California has a reputation for being an expensive state and, to a large degree, that is true. But if you move away from the glitz and glamour of costly cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, there are actually quite a number of relatively affordable places to live.
To determine where the cheapest places left to live still are, GOBankingRates sourced data from Zillow and Sperling’s Best Places for the biggest 5,000 housing markets in California. Home and condo prices, average rents and the overall cost of living were all factors used to create a ranking of the cheapest places to live left in California. Results are presented below, in reverse order.
Visalia is a Central Californian city that sits along Highway 99, along with many others on this list. The city of 145,000 provides all of the amenities of a larger city while maintaining some of its “smaller town” vibe.
Overall, costs run 2.3% above the national average, with home prices coming in at $369,103 and condos priced at $261,543 on average.
Fresno is located roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco and sports a population of about 550,000. Home prices run slightly above the national average, at $372,023, while condo prices average $234,617.
Overall, the cost of living in the city is just 3.3% above the national average, quite affordable for a large city in California.
Bakersfield is actually a bit pricey in some categories — such as housing, which averages $377,578, and rent, at $1,874.
In fact, the overall cost of living in Bakersfield is actually above the national average, by 3.4%. But for a large city of 416,000 residents in the center of expensive California, Bakersfield still remains a bargain.
Rent is relatively high in Marysville, at $1,911, but condo prices are quite low, averaging just $201,655. That makes condos a good value when compared to renting or even buying a home, as prices are above the national average at $372,722.
These higher costs help push the Marysville cost-of-living index up to 107.1, making the city 7.1% more expensive than the national average.
Yucca Valley’s average home prices are actually about 10% above the national average of $348,853, but its overall cost of living index is just 98.6, making it 1.4% cheaper than the rest of the nation as a whole. Rents average just $1,462, while the average condo price runs $236,987.
Tulare is a city of 74,000 that flanks California Highway 99 in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley.
The average home price of $324,313 is well below the national average, while the city’s overall cost of living index is 2.4% below national norms. Condo prices are relatively high compared with home prices, running $247,740 on average. Monthly rent averages $1,643 in Tulare.
Oildale has rock-bottom home prices averaging just $256,405, making it the most affordable city in the top 10 cheapest places to live in California. Condos are affordable as well, averaging just $217,227.
The overall cost of living in Oildale sits 6.7% below the national average. The small town of 34,000 is yet another that lies along Highway 99 in Central California.
Residents of Porterville, a town of about 63,000 lying east of Highway 99 in Central California, enjoy a cost of living that’s 3.6% below the national average.
Rents in particular are a steal in Porterville, averaging just $965 per month and making the city the only one in the top 10 with rents still in the three digits. Homes and condos are also affordable, averaging just $296,123 and $218,180, respectively.
Ridgecrest is a thriving community located roughly halfway between Los Angeles and Mammoth Mountain. Average home prices are among the lowest in the nation for a metropolitan area, at just $265,863, while condos are also quite inexpensive at $141,990 on average.
The overall cost of living in the city is 3.9% below the national average.
If you’re looking for an affordable place to live in California, it’s tough to beat Barstow. Famous as a rest stop roughly halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Barstow actually has plenty to offer for desert dwellers.
While homes are cheap at about $260,408 on average, condo buyers have it even better, paying just $126,775. Renters also make out, with a typical monthly bill of $1,087. All residents enjoy an overall cost of living that’s a full 10% below the national average.
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Methodology: For this piece, GOBankingRates looked at all cities within California that were one of the biggest 5,000 housing markets, according to Zillow’s May 2023 data. With these California cities isolated, GOBankingRates found the following: (1) single family residence average home value for 2023; (2) condo/co-op home values for 2023; and (3) average rent for 2023, all sourced from Zillow’s May 2023 data. These three factors were scored and combined with the lowest score being best, and the 50 California cities with the lowest score were moved on to the next round. The 50 cities selected were then given a (4) overall cost of living index score from Sperling’s Best Places. For these 50 cities, factors (1) – (4) were then re-ranked and combined, with the lowest score being best. All data was collected and is up to date as of July 10, 2023.
Photo Disclaimer: Please note photos are for representational purposes only. As a result, some of the photos might not reflect the locations listed in this article.