The Ultimate Guide to Moving to San Francisco

From the high cost of living and world-class food scene to the best moving tips, here’s everything you need to know before moving to San Francisco.
Written by R.E. Fulton
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Apr 15, 2022
If you’re considering moving to
San Francisco
, be prepared for a high cost of living, lots of walking, and some next-level fog—but for young professionals, foodies, and transit lovers, it might just be the ideal spot
First colonized by Europeans in the late 1700s, the compact tip of the San Francisco peninsula exploded into one of
greatest cities thanks to the Gold Rush of 1849. In fact, gold gave the city’s most iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge, its name. But these days, the element most associated with San Francisco is silicon: the heart of the tech industry, the city’s become the perfect resting place for flocks of young, hip professionals. 
It’s also become the most expensive city in the country, by some estimates. So, if you’re thinking about moving to San Francisco, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons carefully. Luckily,
car and renters insurance
super app
has created a guide for the Bay-Area-bound containing everything you need to know before making the big move—and all the best tips to keep it easy and affordable! 

What you need to know about San Francisco before you move

Just seven miles by seven miles, San Francisco makes up in legendary views and culture what it lacks in size. Packed into this hilly little peninsula on the San Francisco Bay are 874,961 residents, some of the world’s best restaurants, and one of the most polarizing urban communities you’ll find anywhere in the world. Love it or hate it, there’s nowhere like San Francisco. 

1. It might be the most expensive place you’ll ever live

Unless you’re moving from
New York
, Honolulu, or
Washington, D.C
.—all of which regularly vie with San Francisco for the top spot on “most expensive cities” lists—you’re unlikely to live anywhere that’s more expensive than San Francisco. 
Let’s start with the bitterest pill: the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $2,700 a month, and it’s going up all the time. In sought-after neighborhoods like the Mission District, rents over $4,000 are standard. Oh, and the average apartment size? 700 square feet and shrinking
But housing’s not the only thing that costs more in the city. If you want to move to SF, you’ll need to be comfortable paying $5 for coffee and $8 for a beer
A dozen eggs costs an average of $3.49, and a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with cheese—just the burger, not the meal—will run you a cool $5.89. And if you’re planning to dine out, don’t forget the 4% “Healthy San Francisco surcharge” that helps cover employees’ healthcare costs. 
On the bright side, the median salary in San Francisco is a steep $72,947, and the city’s minimum wage is the second-highest in the country at $16.32 an hour

2. There are tons of jobs (and not everyone works in tech)

Speaking of salaries, San Francisco is one of the best places to find a job in 2022. Tech is the famous job sector in the Bay Area, from huge companies like Apple, Salesforce, and Facebook (now Meta) to smaller startups—but it’s not the only industry that’s hiring in SF. 
Healthcare, retail, and education are just three of the sectors that saw significant growth in the past 10 years, and as the Bay Area climbs out of the pandemic, tourism is on the rise as well. 

3. You’ll need to worry about car theft more than assault

San Francisco has one of the highest crime rates in the United States—but most of that high rate is made up by property crimes, not violent crime. As the San Francisco Police Department’s (SFPD)
Crime Dashboard
shows, larceny theft accounts for the majority of crime in the city, and it’s seen a 28% increase in the past year. 
Like most cities in California, San Francisco has a serious motor vehicle theft problem, with an estimated 492 carjackings per 100,000 residents across the Bay Area. That said, the city sees fewer car thefts than nearby
Yuba City
, and
. Just be sure to invest in some upgraded car security if you move to the area (bonus: it could earn you a discount on your
car insurance

4. It’s got the lowest percentage of kids of any major US city—and the third-highest percentage of dogs

Depending on your family composition, this could be good news or bad. Kids make up just 13% of San Francisco’s population, less than any other major city in the US. With a median age of 25 to 44 years old, San Francisco lives up to its reputation as a city of young professional transplants. Aim for family-friendly neighborhoods like Cole Valley or Nob Hill if you choose to relocate here with kids. 
On the other hand, SF is a pet parent’s paradise, with
139 dogs
per 1,000 people. That’s more than any other city except Miami and Seattle! 

5. Driving is usually the worst transportation option

you can own a car in San Francisco
—and if you do, you’ll enjoy an average insurance rate that’s close to the national average (an exception to most SF cost-of-living estimates). 
But most residents agree that having a car isn’t the best way to get around San Francisco’s 46.87 square miles. You’ll save money, not to mention
major parking headaches
, by relying on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the Muni bus system, the city’s plentiful
bike lanes
, or just your own two feet. 
Just be sure to invest in a sturdy pair of walking shoes—and prepare for calf pain. 

6. The weather’s great if you hate the heat—but the fog has its own Twitter account

Don’t expect L.A. weather in San Francisco. Sandwiched neatly between the cold Pacific and the sweltering Central Valley, the city’s enveloped in its own natural air conditioner, which brings mild and rainy winters and warm, dry summers. The temperature in this Mediterranean climate rarely strays far from the 50s and 60s, no matter the season, and the city’s infamous fog is so ubiquitous that it has its own name (
) and
its own Twitter account

7. Call it San Francisco or “the City”—not San Fran or Frisco

We’ve put it at #7, but this might actually be the most important thing to know before you move to San Francisco: just call it San Francisco. If you’re in a real hurry, say “the city” or even “SF,” but avoid nicknames like “San Fran” and “Frisco” at all costs. You will be mocked. 

Does San Francisco live up to its stereotypes?

If the list above has you intimidated or disgruntled, San Francisco may not be the city for you. In the end, the city largely lives up to its popular image as a city of young, tech-savvy, vegan-curious professionals who are more likely to be pet or plant parents than PTA members. No, not all San Franciscans are snobs and not everyone works in Silicon Valley—but Democrats, foodies, dog lovers, tree huggers, and LGBT people are all integral to the city’s diverse community. 
If that’s your dream circle—and you’re comfortable with high rent, small spaces, and a lot (we mean a lot) of walking—then moving to San Francisco might just be the best thing you ever do! For tips on how to make that move the smoothest transition possible, read on. 
Key Takeaway High cost of living and property crime balance out great views, five-star cuisine, and balmy weather in San Francisco. 
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Finding a place to live in San Francisco

The first thing you’ll need to do if you want to move to San Francisco—okay, maybe after getting a job and trading your car for a bike—is find a place to live. And we won’t lie to you: it might not be easy. 
San Francisco’s housing market is tough. Just how tough? It’s the most expensive city in the US to buy a home in, with a median listing price of $1.4 million and a median sale price of $1.5 million. So unless you’re moving to San Francisco with a bucket of cash in tow, you’ll probably be renting. 
Which might not feel much more affordable! If you stick close to the city center, you’re looking at an average monthly rent ranging from just under $3,000 for a studio to upwards of $5,000 for a three-bedroom. Even in more affordable neighborhoods farther out, like Outer Sunset or Ocean View, average rents hover around $2,500 a month for a one-bedroom. 
When choosing a neighborhood to live in, start by making a budget so you can be confident about exactly how much rent you can afford—and where you can afford it. Then consider the other factors, from your household makeup to your nightlife needs, that go into determining the perfect place for you. 
If you’re not familiar with San Francisco’s 36 neighborhoods, here are a few pointers: 
  • Most iconic neighborhoods: Mission District, The Castro, Haight-Ashbury
  • Best neighborhoods if you’ve got kids: Noe Valley, Bernal Heights, Cole Valley
  • Best neighborhoods for foodies: Inner and Outer Richmond, Mission District, Hayes Valley, South of Market (SoMa)
  • Best neighborhoods if you want to keep your car: Outer Sunset, Richmond, Noe Valley—or the suburbs
  • Most affordable neighborhoods: The Tenderloin, Outer Sunset, Excelsior
Be sure to spend some time in the neighborhood before you move. Staying a few nights, if possible, and getting a taste of local offerings will help you find the right fit. 
Pro Tip Finding roommates is one of the best ways to make living in San Francisco affordable—without commuting from the suburbs. 
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Moving to San Francisco checklist 

So you’ve narrowed down your ideal neighborhood and found a place to live in San Francisco. Now it’s time to make the move. Follow these checklists to keep things smooth throughout the process, from the first box you pack to
your first night in your new home

Before you go

Before you move, make sure to: 

After you get there

Once you arrive in your new home, you’re not done! Don’t forget these essential steps to help you settle into your new Bay Area life: 
  • If you moved with a car from another state, be sure to
    register your car
    in California and
    update your insurance
  • Speaking of insurance—you’ll want to
    buy renters’ insurance
    to protect yourself and your belongings (and your wallet!)
  • Update your mailing address, voter registration, and healthcare information. 
  • Explore your new neighborhood! Check out nightlife, restaurants, coffee shops, and dog parks—and don’t forget to find the perfect late-night takeout place. 

How to save on car, renters, and home insurance in San Francisco

Whether you’re keeping your car in Outer Sunset, renting a studio in the Tenderloin, or buying
one of the city’s iconic townhomes
, you’ll need insurance if you want to move to San Francisco. Luckily, insurance super app
can help you find savings on every type of insurance, from auto to homeowners—with or without a
No matter what type of insurance you need, Jerry can compare quotes from some of the nation’s top providers in 45 seconds and get you signed up in record time. Just download the app, enter your information, and let Jerry handle the rest! 
And if you’re getting ready to move to San Francisco, we’ve got good news: just by using the Jerry app to shop for car insurance, users save an average of $887 a year. With money like that, you might be able to afford that extra square foot of apartment space! 
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