San Diego and Los Angeles: two of the most iconic cities in Southern California, each with famously beautiful weather and exciting nightlife that draws in millions of visitors every year. While many people outside the area lump the two cities together, they have very different cultures and there’s definitely no mistaking one for the other! Both cities have so much to love, from San Diego’s world-famous beaches to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood in L.A. Of course, you can only choose one to call home.
Not sure which city should be your home base? Here’s an ultimate comparison of San Diego versus Los Angeles including the cost of living and important advantages and drawbacks of each city.
Pros & Cons of Living in San Diego vs. Los Angeles
What type of lifestyle are you looking for? How important are entertainment, beaches, and your commute to your quality of life? Here are some of the biggest San Diego vs. Los Angeles pros and cons to help you compare these two amazing SoCal cities.
Living in San Diego Pros
Amazing Parks Are a Big Perk of Living in San Diego! Advantage San Diego!
San Diego is home to America’s 12th best park system while Los Angeles doesn’t break the top 60. America’s Finest City is home to about 40,000 acres of parks with 30 residents served per acre compared to 100 residents per acre of park in the City of Angels. More people in San Diego also live within a mile of a public park.
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The most famous park in San Diego is Balboa Park, a multi-attraction destination covering 1,200 acres. Beloved by tourists and residents alike, Balboa Park features 16 museums, walking paths, open green space, and the famous San Diego Zoo. Visit the California Tower, relax under the Moreton Bay Fig Tree, and take the kids for rides on the Balboa Park Miniature Train and Carousel. Speaking of zoos, when you compare San Diego versus Los Angeles, there’s really no comparison! The San Diego Zoo is ranked as one of the best in the entire world while the Los Angeles Zoo doesn’t get a mention.
You’ll also love Mission Bay Park, the largest aquatic park in the U.S. with 4,200 acres of water and land. Known for SeaWorld, it also features a massive water sports area for kitesurfing, sailing, and paddleboarding.
World-Famous San Diego Beaches at Your Fingertips
You can’t make a list of San Diego pros and cons without mentioning the city’s beaches. One of the advantages of living in San Diego is you’re never far from the beach. Heading to the ocean becomes a way of life in SD: you can go surfing or strolling along the shore any time you want. Coronado Beach, including Coronado City Beach along Hotel del Coronado, is a favorite among families and one of the most picturesque beaches in Southern California. La Jolla Shores is perfect for scuba diving, kayaking, paddleboarding and surfing. Want more excitement? Try Pacific Beach where there’s always something happening.
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Los Angeles definitely has its share of beaches, but getting to them is more of a chore. Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolitan area compared to San Diego’s more dense layout. Because you can drive for 50 miles and still be in LA, you may spend at least an hour fighting traffic just to break out of the city and get to the shore. Once you’re there, good luck finding parking! You’ll actually need to visit cities outside the Los Angeles zip code if you want to hit the sand like Venice, Santa Monica, and Redondo Beach.
Great Mexican Food & a Famous Brewery Scene in San Diego
Did you know San Diego has a thriving craft beer scene? In fact, it was ranked 3rd on Forbes’ list of best beer cities after San Francisco and Portland! Along with dozens of award-winning breweries, San Diego hosts the International Beer Festival and the Festival of Beer. The best thing to pair with local brews? The best Mexican food in America! San Diego is right on the border with Mexico and it arguably has the better Mexican food in a comparison of San Diego versus Los Angeles.
Living in San Diego Cons
You’ll Probably Want to Fly Out of LAX
Love to travel? It may not seem like a big drawback of living in San Diego at first, but San Diego’s small and outdated airport will probably get old fast if you fly often. The airport is incredibly small for a city of San Diego’s size and flight prices to San Diego are very high. Many people in San Diego make the drive to Los Angeles to fly in and out of LAX for lower prices and better flight options.
Living in Los Angeles Pros
Amazing Food Scene in Los Angeles
The mosaic of cultures in the City of Angels has made it one of the best food cities in the world. Los Angeles is an incredibly diverse city and home to hundreds of ethnic groups which means you’ll never run out of neighborhoods, cuisines, and cultures to explore. One of the upsides of living in LA is you’ll always find something new to try including authentic Armenian, Ethiopian, Persian, Japanese, French, and Korean cuisine.
LA Is a City of Excitement
Love to stay busy? Want to try new experiences, nightclubs, restaurants, and activities? Los Angeles may be the place for you! One of positives of living in Los Angeles is it’s full of excitement with constant festivals and action in its many neighborhoods. The arts community is vibrant with performing and visual arts to enjoy. Take in a game at Dodger Stadium or visit a theme park by day and then dance the night away at one of LA’s hippest clubs. LA is truly a place where you can define your own lifestyle.
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That doesn’t mean Los Angeles is a city where you always need to be on the go. It also has plenty of ways to escape the hustle and bustle with the beach, mountains, and desert around you. Get away from the noise of the city with a mountain hike, explore one of the city’s great trail systems, or relax on the beach.
Living in Los Angeles Cons
Notorious LA Smog is a Big Downside – Los Angeles Disadvantage!
While you’ll see clear skies in San Diego, Los Angeles, a densely packed valley city, is known for its smog which aggravates asthma and respiratory conditions and is linked to overall poorer health. Smog in LA has dropped by 85% since the 1970s, but the Los Angeles metro area is still America’s worst city for smog.
Getting Around Los Angeles is a Big Drawback
In comparison with San Diego, Los Angeles is incredibly hard to navigate. Los Angeles has massive urban sprawl with hundreds of unincorporated areas, cities, and towns within Greater Los Angeles. Just getting from one part of the city to another can be a one to three hour experience, especially once LA’s infamous traffic becomes a factor. If you live in Northeast Los Angeles, for example, going to the beach becomes a long day trip. The physical distance from one side of LA to the other is already a lot but miles become meaningless in traffic.
As one local put it, if you have friends downtown but you live on the Westside of LA, “you’re pretty much never going to see them.”
Additional Things to Consider Comparing San Diego or Los Angeles
What is the population of San Diego versus Los Angeles? Both are big cities but Los Angeles definitely dwarfs SD. Los Angeles is home to an astounding 4 million people, the second-largest city in the US, with a massive metropolitan population of 18.7 million. By comparison, San Diego is home to 1.4 million people with a metro population of 4.9 million. You’ll find that San Diego is more condensed, easier to navigate, and less congested than Los Angeles by far!
Crime Rate in San Diego vs. Los Angeles
Crime is a big concern when deciding where to live. When you compare Los Angeles versus San Diego crime, you’ll find San Diego is a safer place to live. LA crime rates are 15% higher than the California average while San Diego crime is 19% lower. Los Angeles has 3,261 reported crimes per 100,000 people, including 748 incidents of reported violent crime. By comparison, San Diego has 2,282 reported crimes per 100k people, lower than the national average, and just 373 incidents of violent crime per 100k.
San Diego vs. Los Angeles Traffic
San Diego may have fairly bad traffic but it can’t compare to Los Angeles. When you compare and contrast San Diego vs. Los Angeles, you’ll see that LA has the worst traffic congestion in the world, beating out even New York City and Sao Paulo, Brazil! While living in LA, you’ll lose an average of 103 hours per year to traffic congestion compared to 70 in San Diego.
San Diego to Los Angeles Distance
Whether you choose to live in San Diego or Los Angeles, you don’t have to give up the amenities and excitement of the other city. The cities aren’t incredibly close but residents of each enjoy day trips between the two metro areas. How far is it from San Diego to Los Angeles? About 120 miles or 2 hours on I-5. Here’s how to get from San Diego to Los Angeles.
Cost of Living in San Diego vs Los Angeles
We can’t end a comparison of San Diego and Los Angeles without discussing the cost of living. How much does it cost to live in San Diego versus Los Angeles? There’s no getting around that both cities are expensive with a high cost of living. They’re both in Southern California, after all! Still, the cost of living in San Diego is lower than Los Angeles.
According to Numbeo, you would need $5,900 in San Diego for the same standard of living you would get with $6,160 in Los Angeles. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Rent is 7% higher in Los Angeles versus San Diego
- Restaurant prices are 2% lower in San Diego vs Los Angeles
- Grocery prices are 6% higher in Los Angeles
- Local purchasing power is 10% higher in San Diego versus Los Angeles
San Diego Versus Los Angeles: Where Are You Moving?
Now that you have a good understanding of what life is like in Los Angeles compared to San Diego, which city is calling to you? Do you want the more laid-back coastal lifestyle of San Diego with great attractions and outdoor space? Or do you love the urban lifestyle and excitement of LA?
If you have settled on life in sunny San Diego, count on the award-winning movers at Republic Moving & Storage for a safe, efficient, and stress-free relocation. Call us today to request a free San Diego moving estimate to get started — you’ll be relaxing on the beach in no time!