Best Places To Retire In California For 2020


We analyzed over 348 places in California to identify the ones that offer the most to retirees.

Editor’s Note: Data has been updated for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the best places to retire in California.

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When you think of retirement, where do you envision yourself to live? Do you find yourself soaking up the sun on sandy beaches? Reading on a porch overlooking mountain ranges? Or do you want to live a more fast-paced lifestyle in bustling urban centers? Well, California has the place for you.

When people think of glamorized retirement states, many first think of Florida. But when you stop and think about, California has it all. It has mountains and trails, beaches and surfing, and cities with a seal or two. It is one of America's most idealized states because of the perfect weather, activities, and people. So if you're thinking of California as a top destination for your retirement, we put together a list of the best places to rest on your laurels.

If you are thinking of living in large cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco, you might find it hard to afford it on your pension. So we took into account places in California that had things to do like museums and libraries, but that wouldn't make you go broke -- California has some of the highest average rents in America. That means you're more likely to end up in a sunny, beach side town with a quality farmer's market and proximity to an airport and a lower cost of living.

At the end of the day, we have figured out just which cities in California are the best for retirement based on factors you'd want when considering a great city to relax and enjoy life. Wherever you pick, you know one thing: you will not want be living in a boring town with nothing to do after a hard life's work if you live in a city on our list.

Why did Auburn take the top spot? And where are Los Angeles and San Diego?

We analyzed 350 places in California to bring you the best of the best for retirement. After crunching the numbers, what city was crowned the best place to retire in California? Auburn is the best place to retire in California according to our most recent data.

Auburn reigned over the rest because of its unparalleled retirement factors: great weather, great people, and most importantly, great location. No matter where you end up California, you will likely love the environment and location.

Interested to see how we crunched the numbers? Keep reading for a detailed look at our top ten best cities for retirement in California and to learn more about methodology.

For more California state reading:

The 10 Best Places To Retire In California For 2020

Auburn, CA

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 13,946
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Median Rent: $1,140
Distance to Closest Airport: 30 miles
More on Auburn: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Auburn is a city in and the county seat of Placer County, California. Its population was 13,330 during the 2010 census. Auburn is known for its California Gold Rush history, and is registered as a California Historical Landmark.

Sierra Madre, CA

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 11,006
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Median Rent: $1,470
Distance to Closest Airport: 25 miles
More on Sierra Madre: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Sierra Madre is a city in Los Angeles County, California whose population was 10,917 at the 2010 U.S. Census, up from 10,580 at the time of the 2000 U.S. Census. The city is located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley below the southern edge of the Angeles National Forest. Pasadena and Altadena are to its west, with Arcadia to its south and east. Sierra Madre is known as "Wisteria City", and its city seal is decorated with a drawing of the now widely known 500-foot vine. It is also called the "Village of the Foothills" and was an All-America City in 2007.

Palm Springs, CA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 47,525
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 2)
Median Rent: $1,056
Distance to Closest Airport: 2 miles
More on Palm Springs: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Palm Springs is a desert resort city in Riverside County, California, United States, within the Coachella Valley. It is located approximately 55mi east of San Bernardino, 107mi east of Los Angeles, 123mi northeast of San Diego, and 268mi west of Phoenix, Arizona. The population was 44,552 as of the 2010 census. Palm Springs covers approximately 94 square miles, making it the largest city in the county by land area.

Review Of Palm Springs by HomeSnacks User

I came to Palm Springs for a visit and decided to stay. The people are friendly and warm and welcoming. It truly felt like home from the beginning.

Palm Springs has long been known as a vacation destination to Hollywood stars, Marilyn Monroe was said to be discovered at the legendary Racquet Club. Palm Springs boasts many tourist attractions: the Tramway, Art museum, Living Desert and many antique boutiques. Palm Springs while extremely LGBT friendly is also very family friendly. Whatever you want from a tourist destination you can find here. A short commute to Los Angeles and the beaches of the Pacific coast and the ski resorts of the local mountains, Palm Springs is truly a gem and worth the visit.

Moraga, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 17,398
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Median Rent: $1,960
Distance to Closest Airport: 10 miles
More on Moraga: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Moraga is a suburban incorporated town located in Contra Costa County, California, United States, in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is named in honor of Joaquin Moraga, whose grandfather was Jos Joaquin Moraga, second in command to Juan Bautista de Anza. As of 2010, Moraga had a total population of 16,016people.

Torrance, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 146,392
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 2)
Median Rent: $1,672
Distance to Closest Airport: 8 miles
More on Torrance: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Torrance is a U.S. city in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County, California. Torrance has 1.5 miles of beaches on the Pacific Ocean. Torrance has a moderate year-round climate with warm temperatures, sea breezes, low humidity and an average rainfall of 12.55inches per year.

Los Gatos, CA

Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 30,922
Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Median Rent: $2,209
Distance to Closest Airport: 9 miles
More on Los Gatos: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Los Gatos is an incorporated U.S. town in Santa Clara County, California. The population is 30,391 according to the 2013 United States Census Bureau. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Los Gatos is ranked the 33rd wealthiest city in the United States. It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area at the southwest corner of San Jose in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Los Gatos is part of Silicon Valley, with several high technology companies maintaining a presence there. Most notably, streaming and content creator, Netflix is headquartered in Los Gatos and has developed a large presence in the area.

Review Of Los Gatos by HomeSnacks User

Lived in Los Gatos for 15 years, and yes it's a desired community but because of the exceptional school system level, the photo is the high school which is the most beautiful one I've ever seen and I've lived all over the states, with the best teaching staff in the country, and its facilities are like a university...

I grew up in Ann Arbor, Mi. Which is a university town and gorgeous. I now live and have for 28 years on Catalina island, in Avalon which is the most mellow in the state, and beautiful... Location, location.

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 18,075
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Median Rent: $1,196
Distance to Closest Airport: 6 miles
More on Rancho Mirage: Real Estate | Data

Rancho Mirage is a resort city in Riverside County, California, United States. The population was 17,218 at the 2010 census, up from 13,249 at the 2000 census, but the seasonal population can exceed 20,000. Located between Cathedral City and Palm Desert, it is one of the nine cities of the Coachella Valley. Rancho Mirage was incorporated in 1973 from a merger of Mirage Cove with five unincorporated areas known as the "Cove communities", and had 3,000 permanent residents at the time. Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States, died at his home in the city in 2006, and Jane Wyman died one year later at her home in the same city.

Imperial, CA

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 17,175
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 1)
Median Rent: $1,261
Distance to Closest Airport: 12 miles
More on Imperial: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Imperial is a city in Imperial County, California. Imperial is located 4 miles north of El Centro. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 14,758. It is part of the El Centro metropolitan area. Nearby recreation facilities transform the desert into a popular Valley tourist destination due to availability of activities. Three year-round golf courses are within minutes of Imperial. The sand dunes provide a place for campers and dune buggy enthusiasts. This region is well known for its abundance of bird species such as dove, quail, ducks, pheasant and geese.

Saratoga, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 30,886
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Median Rent: $2,690
Distance to Closest Airport: 8 miles
More on Saratoga: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Saratoga is a city in Santa Clara County, California, United States. It is located on the west side of the Santa Clara Valley, directly west of San Jose, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The population was 29,926 at the 2010 census. Located on the Western edge of the Silicon Valley, Saratoga is known locally for its suburban small-town feel, wineries, and high-end restaurants. Major attractions of Saratoga include Villa Montalvo, Hakone Gardens, and the Mountain Winery.

Coronado, CA

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 23,620
Rank Last Year: 19 (Up 9)
Median Rent: $2,401
Distance to Closest Airport: 5 miles
More on Coronado: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Coronado is a resort city located in San Diego County, California, across the San Diego Bay from downtown San Diego. It was founded in the 1880s. Its population was 24,697 at the 2010 census, up from 24,100 at the 2000 census.

How We Determined The Best Places To Retire In the Golden State for 2020

To create our list of the best places in California to retire, we first used Census data to find all places in the Golden State -- 1481 cities and towns.

We then narrowed it down to places with at least 10,000 people that weren't townships. This left us with 350 places from across the state.

For these 350, we looked at the following criteria taken from the Census, the FBI's Crime Report, National Weather Service, and OpenFlights:

  • Low cost of living as measured by rent
  • Low crime
  • Things to do (Museums, Colleges, and Libraries in town)
  • Nice weather
  • Distance to the closest international airport
  • Other retirees (High median age)

We then ranked each of these places for each criteria from one to 350, with the lowest number being the best.

Finally, we took the average rank across these criteria. The place, in this case Auburn, with the lowest average rank was crowned the best of the best, a place for you to start your second careers. You can download the data here.

Maybe You're Not Ready To Retire In California Yet...

So there you have it, the best place to retire in California goes to Auburn.

If you're not ready to hang up your office apparel yet, then these places might be up your alley:

  1. Ceres
  2. Los Banos
  3. Tracy

For more California reading, check out:

Where Are The Best Places To Retire In California?

Rank City Population Median Rent
1 Auburn 13,946 $1,140
2 Sierra Madre 11,006 $1,470
3 Palm Springs 47,525 $1,056
4 Moraga 17,398 $1,960
5 Torrance 146,392 $1,672
6 Los Gatos 30,922 $2,209
7 Rancho Mirage 18,075 $1,196
8 Imperial 17,175 $1,261
9 Saratoga 30,886 $2,690
10 Coronado 23,620 $2,401

How Is The Area In ?

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.