Are you trying to decide between moving to San Francisco with its amazing culture and dense urban lifestyle and Los Angeles with its entertainment industry and endless attractions? These two major coastal California cities have so much to offer that it can be a difficult choice to make. Here’s a COMPLETE look at how the City of Angels and the Golden Gate City compare: pros and cons, sports, climate, population & more!
Pros & Cons of Living in San Francisco vs Los Angeles
Living in the Bay Area vs LA: which is right for you? Start with this list of the top San Francisco versus Los Angeles pros and cons.
Living in San Francisco Pros
It’s easy to get around San Francisco
While getting around LA is a nightmare – a major LA disadvantage, you’ll find you actually use and appreciate public transportation in San Francisco! The extensive public transit system covers the whole Bay Area with buses, trollies, and light rail service. San Francisco is also very walkable, unlike most areas of Los Angeles, once you get over walking uphill!
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San Francisco has diversity and amazing cuisine
LA is definitely a diverse city, but San Francisco manages to beat it. San Francisco is home to tons of ethnic enclaves with a population that’s 45% white, 34% Asian, 15% Hispanic, 5% Black, 8% other races, and 6.5% two or more races. It’s also famous for its LGBT-friendly environment.
You’ll love San Francisco’s incredible food scene with iconic restaurants, international cuisine (especially Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino food!), small dives with lines around the block, and 55 Michelin-starred restaurants.
There’s always something fun to do in San Francisco
One of the benefits of living in San Francisco is entertainment is always right around the corner – and it’s easy to walk to or reach via public transit, unlike LA. You’ll never run out of parks, festivals, live music, museums, block parties, community events, and more to fill your days. From the San Francisco Opera and the Fillmore to the world-famous Golden Gate Park, get ready to be busy.
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Living in San Francisco Cons
You’ll probably never own a home in San Francisco – Extremely expensive real estate
Rent is expensive enough in San Francisco, one of the country’s most expensive places to live. The real estate market, however, is something else entirely. Small condos are usually over $1.2 million and single-family homes usually start at $1.6 million. When you compare Los Angeles vs San Francisco, both have high housing prices, but LA can’t compare to this downside of living in San Francisco.
There’s a higher risk of earthquakes in San Francisco compared to Los Angeles
Both Los Angeles and San Francisco come with a high risk of earthquake. However, one of the challenges of living in San Francisco is facing the very real risk of another big one like the deadly 1906 earthquake that destroyed most of the city and killed more than 3,000. In 2007, scientists estimated a 63% risk of a 6.7 or greater earthquake in the Bay Area within 30 years.
Living in Los Angeles Pros
Los Angeles has Hollywood and the entertainment industry
San Francisco’s got tech, but LA is the place to be for the entertainment industry. One of the fun perks of living in Los Angeles is running into celebrities while buying groceries or getting your nails done. You definitely don’t need to be in “the industry” to appreciate the glitz and glamor of LA’s star-studded nightlife and entertainment districts.
Los Angeles offers beaches, mountains, and deserts within reach
One of the upsides of living in Los Angeles? You don’t need to feel trapped by the hustle and bustle of the city. No matter where you live in LA, the beach, mountains, and desert are all easily within reach. Need some inspiration? Here are some of the ways you can enjoy the outdoors after moving to Los Angeles:
- Sailing and snorkeling at Catalina Island
- Hiking at Joshua Tree National Park and Mount Baldy
- Paddleboarding at Balboa Island
- Surfing in Malibu
- Have a campfire on Dockweiler State Beach
- Bike along the Marvin Braude Trail for ocean views
- Pier fishing in Santa Monica and Venice
- Skateboarding at Belvedere Skatepark
- Beach volleyball at Playa Del Rey, Venice, and Santa Monica
- Camping at Angeles National Forest
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Los Angeles is close to seven major amusement parks
San Francisco has tons of cultural attractions, museums, and things to do. However, it’s hard to compare to Los Angeles if you’re after a thrill.
One of the advantages of living in Los Angeles is you’ll have amazing attractions right at your fingertips:
- Disneyland in Anaheim 26 miles away
- Knott’s Berry Farm theme park in Buena Park 22 miles away
- Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia 38 miles away
- Universal Studios Hollywood with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier
- Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad 90 miles away
- SeaWorld in San Diego 2 hours away
Living in Los Angeles Cons
Getting around Los Angeles can be a nightmare
Despite the many pluses of living in LA, there are major negatives to consider too. One of the biggest is the traffic and frustrating public transportation. Los Angeles is simply huge and dwarfs San Francisco and most other metro areas. Traffic is notorious with bumper-to-bumper traffic at nearly every hour. The average LA resident spends over 100 hours per year stuck in traffic!
While public transportation is improving, it’s still a frustrating experience. San Francisco has a high rate of commuters using its public transit which is all-around excellent, but LA simply doesn’t compete. Here’s what Los Angeles residents say about why they drive so much instead of using public transit.
Los Angeles smog is far worse than fog in San Francisco
Don’t assume the sunny, mild weather in LA means clear skies. A major disadvantage of living in Los Angeles is the poor air quality. Juxtapose San Francisco vs Los Angeles and you’ll quickly prefer the famous fog of the Bay Area to the gross and lung-damaging smog that LA is notorious for.
While LA started 2020 with a long clean-air streak, the year ended with the worst smog in decades. During 2020, there were 157 bad air days due to ozone pollution from the coast to the mountains. The city’s valleys and basins trap smog which is air pollution that worsens health problems, irritates your eyes and throat, and increases your risk of heart and lung disease.
Cost of Living in San Francisco vs Los Angeles
The City of Angels and the Golden City are both known for their high cost of living. But how do they actually compare?
One of the biggest drawbacks of living in San Francisco is the high cost of living. LA may be expensive, but it doesn’t compare. When you compare and contrast San Francisco versus Los Angeles, you’ll find Los Angeles is far more affordable. The San Francisco cost of living is about 35% higher than Los Angeles!
Here’s how that actually looks in numbers. To maintain the same standard of living you get with $50,000 in household income in LA, you would need to make $68,000 in San Francisco. You can see how the San Francisco cost of living compares to other cities here.
Considering buying a home? Good luck in the Bay Area. The average home price in San Francisco recently dropped to $1.46 million. By comparison, the average home price in Los Angeles hit $707,000. That’s actually much lower than the California median home price ($800,000) and it’s even up 25% year-over-year and a record high. Who would have thought that $700k could seem like a bargain?
Want to compare rent in San Francisco vs Los Angeles? The two get much closer! Average rent is $2,900 in San Francisco vs Los Angeles average rent of $2,350. However, rent in the Bay Area is down 18% year-over-year due to the pandemic while LA’s rent has remained stable.
Outside of housing, almost everything else is more expensive in San Francisco. Consumer prices are 18% higher in San Francisco vs LA and grocery prices are 27% higher. Bay Area utilities are 15% higher than LA and transportation is 7% more expensive.
Additional Things to Consider Between San Francisco Versus Los Angeles
San Francisco and Los Angeles are both very large metro areas, but they differ in terms of size and population density.
San Francisco is spread over 47 square miles with a massive metropolitan area of 3,524 square miles. The San Francisco population is 881,000 with a metro population of 4.7 million. The population density in San Francisco? An astounding 18,790 people per square mile!
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Los Angeles is much larger: 503 square miles with a metropolitan area of 4,850 square miles. The Los Angeles population is 3.8 million with a metro population of 13.1 million. However, you have a lot more room to breathe with 8,485 people per square mile.
Overall, San Francisco is smaller and much more densely populated. A downside of living in LA is you’ll be driving (A LOT) and relying on public transportation. The beach may only be 10 miles away as the crow flies, but with traffic and the LA highway system – not to mention finding parking – it’s an all-day affair.
Crime in San Francisco vs Los Angeles
Los Angeles has a reputation for crime to outsiders, but it’s actually very close to average for California. What does the crime rate in San Francisco vs Los Angeles look like?
A negative aspect of living in San Francisco is dealing with higher crime than average. The San Francisco crime rate is 6,175 total crimes per 100,000 people compared to 3,115 crimes per 100,000 people in LA. That means San Fran has 69% more crime than LA.
San Francisco vs LA Climate
Los Angeles is famous for its mild, warm weather while San Francisco is known for its rain, fog, and little variation between summer and winter. If you love the sun, you’ll enjoy the hot, subtropical climate of Los Angeles. Prefer cooler temperatures and rain? Be ready to embrace the San Francisco climate.
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Sports in San Francisco vs. Los Angeles
San Francisco versus Los Angeles: Which is the better sports city? The Bay Area is frequently ranked as one of America’s Best Sports Cities. One of the biggest positives of living in San Francisco for sports fans is a huge number of pro teams with a big following including the San Francisco Giants, the 49ers, the San Jose Sharks, and the Golden State Warriors. Bay Area teams have also earned plenty of unforgettable wins over LA.
By comparison, Los Angeles hasn’t had a football team since 1994 and the Lakers simply don’t compete with the Warriors.
San Francisco to Los Angeles Distance
How far is it from San Francisco to Los Angeles? These California coastal cities are 382 miles apart or a 6-hour drive along I-5. Here’s how to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles driving.
San Francisco vs. Los Angeles: Where Are You Moving?
Do you long for dense urban living with amazing culture, food, and activities around every corner? If you’re fine with some rain and fog, living in San Francisco may be a dream come true. If you prefer sun, beaches, and don’t mind a lot of urban sprawl to drive through, Los Angeles may be calling your name.
If you’re ready for the excitement and charm of San Francisco, give the award-winning San Francisco movers at AMS Relocation a call today. We’re ready to deliver the stress-free moving day you’re looking for!