10 Cheapest Places to Live in Southern California in 2024

March 27th, 2024  / Author: Zachariah Peterson
Insights / Locations

Southern California is known for its pleasant weather, stunning beaches, and bustling cities. If you're looking for sun-drenched destinations, it's the place to be. However, living in this region of the United States can also come with a high price tag. The cost of living and rental prices in major cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara can be prohibitively expensive for many people.

Thankfully, there are still affordable places to live in Southern California that offer a high quality of life. Looking for the cheapest city south of Cali? In this article, we'll look at 10 of the cheapest places to live in Southern California. From small towns to up-and-coming cities, we'll explore the best options for those who want to enjoy all that Southern California offers without breaking the bank.

Whether you're a recent college graduate, a young family, or a retiree on a fixed income looking to avoid expensive cities, these X affordable communities are worth considering as your next home. 

1. Brawley

Brawley is a town located in the southern part of California's Imperial County. Known for its strong agricultural economy, Brawley relies heavily on year-round farming and is considered one of the most productive agricultural regions in the United States.

Brawley's average single-family home price is around $380,000, making it one of the cheapest places in Southern California. The town offers a range of affordable housing options, from historic buildings to newer developments.

Despite its small size, Brawley offers a vibrant community with a variety of local events and attractions, as well as national parks nearby for recreation and weekend adventures. It is a two-hour drive from San Diego County, and the Brawley price range is far lower than the San Diego cost of living.

2. Adelanto

Adelanto is a small town located in San Bernardino County, California, with a population of around 36,000 residents and a very low crime rate. The town is known for its affordable housing and relatively low cost of living compared to other cities in Southern California.

In 2024, the median home price in Adelanto is around $380,000 – significantly lower than many other cities in the area. In terms of utilities, Adelanto's costs are lower than many places in California but higher than the national average. This makes Adelanto a popular destination for those looking to own a home in Southern California without breaking the bank.

The town is located approximately 2 hours from downtown Los Angeles, making it a popular commuter town for those working in the city. Additionally, it's located near popular destinations like the Mojave National Preserve and Big Bear Lake - ideal for weekend getaways. Overall, Adelanto offers affordable living in a scenic desert setting.

3. Oxnard

Oxnard is part of the greater Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura County metropolitan area, and it's known for its beautiful beaches, mild climate, and agricultural heritage. One of the most notable aspects of Oxnard is its relatively affordable housing market.

Most neighborhoods in Oxnard have a median home price of around $520,000, which is considered cheap for a coastal town in Southern California. This makes Oxnard an attractive option for those looking to live near the beach without paying the high prices of other coastal cities in the region. The city's proximity to Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks makes it a convenient location for those commuting to work, as well as college students.

Oxnard is also known for its diverse population, which includes a large Latino community. This diversity is reflected in the city's culinary scene, which features a variety of Mexican and Central American cuisine. Overall, this small town is a rural beauty and an excellent option for those looking for a coastal lifestyle at a more affordable price point.

4. San Pedro

San Pedro is a coastal community at the southern end of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It's known for its historic architecture, diverse population, and bustling port. This means that it's not a regular candidate for this list. Its median home price is around $750Kwhich is much higher than in other towns on this list.

However, if you take into consideration the proximity to downtown LA and that it has lower food prices than most of the US, San Pedro is an affordable, family-friendly place. Not to mention that this coastal community has an abundance of exciting amenities, such as Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and Battleship USS Iowa Museum.

5. Morro Bay

Morro Bay

Morro Bay is a charming coastal town in San Luis Obispo County with a close-knit community in an ideal location – halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It's known for its scenic beauty, including Morro Rock, a towering volcanic peak that dominates the coastline.

Morro Bay's cost of living is generally higher than the national average, with a median home price of around $700,000. However, there is a diverse range of homes on the market, with listing prices ranging from $400,000 to more than a million dollars. This means there is a wide range of options for families and individuals looking to buy a home in Morro Bay.

Renting costs generally range from $1500 to $2000 per month, depending on the size and location of the apartment or house. These prices may seem steep, but they are still lower than many other coastal towns in Southern California.

Overall, while the cost of living in Morro Bay may be higher than in some other towns in the Golden State, it offers a diverse community with a range of housing options, excellent schools, and a high quality of life. Whether you're looking for a place to retire, raise a family, or simply enjoy the beach lifestyle (not just on hot summer days), Morro Bay is definitely an affordable beach town worth considering.

6. Moreno Valley

Moreno Valley is a city located in Riverside County, California, and is situated approximately 60 miles east of Los Angeles. One of the most notable aspects of Moreno Valley is its low medical costs, which are some of the lowest in California. This is due in part to the city's many healthcare providers and hospitals, which offer competitive pricing for medical services.

The city is surrounded by mountains, which provide a beautiful backdrop and location for hiking enthusiasts, mountain biking trails, and other outdoor activities. There are also many parks and recreation areas in the city, which offer opportunities for picnicking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. 

Despite its affordable cost of living, the median household income in Moreno Valley is $70,385, which is relatively high compared to other affordable cities in Southern California. This means that residents can enjoy a high quality of life without having to pay a high cost of living.

7. Indio

Indio is a city located in Riverside County, California, and is situated approximately 130 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The city is part of the greater Coachella Valley region, known for its warm climate, golf courses, and vibrant music and arts scene. Indio also has a relatively affordable housing market.

The median home cost is around $530K, which is relatively affordable compared to many other cities in Southern California. Additionally, for those who prefer to rent, the average cost of renting as of February 2024 goes from $1,000 to $1,500, depending on the type of apartment you are looking for.

Indio is known for its many golf courses and sports centers, as well as the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which attracts thousands of music lovers each year - one of the benefits of city living. Indio is accessible via Interstate 10, which connects Indio to both Los Angeles and nearby Palm Springs, which are a quick drive away.

Overall, Indio is a great option for those looking for an affordable place to live in Southern California while still being close to major urban centers like Los Angeles. Its warm climate and range of recreational opportunities make it an exciting and dynamic place to call home.

8. Fresno

Fresno County has a rich history and plenty of opportunities. It was established in 1856, right after the California Gold Rush craze. It got its name from all those ash trees (which, by the way, are called "fresno" in Spanish) that line the San Joaquin River—a natural beauty.

Although it's a three-hour drive from the nearest beaches, folks around here get to enjoy being close to amazing spots like Yosemite National Park and the Sierra National Forest, making it the perfect playground for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

The average rent and housing costs in Fresno, California, are around $1,225 per month as of March 2024. The average cost of a single-family home in Fresno, California in 2024 is $362,989, which is among the lowest in California. Fresno is located in the heart of California’s Central Valley known for its agricultural production, so there are plenty of job opportunities related to farming and agribusiness.

9. Redlands

Redlands, nestled in San Bernardino County, is a hidden gem in Southern California. Known for its affordable living options, this charming town offers a vibrant community atmosphere and a fascinating history. The city’s Edwardian and Victorian architecture adds to its allure, making it a delightful place to call home.

If you’re seeking an escape from the fast-paced city life, Redlands provides a refreshing change with its tight-knit community and beautiful parks. Whether you’re renting an apartment or considering a more permanent residence, Redlands offers affordable neighborhoods and a variety of housing choices. In 2024, rental costs are around $1,387 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.

The monthly rent here won’t break the bank, allowing you to enjoy the town’s sizzling attractions without financial strain. Don’t miss a visit to the iconic Redlands Bowl, a historic outdoor amphitheater that hosts concerts, performances, and cultural events, as well as the San Bernardino County Museum. Experience the warmth and character of Redlands – a city that combines affordability with a rich heritage.

10. Oceanside

Oceanside, the northernmost city in North County San Diego, has a rich history dating back to the 18th century. This coastal gem offers diverse living opportunities and a mix of housing options, from beachside retreats to vibrant communities. Despite its prime location, Oceanside provides affordable neighborhoods for residents. Whether you’re renting an apartment or seeking a more permanent home and decent schools, there are affordable living options to fit various budgets.

Oceanside’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean means you’re never far from the beach. Enjoy the sun, surf, and sand at popular attractions like Oceanside Pier and Harbor Beach. Also, Oceanside’s vibrant community atmosphere fosters a sense of belonging. Residents come together for local events, farmers’ markets, and cultural celebrations. The city’s Edwardian and Victorian architecture adds character to its streets. 

Oh, and don’t miss the iconic Oceanside Bowl – an outdoor amphitheater that hosts concerts, performances, and cultural events. It’s a true gem for music and art enthusiasts.

Who Wins the “Cheapest Place to Live in Southern California” Title?

In this blog post, we've explored some of the cheapest places to live in Southern California. However, it's important to note that the term "cheap" can mean different things to different people. What may be affordable to one person may not be to another, based on their lifestyle and financial situation.

In addition to affordable housing, many of these towns offer a high quality of life, with access to outdoor activities, community events, and cultural attractions. From hiking and biking to fishing, surfing, and enjoying sandy beaches, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the beautiful Southern California landscape without breaking the bank.

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