with proximity to three national parks, each just over an hour away: Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park. Fresno itself offers small town charm with big-city amenities, a flourishing art scene, and more than a dozen wineries. Plus, the Fresno County area is home to over 1.88 million acres of farmland and contributes over $8 billion to California’s economy. What started out as a railway station in 1872 has quickly become one of the best cities to live in California!
Things to Do in Fresno
Travel underground to see a hand-built network of passageways, Ancient Roman architecture, and fruit-producing trees at the Forestiere Underground Gardens. See animals from around the world like the colobus monkey, emu, and the king cobra at Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Explore over 300 acres of parkland featuring trails, playgrounds, and fishing spots at Woodward Park. Cheer on local sports teams like the Fresno Grizzlies (MiLB) and the Fresno State Bulldogs (NCAA D-I). Eat breakfast classics like Ham & Eggs, Chili Verde Omelette, and California Benedict at Fresno Breakfast House. Fill up on some of the best Mediterranean food in Fresno with dishes like Beef Kebob, Mediterranean Chicken, and the Greek Burger at Mediterranean Grill & Cafe. Enjoy Fresno BBQ favorites like the Tri-Tip Sandwich, ABC Burger, and The Pig Sandwich at Dog House Grill. Munch on the Prime House Blend Cheeseburger, East Coast Swordfish, and Ranch Steak at Yosemite Ranch.
- Population: 484,530
- Home Price: $259,400 median purchase price; $1,057 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 10% of California cities
- Unemployment Rate: 6.6%
- Distance from Beach: About 97 miles (Ocean Beach)
On the lookout for an affordable place to live in California that’s rich in California Gold Rush history? Consider relocating to Sacramento! Known as the Farm-to-Fork Capital, this California city has a big agricultural focus and lots of great local events—including the California State Fair & Food Festival and the Farm-to-Fork Festival. Thanks to a relatively low cost of living and great job opportunities at companies like Lyon Real Estate, SMUD, and Sutter Health, Sacramento is consistently rated as one of the best places to live in California. Those pursuing higher education can pick from several colleges in Sacramento such as Sacramento City College, American River College, and California State University, Sacramento. There are also plenty of safe, affordable neighborhoods to settle down in, whether you’re a young professional living alone, or you’re moving with your family!
Things to Do in Sacramento
Dive into history at Sacramento museums like the California State Railroad Museum and the Sacramento History Museum. Head over to see unique animals such as Sumatran orangutans, Amazon milk frogs, and Western pond turtles at the Sacramento Zoo. Take a trip to the Golden 1 Center to cheer on the Sacramento Kings (NBA) as they rain three-pointers on their opponents. Immerse yourself in live theatre with both classic and Contemporary shows at the Sacramento Theatre Company. Start your day off with Famous French Toast, Denver Omelet, and the Eggs Tower at Tower Cafe. Munch on Veggie Tacos, the Giant Burrito, and Tortas at Taqueria Rincon Alteño. Test out fresh sushi like the Spicy Tuna Roll, Spider Roll, and Octopus Sashimi at Southpaw Sushi. Or enjoy the Crunchy Fried Spring Roll, Wonton Soup, and Golden Knots at Vegan Deadly Sins.
- Population: 301,443
- Home Price: $191,000 median purchase price; $967 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 3% of California cities
- Unemployment Rate: 8.2%
- Distance from Beach: About 72 miles (Crown Memorial State Beach)
If you’re looking for a unique yet affordable northern California city, then you should consider moving to Stockton! Although Stockton doesn’t sit on the coastline, it’s still a waterfront city—the Stockton Marina is an inland deep-water port located on the Stockton channel, which leads directly to the San Francisco Bay. In addition to being a key aspect of the city’s economy, the marina gives residents the chance to explore intricate waterways and take in breathtaking California views. The city also offers hot summers and short winters, with annual temperatures ranging from 39 to 94 degrees, making it possible to embark on a wide variety of outdoor adventures. Combine that with a comparatively low cost of living and budget-friendly housing options, and you’ll find that Stockton is a great place to settle down in California!
Things to Do in Stockton
Create memories with the entire family with the Pixie Express train, Carousel, and Dragon Water Play Area at Pixie Woods. Catch live concerts, classic film screenings, and more at The Bob Hope Theatre. Root, root, root for the Stockton Ports (MiLB) as they slide into home plate at Banner Island Ballpark. Watch the Stockton Kings (NBA G League) dunk on the competition, get tickets to see touring musical acts, and more at Stockton Arena. Munch on Barbecued Pork, Crab Rangoon, and Shanghai Ribs at Dave Wong’s Restaurant & Deli. Try out Wood Grilled Octopus, Skirt Steak, and Vegan Pizza at Market Tavern. Enjoy the Mezzo Burger, Fritto Misto, and Brasato at Mezzo. Or eat the OG Smash Burger, Asada Fries, and Spicy Chicken Sandwich at The Black Rabbit.
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City statistics from AreaVibes