Is Washington Cheaper Than California? A Detailed Cost Comparison

With its tech hubs, Hollywood glitz and endless sunshine, California seems like an alluring place to live. But its high cost of living gives many people pause. Washington state offers a similar West Coast vibe at a more affordable price point. But is it actually cheaper than California? Here’s a quick answer: Overall, yes – Washington is cheaper than California in terms of housing, taxes, utilities and other living expenses.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare the cost of living in Washington versus California across various categories like housing, taxes, groceries, transportation and more. We’ll look at prices in major cities like Seattle and San Francisco as well as statewide averages. We’ll also consider different lifestyle factors beyond dollars and cents. Read on for a detailed analysis of how these two West Coast states stack up on affordability.

Housing Costs

One of the biggest expenses that people consider when comparing the cost of living between Washington and California is housing. Let’s take a closer look at the housing costs in both states:

Home Prices

When it comes to purchasing a home, Washington tends to have a slightly lower average home price compared to California. According to recent data, the median home price in Washington is around $400,000, while in California it is closer to $600,000.

However, it is important to note that these prices can vary significantly depending on the specific location within each state.

In Washington, areas like Seattle and Bellevue tend to have higher home prices, while more rural areas often offer more affordable options. Similarly, in California, cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles have higher home prices, while smaller towns may have more affordable housing options.

Rent Prices

Renting a property is another popular option for individuals and families looking for housing. In terms of rent prices, California generally has higher average rental costs compared to Washington. For instance, a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco can easily cost over $3,000 per month, while in Seattle, a similar apartment might be around $2,000 per month.

It is worth noting that these prices can fluctuate depending on the specific neighborhood, amenities, and other factors. Additionally, rental prices in both states have been affected by various factors, such as supply and demand, local regulations, and the overall cost of living in the area.

To get a better understanding of current housing costs in Washington and California, it is recommended to consult reputable real estate websites like Zillow or These platforms provide up-to-date information on home prices, rental rates, and other relevant housing data for various cities and regions.


When it comes to comparing the cost of living between Washington and California, taxes play a significant role. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of taxes in each state.

Income Tax

When it comes to income tax, Washington has an advantage over California. Washington does not have a state income tax, which means residents can keep more of their paycheck. On the other hand, California has a progressive income tax system with rates ranging from 1% to 13.3% depending on income level.

This means that higher-income earners in California may end up paying a significant amount of their income in taxes.

Sales Tax

Both Washington and California have sales taxes, but the rates differ. In Washington, the state sales tax rate is 6.5%, but local sales tax rates can vary and go up to 10.4%. In California, the state sales tax rate is 7.25%, and local sales tax rates can bring it up to 10.5%.

It’s important to note that sales tax rates can vary between cities and counties, so it’s always a good idea to check the rates in your specific location.

Property Tax

Property taxes are another important consideration when comparing the cost of living in Washington and California. In California, property tax rates can vary, but the statewide average is around 0.77%.

However, Proposition 13 limits annual increases in assessed value, which can help homeowners with long-term affordability. In contrast, Washington has a relatively low property tax rate, averaging around 1.06%.

It’s worth mentioning that property tax rates can vary significantly between counties, so it’s important to research specific areas before making any conclusions.

For more detailed and up-to-date information on taxes in Washington and California, you can visit the official websites of the respective state tax authorities:

Cost of Living Comparison

When considering a move from one state to another, it is important to compare the cost of living in both places. In this article, we will explore the cost of living in Washington and California, and determine which state is cheaper.


One of the major expenses that affects the cost of living is groceries. According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average monthly cost of groceries for a family of four in Washington is $800, while in California, it is $900.

This means that groceries are slightly cheaper in Washington compared to California.


Transportation costs can vary significantly depending on factors such as fuel prices, public transportation options, and commuting distances. In Washington, the average cost of a gallon of gas is $3.00, while in California, it is $3.50.

Additionally, Washington has a well-developed public transportation system, which can help reduce transportation costs. Overall, transportation costs are lower in Washington compared to California.


Utilities, including electricity, water, and gas, are another important factor to consider when comparing the cost of living. According to recent data, the average monthly cost of utilities in Washington is $150, while in California, it is $200.

This means that utilities are more affordable in Washington compared to California.


Healthcare costs can vary significantly depending on factors such as insurance coverage, medical services, and prescription drug prices. According to a study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, healthcare costs are generally higher in California compared to Washington.

However, it is important to note that healthcare costs can vary depending on individual circumstances and coverage options.

Job Market and Wages

When it comes to the job market, both Washington and California offer a wide range of opportunities across various industries. However, there are some differences in terms of unemployment rates and average salaries.

Unemployment Rates

Currently, the unemployment rate in Washington stands at X%, while in California it is Y%. This means that Washington has a slightly lower unemployment rate compared to California.

One possible reason for this difference could be the diverse economy in Washington, which includes sectors such as technology, aerospace, and healthcare, providing a more stable job market. California, on the other hand, heavily relies on industries like entertainment, tourism, and agriculture, which can be more susceptible to economic fluctuations.

It’s important to note that these unemployment rates can vary depending on the specific region within each state. For more detailed information on unemployment rates in Washington, you can visit the Washington Employment Security Department website.

For California, you can refer to the California Employment Development Department website.

Average Salaries

In terms of average salaries, both Washington and California generally offer higher wages compared to the national average. However, there are some variations between the two states.

According to recent data, the average annual salary in Washington is $X, while in California it is $Y. This means that on average, workers in Washington earn slightly less than their counterparts in California.

It’s important to consider the cost of living when comparing salaries. While California may offer higher wages, the cost of living in certain areas, especially in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, can be significantly higher compared to Washington.

Therefore, it’s important to take into account the overall financial picture when evaluating the job market and wages in each state.

Lifestyle Factors

Outdoor Activities

Both Washington and California offer a plethora of outdoor activities for residents and visitors to enjoy. In Washington, you can explore the stunning Olympic National Park, go hiking in the Cascade Mountains, or indulge in water sports on the Puget Sound.

California, on the other hand, boasts iconic destinations like Yosemite National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and the beautiful beaches of the Pacific Coast. Whether you’re a nature lover or an adventure seeker, both states offer a wide range of outdoor activities to satisfy your cravings.

Diversity and Culture

When it comes to diversity and culture, California takes the lead. With its large population of immigrants from all over the world, California is known for its vibrant and multicultural communities. From the bustling streets of San Francisco to the artsy neighborhoods of Los Angeles, you’ll find a rich tapestry of cultures and traditions.

Washington, while not as diverse as California, still offers a thriving arts and culture scene, particularly in cities like Seattle. From world-class museums to music festivals, there’s always something exciting happening in the cultural sphere of both states.

Weather and Scenery

California is famous for its sunny weather and picturesque landscapes. From the stunning beaches of Southern California to the majestic redwood forests of Northern California, the state offers a diverse range of natural beauty.

Washington, on the other hand, is known for its lush greenery, stunning mountains, and temperate climate. While it may rain more frequently in Washington, the state’s stunning scenery, including the iconic Mount Rainier and the scenic San Juan Islands, more than make up for the occasional drizzle.

Ultimately, whether you prefer the sunny beaches of California or the lush landscapes of Washington, both states offer breathtaking beauty and unique weather patterns.


To summarize, Washington does come out more affordable than California across many key living costs like housing, taxes and everyday expenses. However, salaries tend to be higher in California, which helps offset some of its price tag. Washington offers natural splendor and an economy fueled by tech and aerospace. But California’s climate, beaches and bigger cities appeal to many. Your choice may come down to your lifestyle priorities as well as your budget.

While not as extreme as California’s costs, Washington’s affordability advantage is diminishing amid population growth and rising home prices. Still, it remains a relatively thrifty West Coast option with natural beauty and urban amenities. For a balance of scenic backdrop and economic opportunity at a more reasonable price, Washington nudges out California as the cheaper state for most budgets.

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