Looking for the cheapest places to live in California? We’ve got locations that are cheap for any budget. Learn more inside.
Many people are looking for the perfect place to live in California — but they’re also aware of how high the costs of living in San Francisco and Los Angeles have become.
So, where are the cheapest places to live in California now? How much does it cost to live there? What are some other ways to reduce housing costs?
How does this compare to living in other states? If this is a smart time for you to move, who should you ask for help?
Cheapest Places to Live in California
California is diverse, with deserts, cliffs, mountains, lakes, beaches, forests, farmlands, and vineyards.
It also has a booming economy, and is, of course, home to the Hollywood film industry. Anyone interested in pursuing a career in the arts may want to relocate to California.
With a median home price of just $254,430, Bakersfield is a surprisingly cheap place to live in California.
While it may not be considered the most glamorous of Golden State cities, it is on the main route from Southern to Northern California, providing easy travel to everything else you want to visit.
There are even several Bakersfield neighborhoods with average home prices of around $300k.
‣ Kern City
‣ Casa Loma
‣ Park Stockdale
‣ Benton Park
‣ Oleander Sunset
The notorious boom and bust town of Stockton, CA continues to offer cheaper house deals. Those could get even cheaper before the market recovers.
The median local home value is around $384,000. Though like Bakersfield, there are a variety of cheaper neighborhoods to explore too.
Those with median home values that are more affordable include:
‣ Midtown West
‣ Wilson Heights
‣ Country Club
‣ Holiday Park
Located between Stockton and Bakersfield is Fresno. It’s a great base for those who love Yosemite National park and all of its forests.
Average home values here are only just over $309,000. Neighborhoods with homes under $300k include:
‣ Fresno High Roeding
Clovis is just outside of Fresno and one of the cheapest places to live in California.
It is popular with those who want to grow their food, young families looking for neighborhoods with lower crime rates, and fans of the local waterpark.
As a whole Clovis is not one of the cheapest cities on this list. The local median home value is just over $420,000.
However, there are less expensive neighborhoods to check out in Selma, Reedley, Sanger, Fowler, and Coarsegold.
Sacramento is the state capital. As the rest of California and its most famous cities have become more expensive, so have house prices here.
Home prices here are on par with Clovis, at just over $430,000. Don’t expect to find any cheap rentals either.
More affordable homes in Sacramento may be found in Tahoe Park South, Colonial Heights, and North Oak Park.
Find Fontana in San Bernardino County, CA. It’s right between Riverside and Rancho Cucamonga.
Proximity to lots of natural outdoor activities and on the road to Downtown LA provides a fantastic balance for those who want more out of life.
This area of California has had a reputation for being less expensive than the coast. Yet, average home prices in this part of the Inland Empire can be close to $500,000.
Find cheaper deals in San Bernardino, Bloomington, and Colton.
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Back up in Butte County, Northern Californian Chico offers a city rich in history, museums, and kids-oriented activities and is even further north than Sacramento for those who like cooler weather.
Chico has been slightly more affordable than Fontana, though average home prices can still be close to $430,000.
You may find house deals for closer to half that amount in close-by cities like Biggs, Los Molinos, Corning, Oroville, Magalia, and Gridley.
It does not have a very good reputation for safety, though crime rates did reportedly decline in 2017 and 2018, according to MacroTrends.
If you want to live close to the water, then you can do that in Eureka for around $350,000 on average. Even cheaper house deals may be found in Rio Dell and Fortuna.
9. Clearlake, CA
Another exceedingly low-cost place to live in California is the city of Clearlake. Located on Clear Lake, Clearlake is in Lake County, around 110 miles north of San Francisco.
At present, the median house sale price is around $140,000. That’s an absurdly low price for any home in California and especially for a home that’s located miles away from a beautiful lake.
Wondering what there is to do in Clearlake? Well, the majority of the activity revolves around the lake itself. This runs the gamut from boating to kayaking to swimming to fishing and more.
10. Oxnard, CA
Another of many affordable places to buy a home in California is Oxnard, a coastal city of 200,000 located about an hour northwest of Los Angeles.
While it’s not cheap by most standards, it’s a steal by coastal Southern California standards.
The median home sale price in Oxnard is around $675,000. Note, though, that you can find homes as low as $450,000 and condos for even less than that.
That’s about as affordable as you’re going to get for a residence next to the ocean just an hour from Los Angeles.
11. Temecula, CA
We’ll end our list with Temecula, a city of 113,000 located around 85 miles southeast of Los Angeles and around 60 miles north of San Diego. A popular resort destination, it’s famous for its wine.
Like Oxnard, Temecula can still be fairly expensive. Its median house sale price is around $690,000. However, it has 2-bedroom homes for as little as $350,000 and 3-bedroom homes for as little as $450,000.
That’s a small price to pay for a home that’s close to both Los Angeles and San Diego. The ocean’s not far away either and can be reached in about an hour.
12. Blythe, CA
Located on the border of California and Arizona, Blythe is a small town situated 225 miles east of Los Angeles and 150 miles west of Phoenix. It has a population of around 20,000.
The median housing cost in Blythe is extremely low, especially by California’s standards. At present, it’s around $177,000.
The best way to describe Blythe would be to call it a desert city. It’s positioned in the Palo Verde Valley, an agricultural region within the Colorado Desert.
As such, it’s characterized by desolate, dusty land that is intermittently interrupted by deep blue bodies of water.
Vacaville is an affordable place to live and ideal for families seeking a thriving destination without the hustle and bustle of big-city life.
With a fascinating past as an agricultural heartland and a rich, vibrant culture, the charming community draws droves with its historic downtown, premium outlets and shops, diverse restaurants, pretty parks, and popular U-pick farms.
Residents are also very close to top Bay Area destinations, making it possible to spend a day in Walnut Creek and explore the attractions in Wine Country.
14. Rancho Cucamonga
Rancho Cucamonga is a city located about halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, along Route 66.
Nestled in the foothills of the mountains, this once a large wine-producing region has turned into a growing metropolis that is a perfect stop on a road trip and an affordable place to live in California.
If you want to live close to the coast in San Diego County, you’re going to be paying a pretty penny to do so.
But those who have been keeping an eye on San Diego real estate and rentals no doubt notice that the city of Oceanside often has much more affordable housing than even popular Carlsbad Village, just to its south.
16. San Diego
San Diego is not cheap. So why is it mentioned on this list of the Cheapest Places to Live in Southern California? Because luckily, there are quite a few pockets in and near San Diego that are still affordable to live in.
There are plenty of free things to do in San Diego including Balboa Park, La Jolla Cove, ample hiking trails, and gorgeous beaches. It is also considered one of the best weekend getaways in California.
17. Slab City
Truly, if you are looking for the cheapest place to live in California for seniors, it doesn’t get any cheaper than Slab City. Nicknamed “The Last Free Place in America,” Slab City takes FREE to heart.
While Slab City is essentially in the middle of the desert in Imperial County, there are a few cool sightseeing spots nearby.
The first is Slab City itself, which is home to Salvation Mountain and an incredible collection of contemporary art pieces and installations that spark discussions and challenge mainstream societal beliefs.
It is also close to the Salton Sea, the cities of Coachella Valley, and the California-Mexico border!
18. Long Beach
California is known for being one of the most expensive places in the United States. Fortunately, there are a few great places that are considered affordable.
Long Beach must be on your list if you’re looking for the cheapest places to rent in California.
It is a laid-back, fun, progressive, and active city in Los Angeles County. If you find yourself in Los Angeles with family, be sure to make a stop in Long Beach which is one of the cheapest cities to live in California.
Located just outside Los Angeles, Glendale is a cheaper alternative to living in the big city itself. For anyone looking to live and work in LA, consider checking out Glendale or another nearby outside suburb that offers cheaper rent.
It costs just under $2,000 a month to rent a 2-bedroom apartment in Glendale, which is pretty cheap for this popular area of California.
Glendale is a relaxed suburban city. It doesn’t have all the hype of Los Angeles, yet it’s a short commute into the city for work or entertainment.
Less than two hours from Los Angeles lies Redlands, the heart of what’s known as the “IE” (Inland Empire) — not generally an affectionate nickname.
But Redland’s got some things going for it, including its outdoor amphitheater, killer brewery, and easy access to parks and mountains.
With the local University of Redlands, much of the area’s job opportunities are in education.
The Cheapest Places to Live in California
On the Northern California Coast, the towns of Eureka and Crescent City city are relatively affordable and offer nice weather and a beautiful natural setting.
Cheapest Safest Places to Live in California
According to Elite Personal Finance, in 2021 the safest places to live in California were Clayton (population 12,356);
Lafayette (population 26,872); Imperial (population 18,090); Palos Verdes Estates (population 13,400).
What are the Cheapest Places to Live in California?
California is infamously one of the most expensive states to live in America. Housing prices are just a part of that.
There are also utility costs, regulations, daily food, and transportation costs, and crippling state income and property taxes.
Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Alabama, and Florida can all offer great weather, far lower home prices, and lower (or no) state taxes.
Best Cities to Live in California
Bakersfield is arguably the cheapest city to live in California, with many neighborhoods having available housing stock under $200,000.
What are the Cheapest Places to Live in Southern California?
California, the “Golden State,” is the third most expensive state to live in. Aside from beautiful beaches, there are mountains, valleys, lakes, and deserts.
Many dreams of living there. However, it’s not that easy to find the cheapest places to live in Southern California.
Bakersfield has over 300,000 residents and is within 2 to 3 hours of driving from the coast, great wineries, big cities, and national parks.
A suburban community supported by agriculture and the oil industry, it has an average annual household income of $68,268.
The cost-of-living index is 97, 3% cheaper than the rest of the country. If you’re looking for the cheapest places to live in Southern California, Bakersfield is an excellent choice.
The median home cost is $285,000, and the average rent is $1,073.
Clovis sits smack dab in the center of the state, making it a short drive from beaches, mountains, forests, and other cities.
Its 120,104 residents appreciate the charming downtown, good schools, and low cost of living. The median annual household income in Clovis is $96,614.
Clovis is 6.5 miles northeast of Fresno. It boasts over 13 miles of paved pedestrian hiking and biking trails and amenities you’ll love from restaurants, cafés, and bars to treasure-filled antique stores, and gift and souvenir shops.
The median home cost in Clovis is $410,000, while the average rent is $1,309.
3. El Centro
El Centro is the county seat of Imperial County, about 116 miles east of San Diego, with a population of 44,059.
With canyons, mountains, mud volcanoes, and vast tracts of desert, El Centro is known for its natural attractions.
The average household income in El Centro is $67,324. The cost of living index is 92.1, making this inland, border region 7.9% cheaper than the rest of the U.S.
The median home value in El Centro is $270,587, while the average rent is $1,281. This is the cheapest place to live in Southern California.
At 215 miles north of Los Angeles, Fresno is more central than southern California.
One of the cheapest places to live in Southern California, Fresno has lots of shopping, restaurants, farmer’s markets, community events, and a population of 777,000.
It’s a family-oriented city with award-winning schools, great jobs, world-class hospitals, beautiful neighborhoods, and a popular local college.
The average household income in Fresno is $69,880. The cost-of-living index is 102.6, 2.6% higher than the U.S. average. The average price to buy a home in Fresno is $270,000, while the average rent is $856.
Lancaster is situated on the northern end of Los Angeles County in the Antelope Valley. Lancaster’s population is 155,559 with an average household income of $70,646.
One of the cheapest places to live in Southern California, it offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, but it’s not too far away for quick trips to Los Angeles.
One especially interesting thing about Lancaster is Musical Road — the first of its kind in the U.S. Drive along with Avenue G, and you’ll hear the road play the “William Tell Overture.”
The cost-of-living index is 112.7, 12.7% more expensive than the U.S. average. The median home price in Lancaster is $339,900, while rent averages $1,650.
Oceanside is the northernmost city in San Diego County, just south of the Camp Pendleton military base. The city boasts a population of 175,710, with an average household income of $61,778.
Oceanside is a relatively safe place to live in California and has some of the best restaurants in North County San Diego.
It boasts a popular beer trail and a long, sandy beach. The median home value in Oceanside is $579,900 and the average rent is $1,961.
Oxnard, a beach city in Ventura County with 841,734 residents, is located 60 miles north of Los Angeles and 38 miles north of Santa Barbara. With 20 miles of beaches, activities like kayaking, surfing, and whale watching abound.
Restaurants in the city showcase multicultural cuisine with Mexican, Brazilian, Italian, Japanese, and American specialties.
With an average household income of $88,891, Oxnard is an agricultural hub. Because of this, there is a year-round abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Oxnard is also considered one of the cheapest places to live in Southern California near the beach. The median home cost in Oxnard is $554,471, while the average rent is $2,098.
8. Rancho Cucamonga
Rancho Cucamonga is located about halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, along Route 66.
Nestled in the foothills of the mountains, this once-large wine-producing region has become a growing metropolis, with 178,119 residents and an average household income of $108,525.
Rancho Cucamonga contains multiple unique dining choices. There are also several local wineries for wine tasting. It’s easy to take a day trip into the Los Angeles area, Palm Springs, or Joshua Tree.
The average area rent is $2,113 with the median home cost at $614,671.
Redlands, near San Bernardino in Southern California, has a population of 71,707 and an average household income of $103,196.
It’s known for beautifully preserved historic buildings that date back to the 1800s. The median home cost in Redlands is $350,900 and the average rent is $1,213.
Top attractions include the sprawling Kimberly Crest House & Gardens, the 1920s Redlands Bowl amphitheater, and the San Bernardino County Museum.
10. Seal Beach
With a Greatschools rating of 10 on NerdWallet, Seal Beach is one of the best and cheaper choices for families in Southern California.
It sits 28 miles east of Los Angeles, directly between Long Beach and Huntington Beach.
The quintessential “sleepy beach” town has a population of 24,510 with an average yearly household income of $109,743.
With Boeing calling Seal Beach home, it has some of the lowest housing prices in California. The median home cost in Seal Beach is $325,000 and the average rent cost is $1,795 per month.
As the southwestern anchor of the Inland Empire, Temecula is a big draw for growing families. It has a population of 115,055 and an average household income of $112,860.
Temecula is known for its outstanding wine country, gorgeous valley scenery, fun festivals, excellent schools, and beautifully planned neighborhoods.
The average rent is $1,875, while the median home cost is $558,532.
Cheapest Places to Live in California near the Beach
If you find yourself California Dreaming’, you’re not alone.
All over the country, and all over the world, thousands of people dream about moving to beautiful sunny California.
Certainly, living on a California beach can be a great experience.
1. Crescent City
Crescent City is the seat of Del Norte County. It’s about 20 miles south of the Oregon border, so it’s not your typical southern California beach.
That doesn’t mean it’s shabby, though. Crescent City is a stunning coastal city with beautiful views and more variety in weather than the bottom portions of the state.
Crescent City is a lighthouse station that evokes all the best feelings of a relaxed West Coast town. The residents are friendly and the winds from the beach keep everybody cool, literally and figuratively.
Sea lions and seals make regular stops in Crescent City every year as well, so it’s great for animal lovers.
2. Long Beach
Long Beach in Los Angeles is an area with affordable living options, but you’ll need some help finding the right place.
If you want to give Long Beach a go, you should get a local to guide you away from some of the high-crime areas.
There are very nice and expensive places to live in Long Beach, so the trick is to find someone near the beach that’s safe and affordable. They exist, you just have to work to find them.
If you do the groundwork, you’ll get to enjoy everything LA has to offer in terms of world-class beaches, famous restaurants, show business, and everything else.
Ventura is a more affordable beach location that still has a lot of the good vibes of famous California beach towns.
It won’t be the cheapest place you’ve ever lived, but it’s a bargain compared to places like San Diego and Santa Barbara.
Ventura’s got some of California’s best surf breaks, so people from all over the world find their way there to catch some waves.
The weather is almost perfect. It’s mild throughout the year, so you can find a storage unit for your parkas and long johns.
4. San Pedro
San Pedro is technically part of sprawling Los Angeles County, so living there grants residents access to one of the most famous cities in the world.
Everyone should experience Los Angeles sometime in their life, and living in San Pedro you get to be around it all the time.
That led to a lot of low-income households that dealt with crime and other issues. However, San Pedro is making a comeback and is an attractive coastal location for people looking to find an affordable beach apartment or house.
Eureka, California is another beach town in northern California. It’s a great place to live if you want to be somewhere affordable with beautiful diverse nature.
In Eureka, you’ve got the beach and you’re close to the Redwoods. Several impressive rivers are running through the area with rafting and great fishing.
Eureka has a nice local craft beer industry, lovely local restaurants, and a budding wine industry. The city has just around 27,000 residents, so it’s bigger than Crescent City, but still doesn’t have a lot in the way of major shopping centers.
Lompoc is located in Santa Barbara County, so we’re talking about some of the best beaches in the world. Lompoc’s not on the beach, but it’s within striking distance.
You can see the difference that makes in pricing. The median home price is just around $250,000, a steal compared to some of the incredibly expensive coastal towns in the state.
Median household income is also lower at around $44,000 a year. Most of the residents are younger, so it’s an up-and-coming area.
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