The 10 Most Expensive Places To Live In California For 2021


We used science and data to determine which cities in California that will put a big dent in your wallet.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the most expensive places to live in California.

Beverly Hills, Santa Barbara, and Glendale all moved up HomeSnacks list of the top ten most expensive places to live in California for 2021; and surprisingly, none of these places hold the number one spot. So, the million dollar question, what California place earned this title? HomeSnacks knows and we've listed it below.

But, before you click that down arrow, you should probably know how we calculated this list. Yes, in order to determine the top ten most expensive places in California, we looked at the American Community Survey for data on cost of living in The Golden State: specifically, home to income ratio and rent to income ratio. And, folks, if you want to live in California's most expensive places, you're going to have to make at least $56,071/year. And if you want to live in the number one most expensive place, you might want to think about renting before you buy because its median home price is off the charts.

But, it's worth it. Many of the most expensive places on this list are some of Califonia's best places and that's because these places have the funds to keep its residents happy, safe, and living their best life.

To see a list of the California places where the boulevards are paved in gold and you have to make Mark Zuckerberg's salary to survive, keep reading.

Here are the 10 most expensive places to live in California for 2021:

  1. Coronado
  2. East Palo Alto
  3. Sausalito
  4. Santa Barbara
  5. Santa Cruz
  6. Beverly Hills
  7. Glendale
  8. San Luis Obispo
  9. Capitola
  10. Rolling Hills Estates

What's the most expensive place to live in California? Well, HomeSnacks crunched the numbers and discovered that Coronado is the most expensive place to live in California.

So hopefully Ridgecrest (the cheapest place to live in California) can show these guys how to live on a budget in the coming years. Read on for how these places had costs rise faster than inflation.

And if you already knew these places were expensive, check out some more reading about California and the most expensive cities in the country:

The 10 Most Expensive Places To Live In California For 2021

1. CoronadoCoronado, CA

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 23,639
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 14.8x (3rd most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 44.0x (87th most expensive)
More on Coronado: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Coronado comes in at $108,967 and the median home value is $1,617,000 for 2021.

2. East Palo AltoEast Palo Alto, CA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 29,593
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 12.2x (14th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 38.0x (20th most expensive)
More on East Palo Alto: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in East Palo Alto comes in at $67,087 and the median home value is $821,200 for 2021.

3. SausalitoSausalito, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 7,116
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 11)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 12.0x (15th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 43.3x (76th most expensive)
More on Sausalito: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Sausalito comes in at $111,906 and the median home value is $1,346,000 for 2021.

4. Santa BarbaraSanta Barbara, CA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 91,376
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 13.7x (6th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 42.9x (68th most expensive)
More on Santa Barbara: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Santa Barbara comes in at $76,606 and the median home value is $1,051,500 for 2021.

5. Santa CruzSanta Cruz, CA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 64,522
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 11.0x (24th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 41.2x (45th most expensive)
More on Santa Cruz: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Santa Cruz comes in at $77,921 and the median home value is $854,200 for 2021.

6. Beverly HillsBeverly Hills, CA

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 34,186
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 4)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 18.7x (most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 47.7x (15most expensive)
More on Beverly Hills: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Beverly Hills comes in at $106,936 and the median home value is $2,000,001 for 2021.

7. GlendaleGlendale, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 200,232
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 11.6x (20th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 40.8x (43rd most expensive)
More on Glendale: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Glendale comes in at $66,130 and the median home value is $769,900 for 2021.

8. San Luis ObispoSan Luis Obispo, CA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 47,302
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 11.5x (2most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 35.6x (9th most expensive)
More on San Luis Obispo: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in San Luis Obispo comes in at $56,071 and the median home value is $643,200 for 2021.

9. CapitolaCapitola, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 10,121
Rank Last Year: 74 (Up 65)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 10.2x (36th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 39.9x (34th most expensive)
More on Capitola: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Capitola comes in at $71,059 and the median home value is $721,900 for 2021.

10. Rolling Hills EstatesRolling Hills Estates, CA

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 8,169
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 8.8x (73rd most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 44.8x (10most expensive)
More on Rolling Hills Estates: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Rolling Hills Estates comes in at $150,135 and the median home value is $1,326,600 for 2021.

How We Determined The Most Expensive Places To Live In The Golden State For 2021

Map Of The Cheapest Places To Live In California
The two most important things to think about when it comes to being able to afford if you can live comes down to:

  1. How much do money do I make?
  2. How much do I have spend to live there?

You need to understand your costs in the context of how much money you make.

For example, if the median household earns $100,000 and spends $40,000 on housing it's actually cheaper to live there than a place with a median income of $50,000 and housing costs of $21,000. You might spend more on housing, but you have more money overall to play with.

With that example in mind, we derived several statistics from the latest Census American Community Survey 2015-2019 around incomes and costs. They are:

  • Median Home Price / Median Income (lower is better)
  • Median Income / Median Rent (Higher is better)
  • Median Home Price

We added simply median home price because high home prices generally correlate with higher expenses for all costs related to homes (heating, electricity, etc).

You can then compare these metrics in each of the places in California to figure out which is the most expensive.

What you are left with is a "Cost of Living Index" by taking the average rank of each of these metrics for each city.

So we used that cost of living index in order to rank all of the 427 places in California that have more than 5,000 people.

The place with the highest cost of living in California according to the data is Coronado. You can download the data here.

Taking A Chunk Out Of Your Paycheck In California For 2021

Well there you have it, the places in California that have the highest cost of living, with Coronado ranking as the most expensive city in the Golden State.

Here's a look at the most affordable cities in California according to the data:

  1. Ridgecrest
  2. Coalinga
  3. Taft

For more California reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Most Expensive Cities In California

Rank City ExpensiveScore Population Home/Income Ratio Income/Rent Ratio
1 Coronado 37.33 23,639 14.8x 44.0x
2 East Palo Alto 39.0 29,593 12.2x 38.0x
3 Sausalito 40.67 7,116 12.0x 43.3x
4 Santa Barbara 42.0 91,376 13.7x 42.9x
5 Santa Cruz 49.0 64,522 11.0x 41.2x
6 Beverly Hills 53.17 34,186 18.7x 47.7x
7 Glendale 53.67 200,232 11.6x 40.8x
8 San Luis Obispo 55.67 47,302 11.5x 35.6x
9 Capitola 61.0 10,121 10.2x 39.9x
10 Rolling Hills Estates 68.67 8,169 8.8x 44.8x
11 San Gabriel 68.67 40,143 10.9x 42.1x
12 Carpinteria 71.0 13,505 9.2x 39.4x
13 Imperial Beach 74.0 27,315 10.5x 36.8x
14 Westminster 77.67 91,137 9.6x 39.5x
15 West Hollywood 78.33 36,450 10.2x 44.5x
16 Solana Beach 79.0 13,356 11.0x 48.4x
17 Los Angeles 79.33 3,966,936 10.2x 42.9x
18 San Rafael 82.0 58,775 10.1x 47.4x
19 Monterey 82.83 28,352 9.7x 45.0x
20 Daly City 83.33 106,677 8.3x 42.6x
21 Alhambra 83.67 84,647 10.0x 42.7x
22 San Marino 85.17 13,194 12.0x 50.6x
23 Burbank 87.67 103,703 9.6x 44.8x
24 Redwood City 89.0 85,784 10.7x 49.7x
25 Berkeley 91.67 121,485 11.7x 49.7x
26 Sonoma 92.0 11,075 9.3x 45.9x
27 Hawthorne 92.0 87,107 10.4x 43.0x
28 Monterey Park 92.67 60,439 10.0x 44.2x
29 Davis 94.33 68,543 9.4x 44.3x
30 Costa Mesa 95.33 113,159 8.9x 45.3x
31 San Bruno 96.67 43,083 8.3x 46.1x
32 Rosemead 99.67 54,282 9.6x 42.9x
33 Millbrae 101.0 22,625 10.9x 51.2x
34 Irvine 101.33 273,157 8.0x 44.5x
35 Morro Bay 101.67 10,578 8.9x 43.8x
36 El Monte 102.67 115,517 9.3x 38.2x
37 Dana Point 104.67 33,769 8.8x 48.2x
38 Pismo Beach 105.0 8,180 9.1x 47.6x
39 Inglewood 105.67 109,613 8.9x 40.1x
40 Cudahy 108.33 23,890 9.0x 35.7x
41 Larkspur 108.67 12,319 12.0x 52.6x
42 Santa Monica 108.67 91,577 14.3x 53.6x
43 Pasadena 109.0 141,258 9.5x 48.6x
44 Huntington Park 109.67 58,353 9.7x 39.3x
45 Bell 109.67 35,682 9.3x 37.2x
46 Ojai 109.67 7,534 9.7x 48.0x
47 Bell Gardens 112.0 42,421 9.2x 33.7x
48 Artesia 113.33 16,758 8.0x 40.7x
49 Watsonville 113.33 53,800 8.4x 39.4x
50 Lawndale 113.67 32,819 8.4x 42.0x
51 Montebello 113.67 62,742 8.8x 42.1x
52 Villa Park 114.0 5,861 7.2x 47.1x
53 Temple City 114.33 36,042 9.1x 48.0x
54 Pacific Grove 114.33 15,522 9.7x 50.2x
55 San Mateo 115.33 104,333 8.8x 50.4x
56 Culver City 116.0 39,169 9.4x 50.3x
57 South El Monte 116.83 20,721 8.5x 39.2x
58 Newport Beach 117.33 85,694 14.9x 56.5x
59 Seaside 118.0 33,956 7.7x 35.7x
60 St. Helena 118.67 6,101 12.4x 54.1x
61 Fountain Valley 118.67 56,026 7.9x 45.8x
62 Calabasas 119.33 23,988 8.6x 50.2x
63 Laguna Beach 119.67 23,036 13.6x 56.5x
64 Foster City 120.33 33,997 7.9x 49.4x
65 Anaheim 120.33 349,964 8.0x 43.5x
66 Arcata 120.33 18,178 9.6x 34.7x
67 San Juan Capistrano 121.33 35,922 7.9x 45.8x
68 La Mesa 121.33 59,556 8.0x 42.7x
69 Cupertino 122.0 60,257 10.0x 54.4x
70 Manhattan Beach 122.5 35,500 13.1x 58.2x
71 Burlingame 123.33 30,576 14.8x 58.1x
72 Los Alamitos 123.67 11,534 8.6x 48.7x
73 Garden Grove 126.67 173,258 8.0x 43.6x
74 Laguna Niguel 127.33 65,808 7.6x 48.0x
75 Albany 127.67 19,804 9.3x 51.4x
76 Goleta 128.67 30,975 8.1x 49.0x
77 Maywood 128.67 27,332 8.7x 40.1x
78 National City 129.33 61,121 8.5x 40.5x
79 Walnut 129.33 29,903 7.1x 46.1x
80 Commerce 129.67 12,830 8.7x 41.7x
81 Monrovia 130.0 36,816 8.6x 48.5x
82 Grass Valley 130.0 12,891 8.8x 34.9x
83 El Cajon 130.33 103,186 8.1x 41.3x
84 Tustin 130.83 79,863 7.6x 45.6x
85 Arcadia 131.67 58,152 11.7x 56.3x
86 Palo Alto 132.17 66,573 12.6x 61.6x
87 Fullerton 133.33 139,611 8.1x 47.9x
88 Malibu 134.17 12,620 13.3x 62.7x
89 Mountain View 134.33 81,656 10.1x 56.9x
90 Long Beach 134.67 466,776 8.8x 47.6x
91 Rancho Palos Verdes 135.0 42,030 8.3x 52.4x
92 Tiburon 135.5 9,144 12.9x 63.5x
93 Grover Beach 137.67 13,535 7.7x 43.4x
94 South San Francisco 137.67 67,408 8.0x 50.1x
95 Santa Ana 138.33 332,794 7.4x 42.3x
96 Huntington Beach 139.33 200,259 8.1x 49.9x
97 Saratoga 139.5 30,697 10.4x 62.0x
98 Westlake Village 139.67 8,358 6.8x 48.6x
99 Oakland 140.0 425,097 9.3x 51.0x
100 El Segundo 140.33 16,731 10.0x 56.8x

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About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.