California is the third most expensive state to live in. With median home prices around $683,996 and notoriously high costs of living throughout the state, you might feel discouraged from moving to the Golden State. However, there are several affordable California cities with 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 14% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 7%
- 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 from Los Angeles. Families moving to California can find affordable housing and job opportunities in the area’s oil and agriculture sectors in Bakersfield. Not only does this cheap West Coast city 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
Get tickets for cult-classic films, 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, birds of prey, and more. Hunt for cool antiques and vintage finds at Timeless Antique Gallery or Five & Dime Antique Mall. See artifacts of country music history up-close in the museum, then head to the restaurant to chow down on themed plates like Brad Paisley’s Fish and Chips or Dorothy’s Favorite Filet Mignon at Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace. Grab a burger and fries at the classic Woolworth Diner. Fill up on Basque cuisine with dishes like Brochette of Beef and Oxtail Stew Enjoy at Wool Growers. Or enjoy farm-to-table dishes like the Chicken Aioli Sandwich or Jackfruit Cowboy Tacos at Locale.
- Population: 89,377
- Home Price: $270,900 median purchase price; $955 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 14% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 6%
- Distance from Beach: About 191 miles (Muir Beach)
Looking for cheap West Coast living? Less than two hours from Sacramento, you’ll find a perfect affordable California city 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 44% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 5%
- Distance from Beach: About 160 miles (Del Monte Beach)
If you’re searching for one of the cheapest places 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 an inexpensive California city 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 4% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 6%
- 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 affordable California harbor city 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 37% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 6.7%
- Distance from Beach: About 55 miles (Newport Beach)
If you want to live in a fast-paced yet inexpensive California city, 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 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
See photography, paintings, and other artwork from up-and-coming artists at the Art Depot Gallery. Hit the links at Sierra Lakes Golf Club, then hit The Lakes Bar & Grill afterward. Satisfy your need for speed as you get behind the wheel of a NASCAR-style racing vehicle at the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience. 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 33% 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 that also happens to be one of the cheapest California cities, this is the place for you! Just northwest of Los Angeles along miles of barely-populated coast, Oxnard is one of the cheapest 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 cheap 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 Cornerstones. Visit Historic Heritage Square, where you can tour beautiful Victorian-style homes and participate in themed, costumed events like Spring 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 this affordable California 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. Truly, Redlands has something for everyone moving to the West Coast in search of an inexpensive but fulfilling lifestyle!
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). Take a tour through 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. 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 31% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 4%
- Distance from Beach: About 65 miles (Baker Beach)
Looking for an inexpensive California city with plenty of green space? 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. Or stop by Buddha Thai Bistro for drunken noodles and pad thai.
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City statistics from AreaVibes