Dreaming of life on the West Coast? Two of the most beautiful and exciting cities to choose from are Seattle and San Francisco. Both cities are known for their art, culture, and high cost of living, but how do San Francisco and Seattle compare and contrast? Here’s a comprehensive look at how the Emerald City and Golden Gate City stack up in terms of cost of living, climate, and sports with a pros and cons list.
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Pros & Cons of Living in San Francisco vs. Seattle
Both Seattle and San Fran have a lot to offer. Which city will best suit your lifestyle and budget? Here’s a list of San Francisco vs. Seattle pros and cons to help you decide.
Living in San Francisco Pros
Excellent Public Transit in San Francisco
One of the perks of living in San Francisco? You definitely don’t need a car to get around. The public transportation system extensively covers the Bay Area with light rail, trollies, and buses and the city is very walkable. Many employers in the Bay Area even offer free shuttles to and from work to keep your commute costs down.
San Francisco Is Incredibly Diverse
San Francisco is one of America’s most diverse cities with a neighborhood for everyone. San Francisco is 45% white, 34% Asian, 15% Hispanic of any race, 5% Black, 8% other race, and 6.5% two or more races. Among Asians in San Francisco, people of Chinese ancestry represent the largest group (21% of the total population) followed by Filipinos (4.5%), Vietnamese (1.6%), Japanese (1.3%), Indians (1.2%), and Koreans (1.2%). The Bay Area is home to one of the largest Filipino populations outside the Philippines.
San Francisco has also been called “the original gay-friendly city” with a famously LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere. San Francisco is home to many openly gay state and city officials with 17% of the adult population identifying as LGBT.
One of the pluses of living in San Francisco is you’ll meet people from many walks of life, experience many cultures, and enjoy amazing international cuisine.
Enjoy Amazing Culture and Amenities Living in San Fran
A major benefit of living in San Francisco is you’ll never run out of things to do and see. The city is packed with Michelin-star restaurants, sports, world-class parks, cultural attractions, museums, live venues, and festivals.
Explore San Francisco’s amazing museums like the Museum of Modern Art, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the California Academy of Sciences. Kids and adults love the San Francisco Zoo and the Golden Gate Park, one of America’s most famous and most visited parks with the Golden Gate Park Aquarium and other attractions.
The city is also home to amazing venues for live performances like the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center where the San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Opera perform. The famous Fillmore has seen performances by Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin. The theater scene in San Fran is famous around the world.
Living in San Francisco Cons
San Francisco Has a Notoriously Expensive Housing Market
It’s getting harder and harder to rent let alone buy in San Fran. The sky-high housing prices are a major drawback of living in San Francisco. Single-family homes often start at $1.65 million while even small condos can top $1.2 million. As a renter, you’ll pay about $3,100 for a small two-bedroom apartment. When you look at San Francisco compared to Seattle, you’ll notice Seattle, while costly, is still more affordable.
San Francisco Comes with a Risk of Earthquakes
While it may not be the first thing you consider, don’t forget to add earthquakes to the list of downsides of living in San Francisco. The massive 1906 earthquake that destroyed over 80% of the city and killed 3,000 people was one of the worst to hit the U.S. There is always a lingering threat of another “big one.” According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there is a 72% chance of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake striking the Bay Area within 30 years.
Living in Seattle Pros
Seattle’s Great Job Market
A major upside of living in Seattle is the city’s strong and growing economy. Seattle’s economy is centered on industrial companies and tech companies. In fact, Seattle has become one of the country’s top cities for tech jobs and it’s the headquarters for Microsoft, T-Mobile, and Amazon. You’ll notice it has one of the country’s highest growth rates for STEM jobs.
An important distinction when you compare Seattle vs. San Francisco is Seattle has more affordable areas that allow you to commute for work in the city. For example, Tacoma is more affordable than Seattle.
Seattle Has a Great Art & Music Scene
Seattle has a legendary music scene – a huge perk of living in Seattle. Seattle was the birthplace of grunge and bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. It’s also home to the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Opera, and Seattle Symphony with historic venues like Moore Theater and Easy Street Records. Many of the city’s museums are clustered together like the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) and the Seattle Art Museum.
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Living in Seattle Cons
Seattle Has a Problem with Homelessness
The homeless problem in Seattle has become a true crisis, and an important downside of living in Seattle to consider. The homeless population increased 20% between 2019 and 2020 to 2,800 in Seattle alone. It’s also common to find needles on sidewalks and in parks in Seattle. In just 15 months, more than 32,000 syringes were recovered in the city.
Cost of Living in San Francisco Versus Seattle
San Francisco and Seattle are both known for their high cost of living. You’ll pay a premium to live in either city, but which city is more expensive?
Among large metro areas with the highest cost-of-living adjusted earnings, San Francisco ranked 7th with adjusted median earnings of $58,300 and a cost of living 31.6% higher than the national average. Seattle ranked 5th with adjusted median earnings of $58,500 and a cost of living 12.9% higher than the national average.
The San Francisco cost of living is known as one of the country’s highest. While utilities and health care are affordable, transportation can be expensive. Housing and transportation are also the biggest factors driving up the Seattle cost of living but to a lesser extent.
One of the biggest drawbacks of living in San Francisco is the high cost of housing. When you compare average rent in San Francisco vs. Seattle, you’ll find $3,350 average rent in San Fran versus $2,100 in Seattle. Thinking about buying? The median home price in Seattle is $749,000 with $437 to $868 per square foot in downtown and as low as $219 in some surrounding neighborhoods. By comparison, the median home price in San Francisco is $1.4 million. In San Fran, you’ll pay about $1,000 per square foot.
Additional Things to Consider Between San Francisco vs. Seattle
San Francisco Versus Seattle Population
Seattle and San Francisco are both large cities, but they definitely differ in terms of sprawl and density. Do you imagine living in a densely populated urban center like San Francisco versus Seattle with more space? San Francisco covers 47 square miles with a metro area spanning 3,524 square miles. The San Francisco population is just 881,000 with a population density of 18,790/square mile – the second most densely populated American city. The San Francisco metro area is the country’s 12th largest at 4.7 million.
Seattle contrasted with San Francisco has a city population of 753,000 and a metro population of 3.9 million. The entire Seattle metro area covers 8,196 square miles – far larger with a lower population than the San Francisco Bay Area. The population density is less than half that of San Francisco’s.
Crime Rate in San Francisco vs. Seattle
When it comes to crime, how is San Francisco compared to Seattle? Both cities have crime rates above the national average: 126% higher in Seattle vs. 141% higher in San Francisco. The cities both have similarly high violent crime rates but San Francisco also has more property crimes. Per 100,000 people, there are 5,829 reported crimes in Seattle compared to 6,225 in San Francisco.
Sports in San Francisco vs. Seattle
As a sports fan, you’ll definitely want to consider the pro sports teams when deciding whether you should live in San Francisco versus Seattle. Sports is definitely big in San Francisco! The San Francisco Bay area is home to the San Francisco 49ers (NFL), San Francisco Giants (MLB), San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), Golden State Warriors (NBA), and the San Jose Sharks (NHL). The Giants have won 8 World Series and play at the Oracle Park.
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Seattle is home to the Seattle Seahawks (NFL), Seattle Mariners (MLB), Seattle Sounders FC (MLS), Seattle Kraken (NHL), and the Seattle Seawolves (MLR).
San Francisco vs. Seattle Weather
Climate is a big concern when deciding where to live. While Seattle and San Francisco are both coastal cities, they have different climates. Seattle is known for its rain with 38” per year but just 5” of snow each year and a Mediterranean climate. San Francisco has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate with wet, mild winters and warm, dry summers. San Francisco gets about 25” of rain per year and no snow. In Seattle, winters are cool and wet while summers are fairly dry. It’s rare to experience extreme cold or heat in Seattle thanks to the Puget Sound.
San Francisco Versus Seattle: Where Are You Living?
San Francisco is best known for its diversity, amazing cuisine, and exciting nightlife but it comes at a high cost. Seattle, by comparison, offers more affordable living and high-paying tech jobs with fewer cultural attractions and amenities. Which city is calling to you?
If you have settled on moving to San Francisco to enjoy the city’s famous attractions, parks, and culture, the friendly San Francisco movers at AMS Relocation are here to help. Give us a call today to request a free moving estimate ahead of your relocation!