Are You Wondering About the Cost of Living in San Diego? Here’s a Quick Summary

Is the cost of living in San Diego your biggest concern when it comes to relocating to America’s Finest City? We heard the same rumors but decided to rely on numbers and solid data to get the bigger picture. Beach towns have always been notorious for their expensive lifestyle, but the fact that they draw so many people every year tells us that it’s still doable to live and work in these high-end communities.

Is relocating to SD your goal for 2020? Then you're at the right place to find out how much that is going to cost you.

How Much Should I Save Before Moving to San Diego?

If moving to San Diego is on your mind, it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder about the cost of living in San Diego and the amount of money needed for day-to-day living.

Located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in the sunny state of California, this place is widely known as America’s Finest City, and there are many good reasons for that. And with such a reputation, you probably think that life here is everything but affordable. If you are moving from a small town to a big city like this one with almost 1.5 million residents, the cost of living may startle you at first, but know there’s more to it that a bunch of seemingly high numbers.

However, if you’re moving out of state on a budget, you should try to cut the costs of moving or packing services by doing some things by yourself and selling stuff you know you won’t need. Keep in mind that there will always be some unpredictable expenses and things you’ll have to buy (perhaps you will have to rent storage?), so make sure you have some money aside for those situations.

Let's see how expensive it is to live underneath the palm trees.

The Cost of Living in San Diego California in 2020

We already mentioned that around 1.5 million people are living in San Diego, but that’s only the population of people in the city’s core area. It is estimated that the metropolitan area has more than 3 million residents, including many more affordable communities for those who are looking for the best neighborhoods in San Diego on a budget.

Since the most significant part of the budget will be spent on housing, it is clear that the average cost of living in San Diego depends a lot on the location you choose. If you want to stay close to its pristine beaches, prepare for sky-high rents and home prices, which we’ll get to in a moment.

What Is the Average Income in San Diego?

This is a place where a lot of things revolve around tourism, and for many, working in this industry is the way to make enough money and pay their bills on time. But there are also a lot of other job opportunities in manufacturing, military, biotechnology, hospitality, and entertainment. There are several things to consider when relocating for a job, and the most important one is: will your paycheck last until the next month.

Therefore, you need to consider all aspects carefully. What salary do you need to live in San Diego? It is hard to tell. It depends mainly on your habits and preferred lifestyle. But what we can tell you is that according to Numbeo, a website that analyzes expenses in cities across the world, the average net monthly salary is $5,170, after taxes.

How Much Does It Cost to Live in San Diego per Year?

America’s Finest City has high standards, and therefore the expenses here are actually higher than the Californian and national average. You can find an online calculator to get the latest data on the costs. But according to Numbeo, a single person needs around $970 per month without rent. The rent for an average one-bedroom apartment goes between $1,700 and $2,100, depending on the location. Based on that, you can get a better picture of how much you’ll spend on a monthly and yearly level in this place.

Do you think you can afford to stay here? Let's compare the expenses.

The Cost of Housing in SD

We already mentioned that the prices here are quite high and that your rent will certainly be your biggest headache by the end of every month, but that does not have to be the rule.

If you are moving to a city alone, you can always find a roommate to cut the costs in half. That will significantly impact your budget and help you save up some money until you find a better-paid job or a more affordable place to rent. Although Downtown is the place where everything happens and where you can find so many unique things to do in San Diego, if staying there will break your bank, don’t do it.

Where to Find Affordable Accommodation

We introduced you to the rents in the very center, but of course, there is life and many more options outside of it. For example, rent for a one-bedroom apartment outside of the center goes for around $1,700, which is almost $500 cheaper than rents in the center.

Those who are relocating with their family and looking for more rooms can find a three-bedroom apartment outside of the center for around $2,800. The difference, in this case, is significant because the same apartment would take $900 more in the center. Of course, there are always some things to consider when moving to the suburbs, but if you are on a budget, make sure to check out neighborhoods such as Imperial Beach, Sante, Oceanside, Chula Vista, and El Cajon.

Explore neighborhoods to see where you can find the most affordable housing.

How Much You’ll Have to Spend on Food and Groceries?

Everyone knows that the best way to save money on food is to stay at home and prepare your own meals. The prices of basic groceries here are similar to the national average, so if you know how to cook, we highly recommend you to do that. You will easily find plenty of fresh and locally-grown ingredients and foods around here.

Dining out is another side of the story, and prices tend to vary depending on the type of meal you prefer. Of course, you can always go out once a week to treat yourself; a meal in an inexpensive restaurant is around $15, which is reasonable. If you are looking for more romantic things to do in San Diego, you and your significant other can explore some of the best restaurants in San Diego, but prepare to pay significantly more.

Treat yourself from time to time to a restaurant meal.

How High Are the Taxes?

The Golden State is generally known for high taxes, and in its Finest City, they also have high penalties for those who avoid paying them. The combined sales tax rate here is 7.75%. However, the property tax is lower than the national average, so if you are looking to purchase a property and settle here for a while, this goes in your favor. To check how high your taxes will be, use an online income tax calculator to get an idea of it.

How Expensive Is Fuel and Public Transportation

If you’re not willing to sell your car and move without it, you should take into consideration how much car shipping can cost. Of course, the cheapest way to ship a car is not necessarily the best one, so pay attention to who you’re going to hire to do the auto transport for you.

Gasoline is a bit expensive here, but that is the situation in the entire Golden State – you can expect to pay between $3 and $4 per gallon. But driving a car can be convenient, especially if you are settling in the suburbs.

On the other hand, public transportation here is quite good, everything works well, and you can choose between buses, trains, or use pedicabs and trolleys when around Downtown. The bus network is well developed, and it covers almost the entire county, allowing you to explore the whole area for a small price.

A one-way ride with a bus, train, or a trolley is $2.50, and for all ticket options, there are discounts (usually 50%) for seniors and disabled. A daily pass for adults is $6, while the regional one is $12, and a monthly pass is $72 for the regular one and $100 for regional.

You can rely on public transportation to go anywhere around the town.

The Internet and Utilities

The basic package of utilities that includes electricity, heating, water, garbage for a 900sqft apartment will be around $140 per month. The internet is extra, and you will be able to find a good deal for approximately $65 monthly, but make sure to research all the providers and deals they are offering. There are usually promo deals for bundles that combine home phone and Wi-Fi or TV for those who are looking to get all services from the same provider.

A calculator could be handy to calculate all the expenses.

Miscellaneous Expenses

When your hometown is a place with so many options for entertainment and outdoor activities, you can’t just neglect them or avoid them. Of course, there are so many fun things you can do for free. Just sitting on the beach and enjoying the ocean view is probably the most significant advantage of residing in a coastal town, and it is free. But if you’re looking for something more, there’s a price.

You won’t really go to the Zoo every month, but if you decide to pay a visit, keep in mind that the ticket for adults is $56. On the other hand, if you’re a baseball fan, the tickets for a Padres game are some of the most affordable ones in the league. For a visit to the Botanic Garden, you will pay $18, while prices for museum tickets vary between $10 and $15.

There are plenty of options for outdoor activities.

Comparing Prices in Sandi With Other CA Cities

Don’t let the numbers scare you, because our next chart might be a pleasant surprise. When compared to other cities in California, this city is not as expensive as it may seem at first glance. High salaries are the most significant advantage of SD. If you don’t want to live in a crowded place such as Los Angeles or San Francisco, but you still want to experience that beach town California lifestyle, you couldn’t pick a better place. To get a bigger picture, we’ve consulted Numbeo, so let’s check the differences and between the capital, Sacramento, and other places in the state.

Let’s Compare the Costs of Living in San Diego With Other Cities in California

 San DiegoLos AngelesSacramentoSan Francisco
Average monthly salary$5,170$4,400$3,850$7,650
Basic utilities (85m2 apt)$145$125$180$150
Public transportation $72/$100$100$100$81
(monthly pass)
1-bedroom apt in the center$2,100$2,250$1,500$3,500
3-bedroom apt in the center$3,700$4,170$2,500$6,600
When we compare the data, SD doesn't look so bad.

Is Relocating to San Diego Expensive?

We all know that moving services can be pricey, especially if it is a long-distance move. But if you avoid making moving mistakes and do your research, we are sure you’ll find reputable San Diego movers that have just the right deal for you. When you take a look at all the pros and cons, we are sure that there are more pros to relocating to such a beautiful beach town. Some expenses are higher, others are lower, but overall, many people manage to stay here and improve their careers and bank accounts. Plus, once you feel that ocean breeze in your hair, you’ll certainly want to stay here for good.

Written By: Jane Davis