The Ultimate Guide to Moving to San Diego

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San Diego, dubbed "America's Finest City," has some of the best weather in the country, a thriving tech industry, and a plethora of things to do and see. Just be ready for a higher cost of living, relying on your car to get around, and unreliable public transit. 
With miles of calm beaches and a pleasant, laid-back lifestyle, the benefits of coastal California are on full show in San Diego. Iconic attractions like the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park, a distinctive culinary scene, and the annual international Comic-Con are among the city's unique highlights.
Before you pack everything up and head to California, consider whether living there is actually what you want. Jerry, the super app for car and home insurance, is here to help with that.
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We've created the definitive guide to moving to San Diego, including everything you'll need to know before you arrive and some pointers on making the transition as smooth as possible.

What you need to know about San Diego before you move

With year-round sunny mild weather, beautiful natural beauty, a thriving job market, and a plethora of things to do, it is no surprise that San Diego is one of the best places to live in California. Home to over 1.4 million people, San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the U.S. and quickly expanding. Even with all these pleasant aspects, there are plenty of things to consider if you’re considering moving to San Diego.

1. Expect to pay a pretty penny to live there

With a cost of living that is 42% higher than the national average, San Diego is definitely one of the more expensive places to live in the U.S. It’s pricier than similarly-sized cities like Philadelphia and Phoenix but less costly than nearby Los Angeles.
San Diego ranks high in terms of housing expenses; you can expect to pay around $3,000 per month to rent a one-bedroom apartment, over $800,000 when buying a house, and a typical monthly utility bill will be about $138.
Groceries are only slightly more expensive than the national average—about 7% higher. The average San Diegan can expect to spend roughly $291 per month on groceries, which is less than they would in any other major city in California.
Luckily, San Diego's median household income is $79,646, while the per capita income is $40,760. This is higher than the national averages of $60,293 (household) and $32,621 (per capita).

2. San Diego’s tech industry is flourishing

If you're looking for a job in San Diego, the manufacturing, tourism, international trade, and military industries will provide you with lots of options.
San Diego is also a technology hub, with hundreds of new graduates and young professionals flocking there solely for the job market. Since the city is doing a lot to boost big tech companies, there is now more than 250 acres of free wifi for residents to across the city.
In recent years, the fields of construction, government, education, and health services have also grown exponentially in San Diego.

3. Property crime will be your main concern

Since San Diego is a big city, there will always be crime—but rates aren’t as bad as you might expect.
San Diego has a violent crime rank of 24.4 out of 100 and a property crime rank of 31.4 out of 100 from Bestplaces, which isn’t bad, comparatively. Dallas, for example, has a rank of 37.0 and 50.7 in those same categories (and the smaller the number, the better!).
If you are moving to San Diego and are still worried about crime rates, look at the specific data for each neighborhood. The areas with the highest crime rates include East Village, Marina, Kearny Mesa, and Little Italy.

4. Families and fur parents alike will thrive

In a recent study, San Diego was named one of the best places in the U.S. to raise a family. The city got high marks for family fun, education, child care, health and safety, and socio-economics. Fun fact: San Diego also has one of the highest rates of playgrounds per capita!
But if you consider yourself more of a fur parent, worry not—San Diego is a pet paradise. With almost perfect weather and lots of open space, dogs in San Diego can have just as much fun as their owners. Be sure to check out one of the numerous dog beaches and off-leash parks.

5. The vast majority of people use their car to get around

Driving is the most common way to get around San Diego, where only 6.3% of households do not have a car. Most problems are with parking, which is expensive and hard to find in the city.
The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (or MTS) is the city's public transit system, consisting of buses and trolleys. Waterfront shuttles, pedicabs, and Amtrak trains are also accessible for getting around the city.
You could also get around on rented bicycles and scooters, which are available from a variety of agencies across the city—but be aware that they are subject to restrictions and regulations.

6. It has some of the nation’s finest weather

San Diego is the place to be if you want to soak up the sun and enjoy warm temps. America's Finest City has countless sunny days and average temperatures in the low 70s all year, making it an ideal city to enjoy the outdoors—particularly the beaches!
Temperatures don't change much between seasons, though San Diego sees most of its rain between December and March. July, August, and September tend to be the hottest months of the year.
While San Diego doesn't see much severe weather, the warmer summer months and harsher winds can make wildfires a threat to communities.

7. San Diego is an underrated foodie paradise

San Diego's food is hard to beat, ranking as the fifth best foodie spot in the United States. San Diego's cuisine combines Spanish influences with international flavors for a unique, fun culinary scene.
San Diego also has more small farms than any other county in the United States, which means that the majority of your meals will be produced using fresh, high-quality, local produce.
Tacos are the most popular food in San Diego—there's even a taco crawl! As a seaside city, you can also munch on delicious seafood and renowned shrimp burritos.
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Does San Diego live up to the stereotypes?

There are a couple of assumptions about San Diego any non-residents might have: residents love to surf and wear flip-flops everywhere, and every meal is fish tacos and craft beer.  For the most part, San Diego lives up to its reputation as America’s Finest City with perfect weather, a love of the beach, and a generally laid-back vibe.
It’s also home to many renowned attractions, like the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park and Balboa Park’s museums and gardens. Comic-Con, the international pop culture and entertainment convention, is also held here annually and pulls in around 130,00 visitors. 
Key Takeaway A greater cost of living and property crime balance out San Diego's beachside fun, amazing weather, and vibrant culinary scene.

Finding a place to live in San Diego

If you decide to move to San Diego after reading everything above, you'll need to look at some neighborhoods to narrow down your house search. If you need a bit of guidance, the following are some of San Diego's most notable neighborhoods:
  • Most iconic neighborhoods: Old Town, Burlingame, Gaslamp Quarter
  • Best neighborhoods for families with kids: Carmel Valley, Del Mar Heights, Loma Portal
  • Best neighborhoods for foodies: Little Italy, Hillcrest, North Park
  • Best neighborhoods for beach lovers: Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas
  • Most affordable neighborhoods: Chula Vista, Linda Vista, Lemon Grove
If you live alone, your monthly rent will be pretty hefty. If your budget is limited, try looking for roommates to help cut costs!

Moving to San Diego checklist

After you've found your new apartment and paid your security deposit, it’s time to gather everything you’ll need for your move—be sure to stock up on tape and boxes! Check out these tips for a less stressful moving experience.

Before you go

Before you move, be sure to: 

After you get there

You're not done when you move into your new home! Take the following steps to help you settle into your new life in America's Finest City:
  • If you relocated to California with a car from another state, make sure to register it and update your insurance.
  • Speaking of insurance—buy renters insurance to protect yourself and your belongings (and your money!)
  • Change your mailing address, voter registration, and healthcare information.
  • Explore your new surroundings! Learn about the local nightlife, restaurants, coffee shops, and beaches—and don't forget to figure out the best late-night takeout.

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

Rent in San Diego is growing increasingly expensive, so saving money wherever possible can be super helpful. And you may not realize it, but you are probably currently overpaying for your car insurance. The Jerry app is an excellent place to start if you want to save money on auto insurance.
A licensed broker, Jerry does all the hard work of finding cheap quotes from the top name-brand insurance companies and buying new home or renters insurance. Jerry will even help you cancel your old policy. 
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Since everyone's priorities are different, we can only give you some general advice. If you don't like having a higher cost of living and relying on public transit to get around, you might not want to move to San Diego. 
But it’s also one of the best places to live on the West Coast, with excellent career prospects, numerous beautiful beaches, superb cuisine, and much more. If it seems like your perfect city, moving to San Diego is worth it.
To live comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego, experts estimate that you should earn roughly $100,000 per year.

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