Living in San Diego vs Los Angeles: Which City is Best For You?

Today we’re going to talk about the reasons why I moved to San Diego from LA about 9 years ago. Now I’m a realtor here, so I’m especially qualified to answer your questions about the differences between living in San Diego and Los Angeles.

My Backstory

With that said, I’ll give you a little backstory about where we came from. I actually grew up on the East Coast, just outside Philadelphia. I went to school at Penn State University. After that, in 2004, I moved to Los Angeles. 

We lived there for almost 10 years. I worked in the entertainment industry for about five years, worked on shows like The OC, Justified, Chuck, Pan Am. I actually house sat for this guy up here, Peter Gallagher, great guy. I’m not a very good house sitter, so don’t ask me to house sit for you. 

I did that for about five years, but totally got burned out from it. It was just too many hours to start a family. One day, I remember I worked 26 hours in a row, one day, and I came home and I actually almost fell asleep at the wheel on the way home. 

And I was like, you know what, I don’t think I want to do this anymore. So about six months later, I had my real estate license, got started working in real estate. I’ve been doing that ever since, and I still get to do all these great videos. 

So I kind of get that little taste of my creative side by creating these great videos about San Diego. Hopefully, you guys have enjoyed them. In 2010, I also got married. We had our first kid in 2012. And then, in around 2014, we kind of got to that point we wanted to buy a house, and we couldn’t decide where we wanted to go in Los Angeles. 

The only place we could really afford a house was in the Valley. The Valley would be crazy, and no offense to the Valley, but it gets really hot there. And I couldn’t really see myself living there forever. Fast forward a couple months, but my wife was talking about moving to San Diego because her sister lived down there.

Every time we went down there, it was kind of like a breath of fresh air. We just love the neighborhoods down there. We actually ended up buying a house in that very neighborhood that her sister-in-law lives, which, you know, could be good or bad sometimes. 

But we love this neighborhood. It’s just, it’s got a great family feel to it. We got the canyon right out the back here, so we go hiking and mountain biking. It’s 12 minutes to the beach, which is something we couldn’t really get in Los Angeles, at least for the price point that we wanted. 

Granted, San Diego is not cheap, but for what we were looking for, it actually was less expensive than the neighborhoods we were looking for in Los Angeles. There’s something for everybody, but you just gotta find the right neighborhood for you. 

That’s what we did, and we’ve been happy ever since. Let’s get into the top reasons why I moved from Los Angeles to San Diego.

1. Family Friendly Neighborhoods

That brings us to today, 2020, and we’re living here in San Diego, and we love it. We’re living here in San Diego and we love it, but I want to try to give you five or six reasons why we moved to San Diego and why we continue to live here. 

So with that said, the number one reason on my list is the family-friendly neighborhoods they have here, at least in the North County neighborhoods because that’s kind of the experience I’ve had. That’s where we lived this entire time.

When we first moved here, we rented a place in Carmel Valley, but now we’re in the Torrey Highlands, Rancho Peñasquitos area, and we just absolutely love it. 

The neighborhoods are beautiful. They’re on the newer side too. Our neighborhood was built in about 2003, so I kind of just like that nice feel to it. As I mentioned, we have these canyons right behind us, this 22-mile open space preserve we have right behind us, which, you know, that’s just not something you see every day. 

So it’s just everything about our neighborhoods. We have block parties every, uh, twice a year, Labor Day, Memorial Day, which I actually organize. It’s just a great feeling here in these neighborhoods. So it was just exactly how I pictured I wanted to raise my kids.

2. Excellent San Diego Schools

Number two, which we talk about all the time on the show, is the schools here in San Diego, especially in North County. Almost every neighborhood over here in North County San Diego has a really good school district. 

You’ve got Poway Unified, San Diego, Carlsbad, San Marcos. There’s just so many good school districts over here. It makes it even more enjoyable when you know your kids are getting a great education.

School System Comparison 

School System AspectLos AngelesSan Diego
Enrollment (approximate)600,000+ students100,000+ students
Student-Teacher Ratio23:1 (average)24:1 (average)
Academic PerformanceMixed results, some high-performing schoolsGenerally above average
Graduation Rate (2019-2020)85.50%92.50%
Average SAT Score (2020)Math: 518, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 508Math: 539, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 541
Average ACT Score (2020)19.6 (composite)22.4 (composite)
Charter School PresenceLarge number of charter schoolsModerate number of charter schools
Language Immersion ProgramsAvailable in some districtsAvailable in some districts
School Funding per Pupil (2020)$13,056$11,034
DiversityDiverse student populationDiverse student population
School SafetyVaries across districts and schoolsGenerally considered safe
Reported Incidents of Violence0.11 incidents per 100 students0.08 incidents per 100 students
Reported Incidents of Bullying0.85 incidents per 100 students0.62 incidents per 100 students
Reported Drug or Alcohol Incidents0.18 incidents per 100 students0.12 incidents per 100 students

3. San Diego vs Los Angeles Cost of Living

Number three on my list is one I sort of talked about. It’s definitely more affordable than Los Angeles, not by a dramatic amount, but it is more affordable, especially for similar price, similar style homes. 

We can get a 3,000 square foot house for the same price as a 2,000 square foot house in Los Angeles. So your money definitely goes a little bit farther here in San Diego than it does in Los Angeles. 

The job market might not be as big as it is in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York, but it’s holding its own. And I think every year it’s getting a little bit more as people are, you know, flocking away from the big cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. 

Because I’m getting a lot of people contacting me from all those big cities coming to San Diego, especially because a lot more people can work from home these days, which is even better.

Now let’s take a closer look at the cost of living in San Diego vs Los Angeles.

Housing Costs

One of the most significant contributors to the cost of living is housing expenses. In both San Diego and Los Angeles, the housing market is competitive, driving prices higher. However, Los Angeles generally has a higher median home price compared to San Diego. 

According to recent data, as of 2023, the median home price in San Diego is approximately $750,000, while in Los Angeles, it hovers around $900,000. Keep in mind that these figures can vary significantly based on the neighborhood and property type.

Rental prices also play a crucial role, especially for those who prefer renting rather than buying. Both cities have high rental costs, but Los Angeles tends to be slightly more expensive. As of 2023, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego is around $2,300, while in Los Angeles, it can range from $2,500 to $3,000, depending on the location.

Transportation and Commuting

When it comes to transportation, Los Angeles often faces notorious traffic congestion, resulting in longer commute times. This can impact your overall cost of living, as spending more time on the road means higher fuel expenses. Additionally, Los Angeles has an extensive public transportation system, including buses, subways, and light rail, which can help mitigate commuting costs. 

In comparison, San Diego’s public transportation system is less extensive, and most residents rely on private vehicles. Some San Diego neighborhoods and communities are very walkable, which can reduce transportation expenses.

Utilities & Basic Necessities

Utilities and basic necessities, such as groceries, healthcare, and entertainment, contribute to the overall cost of living. In this regard, both cities have comparable expenses. 

However, certain neighborhoods in Los Angeles might have slightly higher utility costs. It’s worth noting that groceries and dining out can vary depending on the neighborhood and individual preferences. 

Generally, San Diego and Los Angeles offer a wide range of options to suit various budgets and culinary preferences.


Tax rates also play a role in the overall cost of living. California has relatively high state income taxes, regardless of the city you choose. 

Additionally, sales taxes are slightly higher in Los Angeles County compared to San Diego County. It’s crucial to consider these factors when evaluating your potential take-home income and overall financial plan.

Cost of Living AspectSan DiegoLos Angeles
Average Rent (1-bedroom apartment in city center)$2,200$2,800
Average Utilities (Monthly for 2 people)$150$180
Gasoline (1 liter)$4.39$5.07
Monthly Public Transportation Pass$72$100
Basic Dinner for Two at a Restaurant$50$70
Monthly Gym Membership$40$50
Movie Ticket$13$15
Average Monthly Health Insurance Premium$400$450
Average Monthly Grocery Bill (Family of Four)$600$700
Average Monthly Preschool/Childcare Cost$1,200$1,500
Average Monthly Home Insurance Premium$80$100

4. San Diego vs. Los Angeles Beaches

Next on my list is a big one to me, might not matter to you, but is the access to the beaches. It’s just so much easier to get to the beach here in San Diego than it was in Los Angeles. Granted, if you don’t live in any beach city, then it’s even harder. 

It’s just in Los Angeles, it was such a process to get to the beach. You had to park about 10 minutes away from the beach. You had to walk all the way down, bring all your stuff down there, especially your kids. It’s a nightmare. 

In San Diego, a lot of the parking lots here are just about 10 feet away from the beach. So even if you want to go for an hour, it’s super easy or just watch the sunset or have dinner on the beach, whatever it is, it just makes it a whole lot easier and a lot more inviting to go to, in my opinion.

5. San Diego vs Los Angeles Activities

Another one, this kind of all ties together a little bit, is that there are plenty of things to do with kids here. There’s just so many things. You’ve got Legoland, you got Sea World, you got the Birch Aquarium, you got water parks. You got the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. 

You also have Disneyland, which is like 90 minutes away from San Diego. There’s also a lot of places you can just drive to, like Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear Lake, Mammoth Mountain. You can even drive up to Los Angeles. 

I just feel it’s very centrally located, and you can do so many different things, even if you just want to get out of town, make it feel like you’re, you know, not that you really want to leave San Diego, but if you did, there’s plenty of places to go a very short drive away.

6. San Diego Quality of Life

We have a great core group of friends here, a lot of family here. It’s just been a very good experience for us here in our almost seven years now here in San Diego.

7. Weather in San Diego vs Los Angeles

San Diego: Endless Sunshine

San Diego enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild, dry summers and pleasantly warm winters. With around 266 sunny days per year, the city offers a sun-seeker’s paradise. 

Temperatures range from the mid-60s to mid-70s Fahrenheit (18-24 degrees Celsius) for most of the year. Proximity to the Pacific Ocean keeps summers mild, rarely exceeding the high 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (25-28 degrees Celsius).

Los Angeles: Microclimates Galore

Los Angeles exhibits a range of microclimates due to its size and diverse topography. The city experiences a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers. 

Inland areas, such as the San Fernando Valley, can reach the high 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit (30-35 degrees Celsius), while coastal areas benefit from the marine layer, keeping temperatures in the comfortable 70s Fahrenheit (around 25 degrees Celsius).

Winters in Los Angeles are mild, with average temperatures in the mid-60s to low 70s Fahrenheit (18-23 degrees Celsius) during the day. Cooler periods occur when colder air masses move in from the north, particularly in inland valleys and mountainous regions. Rainfall is slightly higher in Los Angeles, with occasional rainstorms during the winter months.

Weather Comparison 

While both cities enjoy a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild winters, San Diego offers more consistent sunshine and comfortable temperatures year-round. Los Angeles, with its diverse microclimates, provides warmer inland temperatures and refreshing coastal breezes.

 Whether you prefer endless sunshine or a variety of weather experiences, both cities offer an ideal coastal climate for residents and visitors alike.

Finding Your San Diego Nest Home

With that said, I hope you guys have found this article and video helpful. I will keep them coming as much as I can. And if you guys have questions about San Diego, I’d love to help answer them. And if you ever want to see a certain video about something about San Diego, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to make it for you.