The Most Expensive California Cities to Live In

There is no denying that California is one of the most luxurious states to live in, but the luxury comes at a price. The overall cost of living in California ultimately varies depending on the city. While this is true of every state, the cost of living in California has a much greater fluctuation. This is due to several factors, but mainly stemming from the economy, unemployment rates and migration of populations within the state. When determining how expensive it is to live in a city, there are several factors that are considered. The price of housing, food, gas, health insurance, general utilities and transportation are all factored in to determine how expensive it is to live in a certain city.


At a glance, Salinas might not seem like it would be one of the most expensive California cities. Salinas is primarily known for large plots of land used for agriculture, which is a large part of why it is such an expensive city to live in. Many of the homes for sale in Salinas have huge plots of land, which drastically increases the cost of buying a home. In addition, Salinas has several expensive private schools that also increases the overall cost of living in the city.

San Diego

The cost of living in San Diego has always been very high. It was not uncommon in previous years for San Diego to rank amongst the most expensive cities to live in, even on lists that look at more than just California. One of the misconceptions regarding why San Diego is so expensive has to do with the housing prices. While the cost of houses is above average for the state, they are not as high as some other California cities. What truly raises the cost of living in San Diego is household utilities and services.

Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa is similar to Salinas since the average visitor to California would not expect housing to be so expensive. As of 2015, it was estimated that homes in Santa Rosa are priced roughly 75 percent higher than the average cost of housing in California. One of the main reasons that many are surprised at the cost of living in Santa Rosa comes from the fact that it is very different than other cities in California, which are much heavier metropolitan hubs. What it lacks in night clubs and high-end restaurants, it makes up for in beautiful landscape, which helps contribute to the overall cost of living.

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo is another California city that is famously featured on many lists of most expensive cities to live in. One of the reasons the city is so expensive has to do with location. San Luis Obispo is located almost directly in between Hollywood and San Francisco. In addition, it is also located in one of the heaviest produce markets in all of California. Many California business owners capitalize on the prime location with expensive shops and restaurants, all of which contribute to the overall cost of living. Most of these shops cater to those who have the available capital to spend.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes and environments in all of California. In addition, it is also one of the most well-known cities in California, which makes any property in Santa Barbara highly sought after. It is one of the most comfortable cities in California, but that comfort comes with a steep cost of living.

San Francisco

San Francisco is another one of the most well-known locations in California. Like San Diego, San Francisco has a reputation for having an incredibly high cost of living. The city is filled with beautiful sights to see and has a very active nightlife. San Francisco is also a very popular vacation destination, which adds to the overall cost of living in the area.

San Jose

San Jose is filled with large, expensive homes. While that alone is enough to raise the prices in the city, San Jose is also one of the economic hubs in California. Many workers prioritize homes in San Jose just because of how close it is to where they work. The high employment rate in the city has also led to it becoming one of the fastest growing cities in California, which further increases how much it costs to live in San Jose. Projections indicate that this will continue to be a trend.

Los Angeles

There are many different factors which contribute to Los Angeles’s distinction for being one of the most expensive cities in California. The housing is naturally expensive, but the utilities are also quite costly, similar to Salinas. In addition, many of the restaurants and social hotspots around Los Angeles are extremely expensive, offering exclusivity to those who have the money to afford it. The average cost of goods is higher, too, than in some of the surrounding counties, making it necessary for many residents to commute to neighboring communities where the costs are lower.