Moving From New York to California

Trading the hustle and bustle of New York City living for the laid-back Pacific shores of California is a big move. Although there are similarities between every big city, the east and west coasts of the United States are like chalk and cheese. In terms of geographical size, California is over three times bigger than the Empire State. 

The rugged landscape and sunnier climate facilitate a more outdoorsy lifestyle, which starks in contrast to the day-to-day of a New Yorker. That said, reducing California to a single way of life is unfair. It’s home to diverse cultures and eclectic cities, all of which offer something unique. 

Whatever you’re reasons for making the switch cross country, there is plenty to consider ahead of the move. Doing your research makes the transition easier, helps reduce culture shock, and ensures you’re ready to hit the ground running once you arrive. 

This article addresses the most important factors for New Yorkers moving to the west coast. From the quality of life to safety concerns and the cost of living to taxes, we’ve got you covered.

New York Cityscape California View - California View
New York Cityscape California View

Moving From New York to California: Where to Live

California is the most populated and third largest state in the U.S. There are many amazing places to live, including bustling cities, affluent residential neighborhoods, and countryside homes.

You have several fantastic options depending on your interests, hobbies, and budget. Some of the most popular cities in the state are: 

New York vs. California: Quality of Life

Since everyone has different tastes, preferences, and goals, quality of life is highly subjective.  To create a holistic idea of how California compares to New York in terms of living quality, we’ve identified five key indicators:

  1. Living conditions
  2. Health 
  3. Employment
  4. Leisure and social activities
  5. Work-life balance 

Living Conditions

One of the first things you’ll have to come to terms with in California is how big and spread out it is. It’s also important to know that Northern (NorCal) and Southern California (SoCal) are very different. Moreover, it can take anywhere from four to eight hours to travel between the two, so you’ll need to set up shop in a location with all your amenities nearby. 

SoCal is located next to several large deserts (Mojave, Colorado, Sonoran, and Great Basin), so naturally, it’s hot and sunny year-round. Hotspots in SoCal include L.A., Hollywood, and San Diego. Popular among the stars, SoCal has a vibrant nightlife scene, an array of beaches, and nearby National Parks. However, traffic can be an issue, and public transportation isn’t so reliable. 

NorCal is far easier to get around, despite being more spread out. It’s also served by a punctual and reliable public transport system called the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). Although the weather isn’t as consistent as in the south, NorCal also has great beaches, National Parks, and mountains.

San Francisco and Silicon Valley are the go-to locations for many New Yorkers making the big switch. Opinions are divided over which side of the state has more to offer.

Californians tend to be loyal to their hometown, so research which location suits your needs. NorCal is cheap, but it’s considerably more affordable than the south.

Unfortunately, finding suitable lodging can be challenging wherever you choose to move. There has been a housing shortage around the state for over 50 years, with soaring prices.

California homes are around 2.5 times more expensive than the national average. These prices are also reflected in rental properties. 

Los Angeles Hot Sunset California View - California View
Los Angeles Hot Sunset California View

Health 

Health is an umbrella term that includes the availability of quality healthcare services and access to nutritious food and recreational spaces like gyms, parks, or sports facilities. Fortunately, California matches and may even beat New York regarding healthy living. San Francisco ranked number 1 in a WalletHub study on the healthiest cities in America. It was 1 of 14 Californian cities that made the top 50. 

For the most part, the state of California is health-focused. The relative wealth in the region, availability of quality food, and excellent weather combine to create a healthy environment.

There is no shortage of outdoor activities, from surfing to organized sports. If you want to sample nature, there is a limitless number of hiking trails throughout the state. 

You can find multiple nationally ranked hospitals in California if you ever require medical treatment. Some of the top medical facilities include:

  • UCLA Medical Center
  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
  • UCSF Medical Center
  • Stanford Health Care – Stanford Hospital
  • Keck Medical Center of USC

Employment

Like New York, California is abundant in job opportunities. If you’re leaving a good role in a New York company, there’s a strong chance you’ll find a similar position in California, especially if you’re involved in tech or startups. 

Astonishingly, California’s gross state product is around $2.7 trillion, meaning it ranks above the whole of Great Britain. California’s median household income trumps New York’s and ranks number 5 in the country. 

There are job opportunities in virtually every industry for California newcomers. Some of the strongest industries in the state include technology, agriculture, tourism, and entertainment. Silicon Valley was made famous as a breeding ground for startups. 

Leisure and Social Activities 

One of the biggest draws to the west coast is its variety of leisure and social activities. With beaches galore, the most National Parks in any state, and several amusement parks, you won’t run out of outdoor recreational activities. 

Every city has unique social scenes, whether you’re into music, art, food, alcohol, or all of the above. Get involved in a punk rock subculture, take up surfing, or sample world-class restaurants and wineries the state offers. 

While the California party scene differs from New York’s nightlife, the transition should be seamless. It’s the most populated state in the U.S., so you’ll have no trouble finding your clique. 

Work-Life Balance

Statistically, major cities aren’t known for accommodating a healthy work-life balance. The combination of industry, career-focused individuals and high living costs mean Californians and New Yorkers work a lot and endure long commutes. 

However, in many ways, creating a work-life balance is a lifestyle choice. With so many recreational activities in every city, there’s no reason you can’t find harmony. 

Aerial Views Of San Francisco Financial District And Bay California View - California View
Aerial Views Of San Francisco Financial District And Bay California View

New York vs. California: Cost of Living

The cost is perhaps the biggest drawback of living in New York or California. While both offer an exceptional quality of life, it comes at a high cost, especially in the more affluent neighborhoods.

New York and California rank number one and two in the continental U.S. regarding the cost of living. World Population Review maintains an index to show the average cost of living in the U.S.

The weighted index uses a baseline of 100 to represent the national average. Any figure above 100 shows that the cost of living is higher than the average. Here’s a look at how these states line up with one another:

New YorkCalifornia
Cost of living index148.2142.2
Groceries118.4118.4
Housing230.1201.9
Utilities99.8124.3
Transport108.7131.7
Health102.5110.7
Miscellaneous113.7110.3
New York vs California cost of living comparison from World Population Review

New York vs. California: Crime Rates

Safety is a concern when moving to any new city. While New York and California are not crime-free, they both fall in line with the national average for the most part.

Based on FBI data, crime indices can be ranked numerically, from 1 (low crime) to 100 (high crime). Here’s how New York and California rank compared to the rest of the U.S.

New YorkCaliforniaU.S. Average
Property Crime24.935.135.4
Violent Crime28.229.122.7
New York vs California crime rates from World Population Review

New York vs. California: Taxes

We’re not going to break down the intricacies of state taxes in this article. However, comparing income tax shouldn’t be an afterthought. After all, taxes have a big say in your take-home pay and spending power. 

In New York, income tax varies between 4% and 10.9%. The lowest and highest income brackets are $8,500 and $25 million, respectively. 

In California, income tax ranges from 1% to 13.3%. The lowest and highest income brackets are $8,932 and $1 million. 

Moving From New York To California California View - California View
Moving From New York To California California View

Cheapest Way to Move From New York to California

Moving cross country can be expensive if you take many things with you. Transporting your fully furnished apartment won’t be easy and won’t be cheap. To offset this hassle, many movers opt to sell their belongings and start afresh when they reach California. 

However, we appreciate that this isn’t always an option. There are three popular ways to transport your belongings over long distances:

  1. Moving companies
  2. Shipping containers
  3. Rental trucks

Hiring a rental truck and driving across the country is the cheapest way. However, the journey takes around 48 hours (including breaks and a couple of overnight stops), and you’ll also have to factor in gas, food, and lodging costs.

If you’re transporting a studio apartment’s worth of items, you may be better off hiring a moving company for a couple hundred dollars extra. 

However, movers and containers can get pricey when shipping a full-family household. The cost is determined by the size and weight of your stuff, so a family home’s bill can easily exceed $10,000.

Packing up a rental and undertaking the journey shouldn’t cost more than $2,000. 

FAQs

Why Do New Yorkers Move To California?

Many New Yorkers move to California to break away from the intense city life to the more expansive and sunfilled state of California. 

What Is The Cheapest Way To Move From New York To California?

The cheapest way to move from New York to California is to hire a rental truck and drive 2,900 miles across the country.

How Long Does It Take To Move From New York To California?

It can take several weeks or even months to plan a major move. However, the journey itself is a two-day drive or six-hour flight.