The 10 Cheapest Places to Live in the Bay Area in 2022

We have identified the (relatively) cheapest places to live in the Bay Area in California if you have dreams of living near San Francisco or Silicon Valley. But make no mistake, this area still ain’t cheap.

However, there are some affordable cities in the region that are still within commuting distance that you can consider. All of the places that we’ve chosen are within a 1 hour and 30 minute drive to San Francisco. The majority of them are even under a 40 minute drive.

We think that finding the cheapest place to live in the Bay Area is one of the most prudent financial choices you could make. If you are able to secure a high-paying job in the region and combine that with a city with a low cost of living, then you could be saving thousands per month.

Let’s take a look at the cheapest places to live in the Bay Area so that you can strike a balance between affordability and proximity to one of the most desirable locations in the US.

Just a note before we start – the Bay Area is not cheap. There is no definition of cheap that can accommodate any of the cities on our list when you compare them to the rest of the US.

So, we based our definition of “cheap” on their relative costs compared to the rest of California. The average cost for a house in California has recently gone over $800,000.

Meanwhile, the average home price in San Francisco is almost $1.5 million. The cost of living there is also 80% higher than the rest of the state, which is already almost 50% higher than the rest of the US.

Cheapest-Places-to-Live-in-the-Bay-Area-San-Francisco-Bay

With that in mind, we looked for communities that offered home prices at or below the average price for California and also factored in the average rent prices and the total cost of living index to determine the cheapest places to live in the Bay Area.

Additionally, we only included cities with a population of 3,000 or more people on our list to ensure that they would still be desirable and offer enough amenities for people considering a move to or relocation within the Bay Area.

We should also define the Bay Area. Officially, it is the region that consists of several counties in and around the San Francisco Bay.

North Bay:
Sonoma County
Napa County
Solano County
Marin County

East Bay:
Contra Costa County
Alameda County

San Francisco:
San Francisco County

Peninsula:
San Mateo County

South Bay:
Santa Clara County
Santa Cruz County

10 Cheapest Places to Live in the Bay Area in 2022

10. Hayward

Population: 162,954
Driving Time to San Francisco: 35 minutes
Cost of Living Index: 10% Above California Average
Average Home Price: $846,000
Average Rent Price: $1,900 per month
Location: Check on Google Maps

The first city on this list of the cheapest places to live in the Bay Area doesn’t seem that cheap, but it is if you consider that home prices here are about half the cost than in San Francisco.

Hayward is located about 35 minutes southwest of San Francisco and is also just a 30 minute drive to San Jose, making it an ideal location to take advantage of both major cities.

9. Boulder Creek

Population: 5,429
Driving Time to San Francisco: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Cost of Living Index: 5% Above California Average
Average Home Price: $767,000
Average Rent Price: $2,200 per month
Location: Check on Google Maps

Boulder Creek sits in the heart of Santa Cruz County south of the Bay and offers its residents a very rural setting away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities.

This former lumber town is a very charming community that attracts nature lovers and those looking for a slower pace of life, but still within range of the Bay Area.

8. Benicia

Population: 27,131
Driving Time to San Francisco: 40 minutes
Cost of Living Index: 8% Above California Average
Average Home Price: $763,000
Average Rent Price: $1,750 per month
Location: Check on Google Maps

Benicia is a waterfront city in the northern part of the Bay in Solano County that features a small, tight-knit community. It was even California’s state capital for a brief period in the 1850s.

Today, it is known as a nice place with a small town feel that is popular with young families, making it one of the best and cheapest places to live in the Bay Area for families.

7. Concord

Cheapest-Places-to-Live-in-the-Bay-Area-Concord-California

Population: 125,410
Driving Time to San Francisco: 35 minutes
Cost of Living Index: 5% Above California Average
Average Home Price: $605,000
Average Rent Price: $1,900 per month
Location: Check on Google Maps

Concord, California is located about 35 minutes east of San Francisco. It is also the largest city in Contra Costa County.

Residents here can enjoy the splendid Todos Santos Plaza in Downtown Concord, which features a farmers market, free concerts, and numerous bars and restaurants around the plaza.

6. Watsonville

Population: 53,856
Driving Time to San Francisco: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Cost of Living Index: 2% Below California Average
Average Home Price: $754,000
Average Rent Price: $1,900 per month
Location: Check on Google Maps

Watsonville is the first city on our list of the cheapest places to live in the Bay Area that actually has a cost of living that is lower than the rest of the state average.

It is also one of the furthest cities from San Francisco on this list, about 90 miles away.

Still, it offers a small downtown area and an overall high standard of living that should be considered by anyone thinking about moving to the Bay Area.

5. San Pablo

Population: 30,990
Driving Time to San Francisco: 25 minutes
Cost of Living Index: 8% Below California Average
Average Home Price: $555,000
Average Rent Price: $1,600 per month
Location: Check on Google Maps

Now we are getting into some really affordable places within the Bay Area. San Pablo is located just 20 miles northeast across the Bay from San Francisco and allows its residents to easily commute to San Francisco in less than an hour while offering housing prices that are about 40% to 60% lower than the bigger cities.

4. Vallejo

Population: 121,692
Driving Time to San Francisco: 35 minutes
Cost of Living Index: 13% Below California Average
Average Home Price: $500,000
Average Rent Price: $1,600 per month
Location: Check on Google Maps

Vallejo’s excellent location and relatively low cost of living makes it one of the best cheap places to live in the Bay Area.

Cheapest-Places-to-Live-in-the-Bay-Area-San-Francisco-Bay-Night

The city itself features a quaint historic downtown area and a waterfront park that sits directly on the Napa River.

3. Rio Vista

Population: 9,718
Driving Time to San Francisco: 1 hour
Cost of Living Index: 16% Below California Average
Average Home Price: $441,000
Average Rent Price: $1,200 per month
Location: Check on Google Maps

Rio Vista is located in Solano County’s eastern region and is halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento. It is a great choice for those who want to enjoy both of these large cities, but still live in an area that is significantly cheaper.

Rio Vista also has its own historic main street and sits on the riverfront of the Sacramento River.

2. Modesto

Population: 218,464
Driving Time to San Francisco: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Cost of Living Index: 24% Below California Average
Average Home Price: $389,000
Average Rent Price: $1,350 per month
Location: Check on Google Maps

Modesto is the largest city on this list of the cheapest cities in the Bay Area. It might be a stretch to consider it part of the Bay Area, but we felt compelled to include it to make you aware of all of the best options in and around the region. 

Modesto was once listed as one of the best “Bang-For-The-Buck” cities by Forbes and still offers a tremendous value today.

Housing for under $400,000 is almost unheard of in California, especially in a city that is as close to the Bay Area as Modesto is.

1. Pacheco

Population: 3,685
Driving Time to San Francisco: 35 minutes
Cost of Living Index: 31% Below California Average
Average Home Price: $256,000
Average Rent Price: $1,800 per month
Location: Check on Google Maps

The small town of Pacheco is conveniently located just 30 miles northeast of San Francisco and is the cheapest place to live in the Bay Area. It is the smallest city on this list, but it is just 10 minutes down the road from neighboring Concord, California, which has a population of over 100,000 people.

You are not likely to find a cheaper place to live that is this close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Summary – Cheapest Places to Live in the Bay Area

We think that these are the cheapest cities to live in the Bay Area when you consider their cost of living and housing prices. We mentioned that “cheap” isn’t really “cheap” in this area, but you can see that there are still some deals to be had out there.

We recommend that you explore them for yourself and visit some of these cities before you decide on relocating.

Either way, you are sure to save some money and enjoy one of the best regions in America.

Check out our latest findings on the best cities in California to live in if you are interested in more places around the Golden State.