San Diego vs. Los Angeles: Where Should You Move? | Pros & Cons 2019

Should you move to San Diego or Los Angeles? If you’re making the big move out west, the choice can be daunting. Both San Diego and Los Angeles beautiful, with sunny weather, gorgeous coastline and lots of fun things to do. Both are expensive, but have stunning homes for people who can afford them. And both are meccas of industry with incredible work opportunities.

As if it wasn’t hard enough to decide, Los Angelinos and San Diegans are fiercely loyal to their hometowns, so it’s tough to get an unbiased view of each city from the residents. Ask an LA native, and they’ll tell you that San Diego is too slow and too small, make a comment about how it’s a tourist trap, and remind you how amazing the food is in LA. Go to a San Diego neighborhood, and they’ll remind you of LA’s horrible smog in the 50’s and 60’s, and mutter on about the traffic and how overcrowded LA is with wannabe actors/writers/directors.

In this guide to choosing between living in San Diego or Los Angeles, we’ll take you through some pros and cons of each city, so you can see which one better fits your situation. We’ll also cover some important questions to ask yourself before making your choice. No matter which city you end up moving to, we’re confident you’ll find the perfect place for you.

Pros and Cons of Living in San Diego

San Diego Pros

brewer evaluating a glass of beer

What are the best parts of living in San Diego? Other than the coastline and the incredible weather, this close to the Mexican border, you can bet you’ll find some amazing mexican restaurants. From taco trucks with sidewalk-blocking lines, to brick-and-mortar restaurants like Las Cuatro Milpas and Super Cocina San Diego can always satisfy your need for margaritas and tacos.

San Diego is also the Craft Beer Capital of America. More than 150 breweries call San Diego home, making everything from West-Coast Style IPAs to epic lagers and seasonal flavors like the ever-popular summer shandies. If you love beer, you’ll always have friends in San Diego.

San Diego’s surfer lifestyle is another “pro” for this SoCal city. Unlike the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, San Diegans like to take things a bit slower. It’s not that we aren’t ambitious– actually, the city is a leader in tech and the biosciences. But people moving to San Diego will quickly notice that this city doesn’t get faxed by much.

San Diego Cons

Nowhere is perfect, even if San Diegans think their city comes close. San Diego is home to some of the world’s top beaches, the famous San Diego Zoo, and tons of other tourist attractions, which means that during tourist season, the city can quickly get overrun by East Coasters looking to get a tan before heading back to the snow. Annually, more than 32 million people come to visit San Diego, so if you choose to live here, be prepared.

Another disadvantage is the cost of living in San Diego. The median home value in San Diego is $526,900, although upwards of 12% of homes in San Diego sell for over $1 Million. Property taxes here are also high, with most people spending more than $3,000 per year on taxes alone. Plus, since San Diego doesn’t have a significant public transport system, nearly everyone here owns at least one car and drives at least 20 minutes to get to work.

Pros and Cons of Living in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Pros

One of the best things about LA is LAX. The Los Angeles International Airport simply can’t be beat. It’s one of the top airports in the country, flying over 84.5 Million people in 2017 alone. Yes, San Diego has an airport two, but the single runway San Diego International offers fewer flights at higher rates, prompting even native San Diegans to trek to LA for their travels.

If you’re a serious go-getter, you’ll love the fast pace of LA. Los Angelinos are hustlers, creating a competitive atmosphere that’s perfect for the nation’s most ambitious. And we aren’t just talking about film and entertainment jobs, either. LA is a hub for technology startups, and you’ll see lots of digital nomads building their own brands online while sitting in any cafe in Los Angeles.

Cons of Living in Los Angeles

Aerial view of LA traffic

LA traffic is world-famous, and not in a good way. Unlike the other stars of Hollywood, traffic here sucks, and we wish it would just go away. No matter where you’re going, you have to add on time for general congestion, which is only made worse by streets that are closed for filming, presidential motorcades or construction.

Also, you’ll need to read parking signs carefully when you’re living in Los Angeles. Street parking in LA is heavily regulated and complicated, and it seems like every street only allows parking on alternate Tuesdays from 3-5AM, except for bank holidays. The good news? You can find valet at everywhere from high-class dining venues to Denny’s, but don’t forget to tip.

Another Los Angeles con is the penchant for natural disasters. Because of its location along California fault lines, Los Angeles tends to get several significant earthquakes a year, ranging from mild shakes to richter scale events that bring down homes and offices. Los Angeles also suffers from yearly wildfires, which can be devastating for homeowners and dangerous for folks living in the affected areas.

How to Choose Between San Diego and Los Angeles

If you’re still stuck between a sunny place and another sunny place, we get it! Choosing a new city to live in is hard to matter where you go, and these two monoliths of culture, diversity and economic growth are both amazing choices. So when you’re choosing between moving to San Diego and Los Angeles, consider these few questions:

What’s Your Style?

Happy young woman in city

Are you a hustler or a surfer? If you love hitting the pavement and competing with the best of the best, LA is the place for you. But if you enjoy a laid-back lifestyle where flip-flops and shorts are the norm, you may be more suited for San Diego.

Do You Want a Big or Small City?

Okay, San Diego isn’t really “small”, but when compared with LA, it is! The actually city/county of Los Angeles covers 500 square miles of sprawling neighborhoods. In comparison, San Diego only spans 372 square miles. If you love cities like Boston and New York, LA is probably right up your alley. If you like a small-town vibe and a close-knit community, San Diego is the better choice.

What Industry Do You Work In?

If you’re in entertainment, the choice is easy. Competition may be stiff in Los Angeles, but it’s called the “City of Dreams” for a reason, and you won’t find the same concentration of film and TV jobs anywhere else in the U.S. Fashion retailers and aerospace engineering are also thriving LA industries. In contrast, the top industries in San Diego are technology startups and hospitality. Biosciences are big in both cities, though San Diego boasts a larger diversity of companies. And if you’re interested in entering the armed forces, San Diego’s naval and military bases are the obvious choice.

Moving to San Diego or Los Angeles

No matter which city you choose to move to, we’d like to be the first to welcome you to the “Best” Coast. If you want to learn more about California living, check out our blog posts on the Cost of Living in San Diego and the Best San Diego Neighborhoods. We can also help making your move easy with local moving services in Los Angeles and San Diego, so give us a call if you’re interested in a free moving quote!