Is the Cost of Living in San Diego Too High in 2024?

June 28, 2024

San Diego has it all: beautiful beaches, a mild climate, and a thriving economy. It's home to major industries such as technology, healthcare, and biotechnology. But if you're considering moving to "America's Finest City," you must consider the living expenses in San Diego.

The cost of living in San Diego, California, is 3% higher than the state average. Housing costs are 9% higher, but utilities are 13% lower. While rent or mortgage payments may stretch your budget, you could save on your monthly electricity and water bills.

Let’s take a detailed look at the cost of living in San Diego, California, in 2024.

What Is the Cost of Living Index?

A cost of living index is a measure that compares the prices of goods and services in different locations. A higher cost of living index means commodities are more expensive, so you need more money to afford a pleasant lifestyle.

The cost of living in San Diego is 42% higher than the national average. This implies that you should budget more for groceries, utilities, entertainment, and rent.

5 Major Living Expenses in San Diego

Let's break down some major costs you may face as a San Diego resident:


Housing in San Diego is notably expensive. The median home price is $1,035,332, which is 123% higher than the national average. The average monthly rent is around $2,934.

However, affordable options can be found in neighborhoods like East County, where rents average around $2,388. If you want to live on a budget, you can also find houses under $100k near San Diego.


Basic utilities such as electricity, heat, and water cost between $216 and $550 per month, depending on your home's usage and size. Internet service costs an additional $73 on average. Overall, utility costs in San Diego are about 13% higher than the national average.


Transportation costs in San Diego vary widely based on your choice of commute:

  • Gas: As of June, it’s $4.82 per gallon.
  • Public Transit: A monthly transit pass costs about $72.
  • Taxi: A 5-mile taxi ride is approximately $25.
  • New Car: A new Volkswagen Golf or a similar model is around $27,301.

Food and Groceries

The cost of groceries in San Diego is about 12% higher than the national average. Here are some prices:


  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast: $7 per 500 grams (about 1 pound).
  • Milk: $1.24 per liter (about a quart).
  • Eggs: $6 per dozen large eggs.
  • Lettuce: $1.99 (one head)

For Dining Out:

  • A basic lunch will cost you around $26.
  • A fast food combo meal is approximately $13.
  • You can expect to pay around $76 for a casual neighborhood pub dinner for two.

Other Expenses

Healthcare in San Diego is about 4% higher than the national average. A routine doctor's visit can cost up to $130. Entertainment expenses are also high, with two movie tickets costing around $32.

4 Tips to Save Money on Living Expenses in San Diego

Living in San Diego can be costly, but there are ways to manage your expenses wisely:

Use Public Transportation

Opt for San Diego's efficient public transit system to save on gas and parking fees. This service is accessible in most areas, including downtown areas, beaches, and some eastern suburbs.

Find Housing in Less Expensive Neighborhoods

Explore neighborhoods that are at some distance from the city center, like National City or El Cajon. The median home cost in National City is $682,892, 29% lower than in downtown or coastal areas.

Cook Your Meals

Preparing meals at home instead of dining out frequently can help lower your food expenses. Discount supermarkets like ALDI offer savings of up to 25% on groceries.

Take Advantage of Free Activities and Experiences

San Diego offers many free activities, including hiking trails in Mission Trails Regional Park. You can also explore tide pools at places like La Jolla Cove or take a stroll along the famous boardwalks of Pacific Beach or Mission Beach.

Bottom Line

The cost of living in San Diego is 42% higher than the national average. Housing is a major expense. While the median home price is over $1 million, monthly rent sets you back almost $3,000. But there are still ways to enjoy living in San Diego on a budget.

Use public transport, look for affordable neighborhoods, cook at home, and enjoy free outdoor activities. With smart planning, you can enjoy the beautiful beaches and culture of "America's Finest City" without overspending.


Urban Splatter

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