It’s known as America’s Finest City. It’s famous the world over for its sunny, warm weather, its lovely beaches, and its rich history. But what is it actually like living in San Diego? What can you expect when it comes to cost of living, schools, crime rates, transportation and taxes? Can you afford to live here? Let’s break it down.
I’m going to give it to you straight—San Diego is an expensive place to live. Sperling’s Best Places an index for cost of living nationwide where the average is set at 100.00. On that index, San Diego rates a 166.00. That is just marginally less expensive than nearby Los Angeles, which is rated at 166.20.
Why is the cost of living so steep? San Diego’s balmy climate and abundant attractions make it a highly desirable place to live, so prices here have always been on the high side. With a housing shortage affecting the entire region, the cost for homes and apartments has skyrocketed in recent years.
On average, you will also pay more for healthcare, food and transportation. Utilities however should not run you much more than you would pay on average anywhere else in the country.
The good news is that San Diego’s cost of living is balanced out in some respects by low tax rates. The sales tax rate for California is 7.25%, which is just slightly lower than the nationwide average. Income taxes in the state are quite a bit lower than they are in many other states (including neighboring Oregon), so that is some money back in your pocket.
Hopefully if you are moving to San Diego, you have a job lined up, because this can be a competitive market. You will have an edge if you happen to speak both English and Spanish and having some connections in the area can greatly enhance your prospects.
The unemployment rate recorded for San Diego is 4.90% right now, which is a little bit lower than the nationwide average of 5.20%. Job growth nationwide is 1.59%, but in San Diego, it is a little bit faster at 2.22%.
That of course depends on your sector and position, but we can glance over some statistics to get a feel for the average income in the city.
According to the City of San Diego, the typical family of four residing in San Diego brings in a median income of $63,400. The US Census estimate is $66,529, with a per capita income of $33,482. It is believed that around 12.4% of the population is impoverished.
If you visit the Census link, you can view further information such as the number of men- and women-owned firms, minority-owned firms, and so forth.
As mentioned previously, housing in San Diego is on the pricey side, with costs rising swiftly as demand continues to soar. The Census reports that from 2012-2016, the median home value was $454,600. As of the time of this writing, Zillow lists the home value index for San Diego at $625,759.
Families with children will be pleased to know that there are numerous different options for schooling in the area, both public and private. That includes 42 primary and secondary school districts as well as 5 college districts. 335 private schools are in the area.
If you research online, you can view ratings for the different schools and districts. Some schools which have received widespread acclaim include Del Norte High School, Scripps Ranch High School, Scripps Elementary School, and Willow Grove Elementary School.
According to a recent report from the San Diego Union Tribune, San Diego’s crime rate has dipped to its lowest point in almost half a century. Crime rates decreased 7% between 2016 and 2017 alone. So, for those looking for peace and quiet and a safe place to raise their kids, that is excellent news.
If you have ever been caught in San Diego rush hour traffic, you might feel a bit daunted by the prospect of traveling around the area—especially since a lot of people work across town from where they live.
If you time your drives however and you do not live on the edge of the city, you can usually get around quickly. The Census states that on average, most San Diegans are able to commute to their jobs within 25.3 minutes.
Don’t want to drive? A lot of folks in the area rely on public transportation provided by the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. There are both buses and trolleys, so you do not actually need to own a car. The Orange, Green and Blue lines keep the entire area well-connected.
One of the biggest draws to San Diego is leisure. You will work hard to make ends meet with the cost of living, but on the weekends, you will find endless fun activities awaiting you around the area.
Downtown, you can visit famous destinations like Balboa Park, SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, and the USS Midway Museum, or you can shop or dine in the Gaslamp Quarter. Lining the coast are numerous beautiful beaches where you can take in the fresh, warm air and wade in the sparkling waters. Those who enjoy hiking will want to drive east out of town to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
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