Cost of living - San Diego

San Diego: Ranked Best Major City in California for Quality of Life by MovingWaldo – 2024

Welcome to San Diego, a captivating city on California’s sun-drenched coast. Renowned as one of the best places to live in the state, San Diego’s beauty extends beyond its stunning landscapes. We’re tapping into the insights of locals, particularly the vibrant younger generation who contribute to the city’s exceptionally positive social media presence.

San Diego was recently ranked the best major city to live in California in 2024 by MovingWaldo! We will uncover the essence of San Diego—from its diverse cultural scene to its thriving economy. Join us as we explore the city’s hidden gems, strengths and weaknesses and provide a glimpse into why San Diego is the “it” city of California.

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Infographic: major cities to live in California

Methodology

As the term “best” is subjective, we have established a clear methodology for ranking San Diego as the best major city in California.

This ranking is based on our latest article, “7 Major Cities to Live in California From Best to Worst – 2024” in which San Diego is ranked #1. In this article, we ranked the seven most populous cities in California, determined by population statistics obtained from City-Data.com. To determine the ranking (from 1 to 7), we assessed each city across three key criteria: safety, affordability, and quality of life.

For San Diego, the safety factor is based on the following criteria: the violent crime rate, the property crime rate, and the total crime rate (the sum of both property and violent crime rates). Crime statistics come from the City of San Diego’s Annual Crime Reports by neighborhood. Based on the report, it is the total crime per 1000 people and the reporting period from January 2022 to December 2022.

Affordability takes into account the prices of housing and renting. The majority of data comes from Rockethomes’s median pricing for June 2023 and Zillow’s 1-bedroom median cost for December 2023.

The “Best quality of life” aspect is measured based on feedback from real people who have moved to this area in our database or real people from trusted online forums and social media platforms. More specifically, we look for positive feedback on job opportunities, quality of education, quality of healthcare, feeling of safety, public transportation, the environment (cleanliness), as well as the availability of recreational facilities and parks.

Pros and Cons of Living in San Diego 

San Diego is the second-biggest city in California, located at the southern end of the state by the Pacific Ocean. Scrolling through social media gives you a real feel for the love San Diego gets from its people. They are not shy about gushing over the city’s vibes and lifestyle.

From TikTok to Instagram, locals describe San Diego as a place that’s not just about beaches and palm trees but a community filled with culture and energy. San Diego has a lifestyle that many always gravitate towards.

Pros of Living in San Diego

1. Booming Job Market 

San Diego also has a booming job market for all the newcomers settling in. As of November 2023, the unemployment rate in San Diego stood at 4.2% whereas California’s unemployment rate increased to 4.9% this past November. Some of the occupations with the fastest job growth are nurse practitioners, statisticians, medical and health services managers, physical assistant and physical therapist assistants.

EDD of California (Nov 2023)

2. Low Crime Rate 

With a population of over 1.3 million people, San Diego stands out for its notably low crime rate of 21.20 incidents per 1,000 people, fostering a secure and tranquil environment for residents. The San Diego Police Department plays a crucial role in the upkeep of safety within the community. As locals have suggested, San Diego is an extremely safe place; however, like any other major city, there are certain areas that are to be avoided, like San Ysidro.

In contrast, San Francisco, another major city in California, has a higher crime rate of 52.36 crimes per 1,000 people. In fact, California’s violent crime rate increased by 6.1% in 2022, while San Francisco experienced a higher surge, with a 7.45% crime rate increase. This shows that San Diego is doing a great job keeping things safe, especially when you compare it to the higher crime rates in places like San Francisco.

Along with low crime rates for the residents of San Diego, the city has implemented homelessness strategies and solutions to care for all its citizens. As of January 2023, the city of San Diego sheltered 3,215 people, with 1,053 individuals exiting to positive housing destinations due to their outreach, diversion programs, Homelessness Response Center, Safe Sleeping Program, Safe Parking Program, and more.

The City of San Diego (Jan 2023),Crime in California (Dec 2022), PPIC (Nov 2022) & San Francisco Police Department (Nov 2023)

3. Great School System

Whether you are single or raising a family, San Diego is the perfect place. As Mayor Todd Gloria shared, San Diego is a place of opportunity for young families and children, especially with its well-known educational institutions like the University of California and top public elementary and high schools such as Patrick Henry High School.

4. Climate

You are certain to never find bad weather in San Diego. According to ClimateData.org, the weather of San Diego is influenced by the area’s steppe environment.

Throughout the year, San Diego receives barely any rain which means many sunny days. The average temperature is 16.7 °C or 62.1 °F and the average annual rainfall is 272 mm or 10.7 in. San Diego has an average temperature of 21.1 °C or 70.0 °F with August being the warmest month of the year, which is great for enjoying the Pacific beach in La Jolla Cove and whale watching. The coldest month of the year is January, with an average temperature of 12.9 °C or 55.2 °F.

It is not to mention that San Diego is prone to having periods of drought like any other major city in the state of California due to the reduced rainfall. This is not to worry as the City of San Diego has in place considerations and restrictions during these droughts to conserve water for residents.

5. Easy Commute

One of the advantages of moving to San Diego is the diverse public transportation options, including buses, trolleys, and trains. The responsibility for providing and managing public transportation lies with two main entities: the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the North County Transit District (NCTD). Together, they manage an extensive transportation network throughout San Diego County, including the San Diego city and its surroundings.

The MTS covers central and southern parts of San Diego, while the NCTD serves the north.

The MTS Trolley is the most important public transport, linking the downtown area, attractions, universities, businesses, and neighborhoods. A top choice for city travel by both residents and visitors.

It has three primary lines:

  • Blue Line: from US-Mexico border through downtown, to San Diego State University.
  • Orange Line: from Middletown to El Cajon in the east.
  • Green Line: from Downtown San Diego, through Mission Valley to Santee.

Below is a compilation of public transportation costs in San Diego:

Type of fare Cost in San Diego
Single ticket $2.50
Daily pass $6.00
Monthly pass $72.00

MTS (Dec 2023)

6. 2SLGBTQQIA+ Community

San Diego is one of the most welcoming major cities for the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community in the US. The city has long been an advocate for the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community with the San Diego Pride, neighborhoods like Hillcrest, its sister neighborhood North Park, and its abundant selection of same-sex bars and clubs.

It is considered one of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ friendly cities to live in because of its low crime rate of 21.20 crimes per 1,000 people with a population of over 1.3 million people. San Diego’s 2SLGBTQQIA+ scene flourishes with diverse venues for dating and different expressions on University Avenue.

The community can find support through the San Diego LGBT Community Center where the well-being and health of anyone in the community is taken care of. It has also been noted by locals in the community that San Diego has a tight-knit queer community which is perfect for welcoming anyone into the major city!

City of San Diego (Dec 2022)

Cons of Living in San Diego

1. High Sales Tax Rate

A couple of cons occasionally mentioned by residents are the weight of the California taxes. As of October 2023, San Diego’s sales tax rate stood at 7.750% which is higher than the California sales tax rate of 6%. The disadvantage of San Diego’s sales tax rate is its impact on the overall cost of living.

California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (Oct 2023)

2. High Cost of Living

Even though the cost of living in San Diego is higher than the national average, especially when it comes to housing costs, living in the city doesn’t have to be out of reach. You can still discover affordable neighborhoods in San Diego that offer the best quality of life.

As of December 2023, the median cost of buying a property in San Diego is $889,624; as of January 2024, the median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $2,395. Compared to Los Angeles where the median cost of buying a property in December 2023 is $972,221 and the median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $2,195.

The rental market in this city is equally competitive, too, because of high demand for rental apartments. Trusted websites such as Redfin, Apartments.com, Trulia, and Zillow are often used to find available apartment listings and property or engage with real estate agents for assistance.

Rockethomes San Diego (Dec 2023), Zillow San Diego (Jan 2024), Rockethomes Los Angeles (Dec 2023) Zillow Los Angeles (Jan 2024)

Break Down of the cost of living in San Diego

Category Monthly cost
1 bed apt rent outside city center $3,080.88
Groceries

Numbeo’s grocery list ($69.42 multiplied by 4)$282.04Utilities

Electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage$364.19Internet with 60 Mbps$79.87Transit pass$72.00Entertainment

Meal, taxi, movie$98.50Gym membership$102.25Total$4,079.73

The main data collection source for this information is Numbeo as of December 2023 and trusted city-related websites, including Metropolitan Transit System and the CA city and county page. The costs presented above are estimates and pertain to an individual living alone on a monthly basis.

San Diego Public Tran

Top 5 Best neighborhoods to live in San Diego 

1. Rancho Encantada

Very safe

  • Crime rate: 6.22 crimes per 1000 people
  • Median 1-bed apt rent: $2,737
  • Median property buying cost: $2,490,000

Rancho Encantada stands out as the best neighborhood in San Diego due to its inviting ambiance and having the lowest crime rate of 6.22 crimes per 1000 people.

Locals rave about its tranquil and family-oriented atmosphere. The area has various parks and trails, including Stonebridge Neighborhood Park, West Sycamore, and Sycamore Canyon Park, offering ample green spaces for enjoyment.

As of November 2023, the median property buying cost is approximately $2,490,000, and the median cost of a1-bedroom apartment is around $2,737 as of December 2023.

Rocket Homes (Nov 2023), Website Rentals (Dec 2023) & SD Crime Report (2022)

2. Alta Vista

Southern California vibe

  • Crime rate: 7.47 crimes per 1000 people
  • Median 1-bed apt rent: $3,347.50
  • Median property buying cost: $799,000

Alta Vista is a small neighborhood where locals speak highly of its friendly community, various affordable housing projects, community activities, and peaceful atmosphere. Alta Vista effortlessly embraces the vibe of Southern California life with its beautiful environment.

Although the area does not have a park, it has easy access to the nearby Martin Luther King Park. Locals appreciate the green spaces and appealing pathways that encourage them to enjoy the great outdoors.

This place is one of the safest neighborhoods in San Diego because of its low crime rate of 7.47 crimes per 1,000 people. As of November 2023, the median property buying cost is approximately $799,000, and the median cost of a1-bedroom apartment is around $3,347.50 as of December 2023.

Rocket Homes (Nov 2023), Zillow (Dec 2023) & SD Crime Report (2022) 

3. Clairemont Mesa West

Various scenic hiking trails

  • Crime rate: 11.32crimes per 1000 people
  • Median 1-bed apt rent: $2,984
  • Median property buying cost: $1,036,500

Clairemont Mesa West has several parks which locals enjoy, making it one of the best neighborhoods in San Diego for those who enjoy outdoor activities.

Some parks in the area include the popular Tecolote Canyon Natural Park, which offers scenic hiking trails and opportunities for bird watching, and Tecolote Golf Course, which caters to golfers with its well-maintained greens and stunning views. For sports lovers, the Clairemont Athletic Area offers various amenities, including sports fields, basketball courts, and playgrounds for children.

As of November 2023, the median property buying cost is approximately $1,036,500, and the median cost of a1-bedroom apartment is around $2,984 as of December 2023. For safety, it has only a total of 11.32 crimes per 1000 people.

Rocket Homes (Nov 2023), Zillow (Dec 2023) & SD Crime Report (2022)

4. Black Mountain Ranch

Near 2,352 acres of hills, ridges, and canyons

  • Crime rate: 12.91 crimes per 1000 people
  • Median 1-bed apt rent: $5,100
  • Median property buying cost: $2,962,500

Black Mountain Ranch is known for its safety and family-friendly atmosphere, according to locals.

It offers a beautiful and captivating environment with rolling hills, several parks, and natural landscapes such as Black Mountain Ranch Park, Del Sur Neighborhood Park, and Black Mountain Open Space Park, where locals can enjoy 2,352 acres of hills, ridges, and canyons. They can go hiking or biking to the central peak, offering a 360-degree view.

As of December 2023, the median property buying cost is approximately $2,962,500, and the median cost of a1-bedroom apartment is around $5,100. For safety, it has only a total of 12.91 crimes per 1000 people.

Rocket Homes (Dec 2023), Zillow (December 2023) & SD Crime Report (2022)

5. Miramar Ranch North

Proximity to parks and elementary schools

  • Crime rate: 13.32 crimes per 1000 people
  • Median 1-bed apt rent: $4,500
  • Median property buying cost: $1,624,500

Miramar Ranch North is one of the best neighborhoods to live in San Diego because of its family-friendly atmosphere with various recreational opportunities that locals may enjoy.

Residents can enjoy strolling through Stony Ridge Park, Scripps Ranch Community Park, and Oak Glen Native Garden. The area’s proximity to schools such as Dingeman Elementary School and E. B. Scripps Elementary School make it convenient for families with young children.

Locals praise Miramar Ranch North as a neighborhood that embraces its natural surroundings, promotes community involvement, and offers unique opportunities for outdoor activities.

As of December 2023, the median property buying cost isapproximately $1,624,500, and the median cost of a 1-bedroom apartment is around $4,500. For safety, it has only a total of 13.32 crimes per 1000 people.

Redfin (Dec 2023), Zillow (Dec 2023) & SD Crime Report (2022)

How we selected the neighborhoods 

Due to “Best” being a subjective word, below is our methodology to compile the best neighborhoods to live in San Diego.

Using our existing ranking of the safest and cheapest places to live in San Diego, we based our ranking on three criteria: safety, affordability, and quality of life.

The safety factor is based on the following criteria: the violent crime rate, the property crime rate, and the total crime rate (the sum of both property and violent crime rates). Crime statistics come from the City of San Diego’s Annual Crime Reports by neighborhood. Based on the report, it is the total crime per 1000 people and the reporting period from January 2022 to December 2022.

Affordability takes into account the prices of housing and renting. The majority of data comes from Rockethomes’s median pricing for June 2023 and Zillow’s 1-bedroom median cost for December 2023.

The “Best quality of life” aspect is measured based on feedback from real people who have moved to this area in our database or real people from trusted online forums. More specifically, we look for positive feedback on job opportunities, quality of education, quality of healthcare, feeling of safety, public transportation, the environment (cleanliness), as well as the availability of recreational facilities and parks.

Conclusion 

The positive comments on social media underscore San Diego’s appeal as the best major city in California with the best quality of life. These sentiments on socials certainly make a compelling case for San Diego’s appeal as a top-notch place to call home. The beautiful city’s unique combination of natural beauty, amazing climate, great schools and welcoming community make it an attractive place to settle for residents.

Are you planning on Moving to San Diego soon? Learn about the Best San Diego Movers!

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Selina Cifelli

The author

Selina is a motivated marketing intern with a keen interest in developing engaging content related to moving experiences and city life. With a passion for fashion and traveling, she brings a fresh perspective to our readers. Her talent for crafting innovative written material effectively positions MovingWaldo as a trusted resource for hassle-free and efficient moves.

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