10 Cheapest Places To Live In California For 2019


We used data and science to determine which places in California go easy on your wallet.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2019. This is our fourth time ranking the cheapest places to live in California.

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When you think of California, what comes to mind?

The seals in the SF bay?

The warm beaches and beautiful mountains?

What about America’s tech center that brings us everything we need to survive, from computers to iPhones?

California is a state that is unlike many others. It is America’s largest state, with enough enticing features to make anyone want to live there. Whether you like catching the latest wave on the California beaches, trying your luck in casinos, or even hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, it is a state that has a little something for everyone.

California is one of America’s most coveted states, so why doesn’t everyone just move there? One reason is quite obvious: California is expensive. As much as California is known as one of the most exciting places to live in America, it is also known as one of the most expensive.

So is there any hope for those who don’t have an incredibly large cash flow to live there? Luckily, HomeSnacks had the same question and has found the answer — the few remaining affordable places to live in the Golden State.

Obviously, San Francisco and Los Angeles are not on this list, but that doesn’t mean you will be missing out on all of the good California fun.

What is the cheapest place to live in California for 2019? According to the Census data we crunched, Taft ranks as the cheapest place to live in California. Still expensive, but cheaper than its neighbors.

If you want to live cheaply in California, you won’t be living on the coast, but that doesn’t mean you will be that far from it. If you want to live near the Mexico border and have international date nights, you could try out Imperial, California. Or if you want to be closer to the coast, you could try our winner, Taft, California.

Interested to see how these cities ranked top 10? Keep reading to learn about how we crunched the numbers and to see why these cities are so affordable.

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

The 10 Cheapest Places To Live In California For 2019

Taft, CA

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 9,224
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.9x (6th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 69.6x (16th cheapest)
More On Taft: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

The most affordable city in California for 2019 is Taft. Kudos to Taft, they have been the Golden State’s most affordable city two years in a row.

Located in the foothills of Kern County, at the extreme southwestern edge of the San Joaquin Valley, this city’s oil and natural gas industry have been keeping this city ‘booming’.

The median income for Taft is close to $52,000. This allowed Taft to grab the 6th most affordable city in California in terms of home price to income ratio title, too.

Do we think Taft has managed to keep their city so affordable because of the backing of the locally operated Standard Oil? Maybe.

Either way, seems like they’re keeping their townies employed and their economy strong.

The median income in Taft comes in at $51,370 and the median home value is $150,100 for 2019.

Ridgecrest, CA

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 28,728
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.8x (4th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 70.3x (14th cheapest)
More On Ridgecrest: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

Our second most affordable city in California for 2019, Ridgecrest, is nestled between the Sierra Nevada, Cosos, Argus, and El Paso mountain ranges.

Once a farming community, Ridgecrest’s residents now find themselves working at a testing Naval Station and the Cerro Coso Community College to offset their cost of living.

We know why you scored an 8/10 on our snackability scale for affordability, Ridgecrest. It shouldn’t be difficult to meet your cost of living head on with the median income hanging above $60,000.

So do yourself and your wallet a favor, and get-a-movin’ to this affordable Kern County city.

The median income in Ridgecrest comes in at $60,794 and the median home value is $169,500 for 2019.

Holtville, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 6,355
Rank Last Year: 177 (Up 174)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.5x (18th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 64.9x (28th cheapest)
More On Holtville: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

Where the 7 meets the 8 down by the US/Mexico border, is our third most affordable city in California: Holtville.

This little California gem is fourth when it comes to home price to income ratio. We’re not surprised it’s so affordable. And we definitely think it’s because they have such a strong agricultural economy with an emphasis on carrots. Yes, carrots. Holtville is “The Carrot Capital of the World”.

Not only is the carrot industry strong in Holtville, but so is the sunshine. And since sunshine makes people happy, and obviously motivated, we’re pretty sure you’ll want to call the affordable Holtville home.

The median income in Holtville comes in at $43,341 and the median home value is $150,800 for 2019.

Coalinga, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 16,612
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.0x (7th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 64.6x (29th cheapest)
More On Coalinga: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

Coalinga, California’s “Sunny Side of the Valley,” is our fourth most affordable city in the The Land of Milk and Honey for 2019.

This city in Fresno County is the 7th most affordable city in terms of home to income ratio and 29th cheapest for rent to income ratio. Holding strong as our fourth most affordable California city two years in a row, we’re pretty sure the residents in Coalinga know a good deal. More importantly, those numbers scream buy, don’t rent.

But who wouldn’t want to buy a home where agriculture, oil, and cannabis are keeping the median income around $55,000?

Just think of all the weed you can buy with that cheddar! #CoalingaMakingCannabisGreatAgain

The median income in Coalinga comes in at $54,605 and the median home value is $161,100 for 2019.

Imperial, CA

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 16,931
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.5x (2nd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 70.0x (15th cheapest)
More On Imperial: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

With the economy doing so well, people are moving now more than ever. Might we suggest California’s fifth most affordable city for 2019: Imperial?

This city in Imperial County on the US/Mexico border scored an 8.5 on our snackability scale: the highest for any city in the top ten. According to our data, they should be California’s poster city for affordability, housing, and safety.

This El Centro-burb knows how to make their ‘dolla holla’ with year-round golf, dune buggying, and camping.

And you know what else Imperial’s residents know? Apparently a good deal when they see it, because they are the second most affordable city for home price to income ratio.

The median income in Imperial comes in at $85,163 and the median home value is $209,200 for 2019.

Firebaugh, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 8,275
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 4)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.6x (29th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 59.7x (58th cheapest)
More On Firebaugh: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

We’re pretty sure everyone has heard of Firebaugh, California by now. Not only are they our sixth most affordable city in California for 2019, but they are also California’s fourth Best City to Buy a House for 2019. (Trust us, it’s worth a google.)

Once an old gold mining town, this city in Fresno County is now being supported by alfalfa farming.

And the alfalfa business must be strong, because the household median income is up above $41,000.

Now if alfalfa farming isn’t your shtick, but living in the oh so affordable Firebaugh is, we heard “‘The Jewel of the San Joaquin [River]” is alway looking for river guides.

The median income in Firebaugh comes in at $41,365 and the median home value is $150,700 for 2019.

Willows, CA

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 6,055
Rank Last Year: 71 (Up 64)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.8x (36th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 66.4x (21st cheapest)
More On Willows: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

You don’t have to live on ramen noodles and cereal to live in our seventh most affordable city in California for 2019: Willow.

This city in Glenn County is not only the furthest Northern California city on our list, but they scored an 8/10 for housing and a 7/10 for affordability on our snackability scale.

And if you know anything about California, to find anything affordable North of Fresno is quite the feat.

So if you are looking for an affordable California city with small town charm and a “how the West was won” vibe, hurry on over to Willows.

The median income in Willows comes in at $50,429 and the median home value is $191,200 for 2019.

Blythe, CA

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 19,486
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.4x (16th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 55.3x (95th cheapest)
More On Blythe: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

Just East of San Diego, on the California/Arizona border, is our eighth most affordable California city, Blythe.

This ‘Hub of Southern California’ is home to the greatest percentage of young folks (25 to 44) concentrated into one city on our list. And if we’ve learned anything about Millenials, they know a good deal.

We also know that age group probably wasn’t drawn to this affordable Riverside County city for their love of the desert, but to work at one of the largest cannabis facilities in North America: the Palo Verde Center.

What we’re confused by, however, is Blythe’s median income only topping out at $39,840??? #Hmmmm

The median income in Blythe comes in at $39,840 and the median home value is $134,000 for 2019.

Kingsburg, CA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 11,794
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.8x (34th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 73.0x (8th cheapest)
More On Kingsburg: Homes For Sale | Data

For a city to be truly hip, it needs to be affordable….and it doesn’t hurt to have “King” in its name. So it goes for our ninth most affordable city in California for 2019: Kingsburg.

Located on the Kings River in Fresno County, this city scored an 8/10 for affordability and an 9/10 for diversity. We think that makes Kingsburg pretty hip.

When Kingsburg residents aren’t busy preparing for their annual cool, super hip, Swedish Festival, they can be found earning the dream with top employers like the Kingsburg School District and the Kingsburg General Hospital.

Kudos Kingsburg! You keep working on “Preserving Your Past and Working Towards Your Future”.

The median income in Kingsburg comes in at $62,832 and the median home value is $236,000 for 2019.

Hanford, CA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 55,599
Rank Last Year: 20 (Up 10)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.5x (19th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 58.7x (62nd cheapest)
More On Hanford: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

If your city has a Walmart supercenter, you can bet you are living where it’s affordable; and we might add, convenient.

This is only ‘one’ of the reasons our tenth most affordable city in California, Hanford, made the list.

Hanford’s low cost of living runs deep. Local employers in trucking, healthcare, and education help keep the residents in this Kings County city with cash in their pockets and an affordable roof over their head. Heck they scored an 8/10 for housing on our snackability scale.

Hanford’s population is growing by leaps and bounds. So if affordable, central California living is on your bucket list, don’t wait, cuz the word is out.

The median income in Hanford comes in at $55,327 and the median home value is $192,900 for 2019.

Review Of Hanford by HomeSnacks User

Great and great and great

Great and great and great

How We Determined The Most Affordable Places To Live In The Golden State For 2019

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 2013-2017 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 least 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 lowest cost of living in California according to the data is Taft.

There You Have It Mr. Or Mrs. California Cheapskate

If you’re looking at the cost of living numbers in California, this is an accurate list of the most affordable places to live in california for 2019.

Here’s a look at the most expensive cities in California according to the data:

  1. Coronado
  2. Santa Cruz
  3. San Marino

For more California reading, check out:

Where Are The Most Affordable Places To Live In California?

Rank City CheapScore Population Home/Income Ratio Income/Rent Ratio
1 Taft 14.33 9,224 2.9x 69.6x
2 Ridgecrest 21.33 28,728 2.8x 70.3x
3 Holtville 23.0 6,355 3.5x 64.9x
4 Coalinga 23.67 16,612 3.0x 64.6x
5 Imperial 31.33 16,931 2.5x 70.0x
6 Firebaugh 36.33 8,275 3.6x 59.7x
7 Willows 40.33 6,055 3.8x 66.4x
8 Blythe 42.17 19,486 3.4x 55.3x
9 Kingsburg 44.67 11,794 3.8x 73.0x
10 Hanford 49.33 55,599 3.5x 58.7x

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.