Is It Better to Live in Florida or California?

An illustration showing the flags of California and Florida side-by-side

If you are considering a move, you will want to keep the cost, safety, and climate in mind. Perhaps you want to live in a busy city or by the oceanside. Maybe you want to walk everywhere and have a welcoming community, or you prefer keeping to yourself.

Florida and California are two sunny states known for their warm weather, relaxed environment, and endless beaches. However, their differences may influence you to move to one over the other.

Is it better to live in Florida or California?

Both of these states have plenty going for them, but they have different qualities of life. We compared the cost of living, taxes, beaches, weather, natural disasters, and crime rates in Florida and California to determine which one has higher living standards.

By researching various aspects of living in these states, you can decide if you would rather live in one than the other. From there, you can start house hunting for your perfect beach home.

Keep reading to learn which state is the overall best in terms of cost of living, outdoor environments, and safety levels.

Is It Cheaper to Live in Florida or California?

If you are not independently wealthy, you will probably need a job to sustain your lifestyle. For retirees looking to move to California or Florida, you will likely rely on a fixed income payment. 

Living in a state with many employment opportunities means you will have more financial security. 

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida has an unemployment rate of 4.8%. Around 9,000,000 Floridians hold jobs, and the state had a 9.8% job growth in the past year. The mean hourly wage is $24.05.

California’s Employment Development Department reported statewide unemployment rates to be 8.1%. About 17,000,000 Californians hold jobs, with 8.0% job growth over the past year. The mean hourly wage is $31.61.

Employed Californians may earn more money than Floridians, but they have more unemployment with a lower job growth rate. Furthermore, California has a significantly higher cost of living, and they pay more taxes than Floridians.

So why is Florida so much cheaper than California?

California vs Florida Cost of Living

When comparing the mean cost of living in California to Florida, California costs 20.6% more than Florida. In California, you pay an extra:

  • 4.5% for groceries
  • 7% for restaurants
  • 27.7% for housing
  • 20.2% for transportation
  • 44.8% for childcare
  • 12.9% for clothing
  • 27.1% for entertainment

The World Population Review ranks California as the second most expensive state behind Hawaii, with a cost index of 151.7. Florida is in 25th place with its index at 97.9.

While you could live cheaply in California, you can more readily accomplish this feat in Florida.

California vs. Florida Taxes

Florida is one of nine states without an income tax, while California is known as a high-tax state. California does employ tax brackets, so low-income individuals will not have to pay as large of a percentage as the wealthy.

The total tax burden in California is 9.47%, while it is 6.56% in Florida. If you prefer to pay less income and sales taxes, Florida comes out as the winner.

Overall, Florida is cheaper than California due to its more affordable cost of living and lower tax burden. While the exact price will depend on the city you choose, you can expect the average Florida town to be more accessible than California.

Are a Lot of Californians Moving to Florida?

A photo showing a sunset over the fishing pier and Gulf of Mexico in Naples, Florida

In recent times, many people have begun moving to Florida from across the country because of its lower taxes, sunny climate, and looser government restrictions. Many of these individuals are Californians seeking a similar environment at a lower cost with a less intrusive government.

Many Florida cities are more compact than California. You can quickly get to town from your house to embrace the cultural amenities. If you choose to live in a coastal town, you can often walk or take a short drive to the ocean.

Florida has plenty of state parks, unique wetlands, farmer’s markets, performing arts centers, museums, art galleries, recreational classes, and high-ranking colleges. While California also has these amenities, Florida’s often cost less.

Combined with the lower and more transparent income, property, and sales taxes, lower gas prices, and fewer fees, many Californians find they can lead a similar lifestyle in Florida for much less.

Should I move from California to Florida?

Before making a definite answer to this question, let’s compare the beaches, weather, natural disasters, and crime statistics in California and Florida.

California vs. Florida Beaches

California has around 3,427 miles of coastline, compared to Florida’s 8,436 using the NOAA method. The only state with more coastline than Florida is Alaska! 

The Sunshine State is surrounded by three bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean to the East, the Straits of Florida on the South, and the Gulf of Mexico on the West coast. It has a subtropical, maritime climate and has beach-friendly days year-round.

Florida has about 189 official beaches that attract hundreds of millions of tourists each year. 124 million tourists visited Florida in 2018, partly for the extraordinary beaches.

California has around 199 official beaches. They also have a booming tourism industry, with 268 million tourists in 2016. However, these were 75% Californians, and only 67,000,000 came from out of state.

While both states have gorgeous beaches, Florida has more high-ranking beaches, according to Trip Advisor. On the list of their top 25 beaches in the United States, Florida took eight spots while California only took four.

If you prefer quality over quantity, you may wish to move to Florida for their beaches.

However, those who prefer varied scenery may wish to move to California. You can enjoy mountains, waterfalls, canyons, hills, deserts, lava beds, caves, foggy forests, giant rocks, meadows, and dunes. 

In Florida, you are pretty much restricted to beaches, some forests, prairies, and swamps. While there is variety within these environments, California has far more biodiversity.

California vs. Florida Weather

A photograph of Malibu Pier in California during a Sunset. It shows a very long pier on a beach at high ride, with a pink and purple sky

Despite being called the Sunshine State, Florida is not nearly as sunny as California. On average, California has 168 fully sunny days and 93 partly sunny ones across 15 cities. That means you can expect around 261 days of sunshine each year.

Upon averaging the days with sun in 11 Florida cities, you can expect 97 fully sunny days and 143 partly sunny ones. That totals about 240 days of sunshine each year, around 8% less than California.

California Climate

As far as temperatures go, California has more variety than Florida. Most of California has a Mediterranean climate, but the large size means it can vary from subtropical to polar.

The California Current creates some of the coolest shoreline summer temperatures in the contiguous states. However, the summer temperatures get significantly higher as you move from the coast in both southern and northern California.

Northern California experiences more rain than the southern cities, as well as places with westward mountain slopes. The northwest is temperature while the high mountains are alpine in climate. Central Valley experiences a Mediterranean climate with higher temperature extremes.

The mountain ranges create rain shadows that lead to deserts. High-elevation deserts in east California have cold winters and hot summers, but the low-elevation ones in the south have much milder winters. Death Valley, California, has some of the hottest temperatures in the world.

Northern California, Eureka, and the Bay Area remain moderate year-round, with temperatures staying around the mid-50s Fahrenheit. The hotter cities often have lows in the 50s or 60s in the summer, usually at night. Nonetheless, daytime temperatures can reach the 80s to 90s.

Many areas in California remain too cold to snow, but you can find these low temperatures in the mountainous regions.

Florida Climate

Since Florida is a peninsula, no city is distant from the sea. Above Lake Okeechobee, Florida has a humid subtropical climate, while the south has a tropical one.

Across the state, mean high summer temperatures stay in the low 90s Fahrenheit with lows in the mid-70s. Winter temperatures generally range from the low 40s to the mid-70s. Usually, Florida only has cold temperatures for a few days at a time before warming again.

The subtropical to tropical climates mean that Florida seldom sees snow. Occasionally, north Florida can have sufficiently low temperatures and enough moisture to receive snowfall. The panhandle will sometimes have frost.

South Florida has only had snow a handful of times in recorded history due to the consistently high temperatures. The whole state can get foggy at times.

Overall, you will find more consistency in Florida’s heat. However, you may wish to move to California if you enjoy varied temperatures and multiple seasons.

Does California Have More Natural Disasters Than Florida?

Massive California Apple Fire forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes, wildfires spreading rapidly, escaping to save their lives, destroyed silhouette, natural calamity

California and Florida both have their fair share of natural disasters. They are both prone to flooding and wildfires, but California receives the second most disasters in the country behind Texas.

You will likely find drought, flooding, fires, landslides, and earthquakes in California, each with the ability to cause notable property damage. Furthermore, the number of natural disasters has increased in recent years due to climate change.

Related: Florida Cities Least Impacted by Hurricanes

California Natural Disasters

California has many types of natural disasters, primarily related to excessive rain, earthquakes, and fires. Flooding and fires are the two most common natural disasters. 

Between 1950 and 2017, the Californian Governor declared 309 State of Emergencies. 40% of these were related to floods and 30% to fires. Major earthquakes compose 7% of emergency declarations, but they can be the most destructive disaster.

The number of disaster declarations has remained relatively stable over time, but fires have increased to about ten per year since 2000.

While all areas of the state can receive flooding, portions of the state closer to rivers and with more property and people have a larger flood risk. Recent decades have also shown an increase in floods from high precipitation. 

You can expect mudslides, road damage, flooding, and flood warnings throughout California. Some of the dams can experience erosion damage which causes extensive flooding.

Much of California is prone to wildfires, with the most high-risk areas having unhealthy, dense forests. Wildfire frequency has increased in recent years from drought, beetle infestation, and wildlife management practices that increase forest density.

Wildfires continue to get larger and more destructive, with financial losses in the billions for each fire.

California has several fault lines that create an earthquake risk in nearby cities. The soil type and area development impact how much damage the earthquake causes. 

The Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Areas are near fault lines, so high-magnitude earthquakes pose an extreme risk. Nonetheless, the state only periodically receives earthquakes, and climate change does not impact tectonic plate movement.

California receives around twelve tornadoes each year, most being weak and in the Central Valley. Occasionally, other areas can get struck by tornadoes where they are not prepared for the damage.

The state hardly receives tropical cyclones, with most being the remnants of larger ones that reach the state. Usually, the state only receives rainfall from the storm. The rain can lead to property damage and flooding.

Florida Natural Disasters

Central Florida is considered the lightning capital of the country due to the high number of lightning strikes it receives. Florida also has high precipitation levels from the commonality of afternoon thunderstorms during summer.

Despite having the most tornadoes per area in the United States (including waterspouts), they do not have a high intensity and cause minimal damage.

Florida is known for the number of hurricanes it receives each year. Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30, with most storms occurring between August and October. This state is the most hurricane-prone due to its climate and extensive coastline.

Out of all of the Category 4 or 5 hurricanes that hit the US, 83% struck Florida or Texas. Between 1851 and 2006, Florida experienced 114 tropical storms, of which 37 were Category 3 or higher hurricanes.

Very rarely does a hurricane season pass without a storm in Florida. Due to their frequency, Florida has designed its infrastructure to withstand hurricane damage. Nevertheless, many areas require restoration after major hurricanes.

Since the state is primarily at sea level and surrounded by three bodies of water, Florida is prone to flooding during a severe storm or hurricane. Floods can contaminate the water supply and lead to property damage.

Florida does experience between 1,000 and 2,000 wildfires each year. The primary causes include escaped debris and drought. Nonetheless, most of Florida has a low to moderate wildfire risk, and they tend not to burn too many acres.

Does Florida Have Less Crime Than California?

A photograph showing a police do not cross ribbon and a police car in the background. It represents the crime rates in Florida and California

Violent crime rates in California are about 430 crimes per 100,000 residents. This rate is higher than the national average of 367 per 100,000 residents. Out of all reported violent crimes, 60% are aggravated assaults, 30% robberies, 9% rapes, and 1% homicides.

Property crime rate is about 2,272 per 100,000 residents. The national average is at 2,110 per 100,000. The reported property crimes break down to 68% larceny thefts, 17% burglaries, and 15% auto thefts.

California crime rates vary drastically by region, with the lowest being on the border and southern coast. The highest violent crime rates occur in San Joaquin Valley, and the highest property crime is in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Nevertheless, California is experiencing a downward trend in crime rates due to the implementation of criminal justice reform acts.

Florida violent crime rates are at 393 crimes per 100,000 residents, which slightly exceeds the national average. Of these reported violent crimes, 67.8% are aggravated assaults, 20.6% robberies, 10.3% rapes, and 1.4% homicides.

The property crime rate is 2,382.4 per 100,000 residents, which greatly exceeds the national average. Reported property crimes break down to 76.7% larceny thefts, 14.8% burglaries, and 8.5% auto thefts.

Florida has experienced decreased crime rates despite population increases. Both states have crime rates above the national average, with California’s total index per 100,000 people being 2,702 and Florida’s 2,775.4.

According to US News, Florida is the 27th safest state, and California is the 36th. However, they have comparable crime index ratings according to FBI data. Both states have safer areas, so check into the local crime rates before making your decision.

Related: Safest Florida Beach Towns

Wrap Up: Is It Better to Live in Florida or California?

So is it better to live in Florida or California?

Overall, Florida comes out as the winner for the best state to live in. You have more employment opportunities, a lower cost of living, and fewer taxes. Furthermore, you have nicer beaches and fewer natural disasters.

While California does have nicer weather (depending on the city) and more diverse scenery, you can live a more comfortable life in Florida because of its affordable amenities, less intrusive government, and pleasant climate.

Related: Pros and Cons of Living in California