Moving to California: Discover the Best Cities to Live in California

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Are you in search of a new place to live? Then California is where you should be. It is well-known for its golden coastline, laid-back stereotypes, Google, and Hollywood. However, you can be confident that there is something here for everyone, whether moving to California alone or with your family.

California is known for its sunshine, surfing, and movie stars. But that only scratches the surface of this vast and wondrous land. This guide will provide all the information you need to make an informed decision about moving to California.

Key Takeaways

  • Much of California has a Mediterranean-style climate, with dry summers and wet winters. 
  • With 21,155,273 employees in 2022, California has the highest number of employed persons among all 50 US states.
  • According to U.S. News, 404 hospitals were assessed in California, and 58 were ranked for meeting high standards.

Table of Contents

Moving to California

When people talk about living in California, they usually mention three things: the climate, the food, and the laid-back lifestyle. Because of California’s location and topography, many areas of the state, particularly those along the coast, have a consistently warm climate all year.

What’s the Population of California?

Table 1: Population

Population Estimates, July 1 2022, (V2022)39,029,342
Population Estimates, July 1 2021, (V2021)39,142,991

Table 2: Age and Sex

Persons under 5 years5.70%
Persons under 18 years22.40%
Persons 65 years and over15.20%
Female persons50.00%

Table 3: Race and Hispanic Origin

Black or African American alone6.50%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone1.70%
Asian alone15.90%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone0.50%
Two or More Races4.20%
Hispanic or Latino40.20%
White alone, not Hispanic or Latino35.20%

Table 4: Population Characteristics

Veterans, 2017-20211,467,026
Foreign-born persons, 2017-202126.50%

What is the Climate of California Like?

Much of California has a Mediterranean-style climate, with dry summers and wet winters. Temperatures on the coast typically range around 70°F but can reach over 80°F on the hottest summer days. Even in the dead of winter, freezing temperatures are uncommon. During the summer, fog is expected along the coast, but it usually clears by midday. Summers inland are hot and dry, with cool, wet winters and occasional cold, clear days. 

The weather changes with the four seasons at higher altitudes. The best time to visit California depends on your interests, with summer being the busiest season. On the other hand, spring is a lovely time to visit, with pleasant temperatures, lush greenery, and wildflowers. Autumn brings mild weather and the grape harvest season to wine regions, whereas winter is ideal for skiing and other snow-related activities.

What is the Average Commute Time in California?

California residents spend an average of 29.3 minutes commuting to work, ranking sixth among the states in an analysis using pre-coronavirus data. According to the research, approximately 12.2% of commuters in the state have one-way travel times that exceed one hour.

Economy and Job Market in California

With 21,155,273 employees in 2022, California has the highest number of employed persons among all 50 US states. California’s employment has increased at an annualized rate of 2.6% during the last five years, which is lower than the national average of 3.7%. Healthcare and Social Assistance, Retail Trade, Administration, Business Support, and Waste Management Services are the main employment sectors in California, employing 2,583,263, 2,186,904, and 2,161,354 people in 2022, respectively. 

California’s unemployment rate of 4.3% in 2022 puts it at 41st among all US states, and it has fallen at a rate of -2.5% over the last five years, slower than the broader US economy. Employment trends can be used to gauge economic strength and the degree of tightness or slack in labor markets. A faster employment growth rate typically indicates a strong and expanding economy, whereas lower unemployment indicates a tight labor market. 

Major Industries in California

The following table shows the largest industries by revenue in California, with their respective revenue in 2022:

2022 Revenue
E-Commerce & Online Auctions$189.9b
Drug, Cosmetic & Toiletry Wholesaling$186.6b
Electronic Part & Equipment Wholesaling$178.2b
Internet Publishing and Broadcasting$149.2b
Software Publishing$142.9b
New Car Dealers$141.2b
Public Schools$134.5b
Health & Medical Insurance$131.5b
Automobile Wholesaling$126.0b

Major Employers in California

Amazon.Com, Inc., the United States Postal Service, and The Home Depot, Inc. were the three largest companies in California in 2022, with 170,000, 63,469, and 54,159 employees, respectively.

2022 Employment2022 Employment %
Amazon.Com, Inc.170,0000.80%
United States Postal Service63,4690.30%
The Home Depot, Inc.54,1590.30%
University of California42,0000.20%
Naval Base San Diego34,0000.20%
Walt Disney Co30,0000.10%
The Kroger Co.26,6870.10%
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department20,1590.10%
California Department of Transportation15,0000.10%
Alphabet Inc.10,0000.00%

What’s the Expected Salary For Employment in California?

California’s vast economy offers numerous opportunities, whether working in agriculture or collaborating with a technology firm. While pay varies by position, the average yearly salary in California is $65,539 (£49,305), significantly higher than the annual average wage in the United States of $48,672 (£36,616).

Cost of Living in California

California is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive states in the country, especially in popular cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. Due to the high cost of living, finding affordable housing can be challenging. For example, the median value of a homeowner-occupied property is $573,200, which is second only to Hawaii in the country. However, California’s high median household income of $84,097 partially compensates for this.

Housing Costs in California

Despite this, renters in California continue to face significant financial challenges. The state’s median rent is $2,950, nearly one and a half times the national median of $2,002. Furthermore, in California, the median rent accounts for 42% of the median household income, implying that a typical Californian may need to spend nearly half their salary to cover rent.

These are the average home prices in 20 major cities throughout California. The cost of housing can vary significantly across the state.

City in California
Typical Home Price
Los Angeles (LA Housing Market Trends)$855,851
San Francisco (SF Housing Market Trends)$1,096,477
San Diego (SD Housing Market Trends)$822,400
Sacramento (Sacramento Housing Market Trends)$543,529
San Jose (San Jose Housing Market Trends)$1,385,816
Santa Rosa$756,209
Santa Maria$862,493
San Luis Obispo$809,240
Santa Cruz$1,089,574

Transportation Costs in California

When planning a trip to California, remember transportation costs, as they can add up quickly. Except for San Francisco, most places in California require visitors to have a car to explore everything and travel efficiently, as public transportation needs to be developed.

Fuel costs must also be considered when renting a car, but California has lower petrol prices than Europe, with an average of $5 per gallon or $1.35 per liter. In addition, because manual transmission cars are more fuel-efficient than automatic ones, renting one can help you save money on gas.

Overall, transportation costs in California can range between $50 and $70 per person per day, assuming car rental is shared.

Food and Entertainment Costs in California

According to the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization, a family of four with two adults and two children is expected to spend $9,835 on food in 2022. Still, this figure can vary depending on where they live.

In 2022, the estimated cost of buying groceries and preparing meals at home to ensure a nutritionally adequate diet for a family of four in California was $10,543. In California, the average cost of entertainment and activities per person daily is around $49. This includes costs for museum and attraction admission tickets, day tours, and other sightseeing activities.

Education in California

California has the most students in the country, with over 6.2 million in the 2005-06 academic year. English language learners account for approximately 25% of these students, higher than the national average of 9%. However, California’s school funding and staffing levels differ from those in other states. In 2005-06, California ranked 29th out of 51 states in expenditure per pupil and 49th in teaching staff expenditure per pupil and teacher-pupil ratio. The only states with lower ratios were Arizona and Utah.

Top-rated Schools and Universities in California

The category of “Best Colleges in California” includes schools from both Northern and Southern California. Schools that did not qualify for a Consensus Score were ranked based on their Student Review score. 

College/University Name Location College Consensus Score Publisher Consensus Score Student Consensus Score Last Accessed
1 Stanford University Stanford, CA 92.2 99 85.4 April, 2022
2 Pomona College Claremont, CA 88.8 94.1 83.4 April, 2022
3 University of California-Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 87.3 94.1 80.5 April, 2022
4 University of California-Berkeley Berkeley, CA 87.2 94.8 79.6 April, 2022
5 California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 86.9 93.9 79.9 April, 2022

Healthcare in California

In 2018, most of California’s insured residents were enrolled in health plans overseen by the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), roughly 60% regulated by either the DMHC or the California Department of Insurance (CDI). The dual regulation system was established for historical reasons, and the California legislature requested a report on merging the responsibilities of health insurers with the CDI in 2000.

California’s healthcare system can be complex and overwhelming for consumers who need clarification about the types of health plans available, how to choose the best one, and how to access quality care. In addition, even after enrolling in a plan, consumers may have questions about their healthcare rights and what to do if there are issues with their coverage. The DMHC has developed comprehensive resources and information for California’s healthcare consumers to help answer these questions and provide additional support.

Hospitals and Clinics in California

According to U.S. News, 404 hospitals were assessed in California, and 58 were ranked for meeting high standards. The rankings were done for hospitals in the Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Modesto, Oxnard, Riverside-San Bernardino, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose metro areas. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is the top-ranked hospital in California and ranked second on the Honor Roll. 

  • City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center (Duarte) 
  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles) 
  • UCLA Medical Center (Los Angeles) 
  • Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital (Stanford) 
  • UCSF Health-UCSF Medical Center (San Francisco) 
  • UC San Diego Health-La Jolla and Hillcrest Hospitals (La Jolla) 
  • UC Davis Medical Center (Sacramento) 
  • Keck Medical Center of USC (Los Angeles) 
  • Scripps La Jolla Hospitals (La Jolla) 
  • Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian (Newport Beach) 
  • John Muir Health-Walnut Creek Medical Center (Walnut Creek) 
  • Torrance Memorial Medical Center (Torrance) 
  • Loma Linda University Medical Center (Loma Linda) 
  • UCI Medical Center (Orange)
  • Sharp Memorial Hospital (San Diego) 
  • MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center (Long Beach) 
  • Providence Mission Hospital-Mission Viejo and Laguna Beach (Mission Viejo and Laguna Beach) 
  • Huntington Memorial Hospital (Pasadena) 

Health Insurance Options in California

In California, you can either have health insurance coverage or not. If you opt for health insurance, there are different options available:

  • Employer Health Plans: Many employers offer affordable medical insurance that meets government standards. If you have an employer-offered health plan, you might not qualify for a tax credit via Covered California unless the premium share for the lowest-cost plan offered by your employer is more than 9.66% of your total income.
  • Medicare: Most Californians over 65 are eligible for Medicare, which means they already meet the minimum essential coverage requirements. This also means they can’t get a tax credit via Covered California.
  • Medi-Cal: Medi-Cal is available for qualifying low-income families, persons with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women, and foster care youth. If you’re enrolled in Medi-Cal, you already meet the MEC requirements.
  • Covered California Plans: If your employer or the government doesn’t offer you insurance, check if you qualify for MEC via Covered California. You could receive subsidies from the government to help pay for your insurance.
  • Off-Exchange Plans: If you or a family member doesn’t qualify for any of the plans above, you can buy a plan directly from an insurance company. This option can be expensive, but it could be better than adding a family member to an employer-sponsored plan.
  • Short-Term Medical Plans: Short-term insurance plans offer temporary coverage and are less expensive than other plans, especially if you’re younger. But they don’t meet the MEC requirements, so you could still pay a tax penalty. This option is good if you need coverage for a short gap between other medical plans.

Remember that most California health insurance plans have specific enrollment periods. So it’s essential to know when the open enrollment or special enrollment periods end to ensure that you get all of these dates, especially when you want to switch from one plan to another.

Best Cities to Live in California

San Francisco

San Francisco, in Northern California, is a popular place to live and visit. It is an iconic city founded during the Gold Rush Era that offers a variety of attractions such as shopping, dining, beaches, tourist destinations, and bay cruises. While living in the downtown area can be costly, less expensive options are available outside of the city. 

San Francisco is an excellent place to live because it accommodates people of all ages and backgrounds. In addition, the city has many parks, playgrounds, libraries, schools, and colleges, a thriving job market and numerous special events throughout the year.

San Diego

Many people who move to California are drawn to the state’s 840-mile coastline. San Diego is a popular tourist destination and one of California’s best places to live. Because of its beach location, it attracts remote workers, surfers, and families. In addition, San Diego is ideal for families with children because numerous family-friendly activities are available, such as public parks, zoos, schools, and museums.

San Diego also has a wide variety of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife options, making it an appealing option for adults. Despite being a beautiful city that many California residents want to live in, the only disadvantage is the high cost of living.


Sacramento’s population has grown in recent years due to the appeal of ethnic diversity and abundant sunshine, particularly for young professionals and families. Economic development has created new opportunities for both newcomers and locals. Furthermore, the city is an excellent destination for foodies. It is a farm-to-fork movement hub due to its location in the Central Valley. Residents can easily access fresh, locally sourced food from nearby wineries, breweries, and farms.

Los Angeles

Although Los Angeles is frequently described as a glamorous entertainment center and a congested urban center, the reality of this sprawling metropolis is far more complicated. Whether they are aspiring Midwesterner actresses or Korean-American business owners, LA residents frequently cite the city as a place where their dreams can come true. 

Along with the city’s many positive aspects, it has some drawbacks. For those who rely on the extensive freeway system, endless traffic jams and long commutes are a regular part of life. However, within an hour’s drive of downtown, these same freeways provide access to diverse environments, including beaches, mountains, forests, and deserts.

San Jose

San Jose, known as the capital of Silicon Valley, is a diverse city with an innovative culture. San Jose’s identity is shaped mainly by its suburban neighborhoods and tech campuses, despite its central downtown area. Its proximity to other major technology companies, such as Google and Apple, strengthens San Jose’s position as a technology hub. Despite this, the city has its distinct personality, with oddities like the Winchester Mystery House, a sprawling flea market, and a giant Monopoly board.

San Jose is an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts, nestled between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range, with easy access to the ocean, Sierra Nevada, and vineyards. In addition, with approximately 300 days of sunshine per year, the city provides a welcoming environment for its residents.


Fresno has evolved from a small railroad stop to an attractive and magnetic city that attracts agriculture-focused people worldwide. The city is surrounded by farms in Fresno County that produce organic foods such as almonds, pistachios, tomatoes, and peaches.

Despite its agricultural reputation, Fresno’s appeal extends beyond farmers. The city has a diverse job market, low-cost housing, and a wide range of cultural attractions. Exploring the neighborhood will reveal many surprises, such as the Tower District, known for its artsy Rogue Festival, a classic car show, and restaurants serving various cuisines. 

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is not only a must-see stop on your ultimate California road trip but is also regarded as one of the best places to live in the state. This coastal town has Spanish-style architecture and is close to great surfing spots.

Most Santa Barbara residents are surfers, beachgoers, or college students, as UC Santa Barbara is a well-known California institution. Santa Barbara’s downtown area caters to students. It includes a variety of bars and restaurants, as well as popular tourist attractions such as the Old Santa Barbara Mission and East Beach.

What are the Taxes Like in California?

California implements a tiered state individual income tax that varies from 1.00% to 13.30% and an 8.84% rate for corporate income tax. In addition, the state has a 7.25%t sales tax rate and a maximum local sales tax rate of 2.50%. On average, California’s combined state and local sales tax rate is 8.82%. Like any other state, California’s tax code is a complex system with multiple components, and a good starting point for understanding it is to grasp the fundamentals.

Challenges of Living in California

Living in California can present some challenges that should be considered before moving overseas to the Golden State. Some of the examples are: 

  • California has some of the country’s highest taxes, which significantly impacts take-home pay.
  • Drought, wildfires, earthquakes, landslides, and floods can all occur throughout the state.
  • Renting in California is expensive, and rental prices are very high compared to the rest of the country.
  • California’s major cities are also among the most expensive places to live, with necessities such as groceries and transportation costing even more.
  • Gas prices in California are typically higher across the state, which should be considered when calculating future living expenses.
  • California has lovely warm weather all year, but hot summers are to be expected if you live further inland.
  • Homelessness and extreme poverty are also common in California, particularly in major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.
  • Purchasing real estate in California is extremely expensive and out of reach for many people, with housing prices rising rapidly across the state.
  • California’s public schools are among the lowest-performing in the country, while private schools provide an excellent education but are also more expensive.
  • Traffic is notoriously bad, and public transportation options are limited and unreliable.

Things to Do in California

California has a plethora of activities and attractions for all types of visitors. Visitors can explore iconic beaches, beautiful lakes, hot springs, forests, mountains, and deserts, all within the state’s borders. Furthermore, California has several wine regions, Michelin-starred restaurants, and celebrity-focused tours.

Here are some of the top things to do in California to help you plan your California vacation, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler:

  • Drive along the scenic 17-Mile Drive, which winds along the Monterey Bay coastline and passes through the exclusive community of Pebble Beach.
  • Explore the enchanted coastal location, fairytale-like architecture, and Carmel-By-The-Sea’s local shops and restaurants in Monterey County.
  • Spend the day at one of California’s many theme parks, including Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Legoland California, SeaWorld San Diego, and Universal Studios Hollywood.
  • Explore Yosemite National Park, a nearly 760,000-acre park with breathtaking scenery, waterfalls, and iconic landmarks such as Glacier Point and Half Dome.
  • Explore the desert at Joshua Tree National Park or Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which offers memorable hiking trails and camping options.

Visitors may find it challenging to fit all of California’s must-sees into one or more trips, but these suggestions are a great place to start for anyone looking to experience the best of the Golden State.

What is California Most Known For?

California is best known for its beautiful beaches, world-renowned theme parks such as Disneyland, picturesque wine country, and incredible national parks that showcase the state’s diverse landscape. Visitors can enjoy the stunning Pacific coast by taking a scenic drive or relaxing on one of California’s sandy beaches. Visitors of all ages can enjoy family-friendly theme parks like Disneyland. The state’s national parks are a must-see for anyone who wants to experience California’s unparalleled natural beauty.

Things to Know About Moving to California

How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably in California?

According to a Purdue University and survey, California’s high cost of living requires a minimum annual salary of $149,310. However, according to the study’s authors, the ideal income for “life satisfaction” in North America is $105,000.

Duration Requirements to Attain Resident Status in California

To become a resident of California, you must be present in the state for at least 366 days, except for brief absences such as vacations. However, you are only required to sometimes remain in the state. To meet the requirements, you must establish a primary residence in California and reside in the state for most of the 366 days. 

Safety in California

Because of the possibility of crime, scams, and natural disasters, California has a medium overall risk. At the same time, transportation and pickpocketing pose a medium risk. In addition, women travelers should exercise extreme caution at night, and tap water is hazardous.

Thinking about moving to other states? Read our articles “Moving to Arizona” and “Moving to Colorado” for valuable insights and guidance.

Making Your Move to California

Here at Mercury Auto Transport understand that moving to California can be both exciting and concerning. That is why we provide dependable auto transport services to make the process easier. Our expert team is committed to providing safe and timely transportation to and from California for your vehicle.

Our top priority is customer satisfaction, and we ensure that your vehicle arrives on time and in the same condition it was picked up in. We provide a full range of services and competitive pricing, so you can rely on us to handle your auto transport needs and make your move to California as easy as possible. So get your free quote today and leave the rest to us.


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