13 Cheapest Places to Live in California (by cost of living)

by Jen
Cheapest Places to Live in California
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Looking for the cheapest places to live in California that strike a balance between beauty and fun? Get ready to explore California’s most affordable hidden treasures!

We’re embarking on a journey to discover places that offer a fantastic lifestyle without a hefty price tag. From the historic charm of Eureka to the serene beaches of Oxnard, this guide has you covered. Picture yourself enjoying a sunny day in Chico’s lively college town or experiencing the suburban bliss of Clovis. Whether you’re thinking of a temporary stay or a permanent move, we’ve got the perfect spots for you.

In this article, I’ll take you through 13 of the cheapest places to live in California. You’ll find a mix of vibrant cities, quaint towns, and everything in between, each offering a unique lifestyle at an affordable cost. So, pack your bags and come on over to the West Coast for some affordable living in the sunshine!

Cheapest Places to Live in California

Gear up for an amazing adventure through California’s most affordable living spots! We’re setting off to discover the cheapest places to live in the Golden State (no easy feat, I know). So, grab your enthusiasm and come along as we explore budget-friendly locales where the cost of living in California might not be as much as you imagined!

1. Chico

Chico, a delightful blend of college-town vibrancy and affordability, is a standout choice in California. The city’s median home price hovers around $430,000, a steal in the Golden State.

Grocery shopping in Chico is a breeze on the budget. Expect to spend about 10-15% less on your groceries compared to larger Californian cities. This difference can add up, especially for families and students.

Transportation costs in Chico are also reasonable. Car rentals average around $35 per day, making weekend trips or short-term needs manageable. Public transportation is a viable option too, with affordable fares and routes connecting key areas of the city.

Chico’s proximity to Sacramento, about a 90-minute drive, offers the perfect balance of small-town charm and access to big-city amenities. Whether you’re a student at California State University, a young professional, or a family, this city provides an affordable, quality lifestyle. It’s a place where your dollar stretches further, making it a top pick for living in California on a budget.

Chico is one of the cheapest places to live in California.
Chico shines as an affordable and vibrant college town in California.

2. Clovis

Welcome to Clovis, where suburban comfort meets outdoor excitement! This hidden gem in California is an affordable playground for adventure seekers and families alike. Median home prices around $390,000, offering an incredible deal in today’s market. And renting? You’re looking at an average of $1,200 per month for a cozy apartment.

But here’s the real scoop: Clovis is a stone’s throw from some of California’s most breathtaking natural wonders. Imagine living just minutes away from the Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park. Weekend hikes, camping trips, and unforgettable memories are practically in your backyard.

Grocery shopping in c is another win. Prices are about 20% lower than in nearby Fresno, making your weekly shop a wallet-friendly experience. And let’s talk about transportation. Clovis has a fantastic public transit system, with average fares under $2. Plus, bike-friendly streets make it easy to stay active and save on gas.

It’s perfect for those who crave suburban peace, affordability, and a dash of adventure. Get ready to call Clovis home and experience California living at its best, without the hefty price tag.

Welcome to Clovis, a hidden gem in California where suburban comfort meets outdoor excitement.
Welcome to Clovis, a hidden gem in California where suburban comfort meets outdoor excitement.

3. Holtville

Get ready to fall in love with Holtville, a small town with a huge heart and even bigger savings. This charming community in the Imperial Valley is known for its warmth and affordability. Think homes with median prices around $250,000 – yes, you read that right! Renting? It’s a dream come true, with average rents hovering around $900 per month.

This town is famous for its annual Carrot Festival. Yes, carrots! Celebrate this quirky and fun event with the locals, and experience community spirit like nowhere else.

Grocery shopping in Holtville is a unique experience. Local produce is fresh, abundant, and surprisingly affordable. And when it comes to getting around, you’ll love the simplicity and low cost of transportation in this small town.

Holtville might be off the beaten path, but it’s a hidden gem for those seeking a peaceful, affordable lifestyle. Discover the joys of living in Holtville, where your budget goes further and life is just a little sweeter.

Fall in love with Holtville, a small town in the Imperial Valley with a huge heart and incredible savings.
Fall in love with Holtville, a small town in the Imperial Valley with a huge heart and incredible savings.

4. Eureka

Eureka is a coastal wonder, blending Victorian charm with modern living. This Northern California city is a haven for those seeking affordability with a historical twist. For renters, expect to find gems for around $1,100 per month.

Eureka is a cultural hub, boasting the largest collection of Victorian architecture in California. Stroll through the Old Town, and you’re transported to another era, yet with all the modern amenities at your fingertips.

Grocery shopping in Eureka offers both variety and value. Local markets feature fresh seafood and organic produce, often at prices lower than you’d expect. And when it comes to getting around, Eureka’s public transportation is both efficient and economical, with fares that keep your budget in check.

Eureka is perfect for those who love the blend of history, culture, and affordability, offering a Northern California charm. Discover Eureka, where every day feels like a step back in time, but with the comfort of today.

Eureka, a coastal wonder in Northern California, seamlessly blends Victorian charm with modern living.
Eureka, a coastal wonder in Northern California, seamlessly blends Victorian charm with modern living.

5. San Pablo

San Pablo, a hidden gem in the Bay Area, offers an affordable alternative to its pricier neighbors. This city is a dream for budget-conscious residents, with median home prices around $550,000 and average rents for apartments at about $1,500 per month.

And for those looking for affordable housing, San Pablo delivers. The city has initiatives in place to provide quality, low-cost housing options, making it accessible for more people.

But here’s where San Pablo really shines: its public transportation options. The city is well-connected, with bus fares averaging just $2.50, making commuting a breeze. And for a fun, eco-friendly option, check out the local scooter rental schemes. They’re affordable, convenient, and a great way to zip around the city.

San Pablo combines the convenience of Bay Area living with the affordability many crave. It’s perfect for those who want the urban experience without the urban price tag. Discover San Pablo, where your dollar goes further and life in the Bay Area is within reach.

San Pablo, a hidden gem in the Bay Area, offers an affordable alternative to its pricier neighbors.
San Pablo, a hidden gem in the Bay Area, offers an affordable alternative to its pricier neighbors.

6. Sacramento

Sacramento, a beacon of affordability and cultural richness, stands among the top places to live and visit in California. This capital city surprises many with its reasonable living costs. Median home prices are around $450,000, a rarity in California. Renters find joy here too, with average rents for apartments at about $1,400 per month.

But Sacramento’s charm is in its details. The city is a leader in the farm-to-fork movement, boasting an array of farmers’ markets and restaurants dedicated to local, sustainable produce. This commitment to fresh food is not just a culinary delight but also a boon for grocery shoppers, who enjoy high-quality produce at lower prices than in many other Californian cities.

Transportation in Sacramento is a highlight. The city’s extensive public transit system, including buses and light rail, costs around $2.50 per ride. Sacramento also offers a unique bike-share program, perfect for environmentally conscious residents and visitors.

What truly sets Sacramento apart is its blend of urban energy and relaxed, community-focused living. It’s a city where history meets modernity, from the gold rush era to the vibrant arts scene. Discover Sacramento, where every day is an opportunity to enjoy the best of California without the typical price tag.

Sacramento, a beacon of affordability and cultural richness, stands as a top place to live and visit in California.
Sacramento, a beacon of affordability and cultural richness, stands as a top place to live and visit in California.

7. Stockton

Let me introduce you to Stockton, a real gem in the San Joaquin Valley. This city is all about giving you the big California dream without the big price tag. We’re talking median home prices at a cool $360,000. Renters, you’re in luck too – think cozy apartments at around $1,100 per month. Pretty sweet, right?

This place is buzzing with culture. Imagine hitting up vibrant festivals, checking out awesome art shows, or chilling by the lively waterfront. It’s all about community and diversity here, and trust me, you’ll feel it.

Now, let’s talk wheels. In Stockton, renting a car is as easy as pie and won’t empty your wallet. Rentals start from around $30 to $40 a day. Perfect for those spontaneous road trips or just getting around town. And with Stockton’s central location, you’re just a drive away from some of California’s coolest spots.

So, if you’re hunting for that perfect mix of city excitement and suburban chill, Stockton’s your place. It’s where you can live large without spending large, making it a top pick for anyone looking for that California lifestyle on a budget. Stockton’s waiting for you – come check it out!

Discover Stockton, where city excitement meets suburban chill on a budget.
Discover Stockton, where city excitement meets suburban chill on a budget.

8. Murrieta

Welcome to Murrieta, a Southern California treasure that’s all about family-friendly living and incredible value. Murrieta is a community that thrives on family values and outdoor activities. Picture weekend hikes, community events, and a safe, welcoming environment for everyone.

Here, the median home price is around $480,000, offering a slice of the California dream at a reasonable cost. Renters, you’re in for a treat too, with average rents for apartments hovering around $1,600 per month.

Now, let’s talk about getting around. Murrieta’s public transportation system is a hidden gem. For those who commute or love to explore, season passes for buses are super affordable. You can grab an unlimited monthly pass for around $50, making it a budget-friendly way to navigate the city and surrounding areas.

Murrieta is perfect for families and individuals seeking a blend of suburban comfort and affordability. It’s a city where you can enjoy the Southern California lifestyle without the hefty price tag. Discover Murrieta, where every day is an opportunity to enjoy quality living in a community-focused setting.

Murrieta: a Southern California gem for family-friendly living, value, and a welcoming community.
Murrieta: a Southern California gem for family-friendly living, value, and a welcoming community.

9. Imperial

Imperial, a rising star in California’s desert landscape, offers more than just affordability. Sure, the median home price is around $300,000, a real bargain in California.

But Imperial’s charm lies in its unique blend of community spirit and outdoor adventures. It’s a place where neighbors know each other, and family-friendly events are the norm. The city is growing rapidly, yet it maintains a small-town feel that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Here’s a cool fact: Imperial is close to the Imperial Sand Dunes, a haven for off-roading enthusiasts. It’s also just a short drive from the Mexican border, offering a unique cultural experience and fantastic day trips.

Public transportation in Imperial is evolving, with plans to expand services as the city grows. Currently, the local bus service provides a reliable and affordable way to get around, with fares that are easy on the wallet.

Imperial is perfect for those seeking a blend of adventure, culture, and affordability in their California dream. And it’s growing! Get in here at the start and you’ll reap the rewards of this thriving community.

Imperial is ideal for those seeking a mix of adventure, culture, and affordability in their California dream.
Imperial is ideal for those seeking a mix of adventure, culture, and affordability in their California dream.

10. Vacaville

Vacaville is this cool spot right between Sacramento and San Francisco. You get a home here for around $500,000, which is pretty sweet for California. Renting? You’re looking at about $1,700 a month, and there’s something for everyone.

My favorite thing about Vacaville is that it’s got this amazing community vibe. Think fun festivals, awesome farmers’ markets, and people who really care about their town. It’s the kind of place where you feel at home right away.

And get this – Vacaville is a shopping haven! We’re talking premium outlets and cute local stores. Plus, if you’re into the outdoors, Lagoon Valley Park is just around the corner. Hiking, biking, and incredible views? Yes, please!

Getting around Vacaville is a breeze. The bus system connects you to the bigger Bay Area transit, so you can zip around without a car. And the city’s all about green living, so you’ll see more sustainable transport options popping up.

Vacaville, strategically nestled between Sacramento and San Francisco, offers homes around $500,000.
Vacaville, strategically nestled between Sacramento and San Francisco, offers homes for around $500,000.

11. Auburn

Auburn, nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, is full of surprises. This quaint town offers a unique blend of history, nature, and affordability. The median home price in Auburn is around $550,000, providing a gateway to California living without the steep costs. Renters can find charming places for about $1,500 per month, a great deal for this picturesque area.

But Auburn’s real charm lies in its rich Gold Rush history and stunning natural surroundings. It’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with endless trails for hiking, mountain biking, and even gold panning. The town’s historic downtown is a delightful mix of old-world charm and modern conveniences, perfect for leisurely strolls and unique shopping experiences.

Auburn is known as the Endurance Capital of the World, hosting world-class events like the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup Ride. It’s a community that celebrates adventure and the great outdoors.

The town’s commitment to preserving its natural and historical beauty while offering modern amenities makes it an ideal spot for those seeking a peaceful yet active lifestyle. Pack your bags and get ready to fly to California to explore this tranquil haven!

Nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Auburn surprises with its unique blend of history, nature, and affordability.
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Auburn surprises with its unique blend of history, nature, and affordability.

12. Coalinga

Coalinga, nestled in California’s Central Valley, is a peaceful retreat known for its strong agricultural roots. Coalinga’s charm isn’t just in its affordability. It’s a community where life moves at a slower pace, and neighbors greet each other with a smile.

The town is surrounded by beautiful farmland, offering a serene backdrop for daily life. Median home prices around $250,000. Renters can find great deals too, with average rents for apartments at about $900 per month. This really is one of the cheapest and most unique spots in California!

Here’s a fun fact: Coalinga is home to the Harris Ranch, one of the largest beef producers in the West. This gives residents access to some of the freshest and highest-quality meat products around.

Coalinga may not have the extensive public transportation systems of larger cities, but its compact size makes getting around easy. The town’s layout is perfect for leisurely strolls or bike rides, and the local roads connect you to nearby cities for wider exploration.

Coalinga is a place where you can enjoy the simplicity of small-town living, with the benefits of California’s rich agricultural heritage.

Coalinga is an affordable and peaceful community rooted in agriculture.
Coalinga is an affordable and peaceful community rooted in agriculture.

13. Oxnard

Hey, have you heard about Oxnard? It’s this awesome coastal city in Southern California where you can actually afford to live by the beach! If you’re looking to rent, you can snag a place for about $1,800 a month. Pretty cool for a spot right by the ocean, right?

This place has a vibe all its own. Think gorgeous beaches for your morning jog or sunset walks, a historic downtown that’s full of character, and festivals that are all about celebrating the local culture.

Oxnard is an awesome coastal city in Southern California where you can afford to live by the beach.
Oxnard is an awesome coastal city in Southern California where you can afford to live by the beach.

And let me tell you about the food – Oxnard is a seafood lover’s dream. Thanks to its coastal location, you get some of the freshest seafood around. Hit up the local farmers’ markets, and you’ll find not just seafood but also a bunch of fresh, local produce. It’s like a foodie paradise!

Getting around Oxnard is a breeze, too. There’s a solid public transit system, including buses and even a commuter rail to Los Angeles. So, if you’ve been dreaming of that beach life but thought it was out of reach, check out Oxnard. It’s where the California dream of living by the sea becomes a reality, offering access to Southern California activities without draining your bank account.

The cheapest places to live in California (by cost of living) for all types of travelers
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