As the most populous state in the country, California is an extremely popular destination for people to call home. However, California can also be one of the most expensive states in the country to live in.

From increasing housing costs to high income tax, there are a lot of costs to consider when calculating how much it costs to live in the Golden State. Hopefully, this short guide will give you a good understanding of the average living costs in the state.


Housing Costs

Housing is the highest living cost that almost everyone has to account for. Of course, depending on where you choose to live in California, housing costs will fluctuate. For example, according to Zillow, the median two-bedroom home price in the state’s poorest county is just over $150,000. Alternatively, Santa Clara County has a median two-bedroom home price of over $600,000.

If you plan to rent instead of buy, you can expect to spend about $1,600/month for a studio and upwards of $2,000/month for a two-bedroom apartment.


Transportation Expenses

California’s many crowded cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco are notorious for their traffic. If you live in an area where you need a car, you can expect to pay approximately $3.30 per gallon of gas.

Alternatively, California offers many public transportation options, depending on where you live. For $100/month, you can get access to LA public transit and $83 gives you access to San Francisco’s public transit and BART systems.



If you’re lucky, your apartment’s rent will include utilities. However, most people are responsible for paying for their own utilities.

Fortunately, California’s utility costs are relatively low. California residents pay an average of about $91/month on energy compared to the U.S. average of over $100/month.


Food Costs

Food is a significant living cost no matter where you live. While food costs vary throughout the state, you can expect to spend approximately $300/month on food if you are an adult with no children. Of course, this amount could easily increase if you plan on taking advantage of the amazing cuisine found throughout the state.



California is known for its extraordinarily high income taxes. In fact, California has the highest income taxes in the entire country. However, depending on your tax bracket, tax rates vary significantly. For individuals in the highest tax bracket, the tax rate is 12.3% with an additional 1% surcharge used to fund mental health programs. On the other hand, individuals in the bottom tax bracket only pay 1% in California income taxes.


Moreover, California has a base sales tax rate of 7.5% with some cities, like LA, charging up to 10% in sales tax.

While California has high tax rates in certain areas, it actually has relatively low property tax rates. The average effective property tax rate in the United States is nearly 1.2% compared to California’s 0.8% rate.


As moving to California is an incredibly attractive option for many people, it is important to consider the true cost of living in the Golden State. Hopefully, this guide was able to give you a better sense of the average living costs in California.