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The cost of living in San Diego

How much does it cost to live in America’s Finest City?

A woman in a white hat walking in from of the Greetings from San Diego mural.

A city this nice has a price.

Photo via @virroylola

With San Diego constantly growing and undertaking multiple high-profile developments this year, we figured it was time to talk about the cost of planting some roots in America’s Finest City.

The median household income in San Diego County is $89,457 according to the US Census Bureau. California has the No. 6 highest median income of US states at ~$84,907 per household.

San Diego Cost of Living bar chart

Cost of living in San Diego compared to state and national costs.

Chart uses data from

The overall cost of living in San Diego is higher than the national average, and higher than the rest of the state.

In San Diego, the cost of health care is lower than other parts of the state and the US. However, the cost of groceries, housing, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses have above-average costs compared to the rest of the US. Those expenses also exceed California’s averages, except for transportation.

Breaking down the numbers

Hypothetically speaking, if you live in a household that brings in $50,000 annually – according to experts — you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your monthly gross income on rent and utilities. Don’t worry, we did the math for you — your max monthly budget would be $1,250. The average monthly rent for an apartment in San Diego is $3,016 — more than doubling that allowance.

According to a recent study by Attom Data Solutions, it’s actually more affordable to rent in San Diego County than to buy a home. As of July 2023, a single-family home sold for an average of $969,020.

Take a look at the chart below to see how San Diego’s cost of living compares to that of Los Angeles.

A bar graph comparing costs in San Diego to Los Angeles

Cost of living: San Diego compared to Los Angeles.

Chart uses data from

Interested in seeing San Diego’s cost of living compared to cities in other states? We played around on nerdwallet’s cost of living calculator, where you can put in any city along with your current pre-tax household income to find out what other cities you could actually afford to live in.

We took a look at the cost of living in San Diego compared to Los Angeles. Here’s what we found:

  • The cost of living is 5% lower in San Diego.
  • To maintain our standard of living with a $50,000 budget, we would need to bring in $52,423 to our Los Angeles household.
  • The median monthly for a two-bedroom apartment is $2,874, which is $192 more than San Diego.

San Diego also has entities such as the San Diego Housing Commission + other government-funded programs to help develop more affordable units.

There are also a number of local development firms working on apartments seemingly all the time — from Cisterra’s newly-opened Radian in East Village to the Mt. Etna affordable housing development coming to Clairemont.

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