What You Need to Know About Coastal Orange County Cost of Living

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Discover Why Living Costs in Coastal Orange County Are Lower Than They Appear

What is the cost of living in coastal Orange County, California? Well, for one thing, it’s a bit higher than in many other places because . . . most stuff costs more.

But there’s more to living costs than just gas and grocery prices. It also matters immensely what you get for your money.

“The cost of living is the amount of money needed to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes, and healthcare in a certain place and time period. [It] is often used to compare how expensive it is to live in one city versus another [and] is tied to wages. If expenses are higher in a city, such as New York, for example, salary levels must be higher so that people can afford to live in that city.”

In addition, these costs “can be a significant factor in personal wealth accumulation because a salary can provide a higher standard of living in a city where daily expenses such as rent, food and entertainment are less.”

Here’s the thing, though: sometimes higher living costs are offset by the many benefits of living in a certain area. The net effect, then, is that a seemingly high cost of living isn’t really all that high.

So let’s see if that’s the case with coastal Orange County.

Living Costs in Orange County, California

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Yes, these costs are quite a bit higher than the national and California averages.

On a typical cost-of-living index, the average cost across the US is 100. That means, then, that for a city with a score below 100, living costs are proportionately lower than the national average, and above 100 higher and more expensive to live there.

The overall cost of living for Orange County as a whole is 167.7, which is slightly higher than that for the state of California at 149.9 and considerably higher than for the US a 100. And here’s what we get for various livability categories in Orange County (some of which are lower than the national baseline of 100):

  • Groceries/food – 105.1
  • Healthcare – 95.9
  • Housing – 308.2
  • Utilities – 98.6
  • Transportation – 115.2

As you can see, the housing score is three times the national average. The median home cost in Orange County is $712,500, in California as a whole $552,800, and $231,200 nationally.

Coastal Orange County Cost of Living

Now, let’s take a look at a couple of specific towns and a neighborhood to get a handle on living costs in coastal Orange County . . .

Laguna Beach

Overall living costs in Laguna Beach are 155% above the national average, with an index score of 255. For the various categories, index scores are:

  • Goods/services – 110
  • Groceries/food – 116
  • Healthcare – 109
  • Housing – 591
  • Transportation – 130
  • Utilities – 90

Newport Beach

The overall cost-of-living index score for Newport Beach is 353.3, well above the California score of 149.9. And going by category for Newport Beach, we find:

  • Groceries/food – 114.7
  • Healthcare – 95.9
  • Housing – 916.8
  • Utilities – 86.3
  • Transportation – 110.8

Crystal Cove

A neighborhood in Newport Beach, Crystal Cove has an overall cost-of-living index score of 349.8, slightly better than that for Newport Beach. And here’s the category breakdown:

  • Groceries/food – 115.3
  • Healthcare – 95.9
  • Housing – 898.7
  • Utilities – 101.5
  • Transportation – 113.9

The takeaways here is that while housing is pretty expensive in coastal Orange County, both healthcare and utilities are cheaper than what you find across the nation. So here’s a trade-off well worth taking into account.

Benefits of Living in Coastal Orange County

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The benefits of living in coastal Orange County go far beyond affordable healthcare and utilities. Consider, for example . . .

Gorgeous Beaches

Certainly, the beaches will be a big draw, in particular, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach. Not only are the towns and their beaches gorgeous, but each offers a different feel.

“[Y]ou will experience a different vibe in each beach city. For example, Laguna Beach has a small-town feel with a quiet artsy scene that seems to attract a sophisticated crowd. But a little further north in Huntington Beach there is more of a hippie, casual, free-spirited vibe.”

Outdoor Fun Opportunities

It might be an understatement to say that Californians are serious about their outdoor activities. And that’s even more the case for coastal Orange County because there are simply more opportunities and more things to do.

“There are so many things to do here that sometimes deciding what to do on the weekend is a real struggle. Camping, hiking, road biking, mountain biking, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, snow skiing, what isn’t . . .? You will never get bored!”

Diverse Dining

With so many ethnic groups and cultures commingling in the area, you can find just about any kind of food you want, as well as kinds you’ve never tried or even heard of. A dining adventure of exploration awaits.

Beautiful Weather

California weather is legendary. And it only gets better when you throw in the beaches of coastal Orange County.

“If the weather wasn’t as great as it is, these other points probably wouldn’t matter as much. The summer definitely brings some heat, but it’s easy to pack up the car and head to the beach for the day. [And you] can enjoy the beaches even in the middle of winter!”

Great Location

Living in the area also means easy access to just about any place you need or want to go.

“With Los Angeles to the north, San Diego to the south, and Riverside (Palm Springs area) to the east, this gives Orange County a prime location.” This also makes the area highly desirable and is one reason the cost of living is higher than in other places.

There are also two major airports nearby – Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (SNA) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Cost of Living Isn’t the Whole Story

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So, yes, the cost of living for coastal Orange County is higher than the national average. But it’s also typically lower in a couple of key categories – healthcare and utilities. And then there are all those great benefits we just mentioned.

The upshot, then, is that living costs taken in isolation can be a bit deceptive. It also proves the truth of this old adage: you get what you pay for.

And that brings us to one final caveat.

With housing costs in the area around nine times the national average, you’ll definitely need an experienced local real estate agent in your corner when you’re ready to buy.