Rudyard Kipling only had one complaint about San Francisco and that was, it was impossible to leave. If you think New Yorkers are passionate about their city, talk to a San Franciscan about their city.
San Francisco has hills with views, the coast, excellent food and has been voted the happiest, healthiest and fittest city in the States many times.
If you are considering moving to San Francisco, the various costs listed below will help you make an informed decision on what costs are involved when moving and living in this fascinating city.
Quick San Francisco Facts:
- Population: 864,816 (2016 estimate). The San Francisco Bay Area is estimated to have a population of 7.65 million.
- Official Language: English (de facto) with over 110 other languages spoken including Spanish, Portuguese, Tagalog, Mandarin, Cantonese, Swahili, Navajo and Punjabi.
- GDP Per Capita: $71,668 USD (2016)
- Fortune Cookie: The “Chinese” fortune cookie was invented by Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese-American businessman in San Francisco.
- Currency: US Dollar (US$). As of early 2019, £1 = $1.30, €1 = $1.13, $1 CAD = $0.75, $1 AUD = $0.71
1. Moving and Shipping Costs to San Francisco
- New York City – $522+
- Los Angeles – $155+
- Canada (Vancouver) – $549+
- UK (London) – $1,488+
- Australia (Sydney) – $1,056+
- Ireland (Dublin) – $1,642+
- New Zealand (Auckland) – $1,623+
- Hong Kong – $1,095+
- Dubai – $2,930+
- Singapore – $1,993+
2. San Francisco City Housing Costs
Whether you are renting or buying, property in San Francisco is very expensive, even more expensive than New York.
Monthly Rental Prices in San Francisco
- 1 bedroom apartment in the City Centre: $3,300+
- 1 bedroom apartment outside the City Centre: $2,700+
- 3 bedroom apartment in the City Centre: $5,900+
- 3 bedroom apartment outside the City Centre: $4,400+
San Francisco City Home Purchase Prices
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy in City Centre: $12,400
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy outside City: $9,800
San Francisco Housing Cost Comparison
This is how rents in San Francisco compare with other cities around the globe.
London is 35.05% cheaper
New York is 8.09% cheaper
Los Angeles is 35.55% cheaper
Toronto is 55.90% cheaper
Sydney is 48.01% cheaper
Parisis 57.79% cheaper
Dubai is 56.44% cheaper
How to Save on Housing Costs
- Share a house or apartment: Unless you are very well off or have a company housing allowance, you will be sharing in San Francisco. Sharing a house or apartment is a way to save on living expenses. You will probably have to share a bathroom but you will save at the end of the day. A cheaper option is to share a room. Have a look at the following sites to find your perfect roommate: Easyroommate, Kangaroom, SpareRoom, Trulia, Metroroommates and Craigslist.
- Different areas – different prices. The city of San Francisco covers 7 square miles and is surrounded on three sides by water, so the city can only grow upwards. The most expensive areas are Dogpatch, South Beach, Pacific Heights, Potrero Hill and Panhandle. At the other end of the scale, but still not cheap, is Excelsior, Outer Sunset, Richmond District, Central Sunset and Ocean View.
3. San Francisco Food, Grocery and Restaurant Costs
San Francisco prides itself on its food. It has the biggest selection of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the States. Fear not, meat lovers, San Francisco has plenty of excellent traditional restaurants representing the cuisine of most countries in the world.
- Inexpensive Restaurant: $13 – $20
- Takeout Coffee: $4.00 – $5.00
- Bottle of Coke: $1.60 – $3.50
- 1L of milk: $0.87 – $1.64
- Loaf of Bread: $2.76 – $5.51
- 12 Eggs: $2.89 – $4.00
- 1kg Chicken: $8.82 – $19.84
- 1kg Beef: $11.02 – $33.07
- 1kg Apples: $2.20 – $6.61
- 1kg White Rice: $2.20 – $7.72
This is how restaurants and food prices compare with other major cities in the world.
- London restaurants are 1.98% cheaper and groceries are 44.63% cheaper than San Francisco.
- New York restaurants are 7.38% more expensive and groceries are 9.59% cheaper than San Francisco.
- Los Angeles restaurants are 10.22% cheaper and groceries are 29.82% cheaper than San Francisco.
- Toronto restaurants are 27.79% cheaper and groceries are 41.84% cheaper than San Francisco.
- Sydney restaurants are 20.44% cheaper and groceries are 25.42% cheaper than San Francisco.
- Paris restaurants are 12.53% cheaper and groceries are 30.57% cheaper than San Francisco.
- Dubai restaurants are 21.36% cheaper and groceries are 23.38% cheaper than San Francisco
Bonus Tips for Cheaper Food, Restaurants and Groceries
- Shop local: San Francisco has an exceptionally large number of independently owned grocery stores, free produce stores, farmers’ markets and shops that sell organic and health foods, as well as the usual supermarket chains. Popular local options include: Haight Street Market, Nijiya Market, Marina Supermarket and Andronico’s.
- Find Cheap Eats: With a little bit of effort you can find places which offer excellent food at affordable prices. Have a look at Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, Foodnetwork and SFTravel.
4. San Francisco Alcohol Costs
San Francisco has a great selection of bars and nightclubs, from old style Western saloons to sophisticated cocktail lounges.
- Pint (0.5L) domestic beer at a restaurant/bar: $5.00 – $8.00
- Bottle of imported beer at a restaurant/bar: $6.00 – $8.00
- Pint (0.5L) domestic beer at a supermarket: $1.20 – $3.00
- Bottle of imported beer at a supermarket: $1.75 – $3.49
- Mid-range bottle of wine at a supermarket: $12.00 – $22.00
How to drink for less in San Francisco
- Keep an eye on the local papers and websites for specials over weekends and public holidays.
- Try Blackbird between 5pm and 8pm on weekdays for $4 well cocktails, $5 wine and $2 off draught beer. If wine is your tipple, then go to InoVino’s and enjoy quality wine at $6.50 with cheap eats between 4pm and 6pm Monday to Friday and 3pm to 6pm on Saturday. 83Proof offer $4 draught beer and $4 well drinks from 2-7pm, Monday to Thursday and noon until 7pm on Friday. Have a look at the following to sites to find your perfect watering hole – Four Square, Timeout, Thrillist, The Infatuation and Yelp.
5. San Francisco Transportation Fares
SFMTA oversees most transportation options in San Francisco. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is the city’s Metro system. For other transportation including busses and cable cars have a look at Muni Transit.
Here are some example ticket costs.
- Adult Single – $2.75
- One day ticket – $7.00
- Monthly season ticket, unlimited – $73
How to save money on public transport
- Buy a 7 Day Pass and get unlimited travel for $42
- Buy a bike. Depending on where you live and work, cycling around the city may be an option, just remember all the hills.
- If you live relatively close to where you work, you can walk to work.
6. Cost of Internet in San Francisco
Internet prices in the States are expensive compared with many other countries in the world. Here are some sample broadband internet prices from early 2017 for unlimited downloads, based on a 12-month contract:
7. Cost of Clothing, Personal Items, Gym and Leisure
San Francisco has a mild climate all year but, because of having water on three sides the city gets a lot of fog, especially in the summer. September is the hottest month with an average high of 71°F (22°C). The coldest month is December with an average high of 57°F (14°C). December is also the wettest month with an average of 5 inches (116mm) of rain.
Here are some clothing prices, together with other useful prices.
- Pair of Jeans: $40 – $85
- Summer Dress: $30 – $60
- Running Shoes (Trainers): $60 – $110
- Business Shoes: $80 – $200
- Short Doctor’s visit (15 mins): $130
- Deodorant: $3.67
- Shampoo: $8.00
- Toilet Paper (4 rolls): $3.24
- Gym membership: $39-$120 per month
- Movie (cinema) ticket: $12-$15
8. Cost of Owning a Car and Driving a Car in San Francisco
Many people use public transport in San Francisco to get around. Those that do use their cars find they spend a lot of time stuck in traffic.
If you’re moving to San Francisco from within the US, you’ll be able to keep your license but need to update your address to your new one.
You can drive on a foreign license for up to 12 months as a tourist but after that you will need to get an American license. If you are working or studying in the US, you can drive on your foreign license for 30 days. If you want to exchange your foreign driver’s license you have to follow the process here.
Here are some other sample costs of owning and operating a car in San Francisco:
- Volkswagen Golf: $22,265
- 1 litre (¼ gallon) of gas (petrol): $0.82
- Other fees (if any): The average cost of state and local taxes, license, title and registration fees is $665 per annum
Ways to save money driving in San Francisco
- Car sharing or pooling is one way to save money. Try Waze, Carpoolworld, Getaround, Zipcar and Gocarma or Kyte.
- Taxis can sometimes be a cheaper option, especially if you are going to have to park all day. Try Uber or Lyft.
Need your car/vehicle moved to San Francisco? Then read our guide to: Car Transport & Vehicle Shipping
9. Taxes in San Francisco
Sales Tax in San Francisco is 8.5% and is added to most goods and services. Generally, the price you see on an item does not include sales tax.
If own your home, you will be subject to property tax based on the area in which you live and the size of the property you live in. Learn more about property tax in San Francisco at Property Tax.
Finally, if you decide to buy a flat or house in San Francisco you’ll have to pay real estate transfer tax.
10. Flight Costs from San Francisco
If you do make the move to San Francisco, here’s approximately how much it will cost to fly to other major world cities based on lowest, one-way fares from Skyscanner as of early 2017:
- London: $208
- New York: $119
- Los Angeles: $56
- Toronto: $120
- Vancouver: $95
- Dubai: $441
- Sydney: $595
- Melbourne: $641
- Cape Town: $741
- Hong Kong: $369
Other San Francisco Relocation Tips
The costs and pricing above should give you a good idea of the cost of living in San Francisco but perhaps the following extra tips will make your move go smoothly.
11. Relocating to San Francisco Alone
Moving anywhere can be a lonely experience, but moving to a new city can be rather daunting. Here are a few tips about settling in San Francisco.
- Meetups: There are many Meetup groups to choose from. You will certainly find something to join which will help you to settle in. There is an enormous selection of groups, from single moms to free concerts, hiking and raw food.
- Attend local events:There’s always lots going on in San Francisco. Have a look at TripAdvisor, Timeout, Travel US, Thrillist, AirBnB and SFTravel.
12. Moving to San Francisco with a Family
San Francisco is a great city to live in with a family. There are museums, the aquarium, the zoo, the beach, hiking, skiing and lots more.
- New parents (or parents to be):There are free and paid antenatal classes and courses. Have a look at SFBirthcentre and CPMC.
- Live in a family friendly area: Bernal Heights (nicknamed Maternal Heights) is a good suburb to raise a family with its good schools, trees, green spaces and relaxed vibe. Glen Park, West Portal, Central Richmond, Noe Valley and Sunnyside are also good choices. Outer Sunset is another popular area with excellent public schools, parks, the beach, the zoo and playgrounds.
- Find things to do with the kids: San Francisco is fun place for kids to live. Have a look at the following sites to be inspired – SF Tourism Tips, SF Travel, Alphamom and Redtri.
13. Moving to San Francisco for Work
People move to San Francisco for a variety of reasons: a job, the beach, the food and the artsy scene. While it is possible to move without a job, it makes sense to ensure there are jobs in your field before you make the move.
The tech industry is the high flyer in San Francisco, with companies such as Google, Salesforce and Twitter in town. The unemployment rate is below the national average.
Here are a few things to consider when moving for work:
- Salary: Salaries vary enormously depending which industry you are in. The costs we outlined above should give you a rough idea, how much more you’ll want to be making to make the move worthwhile. You can also check salary ranges on sites such as Glassdoor and Payscale.
- How to find work: If you want to have a job lined up before you move to San Francisco, but aren’t sure where to begin, the following sites are good places to start: Monster, Indeed, Snagajob, Craigslist and Careeer Builder. You may also want to google recruiters in your industry, as they can often help land you some initial interviews as well.
14. Moving to San Francisco from Australia
There are a large group of Australians living and working in San Francisco, if you plan to join them, here are a few things to consider.
- Size comparison: If you compare the population size of San Francisco with a city in Australia, then the closest would be midway between the Gold Coast and Adelaide.
- Join expat groups: There are a number of expat groups enabling you to meet fellow Aussies. Try Internations, Expat.com and Australians in San Francisco Bay Area (FB page).
15. Moving to San Francisco from Canada
There’s a large contingent of Canadians in San Francisco. If you’re considering joining them, here are a few things to consider.
- Size comparison: Quebec is very close in size to the population of the city of San Francisco, albeit a little smaller.
- Expat groups: Meeting up with fellow Canadians helps the moving process. Link up through sites such as Internations and Meetup.
16. Moving to San Francisco from the United Kingdom
San Francisco attracts a lot of people from the UK, if you are thinking of joining them, here are a few things to think about.
- Size comparison: The city of San Francisco is closest to the size of Leeds when you look at population size, although Leeds is a little smaller.
- Expat groups: If you want to get together with others from the UK who are experiencing San Francisco, then go to Internations and Meetup.
Hopefully, the tips and costs above are helpful. If want to get started pricing out how much it will cost you to move to San Francisco you can start by comparing moving quotes here.
Guides to other cities in the Bay Area & Silicon Valley
Guides to other cities in California
Guides to moving and living in other American cities