You might be hard-pressed to find the cheapest places to live in California, with the state’s median home value at $578,267 and the median one-bedroom rent at $2,657 per month.
That doesn’t mean, however, the entire Golden State is out of reach. As everywhere, there are affordable places to live in California, which can be paramount if you’re on the move and repaying student loans.
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 absolute cheapest cities aren’t all that desirable: They suffer from high crime rates, extreme heat, soaring unemployment — and in many cases, all three.
So, instead, this list offers up some of the cheapest places to live in California — that you might actually want to move to.
The gold rush might be long over, but people are still heading to Eureka, located just a few hours south of the Oregon border. With a wonderful location on the coast and near several national forests, natural beauty is abundant here. 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 or health care.
- Population: 27,024
- Median home value: $249,300
- Average one-bedroom rent: $725
- Median household income: $39,720
Want SoCal’s beaches without SoCal prices? Then try this city just about an hour north of Los Angeles. Located directly on the Pacific, it has 20 miles of coastline. The ocean is certainly the biggest draw, offering up activities like kayaking, surfing and whale watching.
Major industries here include commercial fishing and agriculture.
- Population: 206,732
- Median home value: $390,000
- Average one-bedroom rent: $1,793
- Median household income: $64,837
Less than two hours from Los Angeles lies Redlands, the heart of what’s known as the “IE” (Inland Empire) — not generally an affectionate nickname. But Redland’s got some things going for it, including its outdoor amphitheater, killer brewery and easy access to parks and mountains.
With the local University of Redlands, much of the area’s job opportunities are in education.
- Population: 70,765
- Median home value: $350,900
- Average one-bedroom rent: $1,501
- Median household income: $68,956
Home to Chico State University, this college town is located nearly 90 miles north of Sacramento. The city 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, health care is a major industry. And don’t forget about Sierra Nevada, among the largest craft brewers in the country — it’s based here, too.
- Population: 90,660
- Median home value: $286,700
- Average one-bedroom rent: $865
- Median household income: $45,337
Wine lovers, rejoice and 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. For residents, there are also two weekly farmers markets and a historic downtown area.
In addition to tourism, major employers include the school district.
- Population: 110,722
- Median home value: $394,600
- Average one-bedroom rent: $1,692
- Median household income: $87,115
Smack dab in the center of the state sits Clovis — which means it’s a short drive from everything: beaches, mountains, forest and other cities. Summers are hot, but residents appreciate its charming downtown, good schools, friendly population and low cost of living.
- Population: 104,411
- Median home value: $284,200
- Average one-bedroom rent: $1,078
- Median household income: $68,682
Just 55 miles from San Francisco lies the laid-back town of Vacaville. Although 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, there’s also an outlet mall with 120 premium stores.
The highest-paying industries here are in mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction.
- Population: 96,918
- Median home value: $354,600
- Average one-bedroom rent: $1,750
- Median household income: $77,807
Are you on the move while repaying student loans?
If you’ve always dreamt of moving west, these relatively affordable cities to live in California could help make your dreams come true. They could also help you wrangle your student loan debt.
Yes, moving while repaying education debt is possible. Before you zero in on one of the cities listed above, however, ensure that …
- The city offers a lot more than just the cheapest rent in California
- You’ve combed through your budget and know how to live cheaply in California
- Moving expenses, as estimated by a calculator like Moving.com’s, won’t crater your potential savings
- You’re a fit for the city’s job market (unless you’d bring your remote position with you)
Also, keep in mind that your location isn’t everything when it comes to student loans. You don’t have to move to change your federal student loan repayment plan, for instance, or refinance your private student loans to a lower interest rate. Don’t forget loan repayment strategies that won’t require a new address either.
Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 9/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
4 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.76% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.90% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.80% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.98% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.97% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 11.26% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.90% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 07/10/2020. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).
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Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
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Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.17% effective Sep 1, 2020 and may increase after consummation.