What’s not to love about San Diego? This beautiful Southern California city has it all: a mild and appealing climate, miles of white sand beaches, friendly people, and a great school system. People flock here for vacation hoping to visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo and the original Sea World, but the city also welcomes thousands of new residents each year.
Are you planning a move to San Diego? Our guide will tell you everything you need to know to make your transition to your new home a smooth and enjoyable one.
About San Diego
San Diego, California, has a population of more than 1.4 million as of 2016. That makes it the second-largest city in California (behind Los Angeles) and the eighth largest in the United States.
The city is in the Southwest corner of California just north of the Mexican border on the Pacific Ocean. Los Angeles is approximately 120 miles to the North.
San Diego is sometimes referred to as the “birthplace of California” since it was the first place on the West Coast visited by European explorers. It was originally home to the Kumeyaay people.
After Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo claimed San Diego for Spain, Junipero Serra, a Spanish friar, founded the first European settlement here, the Mission San Diego de Alcalá in 1769.
In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain and San Diego became part of Mexico. It was known as Alta California (upper California) and it remained in Mexican hands until the Mexican-American Civil War in 1847 made it part a United States territory.
Today, San Diego is a thriving and diverse metropolis. Its unique culture and location make it a mecca for tourists and new residents. Its unique neighborhoods range from artsy Normal Heights to the high-end Golden Triangle. The city has something for everyone.
San Diego Prices
Relocating to Southern California is tempting, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Prices here are high. In fact, San Diego routinely has some of the highest gas prices in the United States.
Overall, the cost of living is approximately 66% higher than the national average. While still less expensive than New York City and a few other places, there’s no question that making a move to San Diego requires some financial cushioning.
The biggest reason for the high cost of living here is housing. People want to live here. That means that both houses and apartments are difficult to find and priced accordingly – up to three times as much as the US average.
Other costs are not quite as high but may still be daunting. Groceries and utilities are reasonably affordable, but healthcare and transportation also run high here.
It’s also important to note that California’s state taxes are quite high. The state’s income tax is a flat tax which tends to hit lower-income people the hardest. The state also has a high sales tax of 7.75% and some communities in the greater San Diego area, such as El Cajon and National City, have local sales taxes as well.
A Coastal Desert
San Diego has a unique climate different from almost anywhere else in the United States. The area is a coastal desert. That means that the climate is like the Mediterranean climate – which might explain why California wines are so good.
The weather in San Diego is mild and pleasant. Summers are warm and dry. Winters are cool and most of the area’s annual rainfall (which hovers between 9 inches and 13 inches) occurs between November and March.
The temperatures in coastal San Diego are usually milder than the inland temperatures. In some areas of eastern San Diego County, extreme heat (akin to the climate in Phoenix) can occur during the summer months.
In May and June, the coastal areas experience a weather phenomenon caused by a marine layer. In the morning, the skies tend to be overcast. Later in the day, the clouds drift out over the water and the sun returns – and the pattern repeats every day. San Diegans refer to this as May Gray and June Gloom. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to live in San Diego, “gloom” is a relative term. The city averages more than 200 days of sunshine per year.
Preparing to Move
As you prepare to move to San Diego, it’s important to keep certain things in mind. The city is home to several major colleges and universities. Apartment hunting in August and September can be challenging as a result – as can booking moving trucks and companies.
The heat here isn’t as extreme as it is in some parts of California but it’s still a good idea to keep weather in mind as you plan your move. A move during the winter months may be hampered by heavy rain. If you must move between November and March, consider investing in rain gear and plastic sheeting to protect your furniture.
You’ll want to get your utilities arranged before you move. Here are some links you can use to make sure you have electricity, gas, and other utilities hooked up when you arrive.
Spectrum (cable and internet)
Comcast (cable and internet)
If you’re moving in to California from out of state, you’ll also have to adhere to state laws regarding licensing and vehicle registration. You’ll have just 30 days to register your vehicle and obtain a California driver’s license. You can find the information you need here.
Before you register your vehicle, your car will need to pass an emissions test. California has some of the strictest environmental regulations in the country. You can go here to read about the requirements and find a testing location in San Diego.
One final note: San Diego is in earthquake country. While this area doesn’t get as many big tremors as San Francisco, you may want to consider earthquake insurance if you’re buying a home.
San Diego’s Culture and Nightlife
San Diego is a great place to live whether you’re single, married with kids, or ready for retirement. The city’s mild climate and diverse population mean that you can choose from a wide array of entertainments and activities at any time of year.
This is a beach city which means that swimming, surfing, boating, and fishing are all on the table. The water here may surprise you with its coolness – San Diego is on the Arctic Stream so it’s not as warm as you might expect. Still, people surf year-round, making sure to don a wetsuit during the cooler months.
As we mentioned earlier, the world-famous San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are big tourist attractions. However, locals often find that an annual membership pays for itself many times over. The San Diego Zoo is in Balboa Park, the nation’s largest municipal park. Many of the city’s museums are in the park as well, including the San Diego Art Institute and the San Diego Natural History Museum, as well as the Japanese Friendship Garden.
Downtown, the famous Gaslamp District is where to head if you’re interested in checking out San Diego’s nightlife. The area is packed with restaurants, nightclubs, lounges, and live music venues. It’s also home to the city’s raucous Cinco de Mayo celebration every year.
If you’re interested in a more laid-back experience, you might head to nearby La Jolla to check out the art galleries or drive to the world-famous Hotel Del Coronado to sip a drink and enjoy the San Diego sunset.
One of the biggest benefits of living in San Diego is that you’ll also be within driving distance of Orange County and Disneyland as well as Los Angeles. We wouldn’t call the distance easy – Los Angeles traffic is no joke – but it’s a manageable drive for special occasions.
San Diego is Waiting
If you can afford the high cost of living, San Diego is a wonderful place to live. If you need self-storage in San Diego, check out Storage West. The city’s mild climate, friendly people, and unique culture make it a prime destination for tourists and one of the most popular places in the United States.
Here’s a video which allows you to catch a glimpse into the fun and excitement of San Diego: