If you’re thinking about moving to California, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is how much it’s going to cost you.
And there are a lot of factors that go into the cost of living, including the type of housing you need and what amenities are important to you.
California is one of the most expensive states to live in, but this is primarily due to the state’s large population and the high cost of living in major cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles.
The state does not levy an income tax, but it does levy a high sales tax.
California’s average cost of living is $68,328, which is significantly higher than the national average of $51,740.
While California is known for its sunny weather and beautiful beaches, it also contains Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth, as well as Redwood National Forest and Sequoia National Park, which contain some of the oldest trees on the planet.
We divided our analysis into two sections to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of California’s most expensive areas.
- California’s Most Expensive Cities
- California’s Most Expensive Towns
This breakdown can give you a sense of wealth in major cities as well as pinpoint the wealthiest towns in the state in case you want to relocate to one of them (or if you are just curious).
Let’s look at the most expensive places to live in California so you know where to go (or not go) next.
Most Expensive Cities in California
1. Los Altos
Hidden away in the undulating hills of San Francisco’s tech epicenter, Los Altos is a short drive from Palo Alto and Menlo Park, home to Facebook and other internet mega-corporations.
Los Altos has some of the best schools in the Bay Area and one of the lowest crime rates in California.
The city is located in Santa Clara County and is about 30 miles south of San Francisco.
It’s also only about 10 miles from Stanford University in Palo Alto. Many residents work in tech or are employed by Stanford.
2. Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills is located in Los Angeles County, about 10 miles west of downtown L.A.
The city has a population of 33,015 and covers 5.7 square miles. The city’s population has grown by 2% in the last five years.
3. Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a cost of living that’s more than twice the national average.
While Santa Barbara has some of the cheapest gas prices in the state, it also has some of the highest taxes and housing costs.
If you’re looking to live in luxury without breaking the bank too much, Santa Barbara is your best bet.
4. Palo Alto
Palo Alto is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a median home value of $3.7 million.
Palo Alto’s high property values are due to its location in Silicon Valley and its proximity to Stanford University.
The university has played a key role in Palo Alto’s development since it was founded in 1885 by Leland Stanford Jr., son of the railroad tycoon Leland Stanford Sr.
Today, Palo Alto is home to Hewlett-Packard, Tesla Motors, and other technology companies.
It also has a large number of biotech companies and startups.
Burlingame is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a cost of living index of 379.0.
It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, about 20 miles south of San Francisco and 30 miles north of San Jose.
The city is a suburb of San Francisco and has a population of 32,254.
Burlingame is popular among commuters as it has one of the best-connected public transportation systems in the country.
The city’s bus system connects Burlingame to downtown San Francisco, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), and Caltrain.
6. Santa Monica
Santa Monica is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a median home value of $1.8 million according to Zillow.
Rents in Santa Monica are also high, at $3,740 per month for a one-bedroom apartment and $5,700 for a two-bedroom unit as of July 2017, according to Rent Jungle.
7. San Francisco
San Francisco may be considered an economical city when compared to New York City or London, but as far as California goes, it’s one of the priciest places to live.
San Francisco has some of the highest taxes in both state and local form, and utilities cost more than double what they do in other parts of the country.
Most Expensive Towns in California
1. Newport Coast
With a median home price of $6.1 million, Newport Coast is one of the most expensive cities in California.
The town is located in Orange County, CA, and has a population of 6,629.
The city is located close to other expensive cities, including Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.
It has a short 7-mile coastline but boasts some gorgeous beaches like Crystal Cove State Park.
Atherton, located in San Mateo County, has an average effective property tax rate of 0.73%, the lowest in the state.
While the median home value in Atherton is $7, this city has some of the highest property taxes in California, at a median of $59,100 per year.
Belvedere is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a median home value of $4.9 million.
The median home value has been on the rise for the past ten years and is still increasing.
The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,590, and the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $6,500.
Belvedere has a population of about 2,100 people.
Belvedere is located on an island in San Francisco Bay. It is connected to Tiburon by a causeway, which includes a bike path that connects to the Tiburon Bike Path.
Ross, known for its small-town atmosphere and charming shopping district, is one of the most expensive cities in California with a population of over 2,433.
With a median home price at $3.8 million, it’s no wonder why. But that doesn’t mean all homes are priced out of reach.
The town has a mix of historic and modern homes in varying price points from the low $1 million to over $20 million.
5. Portola Valley
With a median household income of $224,554, Portola Valley is one of the most expensive towns in California.
Portola Valley is also California’s fourth safest city, with a crime rate that is 75% lower than the state average.
Portola Valley may be the place for you if you want to live in a low-key community surrounded by nature.
It has no downtown area and a population of only 4,592 people.
The town is surrounded by parks and preserves, and there are trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Residents have panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean and are only a short drive from Stanford University.
6. Stinson Beach
Stinson Beach is one of the most expensive cities in California, with a median home price of $4.4 million.
The coastal town is located about 30 miles west of San Francisco and about 20 miles north of San Francisco International Airport.
It is popular among surfers, kayakers, and other beachgoers due to its pristine shoreline.
Here’s what it’s like to live in Stinson Beach, the state’s most expensive zip code, which was recently named the most expensive in the country.
Stinson Beach is located just outside Stinson Gulch State Park, which also includes Red Rock Beach and the Dipsea Trail, a 7.4-mile hiking trail that travels through redwood forests and offers views of the ocean.