The Cost of Living in San Diego in 2021

San Diego offers the best of both worlds: It is a major metropolitan city, but it avoids the hustle and bustle of its northern neighbor, Los Angeles.

The eighth-most populous city in America, San Diego typically ranks around the same tier for its cost of living compared to other major cities in the country. Overall, the city comes in at 60.1 percent above the national average when it comes to the cost of living.

While that may seem steep, it’s important to consider that the minimum wage in San Diego is $14 an hour, which is nearly double the average minimum wage of $7.25. Additionally, the median household income is $79,673, which is $10,990 more than the national average.

Below we break down the costs of living in San Diego to help you discover if “America’s Finest City” is a fit for you.

  • Housing costs in San Diego
  • Food costs in San Diego
  • Utility costs in San Diego
  • Transportation costs in San Diego
  • Healthcare costs in San Diego
  • Goods and services costs in San Diego
  • Taxes in San Diego
  • How much do you need to earn in San Diego?

San Diego.

Housing costs in San Diego

Housing in San Diego doesn’t come cheap. In fact, the uninitiated may experience sticker shock at first glance. Overall, housing costs are a whopping 124 percent higher than the national average.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego is about $2,358 per month, and a two-bedroom is around $3,026 per month. Those prices fluctuate depending on the neighborhood and amenities.

Trendy North Park, with its vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene, is the most expensive neighborhood in the city, with rental prices running around $4,647 per month on average. But rest assured: There are plenty of areas offering apartments for a fraction of that price.

Case in point: College East, located on the east side of San Diego State University, the least expensive neighborhood in the city, offers apartments for $1,463 per month on average. There is also Bay Park, ranked San Diego’s “most livable neighborhood,” which averages $1,621 a month.

If you are looking to buy a home, the average cost of a single-family home in San Diego is $797,634 — more than 53 percent higher than the national average of $370,902. That price tag is reflective of a highly competitive market. Most homes in San Diego sell within just nine days, so if you have the means, you need to act fast.

San Diego farmers market.

Food costs in San Diego

San Diego is famous for its diverse culinary scene. Whether you’re more inclined to try a pasta dish in Little Italy or some chile rellenos at an authentic Mexican restaurant in Old Town, your bill will range around $13 per person.

Of course, most people don’t eat out for every meal. With dozens of quality supermarkets and plenty of neighborhood farmer’s markets, meal planning is easy.

Keep in mind: Groceries in San Diego run 14.4 percent higher than the national average. You’ll pay extra for certain staples like milk ($2.19 for a half-gallon), eggs ($2.88 for a dozen), bread ($3.67 for a 24-ounce loaf) and ground beef ($4.58 per pound).

Utility costs in San Diego

San Diego is known for its beautiful weather. Locals thrive under these conditions; average temperatures hover at around 75 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the year. Still, seasons change and rainy days will happen as well as the occasional cold front.

Some summer days are scorchers, leading locals to crank up the A/C. As a result, overall utility costs are 25.8 percent higher than the national average. Expect your total energy costs of around $247.56 per month.

San Diego hosts a variety of internet providers, so your bill will change depending on which you choose for your household. For example, if you’re a Spectrum customer, you can expect to pay a median price of $73.50 a month for a median download speed of 65 megabits per second (Mbps). Meanwhile, AT&T customers pay a median price of $60 per month for a median speed of 24 Mbps.

San Diego transportation.

Transportation costs in San Diego

One of the many luxuries about life in San Diego is that the freeways are much calmer than those of Los Angeles. Many people choose to live in San Diego because of this factor alone.

Traffic is tame during most hours of the day, although it gets a bit congested around common commute times. Still, prices are slightly higher than those in Los Angeles and 36.1 percent higher than the national average.

Drivers can expect to pay about $3.24 per gallon of regular unleaded at the pump. Parking typically costs $70 per month or $2 per day.

For those who choose to forgo driving altogether, San Diego offers an accessible public transportation system. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System provides bus and trolley services across San Diego County. Bus and trolley fare are equal; one way will cost $2.50 for able-bodied adults/youth and $1.25 for disabled people/seniors.

The trolley and bus services cover a majority of San Diego County. Routes begin right by the border near Tijuana and extend to the northernmost or easternmost parts of San Diego County. The city’s public transportation services have earned a score of 44.

San Diego’s layout makes it ideal for those who enjoy walks — it’s also convenient for bike enthusiasts. The city has a walk score of 71 and a bike score of 54.

San Diego skyline.

Healthcare costs in San Diego

Healthcare is a primary concern in most people’s minds, and in San Diego, you can expect to pay slightly more in this category — about 8.3 percent above the national average.

A visit to a doctor will cost you about $125 while a dental checkup will run you around $107.18. You can also expect to pay a bit more for medications. A bottle of Ibuprofen costs about $11.90, more than $2 above the average cost nationwide.

Calculating average healthcare costs for everyone is difficult. Everybody has different needs for their body and healthcare routines vary drastically. As a result, you should consider your typical healthcare routines when creating your budget, factoring in your medicine regimens and insurance coverage.

Goods and services costs in San Diego

As important as it is to factor in everything covered above into your budget, you must also consider goods and services.

This category includes things like a session at a yoga studio ($22), movie tickets ($14.42 each), dry cleaning ($14.55) and a trip to the beauty salon ($64.57).

Overall, goods and services in San Diego cost 10.4 percent more than the national average.

San Diego.

Taxes in San Diego

Since taxes vary by location, it’s easy to get confused when it comes time to budget accordingly. Sales tax in San Diego is 7.75 percent with the state tax rate landing at 6 percent and the San Diego County rate landing at 0.25 percent.

If you spend $1,000 on a brand-new computer, you will pay $77.50 on sales tax — totaling $1,077.50.

If you drink soda frequently, expect to pay a CRV (California Refund Value) fee on your cans and bottles.

How much do I need to earn to live in San Diego?

Earlier, we discussed the fact that housing costs quite a bit more in San Diego than in other locations.

Experts generally recommend you allocate at least 30 percent of your budget towards your monthly rent. Renting a standard one-bedroom apartment would cost $28,296 per year, which would require an income of $94,320 by these standards. A standard two-bedroom apartment would cost you $36,312 per year, so your household would need to make $121,040 per year collectively to live comfortably.

Our rent calculator can show you exactly how much you can afford.

Living in San Diego

San Diego is a wonderful place to live if you love warm beaches, temperate climates, great food and a lively club scene. It’s no wonder 35 million people visit each year. Whether those people choose to plant roots depends a lot on budget.

If you have the financial wherewithal, there are plenty of great San Diego apartments and homes just waiting for you.

Cost of living information comes from The Council for Community and Economic Research.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments in April 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

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