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11 Most Affordable Cities in California (with Pictures)


With its abundant natural wonders, generally excellent climate, and world-famous cities like Los Angeles, California is a dream destination for many looking to move to a new location. Unfortunately, with all the perks comes one undeniable reality: California is expensive. If you’re looking to relocate to the Golden State without emptying your bank account, we’ve got you covered. Here are the 11 most affordable cities in California.

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The11 Most Affordable Cities in California

1. Oxnard

  • Population: 201,879
  • Median household income: $77,050
  • Average home price: $716,994
  • Average monthly rent: $1,516

One of the downsides of many of the more affordable cities in California is their distance from the coast and major metro areas. Oxnard has neither of those concerns. This affordable city is in Ventura County, only about an hour away from Los Angeles. It’s not far from Santa Barbara and Ojai, two popular California getaways, and Oxnard offers residents coastal living and easy access to various activities. Channel Island National Park isn’t far away, and the city is known for its agriculture and readily available fresh produce.

2. Clearlake

  • Population: 16,777
  • Median household income: $36,339
  • Average home price: $238,345
  • Average monthly rent: $1,008

Just over 100 miles from San Francisco, you’ll find the small town of Clearlake, one of the cheapest places to live in Northern California. This town sits on the banks of Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the state. As you might imagine, outdoor activities are plentiful for residents of Clearlake, especially fishing, boating, and hiking.

The town is also a budding destination for wine enthusiasts, with a more relaxed vibe than the more well-known Napa area. Both home prices and rent are low here, but so is the average household income.

3. Fresno

Image Credit: Pixabay
  • Population: 544,510
  • Median household income: $53,368
  • Average home price: $375,919
  • Average monthly rent: $1,525

Located about 200 miles from Los Angeles and San Francisco in the heart of California’s Central Valley, Fresno is a big city that remains affordable. Fresno is centrally located, with many exciting destinations within weekend driving distance, such as Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

Because it’s located in prime farm country, Fresno has excellent farmer’s markets and restaurants. You’ll find plenty of natural space and old-school Spanish architecture in this city, which is in the midst of revitalization, especially in the downtown area. There’s also less traffic than in other California cities, which is not to be taken lightly!

4. Bakersfield

Image Credit: Pixabay
  • Population: 407,615
  • Median household income: $65,687
  • Average home price: $384,099
  • Average monthly rent: $1,439

About 2 hours north of Los Angeles, you’ll find the city of Bakersfield, one of the fastest growing in all of California. Previously known for agriculture and oil production, the city offers other opportunities as well, with a growing arts scene and new businesses popping up. Bakersfield has several parks and museums, as well as a highly rated school system.

Since it’s near outdoor destinations like the Sierra Mountains and national parks, Bakersfield has plenty to keep residents busy. This city does have blazing hot summers and a history of air pollution due to all the oil and gas production nearby.

5. Stockton

Image Credit: Pixabay
  • Population: 322,120
  • Median household income: $58,393
  • Average home price: $453,163
  • Average monthly rent: $1,552

Just over an hour east of San Francisco, the city of Stockton is considered one of the most affordable in California. Located on a channel that comes from San Francisco Bay, Stockton provides residents with easy access to water activities. Parks, theaters, and museums can be found in this city, and Stockton also has minor league hockey and basketball teams. This affordable city has a lot to offer, with convenient access to not only San Francisco but San Jose and Sacramento.

6. Eureka

Image Credit: Pixabay
  • Population: 26,489
  • Median household income: $43,199
  • Average home price: $460,902
  • Average monthly rent: $800

If you don’t mind living far off the beaten path, so to speak, the town of Eureka is one of the most affordable places in California. Located along the northern California coast near Redwood National Park, this town is packed with glorious Victorian architecture and surrounded by gorgeous natural scenery. Craft beer and seafood are plentiful in Eureka as well. What you don’t have is close access to major cities, as Eureka is about 400 miles from either San Francisco or Portland, Oregon. The weather is also a bit dismal, with a lot of rain and fog.

7. Clovis

  • Population: 122,989
  • Median household income: $84,119
  • Average home price: $511,511
  • Average monthly rent: $1,427

Not far from Fresno in the Central Valley, you’ll find the affordable small city of Clovis. Clovis is a great choice for outdoor enthusiasts looking to relocate to the Sierra Nevada mountains just outside of town. The city is popular with young families. Clovis is big enough to have all the city amenities but avoids the hassle of large metro areas. Agriculture is a big industry here, with year-round access to fabulous produce. The city hosts a yearly hot air balloon festival and is home to many vintage and antique shops.

8. Sacramento

Feira de Santana Skyscrapers
Image Credit: Ines Sacramento, Shutterstock
  • Population: 525,041
  • Median household income: $65,847
  • Average home price: $503,651
  • Average monthly rent: $2,064

Sacramento is the capital of California and one of the state’s most affordable cities. Sacramento might be the place for you if you’re a fan of sports or the outdoors. It’s home to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, and you’ll also find several minor league teams in the area. Sacramento offers easy access to Lake Tahoe and the abundance of outdoor recreation in the area. The city has several museums, historical sites, a zoo, and a good-sized airport.

9. Chico

  • Population: 102,338
  • Median household income: $57,357
  • Average home price: $479,301
  • Average monthly rent: $1,107

At the northern end of the Sacramento Valley lies the small city of Chico, one of California’s most affordable places to live. With the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, Lake Tahoe, and multiple national forests just outside city limits, Chico is an excellent place for outdoor adventures. It’s home to a state university and is also the West Coast headquarters of the popular craft beer company Sierra Nevada Brewing. This city has a hot local food scene and is full of beautiful trees. It’s not surprising that Chico is one of the fastest-growing cities in California.

10. Fontana

Image Credit: Pixabay
  • Population: 210,761
  • Median household income: $75,681
  • Average home price: $698,683
  • Average monthly rent: $1,254

Fontana is located in San Bernadino County, about 60 miles from Los Angeles. Not only is this city day trip close to L.A., but it also offers easy access to hiking and ski resorts near Big Bear Lake. Fontana is home to a speedway that hosts NASCAR and IndyCar races. Restaurants, golf, and art galleries are also available to residents of Fontana. Recreational soccer is also popular, with youth and adult leagues available. Fontana is a regional trucking industry hub with many job opportunities.

11. Vacaville

  • Population: 103,078
  • Median household income: $93,291
  • Average home price: $628,272
  • Average monthly rent: $2,086

Conveniently located near Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Jose, Vacaville is one of the most affordable cities in California. It offers many natural spaces and is also home to several endangered plants. The city has several historical landmarks and is also known for agriculture, offering several family-friendly pick-your-own-produce farms.

Wine country is an easy drive away, and outdoor activities are plentiful. Vacaville offers nearby access to major airports and professional sports teams in the Bay Area, in addition to its restaurants and shopping.

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If you’re considering a move to California, keep in mind that even the most affordable cities in the state all tend to be more expensive than the national average. Consider not only how much money you’ll be making but what your cost of living will be as you determine where in California you can afford to live.

Other factors to consider are safety, school quality, and other features you value in a town, such as diversity. It’s hard to learn what you need to know about a new city from a distance, so if possible, try to visit and see it yourself before you move to California.

Featured Image Credit: Stephen Leonardi, Unsplash


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