5 of the Cheapest Places to Live in Southern California

5 of the Cheapest Places to Live in Southern California

Posted on Aug 15, 2023

Home prices have been rising rapidly in the U.S., and Southern California has felt the sting more than most. 

Five years ago, the median home price in Los Angeles was $740,000—already a sticker shock. But today, buyers are paying just under $1 million on average. For many would-be buyers, the cost is simply out of reach.

It’s no surprise that there has been renewed interest in affordable places to live in Southern California. Luckily, the rise of remote work makes it easier for many people to live outside of major cities and live more comfortably.

Here’s our list of five of the cheapest cities to live in, in Southern California.

Pay attention to the cost of living index, which measures relative affordability. A score of 100 is the U.S. average. California’s average score of 150 means it's more expensive than average. San Diego is 160, and the ever-popular Los Angeles scores 176. 


1. Oxnard, CA

Oxnard is a great compromise for people who want the SoCal lifestyle, without the typical SoCal pricetag. It’s a beach city with easy access to all of the glitz and excitement of LA and great weather to boot. The city is warm throughout the year without reaching scorching temps. 

Adventuring is easy from Oxnard thanks to its proximity to the mountains, wine country, and plenty of ocean-themed activities like kayaking and water sports. Breweries abound here, and some say Oxnard has the feel of a smaller and cheaper San Diego.

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Current residents have mostly positive feedback about Oxnard:

“Oxnard is a great town to live in. There are a bunch of events always going on in town. The nightlife is great with all live music, or if you are craving something, the taco trucks that are sprinkled throughout the city at night. There are so many places to discover and the city is growing, so it’s nice to see the new activities that pop up such as escape rooms, markets, restaurants, etc." Read more reviews on Niche

The most common complaint about Oxford is simply that it’s a smaller city, so some of the attractions and entertainment may be closer to what you’d find in a typical thriving suburb rather than a major metropolitan area. For many families, though, this more low-key lifestyle might be the balance they need.


2. Redlands, CA

Redlands, CA has a pleasant small-town atmosphere. The University of Redlands is located here, and the college helps bring in young professionals and anchors a number of bars and trendy eateries. Unlike many Southern Californian cities, you could feasibly get around downtown Redlands, CA without the use of a car (though you will need a bike) which may appeal to people who are looking to minimize—or even eliminate—their use of cars. 

It’s about two hours from Redlands to LA (and there’s a train available as well!), and about an hour to skiing and snowboarding, or an hour to Joshua Tree, so there’s plenty to do within driving distance if you want to get away for the weekend.

Here's what a current resident has to say about living in Redlands:

“I really like living in Redlands. I appreciate the downtown area and like that there are a lot of community activities and nice parks and green spaces. I've also found some really great kids' stuff to do here (toddler music class, swimming lessons) and I love that there is a kid-friendly brewery right down the road.” Read more reviews on Reddit

  • Median home price: $600,000
  • Median rental price: $2,160
  • Cost of living index: 112


3. Lancaster, CA

Lancaster, CA is another city close to LA without the “guess we’ll have to eat ramen forever to afford a mortgage” prices. With a median home price of $435,000, it's easily one of the cheapest places to live in Southern California.

Although it lacks the boundless nightlife of LA, some people might think of this as more of a plus than a minus—a lot of residents use the word “peaceful” to describe the vibe here. It’s an area popular with families who are looking to escape the nonstop hustle and bustle and finally get enough space to grow their dream garden or have space to work on projects in the garage. And if you miss LA, it’s only an hour and a half away!

One thing you may need to get accustomed to in Lancaster is more extreme weather conditions. This city is located in the Antelope Valley of the Mojave Desert, where there is true summer with temperatures reaching up to 100 degrees sometimes, and true winter with temperatures dropping to the 30s. 

Here's what a current resident has to say about living in Lancaster:

"Lancaster is a gem outside of LA. Small town with plenty of stores/restaurants and future projects coming up." Read more reviews on Niche

  • Median home price: $435,000
  • Median rental price: $1,780
  • Cost of living index: 115


4. Colton, CA

If you’re looking for a city that feels a bit more down-to-earth than glamorous (and hard to keep up with) LA, Colton CA might be the place for you. It’s a close-knit community where neighbors tend to know each other and everyone knows their neighbors. Plenty of locals opt to hit up Liams Irish Pub & Fare for karaoke and beer for a casual evening.

Single-family homes (some of them great examples of old Victorian architecture) fringed by palm trees make up most of the housing stock here. It may not be the most exciting city in SoCal (depending on how you measure that), but this is one of the least expensive cities in Southern California, allowing residents to achieve their dreams of homeownership while building up equity in their homes.

Here's what a current resident has to say about living in Colton:

"I've been living here all my life and I could not ask for a better place to live. The best thing about Colton is the community. It's a small town which creates a good environment because almost everyone knows each other." Read more reviews on Niche

  • Median home price: $483,000
  • Median rental price: $1,780
  • Cost of living index: 111


5. San Bernardino, CA

San Bernardino is a place to watch for in the next decade or so—located east of Los Angeles, this affordable community is likely to draw more and more people away from the expensive metropolitan areas. Similar to LA, there’s relatively easy access to the ocean, forest, mountains, or desert depending on your mood. Joshua Tree National Park is only a skip and a jump away, and locals enjoy visiting the Deep Creek Hot Springs as well as hiking Big Bear Lake.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced lifestyle complete with visiting a different bar or club every night, San Bernardino may not be the place for you—while there are places to go, this isn’t a party town. Interestingly, you can visit the site of the first ever McDonalds here—now a museum!

Here's what a current resident has to say about living in San Bernardino:

"San Bernardino is an average-sized city with pros and cons that are associated with that...It is a city of ethnic diversity which I enjoy. My family has lived in San Bernardino for nearly 30 years and the city has changed a lot. We need small businesses to return to the city to revitalize the economy and reignite the city." Read more views on Niche

  • Median home price: $475,000
  • Median rental price: $1,770
  • Cost of living index: 110

So: looking for affordable places to live in Southern California?

Southern California isn't the easiest place to find cheap real estate, but it can be done—especially if you're willing to be a little flexible. 

If you haven't already talked to a Realtor, we'd recommend getting in touch. It helps to have a local expert on your side who may be aware of properties that fit your budget and needs that you may not be coming across in your searches. 

Chat with one of our local agents today.

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