Are you deciding between Sacramento vs San Diego to relocate to or to visit? Our in-depth guide breaks down all their major similarities and differences.
When choosing between Sacramento or San Diego, it may seem like they are worlds apart. Our evaluation will show you all the ways they differ in terms of climate, cost of living, job market, things to do, and culture so that you can understand which city is ideal for your next move or visit.
Your choice will largely depend on the lifestyle that you seek to pursue in the Golden State as well as your budget.
So, let’s take a deeper look into all the details about San Diego vs Sacramento.
1. Sacramento vs San Diego – Overview
Let’s start our comparison study between San Diego vs Sacramento with a general overview.
San Diego is located right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and near the Mexican border. It is the second most populated city in California, with a population of about 1.3 million residents.
The city is also known for its natural deep-water harbor, near-perfect weather year round, great beaches, and expansive public parks.
San Diego also has a long-standing connection with the US Navy and Marine Corps and has several military bases located within its city limits.
And what does Sacramento have to offer? Firstly, it is the state capital of California and is the political center of the Golden State. The city has a population of around 500,000 people and it’s one of the fastest-growing major cities in California.
Though San Diego tops our list of the best places to live in California, Sacramento is a much more affordable city with many outdoor activities and a rich history and culture.
When speaking about Sacramento or San Diego in terms of their walkability and bikeability, Walk Score gives us these ratings:
- Sacramento – Walkability: 49
- San Diego – Walkability: 53
- Sacramento – Bikeability: 67
- San Diego – Bikeability: 43
It’s not much of a difference, but both cities have been following a positive trend to become less car-dependent, so we can expect these results to continue to improve.
2. Sacramento vs San Diego – Climate
When comparing San Diego vs Sacramento in terms of their climate, there are no doubts that San Diego is more known for having the best weather. However, the differences may not that significant.
San Diego’s climate is considered almost perfect. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, it has one of the top ten best climates in the US. The city has mild weather all year-round with an average temperature above 70°F.
Sacramento’s climate is more pleasant for people that enjoy more arid places. The city has relatively constant and predictable weather, with the mean annual temperature around 60°F.
Sacramento’s winters are mild to cool and summers are mainly hot and dry. But the sea breeze that comes from the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta can cool down things a bit.
Therefore, Sacramento may be a better place for those who enjoy the change of seasons while San Diego is ideal for those who just want 70-80 degrees all-year round.
3. Sacramento vs San Diego – Cost of Living
It’s not that hard to guess that when comparing San Diego vs Sacramento, the main difference is their cost of living.
Generally, San Diego is 35% more expensive than Sacramento, and the most significant gap is due to housing costs, which are 97% more expensive in San Diego.
Sacramento’s overall prices are 21% higher than the national average. From groceries to healthcare and utilities, everything is more expensive.
However, San Diego’s cost of living is on another level. The prices in the city are 51% higher than the national average, and the average home prices in San Diego are valued at around $900,000 to $1,000,000.
It should not come as a surprise for you but think carefully about housing when deciding between San Diego vs Sacramento.
4. Sacramento vs San Diego – Job Market
Now, what is the best location in terms of career opportunities between San Diego vs Sacramento? After all, if you move to one of these two cities, you will want to get a good job or even start a business.
Overall, job growth has been positive for both cities. But, Sacramento’s economy is expected to grow a bit stronger than San Diego in the next 10 years.
The average salary in Sacramento is around $50,000, while the household income is approximately $54,000, and the income per capita of about $29,000.
The city is an educational and political hub, which means it offers plenty of job opportunities and continues to grow.
The average salary in San Diego is around $65,000, with the household income being around $72,000, and the income per capita of about $37,000.
San Diego also has a diverse job market, making it relatively easy to find a job in most industries.
It is clear that jobs in San Diego pay more than Sacramento, but of course, San Diego is more expensive. Also, Sacramento may experience more growth of jobs as well.
If you want to learn more about what is a good salary in California in 2023, then check out our latest research article on ideal salary levels for each major city.
5. Sacramento vs San Diego – Things to Do for Travelers
Is it even worth comparing Sacramento vs San Diego when talking about traveling? Actually, yes, it is.
Sacramento is a surprisingly well-rounded travel destination, especially when visiting with your family.
You can find many outdoor activities and exciting locations, like the historic district of Old Sacramento, which features delightful restaurants and shops, the Sacramento Zoo, and various day trips and excursions.
Meanwhile, the list of things to do in San Diego goes on and on. From whale-watching cruises, sea cave kayak tours, to different city excursions, and boat sailing.
Of course, there is San Diego’s famed downtown district that offers a walkable epicenter of entertainment and amenities.
There are several neighborhoods, such as the historic Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, and Embarcadero waterfront, that each gives a unique flavor of the city.
San Diego looks like the winner. But, keep in mind that everything will likely cost you more in San Diego vs Sacramento.
6. Sacramento vs San Diego – Things to Do for Residents
Living in Sacramento is both affordable and exciting. We mentioned that the city is expanding and growing fast.
The city is filled with public parks, such as William Land Park, which is home to the Sacramento Zoo and William Land Golf Course, and McKinley Park, which features a beautiful rose garden and a public pool.
San Diego also provides many diverse activities and amenities for its residents. You can catch a baseball game at Petco Park in downtown San Diego or go on a hike in the majestic Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve right next to the ocean.
You can also visit the world famous San Diego Zoo anytime you want.
7. Sacramento vs San Diego – Culture
Speaking about culture, we find subtle details in San Diego vs Sacramento.
San Diego is ethnically diverse and has many cultural aspects that make the city an excellent place for people of various backgrounds and interests.
San Diego’s culture is a mix of both American and Mexican influences . It has outstanding museums and theaters, a wide range of cuisines, and a particular interest in sports.
The craft brewing scene is also growing popular in San Diego, which adds to the city’s laid-back character.
The culture in Sacramento is also pretty diverse. The city points out its heritage and history, balancing it well with the modern and progressive elements.
There are also large ethnic groups that have some strong subcultures, which makes the city a great place for diverse people all around the country.
It is also a growing hotspot for arts and live music, with many galleries and outdoor concerts popping up in recent years.
Sacramento vs San Diego – Summary
It is not easy deciding where to move to or visit between San Diego or Sacramento.
These are two amazing Californian cities that are unique by almost every character. Of course, San Diego is a well-known, world class city, but its high cost of living may be restrictive.
Sacramento can offer almost as much but for a more affordable way of life, which may make it a great fit for those who prioritize value.
We think that it is worth visiting both of them to get a feel of their vibe and their amenities if you are deciding to move to one.
Ultimately, it seems that it will all come down to personal preferences and what your gut tells you.