California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States and is the most populous state in the country, with a population of approximately 40 million people. Known for its diverse landscapes, culture, and economy, California is home to major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, as well as natural wonders like Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe.
If you are considering moving to California, the various costs listed below will help you make an informed decision on what costs are involved.
Quick California Facts:
- Population: 39.24 million (2021)
- Official Language: English
- GDP Per Capita: $90,696 (2021)
- Random Fact: California has more US National Parks than any other state in the US
- Currency: US Dollar (US$). As of early 2023, £1 = $1.20, €1 = $1.07, $1 CAD = $0.74, $1 AUD = $0.68
1. Moving and Shipping Costs to California
Below are sample costs of moving the contents of a 3 bed house to California from other US states: (Note these are sample prices only, use the form at the top of the page to get more accurate quotes)
The low-end price assumes you doing all the packing and driving a rental truck yourself. The high-end price assumes using professional movers and packers.
- Texas: $1,300 – $8,000
- Florida: $2,500 – $9,500
- New York: $2,500 – $10,500
- Pennsylvania: $2,500 – $10,000
- Illinois: $1,800 – $9,000
- Ohio: $2,300 – $9,700
- Georgia: $2,000 – $9,000
- North Carolina: $2,400 – $9,400
- Michigan: $2,300 – $9,100
- Oregon: $1,000 – $ 7,000
- Nevada: $1,000 – $6,400
- Arizona: $1,000 – $6,500
- Washington (state): $1,050 – $8,300
2. California Housing Costs
The range of rental and house purchase prices in California varies widely depending on location, with some of the most expensive areas located in urban centres such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Monthly Rental Prices in California:
- 1 bedroom flat (apartment) in City Centre: $1,800+
- 1 bedroom flat outside the City Centre: $1,650+
- 3 bedroom flat in City Centre: $3,100+
- 3 bedroom flat outside the City Centre: $2,500+
California Home Purchase Prices:
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy in City Centre: $8,000+
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy outside City: $3,700+
California Housing Cost Comparison:
This is how rents in California compare with other cities around the globe.
- London is 25.3% more expensive
- New York is 48.6% more expensive
- Los Angeles is 29% more expensive
- Toronto is 3.6% cheaper
- Sydney is 10.1% more expensive
- Paris is 18.1% cheaper
- Dubai is 5.6% cheaper
How to Save on Housing Costs:
- Share a Flat or House: Sharing a house or a flat is a way to save on living expenses. You may 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 site to find your perfect room or flatmate: Spare Room, iRoomie.
- Different Areas – Different Prices: In San Francisco, the median home price is over $1.5 million, while in more suburban areas or smaller cities, such as Sacramento or Fresno, median home prices may be closer to $350,000-$400,000. Rent prices are also higher in urban areas, with downtown apartments in San Francisco or Los Angeles often costing several thousand dollars per month, while more suburban or rural areas may have rental rates closer to $1,000-$1,500 per month.
3. California Food, Grocery and Restaurant Costs
California is known for its diverse and innovative food and drink scene, with a focus on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and multicultural cuisine. Some famous foods and drinks to be aware of include the Mission-style burrito, sourdough bread, avocado toast, Napa Valley wines, and craft beer from breweries such as Sierra Nevada and Anchor Steam.
- Inexpensive Restaurant: $18.00
- Takeout Coffee: $5.00
- Bottle of Coke: $2.50
- 1L of Milk: $1.30
- Loaf of Bread: $4.40
- 12 Eggs: $4.70
- 1kg Chicken: $17.70
- 1kg Beef: $19.80
- 1kg Apples: $5.80
- 1kg White Rice: $5.60
This is how restaurants and food prices compare with other major cities in the world.
- London restaurants are 15.7% more expensive and groceries are 56.3% cheaper than California.
- New York restaurants are 27.9% more expensive and groceries are 9.4% more expensive than California.
- Los Angeles restaurants are 23.1% more expensive and groceries are 15.3% cheaper than California.
- Toronto restaurants are 5.1% more expensive and groceries are 30.2% cheaper than California.
- Sydney restaurants are 4.1% more expensive and groceries are 14.3% cheaper than California.
- Paris restaurants are 1.3% cheaper and groceries are 16.7% cheaper than California.
- Dubai restaurants are 0.8% cheaper and groceries are 83.8% cheaper than California.
Bonus Tips for Cheaper Food, Restaurants and Groceries:
- Know Your Supermarkets: California is home to many farmers’ markets, offering locally grown produce and artisanal products at a range of prices, depending on the location and season. In addition to farmers’ markets, there is also a range of supermarkets in California, from affordable chains like Walmart and Aldi to high-end stores like Whole Foods and Gelson’s, offering a variety of options for shoppers with different budgets and preferences.
- Find Cheap Eats: California has a good selection of restaurants which offer food at affordable prices. Have a look at Trip Advisor and LA Eater.
4. California Alcohol Costs
California, like all cities in the United States, has plenty of bars and clubs to choose from, whether you want a quick beer after work or a cocktail before dinner.
- Pint (0.6L) domestic beer at a restaurant/pub: $7.50
- Bottle of imported beer at a restaurant/pub: $8.00
- Pint (0.6L) domestic beer at a supermarket: $1.90
- Bottle of imported beer at a supermarket: $2.55
- Mid-range bottle of wine at a supermarket: $13.50
How To Drink For Less in California:
- Keep an eye on the local papers and websites for specials over weekends and public holidays.
- Take a look at Time Out and Eater.
5. California Transportation Fares
Public transportation in California varies widely by region, but in general, it can be challenging due to the state’s sprawling geography and car-centric culture. Larger cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have extensive transit systems, including buses, subways, and light rail, but more rural areas may have limited or no public transportation options.
Here are some sample ticket costs:
- Adult single – $2.75
- One-day ticket – $5.00
- Monthly season ticket, unlimited – $100.00
How To Save Money on Public Transport:
- Buy a bike. Depending on where you live and work, cycling around the city is certainly a viable option.
- Walk. If you live relatively close to where you work, you can walk to work.
6. Cost of Internet in California
Internet prices in the States are expensive compared with many other countries in the world. Here are some sample broadband internet prices from early 2023 for unlimited downloads, based on a 12-month contract:
- Sprint: $50 a month (Unlimited high speed except for streaming gaming up to 8mb)
- AT & T: $20 a month (50mb fibre)
- Verizon: $80 a month
7. Cost of Clothing, Personal Items, Gym and Leisure
The average yearly temperature in California varies widely depending on the region, but ranges from around 10°C to 21°C. In general, the coldest month is typically December or January, while the hottest month is usually July or August. The wettest month also varies by region, with some areas experiencing their highest rainfall in the winter months, while others may see more rain in the spring or fall.
Here are some clothing prices, together with other useful prices.
- Pair of Jeans: $45.00
- Summer Dress: $31.00
- Running Shoes (Trainers): $90.00
- Business Shoes: $110.00
- Short Doctor’s Visit (15 mins): $110.00
- Deodorant: $5.00
- Shampoo: $6.00
- Toilet Paper (4 rolls): $4.55
- Gym Membership: $60.00
- Movie (cinema) Ticket: $12.00
8. Cost of Owning a Car and Driving a Car in California
Everyone in the US drives on the right. Many people use their cars for work in California. The rush hour is nowhere near as long as bad as other cities around the world. If you’re moving to California 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 California:
- Volkswagen Golf: $25,250+
- 1 litre (¼ gallon) of Gas (petrol): $1.34
Ways To Save Money on Driving in California:
- Car sharing or pooling is one way to save money. Try RideShare
- Taxis can sometimes be a cheaper option, especially if you are going to have to park all day. Try Uber or Lyft.
9. Taxes in California
The sales tax rate in California varies depending on the location and can range from 7.25% to 10.25%. In addition to the state-level sales tax, local cities and counties may add their own sales tax, which can increase the overall rate. For example, in Los Angeles, the total sales tax rate is currently 9.5%.
Whether you own or rent 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 Fresno at Property Tax.
Finally, if you decide to buy a flat or house in California you’ll have to pay real estate transfer tax.
10. Flight Costs from California
If you do make the move to California, here’s approximately how much it will cost to fly to other major world cities based on the lowest, one-way fares from Skyscanner as of early 2023:
- London: $300
- New York: $100
- Toronto: $150
- Vancouver: $700
- Dubai: $800
- Sydney: $700
- Melbourne: $650
- Cape Town: $620
- Hong Kong: $600
Other Tips on Moving to California:
The costs and pricing above should give you a good idea of the cost of living in California but perhaps the following extra tips will make your move go smoothly.
11. Moving to California Alone
Moving anywhere can be a lonely experience, but moving to a new city can be especially daunting. Here are a few tips about settling in California.
- Meetups: There are many Meetup groups to choose from. You will definitely find something to join which will help you to settle in.
- Attend Local Events: California always has something going on. Have a look at Eventbrite and See California.
12. Moving to California with a Family
California can be a family-friendly location with a variety of activities and attractions for all ages, including theme parks, museums, beaches, and outdoor recreation areas. The crime rate in California varies by location, with some areas experiencing higher rates of violent and property crimes than others.
- New Parents (or parents to be): There are free and paid antenatal classes and courses. Have a look at link to the state’s maternity page
- Live in a Family-friendly Area: The cost of living in some parts of the state can be high, which may make it challenging for families on a tight budget. Some popular options include the San Diego area, which has a mild climate, excellent schools, and plenty of outdoor activities; the Bay Area, which offers a mix of urban and suburban living, top-rated schools, and cultural attractions; and Orange County, which has a high standard of living, good schools, and a variety of family-friendly activities.
- Find Things To Do With The Kids: There are many activities for families living in California. Have a look at the following sites to be inspired – Trip Advisor.
13. Moving to California for Work
While it is possible to move to California without a job, it makes sense to ensure there are jobs in your field before you make the move. California has a diverse economy with a range of industries, including technology, entertainment, agriculture, and tourism. Some of the state’s largest employers include Apple, Google, and Walt Disney Company. As of March 2022, the unemployment rate in California was 6.8%, which is slightly higher than the national average.
Here are a few things to consider when moving for work:
- Salary: Salaries vary enormously depending on which industry you are in. The costs we outlined above should give you a rough idea of how much more you’ll want to make the move worthwhile. You can also check salary ranges on sites such as Pay Scale.
- How To Find Work: If you want to have a job lined up before you move to Fresno, but aren’t sure where to begin, the following sites are good places to start: Monster, Indeed and Glass Door. 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 California from Australia
There’s a small group of Australians living and working in California, if you are thinking of joining them, here are a few things to consider.
- Size Comparison: In the UK, the land area of California is roughly equivalent to the combined area of Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset.
- Join Expat Groups: Start your own Australian Meetup group.
15. Moving to California from Canada
There’s a small group of Canadians living in California. If you’re considering making the move from Canada here are a few things to consider.
- Size: In Canada, the land area of California is roughly equivalent to the combined area of Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick.
- Expat Groups: Meeting up with fellow Canadians helps the moving process. Start a Canadian Meetup group.
16. Moving to California from the United Kingdom
There’s a small number of Brits living in California. If you are thinking of making the move from the UK to join them, then here are a few things to consider.
- Size: In the UK, the land area of California is roughly equivalent to the combined area of Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset.
- Expat Groups: If you want to join up with fellow Brits in California, then start your own British Meetup group.
Hopefully, the tips and costs above are helpful. If want to get started pricing out how much it will cost you to move to California you can start by comparing moving quotes here.