Who wouldn't want to live in sunny San Diego? Located along the southern California coast close to the U.S.-Mexico border, America's Finest City has beautiful beaches, diverse cuisine from fresh seafood to exceptional Mexican food and famous family-friendly parks and attractions like the San Diego Zoo. You can even be neighbors with the whales, seals and sea lions that live along the coast. Everyone from families to young adults can find many things to love about living here, especially since the weather is nice throughout the year.
However, there is a downside. San Diego isn't immune to the high cost of living in the state of California and similar to many other popular California cities, the average rent in San Diego is high. Here's what you can expect to pay for rent living in San Diego in 2023.
California is already an expensive state when it comes to rent and housing costs, and San Diego is no exception. Soaking up all that SoCal sun does come at a cost, as overall housing costs are 127.1 percent higher than the national average.
For renters, that means a lofty monthly rent check. The median rent in San Diego is $3,371. To put that high figure in perspective, the national median rent is $1,983. The least expensive type of unit available is a studio at $2,187 a month. After that, prices jump drastically. One-bedroom apartments are averaging $2,780 and a two-bedroom apartment will set you back around $3,570 a month. If money is no object, you can even size up to a three-bedroom unit for around $5,026 a month.
Another important thing to note is that rental rates and housing costs are on the rise in San Diego. The median rent is 9.61 percent higher than it was last year, and overall housing costs are 5.6 percent higher than last year.
Unfortunately, housing isn't the only cost of living category in San Diego that's high. All major cost of living expenses from food to transportation is more than the national average. The good news is that housing is the most expensive, while other costs are closer to the national average. Here's how these different costs of living expenses in San Diego stack up to the national average:
After housing, transportation is the most expensive cost of living expense for San Diegans, followed by utilities and miscellaneous goods and services.
From breezy and laidback coastal neighborhoods to historic districts in the heart of the city, San Diego offers renters a wide variety of neighborhoods. According to the City of San Diego Planning Department, there are 52 officially recognized neighborhoods within the city. That means a lot of choices for both lifestyle and price range, with each area having its own unique offerings and character.
Some are suburban-style residential areas that are popular with families, while young professionals and young adults may prefer the close-to-the-action proximity of more central, downtown districts. No matter where you choose to live, though, a network of major roadways like Interstate 5 makes it easy to get around the city and access San Diego's incredible food scene, scenic beaches, vibrant downtown and fun local attractions.
If the high median rate gave you pause, you'll be happy to hear that San Diego has plenty of other more affordable neighborhoods to choose from, as well. To show you how widely rents can vary depending on which neighborhood and area of San Diego you're living in, here's a breakdown of the median rental rates in the most expensive and least expensive neighborhoods around San Diego.
In all of San Diego's top five most expensive neighborhoods, the median rent far exceeds the citywide median. All are also located west of the city center and downtown. In most, the median rent has gone up significantly over the past year or remained constant at its already-high level.
Mission Valley, Mission Valley West and Morena are all situated along an extremely affluent corridor on the north shore of the San Diego River. These high-end neighborhoods boast a mix of single-family homes and luxe apartment complexes, mixed with shopping centers, golf clubs and entertainment. In comparison, Torrey Highlands and La Jolla Crossroads are further north, close to popular outdoor recreation areas like Torrey Pines State Preserve. These areas are popular with families and budget-friendly renters.
Although they aren't affordable for all budgets, the median rents in San Diego's five least expensive neighborhoods are still far below the citywide median rent. For the most part, rental rates in these areas have either stayed constant or gone up. The only exception is Bay Park, which decreased slightly over the past year.
Situated to the northeast, east and southeast of the city center, these neighborhoods are in more residential areas. They're popular with budget-conscious families and young professionals on account of their affordability, sense of community and local options for things to do like dining and shopping. Rental options range from single-family residences to older-but-solid apartment complexes. Nearby major roads like Interstate 805 make it easy to link up with other highways to the city center, which is ideal for commuters.
Even if San Diego's high median rent is out of your price range, as you can see there are plenty of other more affordable neighborhoods to choose from. However, these do represent the extreme opposite ends of rental rates around America's Finest City. The following chart also shows some mid-range options to consider, as well, giving you a more complete overview of the cost of rent in San Diego.
As you've seen from the cost of rent and overall cost of living expenses, San Diego is not the cheapest place to live. But housing is by far the category that's going to take the biggest chunk of your monthly budget. With such expensive rents and housing costs, you may wonder if you can comfortably afford to live in San Diego. Let's break it down.
It's recommended by experts that you should only spend around 30 percent of your gross monthly income on rent each month. That leaves plenty left for other necessities and bills. To afford San Diego's median rent of $3,371 and only spend 30 percent of your monthly income on rent, you'd need to make $11,236 a month. That comes out to an annual income of $134,832.
Unsure what would work for your budget? Plug some numbers into our rent calculator to start your budget planning process today.
Whether you want to live it up in high-end, buzzy urban areas with tons of dining, shopping or entertainment or want a more budget-friendly option outside the city center, you'll find a wealth of options in San Diego. No matter where you live in America's Finest City, though, you're never far from sun and surf. Even if you're priced out of San Diego, there are plenty of other great nearby cities that are within your budget.