Here, we try to settle the classic debate between Beverly Hills vs Bel Air. This comparison guide is for those lucky enough to consider living in these two prestigious neighborhoods as well as those who are just curious about the differences between them.
We will tell you up front, there is no wrong answer when choosing between Bel Air vs. Beverly Hills.
In many ways, these upscale neighborhoods are very similar. But, there are several key differences that we found and highlighted below that will probably sway you towards one or the other. It really comes down to your preference.
Both Beverly Hills and Bel Air are located in the western part of Los Angeles and offer some of the highest standards of living in the city (and even the nation).
The best community for you will ultimately depend on what you are looking for, so let’s dive into this review of Beverly Hills vs Bel Air to see which one is right for you.
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Beverly Hills vs Bel Air – Overview
Let’s start with an overview of these places to give you a better feel of their character.
Beverly Hills was incorporated as its own city in 1914 and manages its own infrastructure, which includes its own police force, fire department, water, and school system. It is all led by its own mayor and is completely separated from the City of Los Angeles.
Today, Beverly Hills is what many people probably picture as the pure essence of California. The streets of Beverly Hills exude wealth, glamor, and elegance on virtually every block.
It is where people come to see and be seen.
Beverly Hills is made up of both residential areas and commercial districts and has its own famed downtown. It provides a distinctly urban and faster-pace feel compared to many of its neighbors, which includes Bel Air. There are also a mix of single-family homes and apartment complexes within the city.
Currently, about 35,000 people call Beverly Hills home.
Bel Air is actually part of the City of Los Angeles and receives coverage for water, power, police, and fire protection directly from the city.
It is well-known for its exclusivity as you need to pass through its famous entrance gates to enter the neighborhood. It offers a more relaxed, remote feel since it is detached from the city center. It is also almost entirely residential as well.
Nestled deep in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, Bel Air offers tons of privacy across its low density neighborhoods and its lots of land that are bigger than the average in LA.
In fact, you won’t find many multi-family units or apartment buildings here as it is almost all single-family homes.
Actually, single-family estates is probably a better word, where many homes here feature a sprawling residence that fits a guest house, a tennis court, and a swimming pool with ease.
There are about 8,700 residents living in Bel Air, making it over 4 times smaller than Beverly Hills in terms of population.
Beverly Hills vs Bel Air – Location
So, where are these places located? Well, they are actually quite close to one another. Geographically, they are only 5 to 6 miles apart. But, due to Bel Air’s remote setting, the drive between Beverly Hills and Bel Air takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
Beverly Hills is located in West Los Angeles, just at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s about 30 minutes away from the core of Downtown LA while the closest beach, Santa Monica Beach, can be reached in roughly 15 to 20 minutes.
Its geography consists of a level area, called The Flats, as well as a hilly section that is less dense where you can find some opulent mansions.
Check out its exact location here on Google Maps.
Meanwhile, Bel Air is just northwest of Beverly Hills. It is located in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, which makes getting to Downtown LA take a little longer.
The trip to the center of the city takes about 30 minutes. And, even though it is a bit further west than Beverly Hills, it takes about the same amount of time to drive to Santa Monica Beach.
Since it is actually in the mountains, the terrain is mostly hilly, with deep gorges and valleys separating many of the neighborhoods within Bel Air.
Find Bel Air’s precise location here on Google Maps.
Beverly Hills vs Bel Air – Cost of Living
As you could probably tell by now, both areas are not cheap. But, what is the real cost of living in these upscale locations and what does it really take to secure a home in these neighborhoods?
According to AreaVibes, the cost of living in Beverly Hills is 217% higher than the national average. The main driver of this elevated cost of living is housing, which is an astounding 683% above the national average.
On Zillow, the average home value in Beverly Hills sits at a lofty $3.8 million. Somehow, that number has only gone up recently, with home values in the area increasing by over 5% last year. Additionally, homes in the hills routinely fetch prices in the double digits of millions.
But, not all costs are super inflated.
Groceries are only 14% above the national average (and actually a bit below the state average) and utility costs are just 8% higher.
Also, there are some more affordable areas within the city. Since Beverly Hills offers many mixed developments, you can easily find an apartment or a unit in a multi-family home starting at $700,000.
In addition, there are usually some reasonably priced homes in the southern part of Beverly Hills, which adjoins more modest neighborhoods like Century City and Crestview.
Bel Air is actually a bit cheaper on average than Beverly Hills, with a cost of living that is 212% higher than the national average. Housing is also the primary factor here, but it is a bit less expensive, only 666% higher than the rest of America.
However, on Zillow, the average home values are actually higher in Bel Air, coming in at over $3.9 million per home. We suspect that the average is impacted by some of the ultra high value mansions that are located within the community. The larger lot sizes allow for lavish fantasy estates to be built, which raises the average values quite a bit.
For example, the legendary Casa Encantada in Bel Air was listed for $225 million.
If that’s not enough, this new build had an asking price of $500 million.
However, there are some affordable pockets within Bel Air. For instance, there are some townhouses that can be had for under $1 million. The neighborhood of Bel Air Crest is also known to have some smaller, more reasonably priced homes.
Beverly Hills vs Bel Air – Things to Do
Okay, so you’ve decided that one of these places is suitable for you and you are willing to splash some cash to be a part of it. But, what can you actually do once you get here? Let’s take a look at how these areas stack up in terms of their amenities.
As we mentioned before, Beverly Hills is a mix of residential homes and commercial districts, giving residents plenty of direct access to everything. There are exquisite, top-rated restaurants across the city as well as some of the nation’s finest and most exclusive nightclubs along Sunset Strip.
Of course, there is also the legendary Rodeo Drive that is filled with upscale boutiques and cafes. Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Dior, Prada, Rolex, Versace – they’re all here.
Downtown Beverly Hills is also quite walkable, which really gives you the feeling of being in a city. If you’re more of a car person, then this city is actually still an ideal choice. Luxury brands like Ferrari, Rolls Royce, and McLaren all have a dealership in Beverly Hills. You won’t find that in Bel Air.
There are even several supermarkets within Beverly Hills. You can find a Whole Foods right in the heart of the city.
These extensive choices of things to do is why celebrities like Taylor Swift, Jennifer Aniston, and Ryan Seacrest all have chosen to make Beverly Hills their home.
Bel Air’s secluded nature and residential surroundings means that there aren’t many things to do in the immediate area. There are golf clubs and quiet parks that are nestled within its neighborhoods, but not much else.
But, all of the amenities that we just mentioned in Beverly Hills are accessible by Bel Air residents, too, just with an extra 20 minute drive.
The real benefit of its location is the immense privacy that it offers. People choose to live here because they don’t actually want many stores or restaurants directly surrounding their home.
They want an oasis of calm and the ability to separate the sights and sounds of the city from their home life.
This is why Bel Air attracts many high-wealth executives and celebrities, such as Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé & Jay-Z.
Beverly Hills vs Bel Air – Safety
Let’s talk about the safety of these two areas.
Beverly Hills’ popularity with locals and tourists also puts it on the map for criminals. The average crime rate in Beverly Hills is over 80% higher than the national average. However, that number is inflated by property crimes, as violent crimes are actually over 20% lower here than in the rest of America.
Bel Air maintains their own security force with gated entrances and regular patrolling around its streets. Therefore, crimes are rarely seen in this area. In fact, its crime rate is 50% lower than the rest of the US.
Beverly Hills vs Bel Air – Summary
When it comes down to Bel Air vs Beverly Hills, there really is no clear cut choice that will suit everyone. It really depends on your lifestyle and what stage of life you are in.
For those seeking the limelight and easy access to world-class restaurants, the hottest nightclubs, and extensive shopping options, then Beverly Hills would be ideal.
Instead, those looking for a more private, quiet way of life with more space and security should seek out Bel Air.
Either way, these two neighborhoods are located in one of the best places to live in California, so you really can’t make a bad choice.