City Guide

Life in San Diego: Pros & Cons

By Landing | Jul 1, 2024
Skyline view of San Diego framed by palm trees.

San Diego is the third-largest city in California and one of the greatest cities in the country. Boasting a diverse geographic terrain that includes ocean vistas as well as hills, canyons, and other inland beauties, it’s a prime destination for nature lovers.

And, as a teeming metropolitan center, it’s also an attractive spot for young professionals looking to mix, mingle, and enjoy the vibrant social scenes only a city can provide. 

That said, life in this California city might not be for everyone. If you’re thinking about moving to San Diego, knowing some of the pros and cons of living in San Diego might help inform your decision. 

Living in San Diego, CA: The pros

There’s a lot to love about living in San Diego—from its world-class beaches to its world-famous San Diego Zoo, it combines the best big-city amenities with the quiet allure of a sleepy coastal town. 

In recent years, this California city has seen an influx of new residents as people flock to the city. To that end, here are just some of the biggest things drawing in new locals:

Pro: The weather is fantastic 

You can’t beat this area’s Mediterranean-style climate, especially if you love the outdoors. Few cities make an outdoor commute or evening stroll more enticing. Plus, watching the sunset from one of the area’s many gorgeous beaches never gets old, even for those who have lived here for a long time.

San Diego is known for its short, warm summers and long, moderate winters. It’s never too hot or too cold, and you’re unlikely to see temperatures get anywhere near freezing. Even on its hottest days, the thermometer rarely inches upwards of 85 degrees. If you’re moving from a colder climate, this year-round good weather will be an incredible change of pace!

Tips From a Landing Member

“I’ve noticed that there’s a correlation between my mood and my energy level if I’m in a bleak environment or don’t have the ability to get outside and in the sunshine. Moving to San Diego has made such a significant difference in my life, from my business to my personal life and my mental health.”

Brandon Farbstein

Pro: There’s a ton to do

When it comes to fun, exciting, and thrilling entertainment and leisure activities, San Diego offers those living there a veritable smorgasbord of options. 

From live theatre, music, museums, and nightclubs to outdoor attractions, you’ll never be bored in this city by the sea. Some of the highlights include: 

  • The San Diego Zoo: Living in San Diego means one of the world’s most famous zoos is right in your backyard. With over 100 acres of animal exhibits and habitats, it’s home to more than 3,000 distinct animal species. Botanic gardens, aviaries, and bioclimatic zones round out the experience. 
  • Nightlife: Whether you’re living in a coastal neighborhood or living in the heart of downtown, there’s bound to be a fun and exciting nightlife option nearby, from fun bars and delicious restaurants.
  • Outdoor fun: San Diego is an outdoor lover’s dream come true. Surf and snorkel in the Pacific Ocean, lounge on the beach, hike one of the city’s many trails and canyons, or enjoy its beautiful public parks and city centers. Popular outdoor attractions include La Jolla and Balboa Park.

Pro: The job market is promising  

Can we get practical for a minute? This California city’s fun and games might be reason enough to justify moving here, but how are you going to make money once you’re living in town?

Fortunately, the job market in San Diego is in pretty decent shape for most industries, meaning your chances of landing a job are pretty good. That said, your chances might be slightly better if you work in one of the following industries: 

  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality and leisure
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation
  • Military and defense

Pro: The vibes are good 

San Diego is known for its laid-back, easygoing vibe. Young people love the city’s wide-ranging options for going out, while older locals enjoy easy access to dining and cultural events. The city’s strong surfing community helps bolster the area’s chill atmosphere, too. 

San Diego is also a big city, with more than 100 close-knit, distinct neighborhoods. That means you can experience different cultures and ways of life and immerse yourself in new communities and cultures. Discover the best neighborhoods in San Diego on our blog.

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Living in San Diego, CA: The cons

Let’s face facts: No place is perfect. Although the area has a lot to offer, it does come with a few drawbacks that can make living there somewhat unenjoyable. Here are the biggest drawbacks to living in San Diego. 

Con: The cost of living is high 

Perhaps the biggest negative to calling San Diego home is the cost of living. To put it simply, it ain’t cheap! From going out to eat to renting or buying a home, living in San Diego demands a high price:

  • Average rent: Thinking of renting a San Diego apartment? You should expect to pay more than $2,000 a month on rent, according to the average prices in the city.
  • Average home cost: As more and more people relocate to the area, San Diego has seen an uptick in home prices. As of 2020, the median home price was more than $600,000.
  • Gas prices: Gas prices in San Diego are between $1 and $1.75 higher than the national average. Expect to pay an average of $4.19 per gallon to fill up. 

That said, living in San Diego won’t break your bank in every way. For example, what you’ll spend on utilities each month will be fairly close to the national average. Plus, groceries are cheaper in San Diego than in any other big city in the state. 

Con: California taxes

Speaking of cost of living, California residents are held to the highest income tax rates in the country. 

The national average for state income tax rates is just about 5%, ranging from 3% in states like Indiana and Pennsylvania to 11% for residents of Hawaii. California blows them all out of the water with a whopping 13.3% income tax rate. Keep that in mind if you’re thinking of moving to San Diego. 

Con: There’s a lot of traffic

As we mentioned above, San Diego is a city of neighborhoods, most of which are pretty walkable and contain everything you need within a couple of blocks. 

With that said, the city is spread out over more than 4,000 square miles. With so much space to traverse, most people living in San Diego are car owners.

That’s what makes traffic one of the biggest cons of living in San Diego. It’s true that the traffic situation in San Diego isn’t as bad as some other large cities—nearby Los Angeles and San Francisco further north are notoriously worse. Still, if you don’t want to drive or spend hours in traffic, living in San Diego may not be the best choice for you.

Con: Parking can be an issue

With most locals owning at least one car, finding a place to park yours can be an issue in San Diego—especially if you live in an apartment or one of the downtown neighborhoods. 

Parking might not seem like a big deal until you consider all the ways it can affect your life and daily routine: 

  • Time: Finding a parking spot can be time-consuming, requiring repeated trips around the block.
  • Expensive fees: Thinking about snagging that spot that’s not actually a spot? Be warned: Parking tickets can cost as much as $450.
  • Damage: Without a garage or private place to park, your car is extra vulnerable to weather conditions, damage from other cars, and break-ins.

Con: Public transportation is not the greatest

Can you live in San Diego without a car? Think again.

Unfortunately, San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System is not likely to impress you. Between its bus fleet and trolley lines, the publication transportation only services about 570 of the city’s more than 4,000 square miles of space. If you’re relying on public transportation, be ready for long walks—and even longer commutes.

To San Diego’s credit, however, all of the city buses emit zero emissions and the trolley system is operated by electricity, which is better for the environment. 

Living with Landing in San Diego 

Living somewhere new isn’t easy. And moving to a new city can be especially difficult—especially if you’re moving somewhere as large as San Diego. Make the process of moving to San Diego simpler by renting an apartment with Landing. We’re transforming the apartment rental process by doing away with the things that make it unenjoyable, like security deposits and rigid lease terms. 

Check out our furnished apartments in San Diego and join Landing today—for a place to land, anywhere.