Top 5 Cheapest places to live in California with the Best quality of life – 2024

Looking for budget-friendly living options in the state of California? You’re in luck! The Golden State offers various cities with affordable places to live and diverse housing options. From vibrant downtown areas to charming small towns perfect for singles or families of all sizes, there’s something for everyone.

Before making a decision, however, it’s necessary to explore the things to do and consider before moving to California. This includes exploring neighborhoods, the cost of living, understanding the local culture, and considering amenities. Thorough preparation and research are key to settling into your new home seamlessly.

Read on to discover the top 5 cheapest places to live in California with the best quality of life.

Top 5 Cheapest places to live in California with the Best quality of life – 2024

Methodology

We based our ranking of the 5 cheapest places to live in California on the median cost of buying a property in 2023, the median cost of rent in 2023, and the quality of life. We collected the data from Rocket Homes Real Estate Housing Market Reports and Zillow. To help you compare, As of December 2023, the median cost of buying a property in California is $750,080 and as of January 2024, the median rent for all bedrooms and all property types in California are $2,750. 

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, environment (cleanliness), as well as availability of recreational facilities and parks.

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1. Clearlake

Apartments in Clearlake
  • Median 1-bed apt rent: $1,400
  • Median property buying cost: $227,000

Clearlake, located in the northern part of Lake County, California, is renowned for its calm and natural beauty, owing to its proximity to Clear Lake. Residents appreciate the parks and natural preserves, such as Anderson Marsh State Historic Park and Clear Lake State Park, making it ideal for nature lovers. It provides a small-town charm community perfect for those seeking an escape from urban hustle

One of Clearlake’s biggest appeals is its lower cost of living compared to many other California cities, as well as its affordable housing options. These options mainly consist of single-detached houses and apartments. As of January 2024, the median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $1,400, and the median home price is $227,000. It is considered one of the cheapest places to buy a house in California.

City of Clearlake (Jan 2024), Local Logic (Jan 2024), Zillow (Jan 2024) & Rocket Homes (Jan 2024)

Clearlake, California

2. Blythe

Apartments in Blythe
  • Median 1-bed apt rent: $1,250
  • Median property buying cost: $230,000

Blythe, located along the Colorado River in Riverside County, is an ideal place for those seeking quiet and outdoor recreation. With 7 parks, various nature walks, and hiking trails like Lost Palms Oasis Trail and Big Maria Mountains, it’s ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. Kayaking and fishing are popular activities along the Colorado River. For convenient commuting, Blythe is perfect, with an average 17-minute commute.

Blythe offers affordable housing with a wide range of options, including single-detached houses, semi-detached houses, and some apartments. The majority of residents are homeowners. As of January 2024, the median home price stands at $230,000, with 1-bedroom apartments renting for $1,250.

City of Blythe (Jan 2024), Local Logic (Jan 2024), Zillow (Jan 2024) & Rocket Homes (Jan 2024)

Blythe, California

3. Coalinga

Apartments in Coalinga
  • Median 1-bed apt rent: $1,100
  • Median property buying cost: $295,000

Coalinga is located among hills and ranches in Fresno County, Central California. Its appeal lies in its affordable housing options, supported by various programs of the city, ensuring accessibility for residents. The main housing type is single-detached homes, as of January 2024, the median home price stands at $295,000, while the median rent for 1-bedroom apartments is $1,100. Standing out as one of the cheapest places to rent in California.

The city is home to many Hispanics, where over a quarter of the population speaks Spanish as their main or second language. It’s one of the most affordable places to live in California, especially if you enjoy a calm and relaxed atmosphere within a close-knit community, unlike big cities. Plus, you can enjoy a short drive for your commute, with an average time of just 19 minutes within Coalinga.

City of Coalinga (Jan 2024),Local Logic (Jan 2024), Zillow (Jan 2024) & Rocket Homes (Jan 2024)

Coalinga, California

4. Bakersfield

Apartments in Bakersfield
  • Median 1-bed apt rent: $1,775
  • Median property buying cost: $375,000

Bakersfield, located near the end of the San Joaquin Valley, is renowned for its agricultural hub and pleasant weather, despite hot summers. Residents value its affordable housing compared to major cities nearby, with housing prices below the national average. Housing options include single-detached houses and apartments. As of January 2024, the median property price is $375,000, with 1-bedroom apartments renting for around $1,775.

Bakersfield has bike lanes for summer commutes, but most residents prefer to drive. It offers family-friendly activities, including 62 parks to enjoy, like Hart Memorial Park. 

It’s a 2-hour drive north to Sequoia National Park, and many residents enjoy the Kern River Parkway Trail, a natural preserve with bike paths, for outdoor activities. The city is home to California State University, known for academic excellence and low tuition fees. Plus, many people enjoy the numerous Basque restaurants.

City of Bakersfield (Jun 2024),Local Logic (Jan 2024), Zillow (Jan 2024) & Rocket Homes (Jan 2024)

Bakersfield, California

5. Fresno

Apartments in Fresno
  • Median 1-bed apt rent: $1,500
  • Median property buying cost: $385,187

Fresno, located in California’s San Joaquin Valley, is a charming small city renowned for its agricultural heritage and farmers market. Its key attraction for residents is its affordable housing and living costs, with housing options predominantly consisting of large apartments, along with some single and semi-detached houses. As of January 2024, the median property price is $385,187, and the median cost of renting a 1-bedroom apartment is also approximately $1,500.

Residents enjoy Fresno’s 300 sunny days and easy access to national parks like Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Park within a 1-hour drive. It’s also close to Los Angeles and San Francisco, offering more recreational opportunities. Transportation primarily relies on cars, with a 20-minute commute time. Fresno’s transit system consists of over 100 buses on 18 fixed routes, ensuring convenient citywide access.

City of Fresno (Jan 2024), Local Logic (Jan 2024), Zillow (Jan 2024) & Rocket Homes (Jan 2024)

Fresno, California

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Conclusion

Moving to California offers a diverse range of affordable housing options, making it an attractive and cheap place to live for those seeking budget-friendly living without compromising on quality. From cities with small-town charm in the agricultural hub of the San Joaquin Valley to other cities ideal for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Being near regional parks like Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park, and nature preserves, the Golden State caters to all lifestyles.

Are you planning to move to California soon? Be sure to explore some of the best movers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the surrounding areas for a smooth moving experience.

Thinking of moving to a major city? Check out the major cities to live in California ranked from best to worst!

 

Last year’s ranking (2023)

  1. Holtville
  2. Clovis
  3. Coalinga
  4. Imperial
  5. Williams
  6. Lakeview
  7. Mendocino
  8. Roseville
  9. Auburn
  10. Oceanside

 

Our rankings are meticulously curated, considering affordability and quality of life. It’s important to highlight that certain places were excluded from last year’s lists due to insufficient rental data. Moreover, entries with higher average housing pricing in the previous year were excluded from the current rankings. We encourage readers to weigh these rankings in light of their individual needs and preferences for a more informed decision-making process.

 

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Ann Nacario

The author

Meet Ann – our head writer with a knack for making moving and city living a breeze. From the many details of moving to picking the perfect moving company, she’s your guide. Ann has a friendly yet detailed approach to ensure your move goes off without a hitch. When she’s not writing about relocation, it will always be on her mind, but you’ll catch her spending time with her three furry friends.

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