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What Is the Cost of Living in California?


California is a state of extremes. It’s home to some of America’s richest and poorest cities and counties. That means there’s no single cost of living in California. Still, there are some things that apply to locations across the state, like a high income tax. To take you through the range of prices in California, we put together a guide of the cost of living in the Golden State.

If you’re looking to rent or buy in California, a financial advisor could help you put a financial plan together for your needs and goals.

Housing Costs in California

For most people, the largest portion of their budget is housing. Needless to say, there’s a huge spectrum of housing costs in California, from ultra-expensive San Francisco to smaller cities. According to, the median home value in San Francisco was $1.2 million in January 2024, whereas Sacramento boasts a median home value of $464,900.

2023 Data from RentCafe shows that the average rent in California is $1,837. Comparatively, the average rent in the U.S. is $1,702. Most cities in California come out above that mark.’s data indicates that the median two-bedroom rent in Los Angeles is $2,889. And San Diego is $2,854. No matter where you live in California, you might pay more than you would in other states.


Californians pay relatively low utility bills. According to data from the Save on Energy Electricity Bill Report, Californians consume an average of 542 kWh per month (down from 572 kWh in March 2022). They pay an average of 24.46 cents/kWh (up from 23.22 cents/kWh), resulting in an average monthly electricity bill of $132.57 (up from $101.49).

For reference, the most expensive average monthly bill is Hawaii ($237.78 in March 2023 and $191.01 in March 2022) and the cheapest is Utah ($81.69 in March 2023 and $78.13 in March 2022). The average for the U.S. as a whole is $138.57 in March 2023 (up from $122.79 in March 2022).


SmartAsset: 2023 Cost of Living in California

According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, an adult with no children in California requires a living wage of $56,825 before taxes in 2024 to make a living wage. Of that annual income, food expenses account for $4,686, or 8.2%. This is a simple living wage calculation, though, so it doesn’t allow for luxuries.

Of course, food expenses vary within California. Based on 2024 data from, the average cost of a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs in LA is $4.89 and $5.61, respectively. For reference, the national average price for a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs is $4.01 and $3.72, respectively.


California is known for its beautiful stretches of highway and its traffic. According to GasBuddy, a gallon of regular gas in California had an average cost of $4.64 in February 2024, the second-most expensive state in the U.S after Hawaii ($4.67).

If you’re looking to own and drive a car in California, you’ll need insurance.’s report on car insurance rates from February 2024 shows that California has the fifth-highest average annual premium at $2,115. This is more than the national average of $1,895.

There are public transportation options in California, but the cost varies from place to place. For example, a monthly transit pass in LA will cost you $50 ($100 regular price). A monthly pass for San Francisco-area transit costs $81, or $98 for access to the San Francisco municipal transit plus the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART).


California holds the honor of some of the highest income taxes in America. Its top state income tax bracket comes with a 12.3% rate. It’s a progressive tax system, though. Residents in the bottom bracket pay just 1% in state income taxes. If your taxable income is over $1 million, you’ll pay a 1% mental health services surtax on top of the 12.3% rate, bringing the total to 13.3%.

California also has the highest base rate for state sales tax, at 7.25%. Counties and cities can add sales taxes of their own, which is why some cities in Los Angeles have sales tax rates of 9.5%.

Here’s some good news for the tax-averse: California’s property tax rates are below average. The state has an average effective property tax rate of 0.71%, compared to the national average of 0.99%. This is largely because of California’s Proposition 13, a state law that reduced property taxes by more than 50% and capped annual increases in assessed home values.

Miscellaneous Cost of Living Facts

SmartAsset: 2023 Cost of Living in California

Moving to California is a dream for many. There’s no place quite like the Golden State. Wine lovers could look into Napa. Art fans can check out the Getty, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the De Young in San Francisco or any number of other museums and galleries.

California also features a number of places where you can surf, hike and road trip your way through some of the country’s most beautiful terrain. There’s also a lot to love if you’re a sports fan – the Los Angeles Dodgers and Golden State Warriors have been contenders for the last few years, and the state also boasts multiple teams in the NFL and NHL.

Next Steps If You’re Moving to the Golden State

Photo credit: © Pierucci, ©, © Gibson