7 Affordable Cities in California (Where You’d Actually Want to Live)

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cheapest places to live in california

California dreamin’? Well, I hope your wallet is ready — because California is the third-most expensive state in the country.

In the Golden State, the median home value is $509,600 and the median one-bedroom rent is $1,750 per month.

That doesn’t mean the entire state is out of reach, however. There are cheaper places. You just have to know where to look.

7 cheapest places to live in California (that are actually cool)

If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest place to live in California, you won’t find it on this list. That’s because the cheapest cities aren’t all that desirable. They have high crime rates, extreme heat, soaring unemployment — and in many cases, all three.

Instead, this list offers up some of the cheapest places to live in California that you might actually want to move to. (All data is accurate as of November 21, 2017.)


The Gold Rush is over, but people are still heading to Eureka, located a few hours south of the Oregon border. With its wonderful location on the coast and near several national forests, natural beauty is abundant. In the center of the city, you’ll find “Old Town,” a historic neighborhood with hundreds of Victorian buildings.

Employment pickings are on the slim side, with most jobs in tourism, health care, and, though declining in scale, timber and fishing.

Population: 27,226

Median home value: $238,100

Average one-bedroom rent: $698

Median household income: $37,094


Want SoCal beaches without SoCal prices? Then try Oxnard, which is about an hour north of Los Angeles. Located directly on the Pacific, it has 20 miles of coastline. The ocean is the biggest draw, offering up activities like kayaking, surfing, and whale watching.

Major industries include commercial fishing, oil, agriculture, and international trade.

Population: 207,906

Median home value: $345,800

Average one-bedroom rent: $1,675

Median household income: $60,621


Less than two hours from L.A. lies Redlands, the heart of what’s known as the “Inland Empire” — generally not an affectionate nickname. But Redlands has some good things going for it, including its weekly farmers market, outdoor amphitheater, killer brewery, and easy access to parks and mountains.

The biggest employer is Esri, a tech company focused on maps and geography.

Population: 71,288

Median home value: $310,200

Average one-bedroom rent: $1,266

Median household income: $65,212


Home to Chico State University, this college town is located 90 miles north of Sacramento. It boasts great weather, an attractive downtown, and nearby hiking. You’re not too far from the ocean, either — definitely close enough for a weekend jaunt.

In addition to education, agriculture is a major industry. And don’t forget about Sierra Nevada, the second-largest craft brewer in the country. It’s based here too.

Population: 91,567

Median home value: $263,500

Average one-bedroom rent: $842

Median household income: $42,342


Wine lovers, rejoice — and then head to this city between L.A. and San Diego. A paradise for leisure seekers, it has more than 40 wineries, multiple golf courses, and the largest casino in California. There are two weekly farmers markets and a historic downtown area as well.

In addition to tourism, major employers include the school district and health care company Abbott Laboratories

Population: 113,054

Median home value: $335,200

Average one-bedroom rent: $1,447

Median household income: $79,925


Smack dab in the center of the state sits Clovis. It’s a short drive from everything: beaches, mountains, forests, cities. Summers are hot, but residents appreciate its charming downtown, good schools, friendly population, and low cost of living.

As far as industry goes, agile manufacturing and health care are both big.

Population: 106,583

Median home value: 247,700

Average one-bedroom rent: $867

Median household income: $62,666


Just 55 miles from San Francisco lies the laid-back town of Vacaville. Although it’s probably a little far to commute (hello, traffic), living here offers an affordable way to be close to the bay. Shopping lovers will be happy; not only is there a historic downtown full of shops and a vintage market every third Saturday, but there’s also an outlet mall with 120 premium stores.

Major employers include several biotech and pharmaceutical companies as well as two state prisons.

Population: 98,303

Median home value: $291,400

Average one-bedroom rent: $1,584

Median household income: $74,001

If you’ve always dreamed of moving to California, these affordable(ish) cities could help make your dreams come true.

If, on the other hand, you’d prefer to leave some money for repaying your student loans, here are the 10 cheapest states to live in.

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