How Much Does It Cost to Live in California?
Last Updated: March 30, 2023
The Golden State.
An extensive, populous coastal belt that offers both extremes of the wealth pyramid. The deep-pocketed individuals reside on the hills, bathing in sunset overlooking the rest of the metropolis.
The middle-class population frequently interacts with both sides of the divide and the low-income families with big dreams of transitioning to the other side of the West Coast.
The favorable, sunny weather offers equilibrium for the different income groups, but the cost of living tickles them differently.
So, how much does it cost to live in California?
Living in California Statistics (Editor’s Choice)
- The average annual cost of living in California is $46,636.
- California has the second-highest cost of living in the US.
- The monthly food budget for an adult in California is $268.
- The monthly cost of transport in California is $5,007.
- The average monthly cost of health insurance in California is $537.
- The average cost of childcare in California is $1,300.
- California is home to 70% of the 100 priciest US zip codes.
- The monthly miscellaneous budget for an adult in California is $361.
Living in California Stats — An Overview
Despite boasting of a strong economy, many Californians continue to experience a myriad of challenges. There are two reasons for this – the rising cost of living and the failure of earnings to keep pace with these changes.
What does it cost to live in California? We explore this in our fact sheet below.
1. The average cost of living in California in 2020 was $46,636.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data shows that the average cost of living in California improved in 2020 compared to 2019, when it was $49,291. The agency also reported a higher cost of living in 2018 at $46,981.
2. California has the highest cost of living in the US.
(Source: US News)
Living in Cali comes at a premium.
Affordability rankings show besides the high living expenses in California are the second-highest in the US. Only Hawaii has higher quotes.
The rankings further show that Ohio, Oklahoma, and Michigan are the most affordable states, respectively.
3. The annual salary of a full-time wage worker cannot cover the basic budget of a single-parent family.
In California, the annual net earnings of a minimum wage worker are not enough to cover the basic budget of a single-parent family.
Conversely, in 50 of California’s 58 states, the basic family budget of a single adult exceeds the earnings of a minimum wage worker working 40 hours per week.
A Forbes editorial published in December 2021 quipped that California’s high housing costs pose a massive threat to the city’s future. Quite the statement, but how true is it?
4. The average cost of a home in California is $790,475.
In April 2022, the average home price in California was up 22.3% from the $646,000 reported in a similar period the previous year.
When the April 2022 rates are broken down into specifics, the average price of a single-family home was $939,000. The price of a condominium/cooperative housing was $747,000.
5. The median monthly cost of a mortgage in California is $2,421.
(Source: Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2019 & SoFi)
California has the third-highest monthly mortgage payments in the US at $2,421. Only the District of Columbia at $2,684 and Hawaii at $2,472 are more expensive.
This is a premium considering the national median amount was $1,609.
6. The median sale price of a home in California was $349,550 in March 2022.
Despite the high housing costs in California, it doesn’t take long before suitors come calling. In April 2022, houses sold after 26 days on average compared to 21 days the previous year.
To that effect, some 44 homes were sold in April 2022, up 12.8% from the previous year.
The prospect of living in California is exciting. However, there are plenty of factors to consider. The cost of utilities is one of them. On average, California sits at the top of the pile when this budget provision is considered, making it one of the top three most expensive places in the US.
7. California has the fourth-highest electricity prices in the US.
The average cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in California in March 2022 was 26.71 cents. This was more expensive than all states except Hawai (39.97 cents).
Electricity was most affordable in North Dakota at 10.03 cents/kWh, followed by Idaho at 10.07 cents/kWh, Washington at 10.14 cents/kWh, and Nebraska at 10.36 cents/kWh.
Other states with high electricity costs include Connecticut (25.61 cents/kWh) and Massachusetts 25.33 (cents/kWh).
8. California has the highest gas prices in the US.
Californians spend more on fuel than the residents of any other state. For instance, the price of Regular was $6.066 per gallon on May 25, 2022.
The price of the same brand of fuel in Hawaii, the state with the second-highest gas prices, was $5.415. Oklahoma recorded the lowest price for this brand of fuel at $4.079 per gallon.
The prices of the other brands of fuel in California during the period under review were: Mid-Grade at $6.264, Premium at $6.400, and Diesel at $6.576.
9. California has the lowest internet prices in the US.
(Source: Broadband Search)
Due to its large population, the cost of fiber-optic internet is cheaper in California than in any other state. The cost of fiber-optic internet in the Golden State is $0.04/Mbps.
10. California has the fourth-highest water prices in the US.
At $65, the average water bill in California is higher than in 46 other states. However, Alaska ($95), West Virginia ($72), and Connecticut ($69) are all more expensive.
Groceries and Food
We already know that living in California is costly. But what contributes to this high cost? Housing is the most expensive budget provision, followed by taxes, miscellaneous costs, transport, and food.
Most families living in the Golden State prefer to prepare food at home. Let’s see how much it costs them!
11. The monthly non-restaurant food budget for a single adult in California is $268.
Preparing food at home costs much more than eating out. But families have to consider that the cost is much higher when there are more people in a household.
Factor this: A single-parent family spends $577 on this provision. And Californian households with two parents where one or both are working need at least $773 for food every month.
12. A three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant costs $65.
If eating at home is costly, can eating out be a solution? Apparently yes.
A meal for one at a cheap restaurant costs $15, while a meal at McDonald’s or an equivalent combo meal costs around $8.00.
When you feel like eating light and crave a cheeseburger, you will have to part with $2.40.
13. The average cost of groceries per month in California is $1,210.
(Source: SoFi & Numbeo)
Contributing to this total are the prices of various foodstuffs. For instance, one gallon of milk costs $4.25, while 1lb of rice costs $2.67.
By the same token, 1lb of onions costs $0.96 while a similar quantity of tomatoes and potatoes costs $1.76 and $1.22, respectively.
A dozen eggs cost $3.61, while a 1lb loaf of white bread costs $3.45.
California is a populous city whose population stood at 39.7 million in April 2022. This leads to one of the worst traffic congestion rates in the country. It makes sense that the cost of moving around various cities and towns within the state is significantly affected by this dynamic.
14. The monthly transportation cost in California is $4,938.
(Source: MIT Calculator)
The cost also varies depending on the number of adults and children in a household and the generated income.
For instance, the average transportation cost for an adult with one child is $8,762, while the cost for an adult with two children is $11,391.
15. The average cost of a monthly pass in Los Angeles is $99.
Transportation prices also depend on the mode of transit. Some modes of moving around are more expensive. For instance, the average price of a monthly pass in Los Angeles is $99.00. This is higher than the national average of $58.53.
16. The average cost of a taxi ride is $2.70 per mile.
A taxi is one of the most affordable modes of transport in California. The normal tariff for a taxi in Los Angeles starts at $4.00. Conversely, the average amount LA residents pay for a taxi to wait for them for one hour is $29.19.
Healthcare is the one expense in California where the cost falls below the national average.
17. The average monthly cost of health insurance in California is $537.
At the quoted figure, the average monthly cost of health insurance in California in 2022 was 1.65% less than the $546 recorded in 2021.
18. The average annual cost of health insurance in California is $6,444.
At the same time, the annual cost of health insurance was more expensive in 20 states than in California. Golden State residents paid $6,444 on average for annual health coverage.
Annual premiums were highest in West Virginia at $9,972, followed by South Dakota at $9,732 and Wyoming at $9,168.
19. California’s health insurance costs are 0.67% lower than the national average.
Considering most expenses are higher in California, health insurance is an anomaly. At $537 a month and $6,444 annually, health insurance costs are lower compared to the national averages of $541 (monthly) and $6,487 (annually).
Childcare costs are also a significant budget provision for Californians.
20. Taking care of children in California costs $1,300 a month.
Single-parent and two-parent (both working) households in California spend an average of $1,300 on childcare.
In contrast, two-parent households with one working spouse spend $355 a month to raise their children.
Who pays taxes in California?
All income-earning California residents are required to file their taxes. The same applies to employees of California-based companies who live in other states.
21. California has nine income tax brackets.
(Source: California Franchise Tax Board)
California employs a graduated-rate income tax system. This means the higher your income, the higher the tax rate.
The rate ranges from 1% to 12% for both single individuals and married couples filing separately.
Married couples filing jointly also have a similar tax range regime where the rate differs depending on income.
The standard deduction is $4,803 for single filers and $9,606 for married households.
22. California’s sales tax stood at 7.25% in 2022.
(Source: Tax Foundation)
In 2022, California had the highest sales tax rates in the US, at 7.25%. Other states with high sales tax rates include Indiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Rhode Island at 7.00%.
23. California’s corporate tax was 8.84% in 2022.
(Source: Tax Foundation & Trading Economics)
While most states have corporate tax brackets, the rate in California is the same across the board at 8.84%. It’s also one of the highest in the US. During the period under review, the federal corporate tax rate was 21%.
Man shall not live on necessities alone. Apart from basic needs, households incur other costs categorized under the miscellaneous bracket.
Such costs include taking care of pets, unexpected expenses, and emergencies.
Entertainment costs such as a trip to Disneyland and purchasing concert tickets also fall under this banner.
24. The monthly miscellaneous costs for a single adult in California amount to $361.
(Source: CBPC & CalCPA)
The expenses vary depending on the number of breadwinners in a family and the number of people in a household.
Data shared by the California Society of Certified Public Accountants (CalCPA) shows that the costs could even be higher. Quoting the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the body estimates that the costs of taking care of a pet range between $600-$900 per month.
25. The monthly miscellaneous cost for single-parent households in California is $463.
A characteristic of miscellaneous spending in California is that it increases with more children and spending power. For instance, two-parent households with one working spouse spend $787 on this provision.
Cost by Area
California is a three-faced state. Some of its pockets are home to high net worth individuals. The state also accommodates middle and low-income families.
Consequently, the cost of living in Cali varies depending on the county and city.
26. California is home to 70% of the priciest 100 US zip codes.
(Source: Property Shark)
California hosts a huge chunk of the most affluent neighborhoods in the United States.
The real estate data provider bases its definition of expensive on the median sale prices of homes over one year.
The most expensive places in California
In a normal business transaction, the price of a commodity is driven by demand and supply. Some neighborhoods in California defy this law, with buyers willing to fork out a premium for prestige and high-end real estate. The places that attract such interest are expensive.
In the following cities, the median cost of a home is approximately $3 million.
- Santa Monica
- Beverly Hills
- Los Altos
- Palo Alto
- Santa Barbara
The most affordable places in California
Despite its plush cities and neighborhoods, California has several economically sound places to live. Although they are tucked in the state’s inland regions, they are still driving distance from hubs and social amenities.
The cheapest places to live in California include:
- Clearlake: The median cost of a home in the area is $100,000.
- Bakersfield: The median cost of a home in the area is $200,000.
- Fresno: The median cost of a home in the area is $200,000.
- Eureka: The median cost of a home in the area is $200,000.
- Stockton: The median cost of a home in the area is $300,000.
- Clovis: The median cost of a home in the area is $300,000.
- Sacramento: The median cost of a home in the area is $300,000.
- Chico: The median cost of a home in the area is $300,000.
- Fontana: The median cost of a home in the area is $400,000.
- Vacaville: The median cost of a home in the area is $400,000.
Anyone who doesn’t live in California probably has a bucket list of what they would do once they visit.
There is no shortage of activities that visitors can immerse themselves in — cue in the sunglasses. The conducive weather also makes the state a popular holiday destination, not just in the US but globally.
That’s the perspective of somebody on the outside looking in. Living there is a whole different ball game. California is one of the most expensive places to start a family for low and middle-income households in the US.
But the benefits of residing in California far outweigh the disadvantages.
Take a cue from the doormat. The message Home Sweet Home couldn’t be more accurate.
You may also be interested in:
The average annual cost of living in California is $46,636. This is according to 2020 data published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in October 2021.
People from all walks of life in California need $46,636 a year to live in California. This figure represents a fair middle ground. Therefore, any amount above this would be enough to allow you to live comfortably.
The average cost of utilities in California is $375 per month. This is inclusive of electricity, gas, internet, and water.
California is one of the most expensive states to live in America. The state is home to 70% of the priciest 100 US zip codes. The median price of a house in the state is $790,475, which gives insight into how expensive it is to live in the Golden State.
- The Bureau of Economic Analysis
- US News
- California Budget & Policy Center (CBPC)
- American Community Survey 2019
- Energy Information Administration (EIA)
- American Automobile Association (AAA)
- Broadband Search
- World Population Review (WPR)
- MIT Calculator
- California Franchise Tax Board
- Tax Foundation
- Trading Economics