Two of the most desirable states to live in are Florida and California. The sunshine, fresh air, beautiful natural wonders, and world-class cities are incredible attractions to both states. However, you might be wondering, is it cheaper to live in Florida than California?
It is cheaper to live in Florida than in California. Floridians enjoy lower taxes, lower housing costs, cheaper childcare, and more affordable healthcare. We would never disparage our friends in the Golden State, but it sure is nice to have some extra money in our wallets here in Florida.
So which state has fewer taxes? What about the cost of homeownership, commuting expenses, and childcare? Are Californians or Floridians paying more for a night on the town? In the following paragraphs, you will learn more about these questions.
Florida vs. California: Cost of Living Showdown
The easiest way to figure out which state is cheaper is to compare costs head-to-head. So let’s look at some ordinary living expenses and figure out which state is more affordable. Of course, your specific costs will vary, but taking a look at some average figures can help you see the difference between these states.
Whether you live in Florida or California, your monthly rent or mortgage payment is likely to be a significant chunk of your total expenses. Because there’s a lot of sketchy information about housing prices on the internet, especially regarding high-demand states like Florida and California, we used U.S. Census data.
According to the U.S. Census, the median value of an owner-occupied house in Florida was $215,300. However, in California, the median value of a person’s home was registered at $505,000, more than twice as high as Florida; this translates to a median monthly ownership cost of $2,357 in California versus $1,503 in Florida. With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that there are more owner-occupied houses in Florida than in California.
Renters will need to save their pennies in California, but those in Florida can expect less unreasonable rental prices. The median rent in California is reported as $1,503 a month versus $1,175 a month for Floridian renters.
Another essential cost of living expense is food. Whether you prefer borscht, steak, or fried chicken, everybody has to eat! Is it cheaper to get groceries in Florida or California?
As it turns out, your grocery bill will be similar in both states – but Floridians enjoy a cheaper average grocery bill than Californians. You can expect to pay $364.25 for a month of food in Florida and $370.96 for a month of food in California. Maybe it’s the fancy wine in California or the terrific deals at Publix in Florida; either way, we’re happy to pay a little less here in the Sunshine State.
Nobody likes the taxman. But we all have to pay our share one way or another. So are Floridians or Californians taxed more? The answer seems obvious, but let’s look at the numbers to make sure.
Florida has no state income tax. So whether you’re making $15 an hour at Dunkin’ or $100 an hour as an executive, you won’t pay a penny of state income tax in Florida.
On the other hand, California has a progressive income tax system that ranges from a 1% tax on low earners to a 13.3% tax on people earning more than a million dollars a year.
Phenomenal Florida Fun Fact: Florida does not have an estate tax. If you want to hand down your fortune to your kids without having the taxman nab half of it, Florida is an excellent place to retire to.
Real Estate Tax
Florida’s property tax laws are a little complicated, especially in situations where non-residents own property in the state.
Gas prices are bad enough without a bunch of superfluous taxes layered in, but motorists in each state still have to pay them. For example, Floridians pay a state tax of 43.55 cents per gallon of gasoline and 36.37 cents per gallon of diesel. In addition, individual counties can levy additional fuel taxes at their discretion.
California’s gas tax is much higher – in fact, California’s gas taxes are the highest in the nation. You’ll pay 68.15 cents per gallon of gasoline and 99.91 cents per gallon of diesel.
Florida charges a base sales tax of 6% on most goods. Individual cities or counties can add as much as 2% to this at their discretion. On average, the sales tax in Florida is around 7%.
California’s base sales tax rate is 7.25%, higher than Florida’s. Californian cities and counties may add up to 2.5% in taxes, which gives the state an average sales tax rate of about 8.82%.
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Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who works from home and doesn’t have to play taxi for the kids, you probably have an intimate understanding of the expense in both time and money that is commuting.
In terms of time, both California and Florida are renowned for bad traffic. The U.S. Census reports that the mean travel time to work in California is 29.8 minutes versus 27.8 minutes in Florida. Two minutes isn’t much, but it sure can feel like a lot of time if you’re stuck in a traffic jam or moving at 45 on the highway.
In terms of money, California’s exorbitant gasoline taxes make commuting especially painful for people without a hybrid or electric car. On the other hand, Florida has the most toll roads in the nation; tolls are a common mechanism of funding road maintenance in the absence of a state income tax.
What about the cost of owning a commuter car? Insurance.com reports an average five-year ownership cost of $30,987 in California versus $25,758 in Florida. However, the high number of terrible drivers in Florida ratchets up car insurance costs. As a result, Floridians can expect to pay $2,219 a year in car insurance versus $1,846 for Californians.
Winner: All things considered, we’d give this one a tie. California’s high taxes make commuting painful, but Florida’s extensive network of toll roads and high insurance costs kind of make up for it.
The average monthly electric bill in Florida is about $129.65. However, this is an average. Many people in Florida keep their homes at warm temperatures because they like it or want to save money, and this also includes millions of apartment dwellers. If you buy a three- or four-bedroom home and keep it at 74 degrees, you can expect to pay much more.
California’s average monthly electric bill is about $101.92. But, again, as with Florida, your specific usage will vary depending on whether you live in Palm Springs or Sacramento and whether you live in a tiny home or a seven-bedroom mansion.
Floridians enjoy cheap water bills – on average, just a few dollars a month. But, again, this will be substantially higher if you live in a home with a yard and you run the sprinklers frequently.
On the other hand, Californians pay a handsome rate for their water, on average about $65 a month.
Floridians pay about $35.83 a month for gas, in areas that use it. Californians pay about $44.83 a month for gas.
While it’s free to make kids, it sure does cost money to raise them. Childcare is a necessary expense for just about everybody, and unfortunately, it is also a heavy expense for most people.
Floridians can expect to pay about $9,238 a year for childcare, although this can be substantially higher depending on location and specific needs. As eye-popping as that figure is to many parents, Californians had better get Junior a job early because they can expect to pay about $16,495 a year for childcare.
California and Florida are alike in that there’s no upper limit to how much you can spend on entertainment. So if you want to burn $500,000 in a nightclub in Miami or Los Angeles, you certainly can.
However, we ordinary people will have to budget our entertainment expenses, and that budget goes further in Florida than in California. Movie tickets are cheaper in Florida, although the cost of dinner is actually about the same in Florida and California.
Both Florida and California have high-quality hospital systems in the major cities and enjoy many teaching hospitals and research facilities. Both states also offer access to good-quality gymnasiums and outdoor recreation for a reasonably low rate. However, the cost to see your doctor, dentist, or eye doctor is lower in Florida than in California.
Florida vs. California: Florida Wins
While both Florida and California offer amazing cities, excellent outdoor amenities, and fabulous beaches, Florida’s lower cost of living makes it a very appealing place to live. The taxes are lower, childcare and utilities are less expensive, and even a trip to the doctor will set you back a few dollars less in Florida. So if you can’t decide which sunny state is best for you, come on down to Florida and enjoy the feeling of a few extra bills in your wallet.