Living in San Diego, CA: 12 Pros & Cons (With Prices)


Living in San Diego
San Diego, US (Sourced: via twenty20)

San Diego is a city in California located on the coast of the pacific ocean. It is popularly referred to as “America’s Finest City,” and with good reason – the city is renowned for its pristine beaches, world-class family attractions, and an impressive array of world-class family attractions. Living in San Diego certainly, comes with many perks, but is moving to the city right for you?

Population Median Age Bachelor Degree or Higher
1,409,573 34.945.90%
Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Pro: the weather is great

Living in San Diego
San Diego, US (Sourced: via twenty20)

Living in San Diego means rarely having to cancel plans due to bad weather. The city has some of the most pleasant weather in the country, with a comfortable 75 degrees almost year-round. Even in winter, it might get a little cold at night, but it never plummets below the low 70s. In addition, rainy days are few and far between, with about 10 days of rain a year. 

San Diego Temperature Table

Best Months To Visit San Diego, CA the climate is excellent all year round. See table above.

MonthTemp. Low. Avg.Temp. High Avg.
Jan52℉68℉
Feb54℉68℉
Marc57℉70℉
Apr59℉72℉
May61℉70℉
Jun64℉73℉
Jul68℉77℉
Aug70℉79℉
Sep68℉79℉
Oct64℉77℉
Nov57℉73℉
Dec52℉68℉

Con: an astronomical cost of living

According to Payscale, the cost of living in San Diego is 44% higher than the national average. Here is a look at some of the expenses you can expect as a resident of the city.

Median Home PriceMedian Household incomeMedian Earnings for MaleMedian Earnings for Female
$829,062$79,673$60,367$51,241
Data sourced from Zillow Median Home Sale Prices and the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Rent Per MonthAvg. Prices
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre2,186.86$
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre1,721.94$
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre3,696.69$
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre2,881.54$
Food NamesAvg. Food Prices
Milk (regular), (1 gallon)3.29$
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (1 lb)3.26$
Rice (white), (1 lb)2.12$
Eggs (regular) (12)2.74$
Local Cheese (1 lb)5.39$
Chicken Fillets (1 lb)4.85$
Beef Round (1 lb) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)6.07$
Apples (1 lb)1.80$
Banana (1 lb)0.82$
Oranges (1 lb)1.51$
Tomato (1 lb)1.86$
Potato (1 lb)1.18$
Onion (1 lb)1.04$
Lettuce (1 head)1.67$
Water (1.5 liter bottle)1.72$
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)12.00$
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle)3.24$
Imported Beer (12 oz small bottle)2.08$
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro)10.00$
Utilities (Monthly)Prices
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 915 sq ft Apartment 134.87$
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)61.62$
Service NamesPrices
One-way Ticket (Local Transport)2.50$
Monthly Pass (Regular Price)72.00$
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)2.80$
Taxi 1 mile (Normal Tariff)3.00$
Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff)25.00$
Gasoline (1 gallon)3.69$
Meal/DrinkAvg. Prices
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant15.00$
Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course75.00$
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal)9.00$
Domestic Beer (1 pint draught)6.00$
Imported Beer (12 oz small bottle)8.00$
Cappuccino (regular)4.27$
Coke/Pepsi (12 oz small bottle)1.83$
Water (12 oz small bottle)1.60$
Service NamesAvg. Prices
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult39.59$
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend)14.28$
Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat15.00$

Data sourced from numbeo.com – Jul 2021

Pro: the city has some of the best public schools in the state

The main school district in the city is the San Diego Unified School District, which is the second-largest in the state of California, serving more than 121,000 students from preschool through high school. The student population spans more than 60 languages and 15 ethnic groups, making it one of the most diverse in the state.

The school district offers preschool and transitional kindergarten programs and includes 117 elementary schools, 22 high schools, 13 atypical/alternative schools, and five additional program sites.  

According to Niche rankings, San Diego Unified is the 18th most diverse out of all the school districts in California. It also came in as the 55th best school district for athletes in California and the 123rd best overall.

Con: traffic and parking can be a huge issue

Living in San Diego
San Diego, US (Sourced: via twenty20)

A major downside of living in San Diego is the nightmarish traffic, which results from the high concentration of cars in the city. With over 1.4 million people, and considering that most households own at least one car, traffic is almost always an issue in the city. On average, commuters in San Diego lose about 64 hours in rush hour traffic in a year, with trips in the evening rush (3 p.m to 6 p.m) taking around 60% more time than they would if there was no traffic.

San Diego Median Commuting Time Median U.S. Commuting Time
24.5 Minutes26.9 Minutes
Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Means of Transportation to Work/SchoolPercentage %
Car87.40%
Bus3.94%
Train/Metro0.79%
Bike / Motorbike1.57%
Walking0.79%
Working from Home5.51%

Data sourced from numbeo.com – Jul 2021

Pro: plenty of fantastic beaches

Living in San Diego
San Diego, US (Sourced: via twenty20)

With 70 miles of glorious coastline, it comes as no surprise that San Diego has some of the gorgeous beaches in the country. Some of the standouts include:

  • La Jolla Cove beach

This beach is located at the northeast end of Ellen Browning Scripps Park. It’s popular with swimmers as it is sheltered by a rocky point that blocks waves rolling in from the west.

  • Coronado Beach

This is a pristine, family-friendly beach that starts at the famous Hotel del Coronado and stretches to Sunset Park. Although it can get crowded, it’s still possible to find a secluded spot due to its sheer vastness.

  • Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach Drive and the Crystal Pier, Pacific Beach is yet another stunning beach in San Diego. The path above this beach is lined with picturesque restaurants and shops that you can pop into after a day at the beach.

Con: no distinguishable seasons

Living in San Diego
San Diego, US (Sourced: via twenty20)

For some, the lack of distinguishable seasons in San Diego is a downside. If you enjoy snow sports or crisp fall air, you won’t find them in this city. San Diego is only about 400 miles to Mammoth Mountain and around 150 miles from Big Bear. That means you can still find ways to enjoy winter action and colder temperatures.

Pro: you’ll never run out of fun things to do

Living in San Diego
San Diego, US (Sourced: via twenty20)

There’s more to San Diego than the beautiful beaches. It’s one of the most active cities in the country, with plenty of biking and hiking trails. You can enjoy a variety of activities in different environments – you can hike the mountain, bike near the desert, and go surfing on one of the beaches within a weekend (or a day, if you’re up for the challenge!) 

For your hiking, biking, and sightseeing needs, try The Torrey Pines Hiking Trail, a scenic trail that offers breathtaking views of the Pacific. There’s also the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, which has 22 square miles of explorable tracks, making it a great choice for a family day out.

If you love live music, you’ll be thrilled to know that plenty of live bands pass through the city. Other popular activities in San Diego include watching horse races, sporting events, and enjoying beer gardens. If all these options don’t suit you, then you might want to try spending a day on one of the city’s 80 golf courses.

Con: taxes are high in the city

California state is known to have the highest state income taxes in the country. The tax rate ranges from 1% to 12.3%, plus there’s also a 1% surcharge that applies if you have an income of $1 million and more.

Although the sales tax in California is only 6%, both San Diego County and the City of San Diego tack on a bit more to fund their local governments. As a resident, you’ll pay 7.75% on purchases within the city limits. It’s worth noting that sales tax doesn’t apply to essential items like your groceries.

San Diego County charges one of the highest median property tax rates in the United States. Property taxes typically range between 1.02% and 1.19%, depending on factors like approved bonds and special assessments. If you buy a home that is valued at $486,000, for example, you can expect to pay $2,955 per year in property taxes. 

Pro: robust economy and job market

The most crucial sectors that make up the backbone of San Diego’s economy are international trade, manufacturing, military, and tourism.

In February of 2020, the unemployment rate in San Diego stood at 3.2%, which was lower than the national average (3.5%). 

According to a report published by the San Diego Union-Tribune, the professional and business services fields have witnessed significant growth, adding 9,500 jobs in architecture, scientific research, engineering, and other technical services in 2019. Fields such as government, construction, and health and educational services have also added thousands of jobs to the city’s economy.

If you’re moving to the city searching for a job, you might be interested in knowing that San Diego is also home to Qualcomm and Sempra Energy, both of which are Fortune 500 companies.

Con: homelessness is a big problem in the city

With the city’s high cost of living and mild weather, there is quite a significant homelessness issue. When you walk down the streets of San Diego, it’s difficult to miss the detrimental effects of homelessness around you, but be assured that most of these people are harmless and just down on hard times.

Pro: great food options and a thriving craft beer scene

Living in San Diego
San Diego, US (Sourced: via twenty20)

San Diego is immediately adjacent to the Mexico border, so it is no surprise that Mexican cuisine is popular. That said, with over 7,000 restaurants, there are all sorts of mouth-watering delicacies in the city, with some of the best sushi, pho, and ramen in the state being served in the city’s top restaurants. The seafood is also splendid and worth a try. 

Wash down all the mouthwatering goodness that San Diego has to offer with unique beers from over 100 licensed craft beer producers. The city has a vibrant beer culture, top-notch breweries, eclectic bars, the International Beer Cup, and Beer Week. 

Notable San Diego County breweries include AleSmith Brewing Company, Ballast Point, Flash Brewing Company, and Stone Brewing Co.Green.

Con: San Diego is a car-centric city

San Diego is known to be a car-centric city – only a measly 6.3% of San Diego households do not own cars. The high number of cars makes it difficult to find a parking spot and drives up the cost of parking. It also significantly contributes to the traffic problem in the city, not to mention the air and noise pollution from a high concentration of vehicles.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, San Diego is a great city to live in, with pros that outweigh the cons. As long as you don’t mind the high cost of living, traffic and parking issues, taxes, and other downsides, moving to the city is viable for you. There’s plenty to look forward to as a resident, including ample entertainment options for all ages, terrific weather, and great beaches.

San Diego compared to other cities (June 2021 rent price data from Zumper national rent report)

CitiesStudio1-BR Avg. Rent 2-BR Avg. Rent 3-BR Avg. RentMedian Home PricesMedian Household Income
Charlotte$1,282$1,277$1,477$1,762$296,603$62,817
Chicago$1,039$1,400$1,750$2,223$296,603$58,247
Columbus$677$901$1,091$1,525$208,768$53,745
Denver$1,203$1,446$1,935$2,583$543,544$68,592
Houston$1,265 $1,192$1,521$1,761 $222,540 $52,338
Indianapolis$864$921$993$1,399$187,628$45,670
Jacksonville$764$991$1,198$1,683$236,615$54,701
Philadelphia$1,070$1,341$1,693$1,882$221,996$45,927
Phoenix$962$1,103$1,392$2,046$350,077$57,459
San Antonio$893$950$1,184$1,572$221,886$52,455
San Diego$1,603$1,921$2,558$3,374$829,062$79,673
Seattle$1,195$1,594$2,056$2,923$863,058$92,263
Washington$1,663$2,129$3,033$3,499$692,178$86,420
Data sourced from Zumper national rent report and the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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