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6 Things to Know about the Cost of Living in Florida Vs. California

Trying to decide between moving to Florida or California? 

Or maybe you’re contemplating a move from one of these sunny locations to the other? 

If so, you've probably asked yourself this question at least once: Is California or Florida cheaper?

The answer comes down to cost of living. After all, there’s little point to living in an amazing place if you can’t afford to take advantage of everything it has to offer—or if you have to spend every penny you’ve got to live well there. 

The good news? While understanding cost of living and how it will impact your move can seem overwhelming, it's a worthwhile investment of your time. Because moving to a place you love can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences—if you do it right. 

In this article, we’ll examine what cost of living is and why it matters. We’ll then take a closer look at cost of living for each of these states. Finally, we’ll count down 6 things to know about the cost of living in Florida compared to California.

After reading this guide, you should have a much clearer picture of the cost of living of each of these places, along with related factors that can help you hone in on where you want to live. 

What is Cost of Living? 

Cost of living refers to the amount of money you’ll need to cover the basic expenses associated with living in a  particular location. Factors typically included in cost of living include:

  • Housing
  • Food and groceries
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Taxes
  • Healthcare
  • Other incidentals, such as personal grooming and entertainment costs

In general, areas with a higher cost of living tend to have higher wages. This is for the simple reason that people need to make more money to afford to live there. 

While international cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Geneva, and Zurich lay claim to the highest costs of living globally, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu are the costliest domestic cities coming in way above the national average in cost of living indexes. 

Cost of living can be a major factor in determining your future wealth. After all, if you have to spend more to meet your basic needs, you’ve got less left to put away for the future. 

All of which begs the question: how do you know the cost of living for a particular location or town?

Cost of living indexes and calculators exist for this purpose. They offer a benchmark for comparing expenses in different areas of the country and world. 

Cost of Living in Florida

Florida lays claim to the 32nd lowest cost of living in the United States at an average $50,689 per year. This breaks down as follows, according to recent data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis: 

Housing and Utilities 

  • Housing and utilities account for an average annual per-capita cost of $9,656. 
  • In addition to a relatively affordable housing market, Florida also boasts an appealing variety of housing options. 
  • Because of its warm climate, heating costs are generally low in the winter, although cooling expenses may be higher in the summer.

 Food and Drink

  • Florida's grocery prices are relatively moderate, with an average per-capita cost of $3,886. 
  • Thanks to the state's booming agricultural industry, you’ll also find a diverse and affordable selection of produce.
  • This figure does not include restaurants, so if you dine out often, your costs will likely be much higher


  • Average annual per-capita healthcare costs in Florida are approximately $7,676.
  • However, the state is a low performer in healthcare rankings, coming in at a pitiful #48 for access and affordability

State Taxes

  • Florida is one of just a handful of states that have no state income tax. In other words, you get to keep whatever money you make in the Sunshine State. If your goal is to save money, this is a major opportunity to do so. 
  • At 6 percent, sales tax is also relatively low in Florida.


  • Home to a mix of public and private educational institutions, the cost of education varies in Florida, with state universities typically offering lower tuition rates for in-state students. 
  • You more than get your money’s worth when it comes to education in Florida: In 2023, it claimed the top spot in US News and World Report’s ranking of the best states for education. 

Entertainment and Lifestyle

  • Florida offers a diverse range of affordable entertainment options, including many outdoor activities and cultural events. 

Cost of Living in California

The cost of living in California paints a very different picture than the cost of living in Florida. In fact, it’s the country’s 4th most expensive place to live—behind Hawaii, DC, and Massachusetts—with an average cost of living of $53,082. 

Housing and Utilities 

  • Housing costs play a major role in dictating California’s overall cost of living.
  • With an average annual per-capita cost of $9,972, California is known for its sky-high housing costs. 
  • While demand is especially high in major metropolitan areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, and San Diego, there are affordable alternatives, such as Clearlake, Bakersfield, Fresno, Chico, Sacramento, Jacksonville Beach, and others. 
  • Depending on where you live in California, your utility costs may vary. If you live in a region with a more temperate climate, you can expect to pay more for heating and cooling expenses. 

Food and Drink

  • The annual non-restaurant food cost in California is $3,865 per person. Add in meals out on top of groceries, and this number may see a significant increase. 
  • Other factors also come into play when determining food costs, including everything from the state's diverse agricultural production to transportation costs for imported goods. 


  • Average per capita healthcare costs in California come in at $8,501, although this largely depends on individual healthcare needs.
  • Home to renowned healthcare facilities and prestigious medical institutions, it’s not surprising that California performs well in healthcare with a 6th place finish in US News & World Report rankings. 

State Taxes

  • Unlike Florida, California does have a state income tax. It uses a progressive system in which people with higher incomes pay higher rates. Because many people in California are in the highest income brackets, state taxes can be weighty. 
  • At 7.25 percent, California’s sales tax rate is also higher than Florida’s. This means that even if you buy the same product in Florida and California, you’ll pay more in the latter.  


  • Coming in at 20th place, California is a decent performer in US News & World Report’s rankings for education. 
  • It’s renowned for many prestigious universities and colleges, but tuition costs—especially for out-of-staters—can be high. California is also known for its excellent public education system. However, acceptance rates are very low, even for residents. 

Entertainment and Lifestyle

  • While there’s no denying that California's arts, culture, and entertainment scene is robust, the state’s cost of living may limit some residents' ability to enjoy many of these activities. 
  • Home to everyone from Hollywood celebrities to tech titans, popular cities like LA and San Francisco have especially vibrant cultural offerings, but they also tend to be more expensive.  

6 Things to Know about the Cost of Living in Florida Vs. California

6. The cost of living is considerably higher in California than it is in Florida

As evidenced by the breakdowns above, the cost of living in Florida is much lower than the cost of living in California. If you live in the Golden State, you can expect to pay significantly more to meet your basic needs than you would as a resident of the Sunshine State. 

5. Within these states, cost of living varies wildly between towns and cities

While the state of California undeniably has a much higher cost of living than the state of Florida, expenses vary from city to city. 

In California, for example, Santa Barbara has an exorbitant cost of living, while Bakersfield is much more affordable. 

The same applies to Florida, where places like glitzy Miami, chic Palm Beach, and tranquil Marco Island are much more expensive than inexpensive cities like Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, and Clearwater Beach. 

The takeaway? Certain cities may offer easier access if you have your heart set on living in California. Conversely, all Florida cities aren’t a bargain; some are insanely expensive. 

4. You can’t put a price on certain factors, including happiness

Some factors can’t be quantified, and you can’t put a price on mental and social well-being. If most of your family and friends live in California and you’d prefer to be near them, the higher cost of living may be less relevant. 

3. While your dollar will go further in Florida, your returns may be bigger in California

Florida’s average home value is around $377,816 compared to a median home price of nearly twice that much: $716,909. However, recent demand in California has also seen home values increasing much faster in California. So while you may get more house for your dollar in Florida, you may have much more to gain in California if and when the time comes to sell. 

2. Tax differences between states (and cities) can be  can be much higher for both, depending on the city

While state-level income tax is straightforward in Florida, it’s much more complex in California. Because of its progressive structure, the more your income you pay in taxes. However, this also means that high-earners have much more to save in Florida.

For example, earning $150,000 in California can expect to pay just over $7,000 in state income taxes. If you earn the same amount in Florida, you’ll keep that $7,000. 

Now let’s say you earn $250,000 in California, you can expect to pay upwards of $16,000 in state income taxes. Take home the same pay in Florida, and you keep it all.

In other words, the disparity widens as income grows. 

Sales tax also requires additional analysis due to differences in local tax policies on top of state taxes in both Florida and California cities.  

1. But don’t forget to factor in income

Incomes are often higher in states where the cost of living is high, and this is absolutely the case with these two states. While California’s median income is just over $84,000, Florida’s is more than $20,000 less at just under $62,000.

Depending on the specifics of where you live, this disparity can go a long way toward bridging the gap. 

The Bottom Line: Florida Vs. California Cost of Living

Florida and California have many things in common, from an abundance of theme parks to beautiful beaches to sunny weather (and little to no winter weather). However, there's a significant difference between them when it comes to the cost of living. 

It’s abundantly clear that the cost of living in Florida is much more reasonable than the cost of living in California, both generally and across all measures, such as housing, utilities, groceries, and taxes. If money is your foremost consideration, then choosing Florida may be a slam dunk.

However, in most cases, money is just one part of the picture alongside personal preference (Florida or California beaches? Walt Disney World or Disneyland?), the job market, educational offerings, cultural diversity, and other tradeoffs. Doing a careful audit of your priorities can help you make the most informed choice when deciding whether you’ll call California or Florida home.

The best part? As long as you practice due diligence when weighing the pros and cons of California versus Florida, you can’t go wrong with either. 

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Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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