Finding a home in California is a dream come true for many people. Also known as the Golden State, California boasts stunning beaches, favorable weather year-round, and beautiful mountain views. Beyond physical features, California has the best neighborhoods for all age groups.
Whether you’re newlyweds, a retiring couple, or a family looking for an affordable place to live, California has some of the most affordable cities in the country. Here’s a list of the 25 cheapest places to live in California.
- California’s real estate market has been booming over the last two years. More buyers are making sales bids higher than the market’s asking price hence the high property prices.
- California remains a choice state for buying homes due to the low mortgage rates and availability of cheaper homes in various towns.
- 37% of homebuyers in California bought a $600,000 median-priced townhome or condo in 2021.
- California ranks 12th in affordability for families with kids. It’s also a popular destination for homebuyers because of the favorable weather year-round. The winter season isn’t as cold as other parts of the country as the temperature is rarely below 31 F.
1. Salton City: Best Place to Buy a Second Home
- Average rent: $625
- Average home price: $172,900
Salton City is a great place for homeowners looking for a small-town feel. The population is pretty small, allowing neighbors to interact closely. Some neighborhoods organize barbeques, which helps new residents to get acquainted with their community.
Home prices are pretty reasonable for such a small town making Salton City an excellent place to purchase a second home.
The cost of living is relatively low, as reflected by groceries, healthcare, and utilities indices. There aren’t many recreational activities, but if you’re a fan of off-road parking, you can join off-roaders who visit the town to play and camp here.
2. Blythe: Best for Young Adults
- Average rent: $850
- Average home price: $186,800
This small city is located in Riverside County and is the most affordable place to buy property. The average home price is $186,800, which is pretty low than most cities in California. The cost of living is also lower than the national average (94.1%), a huge bonus for families living on a minimum wage.
Blythe has a relatively low population of 19,581 people, making it a great place for families looking for a less crowded place to live. It has a fine selection of schools ranking high on national and statewide levels, so you don’t have to look for a school miles away.
The ranking criteria look at the teacher-to-student ratios, public school graduation rates, enrolment rates, student and parent reviews, and more.
3. Avenal: The Cheapest Place to Live in California
- Average rent: $893
- Average home price: $166,800
Avenal is the cheapest to live in California. With a cost of living index lower than the national average and median home price of $166,800, Avenal is a choice city for residents looking for affordable housing.
The groceries and health care indices below 100 echo the low cost of living. On top of that, the city has a lot to offer. It has a sports complex, parks, shops, outdoor recreational spaces, and restaurants. Avenal also has a great public school system.
4. Eureka: Best for Nature Lovers
- Average rent: $957
- Average home price: $362,600
If you like living in towns near natural areas like redwood forests, rivers, or the coast, Eureka is the place to be. The town has had the most affordable housing, with the median home value remaining at $249,300 for years.
However, the recent migration to cities with affordable housing has led to a spike in property prices over the last few years. Today the median home value is $362,600.
Eureka County Council recently authorized the release of three parking lots to develop affordable housing projects. The initiative targets low-income households earning $24,500-$46,150 annually.
The cost of living in Eureka is pretty low compared to other towns, with food, utilities, and transportation ranking below the national average.
5. Clearlake: Has the Best Scenic Views
- Average rent: $960
- Average home price: $206,200
This hidden gem is 4.5 miles away from the old and famous Clear Lake. The lake is probably 480,000 years old, making it the oldest lake in North America. The beautiful wetlands that form when the lake’s depression is filled with sediment make this lake even more stunning.
Unlike many lakes in the U.S., Clear Lake has remained intact for the longest. Geologists explain that the molten rock beneath the lake tilts slightly every year, allowing sediments to seep through the gaps, causing the water level to remain intact for a long time.
Clear Lake has a population of 15000, hence the least populated town in California. It explains the low property prices and cost of living in the town, below the national average.
6. Merced: Vast Selection of Affordable Newly Built Homes
- Average rent: $1216
- Average home price: $321,700
Nestled between Fresno and Stockton, Merced is a great option for people who want to move away from the hustle and bustle of a large city. Housing is affordable for most households, as is the cost of living (104.7%).
The beauty of this town is that it provides a range of housing options similar to larger cities where costs have escalated.
Homeowners looking to renovate old homes will also find a perfect fit for their family’s needs, and the renovation costs are still reasonable. The only downside is that they have to wait longer before moving into the property.
7. Yuba City: Best for Retirees
- Average rent: $1,281
- Average home price: $390,000
Yuba City provides a good balance of fast city life and a suburban vibe. With approximately 70,000 people, Yuba City isn’t as crowded as other cities in northern California.
The cost of living is relatively low as the cost of groceries, health care, and utilities are well below California’s average.
Yuba City is also one of the best places for retirees to live due to the low cost of retirement home living. Eight retirement homes are serving the city, and the cost is approximately $21450 per year compared to California’s $24,750.
8. Bakersfield: Best for Minimum-salaried Employees
- Average rent: $1,294
- Average home price: $311,110
A 2019 study ranked Bakersfield as one of the most affordable places to live in the country. At the time, a twenty-hour week with a minimum wage salary of $11 per hour was enough to pay for a monthly rent of a one-bedroom apartment ($725).
The town has since experienced a boom in population and property prices, but it’s still among the most affordable places to live in the U.S. According to a 2021 housing report, the city had 427 housing listings in October, a 30% decline from the same time last year.
People from the expensive parts of Southern and Northern California are moving to Bakersfield searching for affordable housing.
With a cost of living of 102.6% and a median home price of $311,100, Bakersfield can afford a minimum salary worker a comfortable life. The cost of food is also pretty affordable, as is health and transportation.
9. Fresno: Best Central Location
- Average rent: $1,400
- Average home price: $316,400
Like Bakersfield, Fresno has experienced a surge in property prices and population as people rush to buy low-priced homes here. Homes cost as low as $316,400, nearly half of California’s median home price, while rent prices have increased to $1400 for a 901 square-foot home.
Neighborhoods like Edison, McLane, Fresno High Roeding, Roosevelt have homes valued less than the city’s median price. The cost of living is also affordable for most households reporting an average of 102.6%.
- Average rent: $1,461
- Average home price: $420,300
10. Clovis: Best for Young Families
Located at the heart of California, Clovis is an upcoming, vibrant community full of young families. The town has experienced tremendous growth over the last two decades, currently housing 100,000 people.
Clovis’ favorable weather year-round, affordable housing, and highly-rated schools continue to draw many people here. The cost of living is relatively lower (115.7%) than California’s average, allowing medium and low-income workers to live comfortably.
Food is also affordable thanks to the town’s year-round supply of fresh produce. Clovis is right near San Joaquin Valley, known for its rich soil for growing crops.
11. Carmichael: Best for Young Professionals
- Average rent: $1,480
- Average home price: $520,400
Carmichael is one of Sacramento’s suburbs and has become home to many young professionals. The cost of living is notably high, but the availability of essential amenities like schools, parks, and shops make living here worthwhile. The town has three local elementary schools, a few public high schools, and middle schools.
The town’s prime location explains the high property prices. Carmichael is located between downtown Sacramento and river access, providing access to various places. The town also has a range of nature parks and centers residents can visit on weekends.
12. Stockton: Best for Affordable Food
- Average rent: $1,503
- Average home price: $389,900
A decade ago, Stockton had a housing crisis due to the high foreclosures rate. The story has since changed as the town has become a hotspot for California residents looking for affordable housing.
Today, the median home value in Stockton is $389,900, nearly three times less what you would spend in San Francisco for a similar unit. In fact, you might find cheaper options in neighborhoods like Wilson Heights, Swain Oaks, Anderson, Country Club, among others.
In addition, the state plans to build affordable housing on a vast 110-acre of land in San Joaquin County Fairgrounds, southeast of Stockton.
The cost of living is also relatively lower than California’s, with an average of 113.9%. Food is the most affordable, as the town has lots of agricultural land.
13. Fontana: Best for Millenials
- Average rent: $1,566
- Average home price: $502,400
Fontana proves that one can live in a fast-paced city away from the expensive L.A. and Bay Area regions. The town is located on the outskirts of the Los Angeles metro area, making it a great place to affordably live while accessing what L.A. has to offer.
People remember Fontana hosting the popular drag racing sport in the 1950s. The racing spirit lives on as the town hosts the IndyCar and NASCAR races at Auto Club Speedway. Housing is a little pricey but still affordable compared to California’s median home cost of $684,800.
The price has spiked within the last three years when homes cost between $350,000 and $450,000 because Millenials looking for affordable housing are moving to Fontana. The low crime rate, a high number of healthcare jobs, and proximity to L.A. are also major draws.
14. Barrio Logan: Has a Rich Cultural History
- Average rent: $1600
- Average home price: $699,000
If you’ve always loved living in San Diego but can’t afford the million-figure property buying price, head to Barrio Logan. The once quaint neighborhood has transformed into the fastest-growing community in San Diego.
A few years ago, Barrio Logan wasn’t any home buyers’ first choice for buying property; most people lived there out of necessity. However, the town’s proximity to downtown, rich cultural history, and access to public transportation has attracted many property developers. Today renting a one-bedroom apartment costs as much as $1600 per month, and the median home price is $699,000.
The nightlife isn’t as exciting as San Diego’s. However, recreational areas like the old Chicano Park, art galleries, and the Mexican fare of Las Cuatro Milpas should keep you and your family entertained during weekends.
15. San Bernardino: Best for Diversity
- Average rent: $1,611
- Average home price: $363,000
According to a 2020 report, San Bernardino has the most affordable housing in Southern California. The report showed that the minimum income a household needs to purchase a single-family home of $363,000 is approximately $60,000.
That’s why the homeownership rate in San Bernardino is higher (69%) than California’s (52%) and Orange County (41%). The cost of living is higher than the national average, but the low property price is a major draw for Blacks and Latinos.
16. Rancho Cordova: Best for the Working Class
- Average rent: $1,735
- Average home price: $476,300
The town is located a few miles from Sacramento, probably explaining the high property prices. Ranch Cordova is the place one would refer to as a bedroom community because many adults commute to jobs outside its borders.
According to the latest U.S. Census estimates, Rancho Cordova has 76,305 people with a median age of 33 years. Most people are working, starting families, or newlyweds.
The cost of living (121.2%) is quite steep compared to the national average, with housing having the highest index (152.9%).
The city council recently allowed developers to set up affordable housing, which might increase supply and cause a reduction in property prices.
17. Sacramento: Has a High Employment Rate
- Average rent: $1,764
- Average Home Price: $472,661
Sacramento is one of the fastest-growing cities in California yet, the most affordable place to live in the state. The cost of living is 20% lower than the state’s average, largely due to the low utility cost and cost of goods and services.
Housing is quite expensive (132%) than the national average but lower than California’s. Housing prices vary by neighborhood, with places like Fair Oaks valuing homes as high as $5 million.
Rent prices also vary based on location, apartment size, and unit type. You might find a one-bedroom apartment sitting on a sizeable 824 square feet at $1764. Two-bedroom and three-bedroom units have more generous square footage.
Although the recession hit the city hard in 2010, it has managed to pick up the pieces, transforming into one of the best metro areas for job creation. Sacramento is home to large companies like Blue Diamond, Sutter Health, VSP Global, to mention a few.
18. Chico: Best for Budding Businesses
- Average rent: $1,996
- Average home price: $424,500
Also known as the City of Trees, Chico has a strong school system, mainly due to the top-rated nursing and fine arts university (California State University) and Butte College. The town also has a good selection of elementary and high schools offering specialized programs.
Chico has a well-regarded medical community, often referred to as the hub of healthcare in the North State. The town’s council recently expanded Enloe Medical Center to provide emergency and surgical departments, intensive care units, and 140 beds.
The cost of living is relatively affordable for most households, primarily due to the town’s low cost of housing. What’s more, potential buyers can choose properties from a range of housing styles, including established neighborhoods near Bidwell Park, luxurious executive homes, new urban developments as well as solar-powered neighborhoods.
19. Redlands: Lowest Cost of Living in the West Coast
- Average rent: $1,999
- Average home price: $505,300
Redlands is another affordable place to live for homeowners who still want to experience the fulfilling lifestyle of Southern California. The cost of housing is a little steep compared to the national average, but potential buyers who have lived in the expensive parts of Los Angeles might find it affordable.
The University of Redlands is also in the town, which means students make up a substantial part of the population.
20. Roseville: Has the Best High-paying Jobs
- Average rent: $2,164
- Average home price: $587,300
Roseville isn’t the cheapest place to live in the country, but it’s pretty affordable by California standards. A 2020 survey of the best places to live in the United States ranked Roseville the 45th best city. Although the cost of living is a few points lower than California’s, the survey found the low housing cost, high paying jobs, low utility costs, vast retail opportunities as the main reasons for the high ranking.
The construction and retail industries provide most jobs as employers like Kaiser Permanente and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have set base here.
21. Temecula: Best for Buying Horse Property
- Average rent: $2,188
- Average home price: $609,200
Located between San Diego and Los Angeles, Temecula is known for its love for wine, golf, and gambling. The town is home to the largest casino in the state, has more than 40 wineries and multiple golf courses.
Temecula also boasts many horse properties, so horse lovers don’t have to travel many miles to enjoy horseback riding.
Although property prices (204.6%) and the cost of living (142.6%) are steeper than the national average, the town’s unique location draws many people here. Temecula is within an hour’s drive to San Diego and Los Angeles and 45 minutes away from the beach.
Related: Most Expensive City in California
22. Vacaville: Safest town in California
- Average rent: $2,217
- Average housing: $562,500
The town has a relatively small population of 96,918 people, making it the least crowded city in California City. The crime rate here is also low, drawing many families to the area and causing high property prices.
The cost of buying a home in Vacaville is $562,500, which is pretty close to California’s median home price of $684,800, probably due to its proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento.
The cost of living is also steeper (134.8%) than many towns in the state as the cost of health, utilities, transportation, and groceries are well above the national average.
23. Murrieta: Has the Best Weather
- Average rent: $2,293
- Average home price: $575,800
Located 100 miles away from Los Angeles, Murrieta is another affordable place to live for newlyweds and families. The cost of living and housing is higher than the national average, but households with a median household income of $85,000 can buy a property and live comfortably.
Thanks to the budding manufacturing and retail sectors, the city boasts a low unemployment rate. It also has the best weather as most days are sunny. Families can explore the town’s attractions, including parks, ranches, and the famous Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.
Related: Cheapest Beach Towns in California
24. Oxnard: Best for Affordable Beachfront Housing
- Average rent: $2,369
- Average home price: $634,000
Beach living is the most exciting part of living in California. While owning a beach home in the state is pricey, you can find affordable options at Oxnard. With average property prices of $634,000 and an average rent of $2369 (a 928 square feet apartment), you’re sure to find an affordable living space for your family near the beach.
The cost of living is lower than California’s, primarily due to affordable food. Oxnard is an agricultural hub, abundant in vegetables and fruits year-round. The town is famous for producing the best strawberries in the country and holds the California Strawberry Festival every year.
25. Rancho Cucamonga: Best for the Family
- Average rent: $2,499
- Average home price: $621,900
Forget the stereotyping associated with this town; Rancho Cucamonga is one of California’s best places to live. It has a warm, welcoming community, is home to some of the best schools in the country, has low crime rates and family-friendly neighborhoods.
Rancho Cucamonga’s cost of living is a little steep but a great place for those looking for a city with an old-world charm infused with modern vitality.
Although California is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, this guide can help you identify places to live affordably. You don’t have to spend excessively to live comfortably in California. Areas such as Blythe, Bakersfield, and Sacramento have more affordable properties, a lower cost of living, allow access to the beach while providing you with the pleasantries of an urban town.