Are you dreaming of sunny weather, sandy beaches, picturesque piers, and laidback SoCal living? Tired of cold wind, heavy snow, and the congestion of the urban jungle? Since you’re on this page, it’s safe to assume you’re seriously considering a brighter change of scenery. Moving to San Diego from Chicago offers a host of benefits: year-round sunshine, gorgeous coastal living, charming neighborhoods, the list goes on. No doubt, living in San Diego will change your life. But before you book moving services, take a look at this guide that compares living in the Windy City to what you can expect in America’s Finest City. 

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What to Know About Moving from Chicago to San Diego

Moving from Chicago to San Diego can be a transformative experience, but it can also be quite a shock coming from the Midwest. Give yourself the advantage of knowing what to expect when relocating to San Diego.

Taxes

Yay, taxes! This is everyone’s favorite topic, right? Okay, maybe not, but we should address it anyway. When looking at major cities with high taxes, both Chicago and San Diego land on the list. SD currently has a total sales tax rate of 7.75%, along with an overall top income tax rate of 13.3%. Chicago has a higher total sales tax rate of 10.25% but a lower total top income tax rate of 4.95%. 

As for property tax, San Diego has a county rate of 0.757% or $5,299 per year (based on an assessed home value of $700,000). In Chicago, that same $700,000 home would command a rate of 2.117% or $14,819 annually. Yikes!

Economy and Job Growth

Fun fact: San Diego would have the 26th largest economy if it were a state! Several industries, including manufacturing, biosciences, military, tourism, and trade, bolster the city’s phenomenal economic strength. Offering access to top business amenities and capital, San Diego has also developed a thriving entrepreneurial community in recent years. 

At the start of 2020, San Diego had an unemployment rate of 3.2% (compared to the US average of 3.9%). Chicago had an unemployment rate of 4.4%. As for future job growth, SD should see a rate of 34.9%, while models predict that Chicago will see a lower rate of 25.7% over the next decade or so.

If you need help looking for a job or career in San Diego, there are some great resources available to you. These include the San Diego Workforce Partnership and Manpower San Diego.

Weather and Climate

Ah, the gorgeous weather! This perk has to be the top reason people move to San Diego. Whereas Chicago has distinct four seasons with cold & snowy winters, SD residents look forward to warm weather year-round. The weather here is so lovely that it often is considered one of the Top 10 climates in the United States. 

Here’s a rundown of average climate stats in San Diego: 12 inches of rain, zero snowfall, 266 sunny days, winter low of 46°F (yes, it’s that warm), and summer high of 79°F. Meanwhile, Chicago sees 38 inches of rainfall, 35 inches of snow, 189 sunny days, winter low of 19°F (brrr… cold!), and summer high of 84°F.

Geography

San Diego, located in Southern California, is nestled along the Pacific Ocean coastline. While Chicago lies on a flat glacial plain beside Lake Michigan, San Diego is quite hilly. Just 15 miles north of the Mexico border (Tijuana), the city boasts a mixture of rural & urban communities, beachfront, hills, deep canyons, mesas, and desert. The San Diego River also runs east to west through the middle of the city.

Housing and Cost of Living

So, you’re probably wondering what this idyllic coastal living costs. Compared to Chicago, it definitely isn’t cheap to call San Diego home. First, let’s take a look at the cost of living in San Diego. The current cost of living index is 160.1. For comparison, the national average is 100. By contrast, Chicago has a cost of living index of 106.9. 

Next, we’ll compare median housing prices in SD versus Chicago. The SoCal city has a median list price of $700,000 (along with a median rent price of $2,750 per month). Chi-Town has a median list price of only $329,000 (with a rent price of $1,761 per month). Of course, if you want to live in one of California’s best coastal cities, you need to be prepared for the premium attached to such a happy place.

Things to Do

Beach culture is not only fun in San Diego; it’s a way of life. From sunbathing to surfing to beach parties, residents soak up the rays and enjoy the refreshing waves to the fullest. But that’s not all this iconic SoCal coastal community has to offer.

If you’re into live entertainment and vibrant nightlife, then definitely head over to Gaslamp Quarter. This historic neighborhood is the location for the city’s Mardi Gras event and is a super popular destination for both locals and tourists. San Diego is also home to famous attractions like the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, and the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Love sports? The city is home to three popular teams: the San Diego Padres (baseball), San Diego Gulls (hockey), and the San Diego Sockers (soccer).

Educational Opportunities

San Diego Unified School District, the second-largest district in the state of California, serves more than 121,000 students at 226 individual facilities. As of 2019, it had one of the state’s best high school graduation rates at nearly 87%. It’s also ranked among the top urban school districts in the US.

Looking for higher education in San Diego? Top colleges & universities include the University of California – San Diego (UCSD), San Diego State University (SDSU), San Diego Mesa College (community college), and San Diego City College (community college). Top trade schools include the University of Phoenix and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. 

Crime Rates

If you’re coming from Chicago, you’ll be happy to hear about the crime rates in San Diego. The SoCal city has a violent crime index of 24.4 and a property crime index of 31.4. These are reasonable rates in general, but when compared to the City of Chicago, these rates are fantastic. The Windy City has a violent crime rate of 49.9 and a property crime rate of 46.3. Big difference!

As for the safest neighborhoods in San Diego? According to Niche, the Top 3 are Torrey Hills, Torrey Pines, and Carmel Valley. Go here for more neighborhoods and details.

Food

San Diego has an amazing culinary scene. If you’re a foodie, you definitely won’t be wanting for delicious eats. Yes, the Windy City has its claims to fame – deep dish pizza, Chicago style hotdogs, to name a couple – but SD is in a league of its own. 

Love cheeseburgers? Hodad’s cheeseburger might be the “world’s best cheeseburger.” Fish tacos are a big draw, especially those with mahi-mahi, along with California burritos (Nico’s Mexican Food makes a version with carne asada fries that’s amazing). And of course, acai bowls are the favorite among the health-conscious types (OB Smoothie & Sub Express has the best bowls in Ocean Beach). And if you’re craving curry, Sab-E-Lee (two locations: Rancho Penasquitos and Linda Vista) has a Panang curry that will change your life. So creamy and satisfying!

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Best Neighborhoods in San Diego

Here are the best places to call home in America’s Finest City

North Park

Comprised of residential and commercial properties, North Park is home to some 32,000 residents. This community is a family-friendly neighborhood that offers classic Cali bungalow homes and convenient access to local shopping centers, breweries, and restaurants. And unlike a lot of other parts of San Diego, North Park has flat terrain. Learn more about this popular neighborhood here.

Hillcrest

Hillcrest, with a population of 14,000, can be found approximately two miles north of Downtown San Diego. Offering convenient transportation options, including trolley and bus services, Hillcrest is a highly walkable neighborhood. It’s also both LGBTQ+ and family-friendly, as well as close to San Diego Zoo, Marston House Museum, and Balboa Park. Delve into the details of Hillcrest here.

Little Italy

With more urban flair, Little Italy is the epicenter of nightlife for locals and tourists alike. The neighborhood of 3,200 is full of vibrant bars, popular restaurants, and unique boutiques. Located close to downtown and the bay, Little Italy is also in proximity to the San Diego Civic Theatre and the San Diego Symphony. Get more info on Little Italy here.

Gaslamp Quarter

Another highly walkable neighborhood, Gaslamp Quarter, is home to only 1,000 or so residents. It’s tucked within the boundaries of Downtown San Diego, offering a nice blend of historical and trendy elements. If you’re single or a younger professional, Gaslamp Quarter should be at the top of your list! Discover more about this bustling neighborhood here.

Ocean Beach

Are you looking for that quintessential Southern California vibe? Ocean Beach epitomizes the classic SoCal coastal community. Offering great amenities, stellar schools, and that desirable laidback beach culture, the neighborhood is ideal for those yearning to live close to the ocean. There’s also a recreation center, library, and a handful of churches. Find more info about Ocean Beach here.

Coronado

Ever wanted to live on an island? Here’s your chance! Just take the Coronado Bridge over the San Diego Bay, and boom, you’re now in the island community of Coronado. Those looking to escape the mainland will surely fall in love with this unique neighborhood. One downside: housing is super expensive. Dive into the details of Coronado here.

Mission Valley

With a mix of urban and suburban, Mission Valley offers excellent commuting options and sizable homes. There’s also a host of amenities: three big shopping malls, golf courses, large retail stores, sports stadiums, and several hotels. It also provides access to the San Diego River Bike Trail. Take a look at what else Mission Valley has to offer here.

East Village

East Village, with a population of about 13,000, is well known as being home to the San Diego Padre’s Petco Park. This neighborhood is the largest in the downtown area. It also is home to San Diego City College, part of Balboa Park, the San Diego Central Library, and Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Go here for more information on East Village.


Cost of Moving from Chicago to San Diego

On average, it costs about $3000-$3500 to move from Chicago to San Diego. Though this might sound expensive, consider that you are hauling your stuff about 2076 miles across the country. The total cost of your move will depend on several variables, including your origin and destination zip codes, the time of year you’re moving, the size of your household, and which services you require. The best way to get an accurate estimate is by scheduling an in-home or virtual (no contact) walkthrough with a licensed and insured interstate mover. Get free moving quotes from the best Chicago to San Diego movers now!

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Devin Barroga

Ever been bitten by the wanderlust bug? It's a powerful force, one which has captivated Devin for his entire life.... Read More