What is the real cost of living in San Diego, CA?

San Diego, California, the second largest city in the state, is sometimes called “America’s Finest City.” Coastal California’s perks are on full display here, with miles of relaxing beaches and a welcoming, laid-back culture. The city’s unique highlights include the famous San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, museums and gardens at Balboa Park, a thriving craft beer scene, and the annual international Comic-Con.

surf boards all lined up

Table of contents

Housing: Rental PricesHousing: Home Purchase PricesUtilities CostFood CostTransit CostAverage Salary
Rent Calculator

When it comes to the city’s high quality of life, the secret is out. Newcomers have been moving to San Diego in droves, increasing the area population by a quarter million people since 2010. Over the last 35 years, San Diego’s inflation rate averaged 3.78% per year, compared to 2.61% for the country as a whole. This means that the cost to live in San Diego has risen more quickly than in other places.

Numbeo’s cost of living index, which factors the cost of consumer goods prices, including groceries, restaurants, transportation, and utilities, scored San Diego’s cost of living at 77.93 out of 100 in July 2020 (with New York City being the index’s benchmark). Adding rent to the mix drops the score to 72.14.

Payscale.com estimates that living in San Diego is 44% more expensive than the nationwide average. Consider it a sunshine tax: it’s been said that San Diego has the best weather of anywhere in the United States.

Housing: Rental Prices

A little over half of San Diegans rent their homes. The average rent for an apartment in San Diego was $2,238 as of January 2020, versus the national average rent of $1,463. 

North City, La Jolla, and Little Italy are the most expensive neighborhoods for renters, with prices ranging from $3,200 to $3,500 per month.

Even if the numbers sound high, living in San Diego doesn’t have to be out of reach. Coliving with roommates allows you to spend significantly less than the average cost of solo housing. For example, Bungalow's average price for a private room in a shared home in San Diego is up to 27% less than the rent of an average studio apartment in the same neighborhood.

Housing: Home Purchase Prices

Homeowners comprise 47% of the city’s population. Home prices in San Diego have risen 82% in the last ten years—from a median sale price of $340,000 in 2010 to $617,000 in January 2020. San Diego’s median price is two and a half times the nationwide median price of $245,000. 

Living in San Diego’s most enviable neighborhoods is even more expensive. In Rancho Santa Fe, Coronado, and Del Mar, median sale prices range from $1.5 million to $2.25 million. 

More affordable real estate can be found in the cities in the eastern part of San Diego county. La Mesa, Santee, and Ramona are all less than half an hour drive from downtown San Diego, but home prices are up to $100,000 less than the county-wide median.

Utilities Cost

San Diego’s warm Mediterranean climate reduces the need for winter heating, but the summers are hot enough to require air conditioning. An average monthly utility bill will cost around $138, slightly more than what you’d pay in San Francisco, but slightly less than in Los Angeles. Overall, utility costs are similar in San Diego to the national average.

Food Cost

San Diego is famous for the baja-style fish taco, which is a delicious accompaniment to a local craft beer. A pint of beer can be found for around $6. An inexpensive meal can be had for $15, or $36 will buy you a more involved affair. San Diego residents each spend an average of $162 at restaurants each month, which accounts for just over half of their food expenditures. 

More small farms exist in San Diego than in any other US county, which means that high-quality local produce is abundant. Groceries only cost about 7% more here than in the rest of the country. The average San Diegan can expect to spend about $291 a month on groceries, which is less than they would spend in any of California’s other big cities.

Transit Cost

Driving is the most popular way to get around in San Diego. Only 6.3% of San Diego households do not own a car, while in cities like Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., about a third of households are car-less. 

Luckily for all those car owners, parking is less of an expense in SD than in denser cities. Many homes, condos, and apartments come with free street or garage parking. Even in the downtown area, free parking is available, and meters are only $1.25 per hour. 

Fueling up in San Diego is expensive. Over the last year, SD’s gas prices have hit a high of $4.19 per gallon and a low of $2.72. These prices are $1 to $1.75 more per gallon than the national average, but are consistent with the overall high gas prices found throughout California.

San Diego’s average car insurance rate is $1,536, which is about a hundred dollars more than the national average of $1,427, and $91 less than the average price across California. 

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System offers local public transportation via bus and trolley for $2.50 per ride. Unlike in many other cities, MTS does not give free transfers. A monthly pass is $72, which is a relative value compared with the price of around $100 for similar passes in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

Average Salary

The average hourly wage in San Diego, CA, is $28.96, 13% higher than the national average of $25.73. This works out to an average yearly salary of $60,237. Some of the most in-demand jobs in San Diego that also pay better than average salaries are in the fields of radiation technology, computer network architecture, and nuclear medicine technology.

San Diego’s average salary is not enough to offset the higher cost of living, so if you want to fulfill your dreams in California’s southernmost city, be prepared to find a job that pays more than the average, look a little further east for housing, or find ways to pare down your monthly budget

Bungalow offers private rooms in shared homes that are more affordable than solo housing options in the same neighborhoods. Wifi, utilities, and monthly cleaning are set up before you move in so that coliving is seamless. Unlike other shared housing options, Bungalow vets all residents and helps you match with roommates who share your living preferences and interests. Find your next home on Bungalow.

Ready to find your next home?

Move-in ready homes and a built-in community so you can feel at home, together — wherever you are.

Suggested articles

loading spinner
Move in ready homes and a built-in community so you can feel at home, together — wherever you are.