Moving to California Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Beautiful sunset of Los Angeles downtown skyline and palm trees in foreground

Are you California dreaming to escape the snowy winters? There are tons of reasons to consider moving to California, including perfect weather, beautiful national parks, diverse cities, and delicious food from all over the world.

However, there are some other things that will take some getting used to. For starters, white Christmas will surely be a thing of the past. But if you want to enjoy sunny weather year-round, it’s a small price to pay, right? Not for everyone. If you’re deliberating over why you should move to California, read on.

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What to Expect When Moving to California

You win some and lose some, but in California, there’s much more to gain than lose if you love the sun, beach, nature, and outdoor sports! If you’re still wondering whether you should move to California, here’s the low-down on things you should know before moving to California, including some pros and cons of the Golden State.

1. Sunshine All Year

It’s no secret that California is a paradise for sun-lovers. It enjoys a fabulous Mediterranean type of weather – warm, dry summers and cooler, moderately wet winters. The good news is that although winters can get chilly, you won’t have to crank up the heater as you’ll never have freezing temperatures here. The average temperature is approximately 70 degrees, but some really hot summer days can surpass that. That said, since California is a very large state, the average temperature varies greatly depending on your location.

2. Employment and Economy

Apart from the weather, the most important consideration when moving to CA is the job scene, and California won’t disappoint you in this regard. With a thriving economy powered by tech, agriculture, and tourism, unemployment rates in major cities like San Francisco are quite low. However, keep in mind that you’d be competing alongside thousands of other hopefuls as moving to California to work in Silicon Valley is a dream for many!

California is home to some of the biggest tech giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook. A few other major employers include Disney, Chevron, and Wells Fargo. The average income is higher than that of the other states but unfortunately is offset by a higher cost of living (second only to NY).

3. Expensive Housing

While moving to California is immensely rewarding with amazing perks like beautiful weather and stunning beaches, there’s also a price to pay. Housing costs are steep for both renters and homeowners, which comprises the largest chunk of living expenses. San Francisco and Los Angeles are two of the most expensive cities in the country to live in. According to Zillow, the median listing price for homes in San Francisco is nearly $1.3 million, while in Los Angeles it’s $850,000.

4. A Car will Take You Places but Get Used to the Traffic

If you’re moving to California, having a car is an absolute necessity. The biggest cities in California were quite literally built with cars in mind. A massive population, sprawling suburbs, and dense inner cities have led to the state’s infamous traffic scene. Budgeting some extra time to navigate through the traffic to reach a destination on time is a must. In addition to long commutes and frustratingly slow traffic, the cost of gas and car insurance is among the top five in the country.

Aerial view of a massive highway intersection in Los Angeles

5. More Colleges and Universities

California is home to some of the most internationally renowned institutes like Stanford, USC, and UCLA. Moreover, the state has the biggest public university system in the United States, with affordable in-state tuition at approximately $13,000 – $14,000 per year. It’s no surprise that many students from all over the world contemplate moving to California for high-quality education.

6. Rejoice, All Nature Lovers!

For all you nature lovers, relocating to California is undoubtedly a dream for you. From gorgeous beaches to gigantic redwood forests and stunningly beautiful state parks and mountain ranges, California has it all. There’s no scope for boredom as you can take walks along trails and go hiking if you’re a mountain person. Or if you enjoy the ocean, go swimming, surfing, or just soak in the famous Californian sun!

Some attractive destinations include Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Sequoia National Parks. Wherever you’re located in California, you can enjoy the outdoors even on a tight budget, as you can go cycling or walking anytime.

7. Fresh Agricultural Bounty Year-Round

Another perk of moving to California is that you can enjoy fresh produce year-round. California produces fresh fruits and vegetables for the entire state as well as the rest of the country. Your local farmers’ market will stock all varieties of produce throughout the year. Do take advantage of the bounty and increase your nutritional quotient!

8. Eating Out is a Breeze – For All Types of Diets

The restaurant scene is a paradise for all food lovers as the ethnic diversity is reflected in the eclectic variety of cuisines available from Mexican and Vietnamese to Indian and Thai, just to name a few. Besides, whether you’re looking for vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free meals, it’ll be comparatively easier to find something that fulfills your requirements and cravings in California than in other states. The average cost of meals per person in a single day in California is approximately $36[i]. However, within California, the prices can vary substantially depending on the city. For instance, lunch (including a drink) in the business district of San Francisco would cost approximately $18, but only $12 in smaller cities such as Fresno[ii].

9. High Taxes…Unfortunately

California unfortunately has the highest income tax among all states. Smartasset states that the top income bracket incurs a state tax of 12.39%. It further explains that it’s a progressive tax policy as the bottom income bracket incurs a state tax of only 1%. In addition, California has a high base rate of state tax at 7.25%. If it’s any consolation, property taxes (averaging 0.79%) are lower than the national average (1.19%).

10. Natural Disaster Risks

Moving to California comes with its own set of risks. It’s known to be vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes, wildfires, and mudslides; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be at risk. For instance, according to the data provided by U.S. Geological Survey, a negligible percentage of earthquakes (0.2) are of a magnitude greater than 4.0.

11. Take Sides – Northern or Southern California

The intense rivalry between Northern and Southern California means that you need to take sides when you move to California! Northern California in general has wetter and colder winters than Southern California, which enjoys more sunshine year-round.

Where are the Best Places to Move in California?

If you’re wondering where to move in California, it depends on your requirements.

  • If you’re looking for a city with white-sand beaches and other top-notch attractions, moving to San Diego is a good idea.
  • If you’re looking for a large, urban, and busy city in which celeb-spotting is a daily occurrence, moving to Los Angeles would be perfect.
  • If you’re looking for a city with many museums and a good theatre, opera, ballet, and music scene, moving to Sacramento would be ideal.
  • For people looking to live in a popular and cultural city with a good public transit system, steep hills, and a good variety of architecture and world-renowned attractions, moving to the Bay area is the best choice.
  • If you’re looking for a historic city with a good subway and bus system, nightlife, and scope for golfing, moving to Hayward would be the right thing to do.
  • If you’re looking for a big and affordable city with good business and educational opportunities, moving to Fresno would be promising.
  • If you’re looking for a small and affordable city that is in proximity to Los Angeles and Santa Ana, then moving to Chino is the best option for you.
  • If you’re looking for a quiet and affordable city with friendly people, social and cultural activities, and easy access to San Francisco, Napa, or Sacramento, moving to Concord is not a bad idea.
  • If you’re looking for a city with a stunning coastline as well as mountains, fabulous weather, and a great nightlife, moving to Ventura is a splendid idea!
  • If you’re looking for a city with Fortune 500 tech companies and close proximity to Silicon Valley, moving to Santa Clara is highly recommended.

Hopefully our guide to moving to California has helped you analyze the pros and cons of California and set the right expectations before you set out on your journey to the West. To further ease your move, consider using Cool Box Portable Storage for your moving and storage needs. We deliver portable moving and storage containers to your driveway wherever and whenever you’re ready. Our portable units are insulated and come in three different sizes (12’, 16’, and 20’) to match your requirements. We will beat competitor quotes for the same specifications. Contact us to learn more about our portable units or fill out the Instant Quote form for a quick online estimate of your expenses when moving to California.

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