Moving to Bakersfield

Whether you’re moving to Bakersfield for work or school, relocating to this eclectic city is a decision you’ll be glad you made. Located in the southern San Joaquin Valley of central California, the city is a significant commercial hub for energy production and agriculture – so significant that Bakersfield has the reputation of being the fourth most productive agricultural county in the US, and of all counties in the country, Kern County is the largest oil producer. 

Breadbasket and energy giant aside, Bakersfield has gifted country music lovers with the iconic ‘Bakersfield sound’ made famous by Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, and The Strangers. An emerging culture and arts scene is putting Bakersfield on the map as a destination for fun and entertainment. And for years, locals have enjoyed Bakersfield’s rich Basque culture.

For a happening city, housing is affordable, and the schools are highly rated. Bakersfield is a great place to raise a family or continue with your own higher education. The southern Sierra Nevada mountains are just two hours east where, if you love the outdoors, almost every imaginable year-round activity is waiting. Whether you’re outside having fun or inside working or studying, quality of life is Bakersfield’s hallmark.

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Living in Bakersfield, CA: What to Know Before Moving to Bakersfield

Oil, agriculture, country music, and – Scottish Games? Bakersfield’s 380,874 residents have no shortage of varied work and play opportunities. Monthly festivals, First Fridays, college sports, lecture series, nightlife, organic farmers markets, rodeo, performing arts, live music – your calendar will bulge with things to do. And if you’re looking for convenience, Bakersfield’s central location means that you can zip off to anywhere in California by just hopping on I-5 or Hwy 99.

Pros and Cons of Living in Bakersfield

Before you decide on your move, consider the pros and cons of living in Bakersfield.

Pros:

  • An eclectic variety of year-round things to do: Festivals, special events, performing arts, and oh so much more
  • A dry climate with no snow: You can look forward to 272 days of annual sunshine and an average of only 7 inches of rain.
  • Easy connections to bigger cities: For a change of pace, Los Angeles is only 95 miles south. 
  • Good schools: The public school system rates highly for all grades compared to national averages
  • Affordable housing: Both home purchase prices and rents are in line with US averages.

Cons:

  • Higher property crime rates: Most of the property crime occurs in outlying areas of the city.
  • Higher than average unemployment rate: Not only is the average unemployment rate higher here than the national average, but job growth and future job prospects are considerably lower.
  • Hot and intensely sunny summers: You’ll need to lather on the sunscreen!
  • Risk of fires and floods: The national disasters here are twice that of the national average because of dry, warm temperatures, and then two months of rain
  • Car dependent: Unless you live in Downtown, you’ll need a car to commute and run errands.

Tax Rates

  • Property Tax: Bakersfield property tax is 1.108%, a bit lower than the national average of 1.211%.
  • Sales Tax: Bakersfield sales tax is 7.3%, which is equal to the U.S. average. Bakersfield is the largest city in California, with the lowest sales tax.
  • State Income Tax: The average California state income tax is 9.3%, which is much higher than the U.S. average of 4.6%.

Housing Market

As of September 2019, the median home value was $244,400. According to zillow.com, the US median home listing price is $226,800. Home appreciation over the last ten years is 29.7%. Bakersfield homes are an average 28 years old. Although developers built several new neighborhoods in the last 20 years, central Bakersfield has some lovely old homes on large tree-filled lots. 

Over 59.8% of people buy, with 40.2% of the population renting. The median rent price is $1,015 for apartments, houses, guest houses, and spare rooms. Bakersfield’s housing market is expanding, though, on average only 2.2% of houses and apartments are on the market for rent. The cheapest places to live in Bakersfield are Oildale and Lamont.

Cost of Living

We gathered the cost of living data from bestplaces.net which uses an average US cost of living index of 100. So, a score below 100 indicates the cost of living is less than the U.S. average, and vice versa. For Bakersfield, the cost of living index is 109.3. Housing, at 124.7, comprises the most expensive cost. 

Other higher than average costs include utilities at 111.7, transportation at 110.3, and miscellaneous (repairs, insurances, eating out, etc.) at 102.9. Lower than average costs include groceries 98.1 and health care 83.8.

For a family of four to live a moderate lifestyle in Bakersfield, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, they need to earn $6,100 monthly.  

Weather & Natural Disasters

Due to its hot desert-type climate classification, sunshine is almost ever-present in Bakersfield and well above the US national average. Summers are hot and dry, while winter has a few cloudy days, low precipitation, low humidity, and no snow: perfect weather if you love to be outside.

July and August are the two hottest months with average high temperatures in the high 90s and average lows of 69. December and January are the two coolest months. The average highs run in the high 50s and low 60s with average lows of 39. Bakersfield never gets snow and very little rain, with an average annual rainfall of 6.45 inches, mostly falling in winter. 

Natural disaster threats include fires, floods, earthquakes, and power outages. Experts say everyone should have an emergency kit stocked and stored in an accessible location.

Economy & Job Market

Unemployment in Bakersfield is at 6.10%, significantly higher than the US average of 3.7%. That said, the job market has increased by 1.2% in the last year, but not quite keeping up with US growth of 1.59%. Future job growth over the next ten years is predicted to be 24.2%, almost 10% less than the national prediction. Even though the economy lags behind US averages, the household income of $60,058 is slightly higher than the US average of $57,652.

The top industries are agriculture, oil extraction and production, manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, and city and county government. Bakersfield’s top employers include County of Kern, The Giumarra Companies, Grimmway Farms, Bolthouse Farms, Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, City of Bakersfield, and Mercy Hospitals of Bakersfield.

The most common occupations are management positions, maintenance operations, truck drivers, retail sales, and cashiers. When looking for work, online job platforms such as Linkedin, laborfinders, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, simplyhired, and many more, provide a terrific resource. You can also check city and county websites for job opportunities, or work with an executive recruiter. 

Traffic and Transportation

Public transit has been challenged to keep up with Bakersfield’s sprawl, so most people run errands, commute, and have fun via their cars. If you live in central Bakersfield, you can get around without a car by using Golden Empire Transit, a bus system that operates 18 routes. And you can get to other cities in the county by using Kern Transit’s buses.

The main thoroughfares in the city include east-west running 24th St, which becomes Hwy 58 west to I-5 or going east turns into Hwy 178 to Tehachapi. Hwy 223 runs east-west through the southern part of the city, connecting west to I-5 or east to Hwy 178.

State Highway 99 is a main north-south route that bisects the city, connecting to I-5 south of the city, and major cities in the San Joaquin Valley north of Bakersfield. The granddaddy of California interstates, I-5, runs north-south west of Bakersfield. I-5 can take you south to the Mexican border or north to Oregon. Traffic isn’t particularly bad in the city, but Hwy 99 and I-5 can become jammed during holidays when drivers are barreling along all four lanes at 80 mph to connect between northern and southern California.   

Except for Downtown and a few other neighborhoods such as Homaker Park and Oleander-Sunset, Bakersfield isn’t a walkable city. The Walkscore is 37, the bike score is 41, and the transit score is 27. 

Amtrak’s rail and bus station is Downtown. The California High-Speed Rail system is currently under construction with a station planned for Bakersfield. If you’re planning an international flight, LAX is your closest airport, about three hours south. You can book continental and limited international flights out of Fresno airport, about an hour north.

What to Do

For a city with roots in agriculture and oil, you might think activities and things to do would be limited. Not true! From fun family-centered activities to nightlife, plus outdoor adventures, and diverse cultural events, Bakersfield has an eclectic range of things to do for every taste. It’s impossible to list them all here, but you can check out visitbakersfield.com for a comprehensive list and description of things to do.

When it’s time to get outside into some green space, you can enjoy the 59 parks throughout the city. Many feature special activities, especially for kids, sponsored by the Department of Parks and Recreation. Some parks are tucked into neighborhoods while others sit along the Kern River parkway. Sports courts and fields, picnic facilities, leash-free dog play areas, playgrounds, exercise stations, and splash areas are just some of the park amenities you can enjoy. 

If you take a fancy to museums, explore Bakersfield Museum of Art, Buena Vista Museum of Natural History, California Living Museum, and Kern County Museum. The latter features thousands of cultural and historical artifacts and more than 56 historic buildings among 16 landscaped acres.

Music and performing arts buffs will enjoy the Bakersfield Community Theatre, Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, Dore Theatre, Fox Theater, Gaslight Melodrama Theater and Music Hall, The Empty Space Theater, and Spotlight Theatre.

For some nightlife, you can head over to 1933, a speakeasy bar; Junction Diner and Lounge; Riley’s Tavern; Sandrini’s Public House; The Old Fashioned Social Drinkery; or kick up your heels on the dancefloor at The Avenue Downtown.

If you love attending festivals and special events, you’ll find them year-round. Some include The Great 48 Hour Bluegrass Jam, Amestoy’s Chile Verde Cookoff, Bakersfield Fiesta/United Square Dancers, Bakersfield Jazz Festival, Country and Craft Beer Festival, Garden Fest, Jewish Food Festival, Macaroni and Cheese Festival, Medieval California Festival, the NSRA Western Nationals, Scottish Gathering and Games, Basque Festival, Bakersfield Village Fest – and that’s just a partial list!

Rabobank Arena, previously known as the Centennial Garden, is a local sponsor of cycling teams, field hockey, football, and basketball. The arena is home to the CSU Bakersfield and Bakersfield Roadrunners NCAA basketball teams. But sports aren’t all you’ll see here. The center is home to the Bob Elias Kern County Hall of Fame and has hosted Disney Live, Cirque Dreams, Celtic Woman, and many concerts, particularly country music concerts. 

Schools and Universities

Three school districts serve Bakersfield: Panama-Buena Vista Union School District, Kern High School District, and Bakersfield City School District. In terms of public education, the elementary schools in Bakersfield are well above average, with schools like Downtown Elementary School ranked 9/10 by greatschools.org, followed by WA Kendrick Elementary. Centennial and Stockdale High Schools are ranked 8/10.

 Bakersfield has a range of higher education opportunities, from a California State University to vocational colleges. Bakersfield College is the largest school with an average full-time enrollment of 10,000+ students. California State University Bakersfield enrolls over 7,500+ students. Other colleges include San Joaquin Valley College-Bakersfield, Kaplan College Bakersfield, Santa Barbara Business College Bakersfield, Milan Institute Bakersfield, Lyles Bakersfield College of Beauty, and California College of Vocational Careers. 

Crime

Crimes rates in Bakersfield are higher than the national averages. The violent crime rate of 24 is just slightly higher than the US average of 22.7 but lower than the California average of 30.2. Property crime is noticeably higher at 60 compared to the US average of 35.4. As in most cities, pockets exist where crime is higher or lower than the averages indicate. The pockets of highest crime are in surrounding towns such as Oildale, Lamont, Weedpatch, and Arvin.

Utility Providers

The following list will help you get your utility accounts set up. Be sure to arrange for your new accounts well before you move.

  • Gas service: Incremental Oil & Gas is the main provider in the area. Their website is accessible, but you’ll want to call them directly to set up service.
  • Electric service: PG&E is the main power provider. You can call directly or visit their website and enter your new Bakersfield address to get started.
  • Water service: The City of Bakersfield provides this service through its Water Resources Department. Call the department directly to have water turned on at your new home.
  • Trash pick-up/recycling service: The City of Bakersfield Solid Waste Division handles garbage and recycling collection. Again, there is a website, but as this is a city-run service, you’ll need to phone during regular business hours to set up your trash service. 
  • Internet/Cable service: Twelve various internet and cable providers serve Bakersfield. Some services are restricted to certain locations in the city. Enter your new zip code to find the providers that service your new home.

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Best Neighborhoods in Bakersfield, CA

Here are some of our top neighborhood recommendations in the country music capital of the West Coast:

Seven Oaks at Grand Island

With a population of 5,441 residents, Seven Oaks at Grand Island is one of the newer and more diverse neighborhoods in terms of amenities. Started in 2001, it has developed over the years to afford newcomers competitively priced, large homes. The median home sale price is $520,495 for homes built between 2001 and 2018. These are typically between 3-5 bedrooms, and 1-6 bathrooms, with square footage spanning between 1,557 and 7,044. The homes cover a range of styles and sit on quarter-acre lots.

The neighborhood, located about three miles southwest of Downtown, is bound by Allen Rd on the west, Ming Ave on the north, Buena Vista Rd on the east, and White Lane on the south. The Seven Oaks Business Park is just south of the neighborhood and a convenient place to work if you live in Seven Oaks at Grand Island.

The nearby public schools include Ronald Reagan Elementary, with an excellent parent rating, Earl Warren Junior High School, and Stockdale High School 8/10. 

Seven Oaks

Seven Oaks is an older, well-established neighborhood of 3,700 residents. Originally founded in 1993, the homes range between 3-6 bedrooms, 2-6 bathrooms, and are from 1,252 to 10,716 square feet. The median sale price is $429,900, and median rent is $2,500. Residents pride themselves in their well-kept yards, and without a major thoroughfare, the neighborhood is quiet.

About two miles west of Downtown, Seven Oaks is bound by Buena Vista Rd on the west, the Kern River on the north, Old River Rd on the east, and Ming Ave on the south. Residents enjoy a centrally located neighborhood park plus the Park at River Walk on the Kern River. California State University Bakersfield is about a mile east.

The Seven Oaks Country Club is popular with families, and when you’re out and about running errands, stop by E Salon Spa, and then meet a friend at Boba Cafe. 

Nearby schools servicing this neighborhood include Ronald Reagan Elementary School 8/10, Earl Warren Junior High School, and Stockdale High School 8/10.

River Oaks

River Oaks is home to 6,304 residents who live in mid-sized homes built in the early 2000s. The median home price is $357,400, a bit lower than the surrounding neighborhoods of Seven Oaks and Seven Oaks at Grand Island. The homes in this area are newer, with 2-5 bedrooms, 2-3 bathrooms, and average square footage between 1,145 and 3,262. The median rent for this neighborhood is $1,700 for a typical 3-4 bedroom home. Ideal for families, River Oaks is where new residents move when seeking affordable single-family homes with quarter-acre lots and garages.

The boundaries are S Allen Rd on the west, the Kern River on the north, Buena Vista Road on the east and west, Ming Ave on the south.

 The schools serving this neighborhood include Ronald Reagan Elementary School, Earl Warren Junior High School, and Stockdale High School. All three schools have excellent ratings. 

Tevis Ranch

Tevis Ranch is an older, well-established community that features reasonably priced, mid-sized homes. The homes here were built between 1993 and 1997, and the neighborhood attracts buyers who are looking for a friendly area for their families. The median home price is $306,000, and the median rent is $2,100. Homes are typically 3-4 bedrooms and 1-3 bathrooms. 

This neighborhood’s boundaries are White Lane on the north, Old River Road on the east, Harris Rd on the South, and Buena Vista Rd on the west. Situated about three miles southwest of Downtown, the population of this community is 5,991.

Tevis Park, the Oaks Community Church, plus restaurants, cafes, a gym, a bar, and two shopping centers are some of the handy amenities in the neighborhood. Locals boast about the easily available parking, well-kept yards, sidewalks for walking, dog-friendly nature of the area, and the fact that kids can and do safely play outside. 

Students attend Old River Elementary School, Earl Warren Junior High School, and Stockdale High School 8/10. 

The Oaks

The Oaks, situated two miles southwest of downtown, is a slightly older, more established area with single-family homes of around 2,000 square feet and between 3-5 bedrooms, and 1-3 bathrooms. Homes boast yards, garages, and a family-friendly atmosphere. The population is 3,657. The median home price is $330,000, and the median rent is $1,325.

The Oaks bounds Gosford Rd on the east, White Lane on the south, Old River Rd on the west, and the Haggin Oaks neighborhood on the north.

With, Campus Park South, and Pin Oak Park plus a 24-Hour Fitness Center and close access to Haggin Oaks Park, the community offers some healthy ways to stay fit.  You’ll also find a senior apartment complex, a senior living center, St Demiana Coptic Orthodox Church, and be able to walk to nearby grocery stores. If you love to decorate your home with the changing seasons, you’ll enjoy The Oaks, as locals say there’s great community spirit. 

Students attend Leo B Hart and Christa McAuliffe Elementary Schools, which are part of the Buena Vista Union School District. These two schools are ranked 6/10. The middle schools are Earl Warren Junior High 7/10, and Tevis Junior High 5/10. High school students attend Stockdale High School 8/10. 

Quailwood

Quailwood is a well-established area of 2,620 residents, reasonably priced homes on small lots, and ample parking. The median house price is $274,900. The homes were built between 1975 and 1980 and consist of 3-4 bedrooms, 1-3 bathrooms, and between 1,498 and 2,699 square feet. 

This neighborhood sits about two miles west of Downtown, and its boundaries include Coffee Rd on the west, Truxtun Ave and the Kern River on the north, Park Stockdale on the east, and the Stockdale Highway on the south. Although Quailwood is strictly residential, parks, dozens of restaurants, grocery stores, coffee spots, and other amenities are nearby. 

Quailwood Elementary School, Fruitvale Elementary, and Fruitvale Junior High are all highly ranked schools. High school students can choose Kern Union High School or Bakersfield High School. 

Terra Vista

Terra Vista is a relatively new development that features larger homes. Now well-established, the original construction began in 2004, and the community was completed by 2006. The median home price is $299,000, and median rent is $2,200. Homes typically are 3-5 bedrooms, 2-3 bathrooms, and sit on quarter-acre lots. Locals love the well-lit streets, generous sidewalks, well-kept yards, and dog-friendly ambiance of the area. 

The boundaries of the area are Buena Vista Road on the west, the Southern Oaks neighborhood on the north, Old River Rd on the east, and Harris Rd on the south. These boundaries form a perfect rectangle for the Terra Vista neighborhood. Situated southwest of downtown, the Terra Vista population is 2,190.

Inside the community, you’ll find a mix of commercial and retail services, including a gym, Stockdale Financial Services, Libet Living Services, Matt’s Road Services, and Rai Express. At the southern border of Terra Vista, just across Harris Rd, you can enjoy Greystone Park. 

Serving this area is Buena Vista Elementary School 6/10, Earl Warren Junior High School 7/10, and Independence High School 6/10.

Amberton

Boasting midsized homes, this community of 3,285 residents is well-established and draws the attention of locals and outsiders alike. It has a rather prestigious reputation for being just south of the Stockdale Country Club. The homes were built between 1976 and 1979, ranging in size from 3-4 bedrooms, 2-3 bathrooms, and between 1,562 and 2,607 square feet. The median sale price is $259,000, and the median rent is $1,000. 

Smaller than other developments, it’s mainly residential, but parks, restaurants, grocery stores, and plenty of shopping are located just outside the neighborhood boundaries, especially along Ming Avenue. Locals love that the streets are well-lit, there are ample sidewalks, and it’s a short walkable distance to nearby restaurants. Most residents stay in this area for at least five years because of how quiet and family-oriented it is. 

Situated southwest of downtown, Amberton boundaries include Ming Ave on the south, Gosford Rd on the west, the Stockdale Country Club on the north, and Ashe Road on the east. The population is 3,285.

Amberton students attend Stockdale Elementary School, OJ Actis Junior High School, and then have the choice between two high schools: Kern Union High School or Bakersfield High School. Another choice is to enroll your children in Panama-Buena Vista Union School District for K-8, and then enroll in one of the two high schools. 

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