January 3rd, 2024 at 11:00 am


Updated Jan 11, 2024

When it comes to choosing the perfect place in Southern California to call home, many people find themselves deciding between San Diego and Los Angeles. While they are only about two to three hours apart, they are vastly different and each offers residents some unique benefits. 

Whether you are looking to relocate from out of state or you’re just switching cities, both of these destinations offer a little something for everyone. With beautiful weather all year-round, a wide array of things to do for both young and old, and a laid-back atmosphere that so many fall in love with, both of these Southern California hot spots provide the perfect location to live in for people of all ages.

Ready to get closer to the ocean and embrace the famous California lifestyle? This guide will discuss the major differences between San Diego and Los Angeles. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have a better idea of which city will fit you best. However, since both are two of the best American cities in the country, you really can’t go wrong when choosing either option!

Los Angeles

Los Angeles County has over 10 million residents and is the third -largest metropolitan economy. With over 88 cities and over 200 neighborhoods, there is no shortage of places to choose from when it comes to where to live. Given how large it is, people tend to stay within their stomping grounds as commuting between neighborhoods can take a decent amount of time with the infamous LA traffic.

Home to some of the most famous places in the world, such as Hollywood, Venice Beach, and Beverly Hills, many people land in Los Angeles due to opportunities in the entertainment industry. LA is a lot bigger than San Diego, but with that comes a variety of neighborhoods, school districts, shopping centers, and everything else you need for SoCal living. If you want to experience a high quality of life and endless opportunities, Los Angeles may be the perfect place for you.

Popular neighborhoods


This affluent neighborhood offers beautiful homes, tons of local eateries, and is centrally located, serving as the perfect area for both families and young professionals. Located at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains, this community is situated in the perfect location, offering beautiful views of rolling hills while also a short distance to local beaches. If you are looking for top-notch school districts, a plethora of LA-style restaurants, and a fun, inviting community, Brentwood is a great neighborhood to live in.

Sherman Oaks

Located in the San Fernando Valley, Sherman Oaks offers a more tranquil lifestyle far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles. Homeowners in this relaxing neighborhood tend to have more property space and larger yards compared to other SoCal neighborhoods. Even though this area may be quieter than other areas in LA, it still offers lots of local restaurants, bars, and shopping centers for locals to enjoy.

Van Nuys

Situated in the heart of San Fernando Valley, Van Nuys is a local community that offers multiple different housing options, beautiful outdoor areas, and unique dining experiences for all to enjoy. Many choose to live in Van Nuys instead of other Los Angeles neighborhoods due to its more affordable real estate prices. With over 30 schools to choose from, Van Nuys is an excellent option for families with children.

San Diego

With over 3 million residents and 70 miles of beaches, San Diego is a popular destination for many due to the high quality of life. Dubbed “America’s Finest City,” with a little slower pace than Los Angeles and a much smaller population, San Diego is less condensed and offers both bustling and quaint neighborhoods to choose from. Here you’ll find popular attractions like the San Diego Zoo, Little Italy, and other San Diego neighborhoods like North Park, La Jolla, and Ocean Beach. Both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps have bases in San Diego, which draws in a number of military families.

San Diego County has 18 incorporated cities that range from Chula Vista to Poway and offer diverse communities and neighborhoods. Whether San Diegan residents are living on the coast or inland, they are never too far from either the beautiful Pacific Ocean or the local mountains. While San Diego has fewer job opportunities compared to Los Angeles, the city does draw in young professionals and has a number of premier universities. It also is home to some of the largest biotech companies in the United States.

Popular neighborhoods

Carmel Valley

Carmel Valley in North County San Diego is home to many families and young professionals who enjoy its central location and proximity to great schools. With a suburban yet coastal feel, this area makes for an ideal location for both young and old. Carmel Valley has a number of outstanding restaurants, preserved natural landscapes, and a laid-back SoCal atmosphere, making it one of the most popular neighborhoods in San Diego County.


One of the oldest areas in San Diego County, Escondido is a popular choice for families looking for a central location that also offers an amazing lifestyle. With a number of activities and attractions including the San Diego Safari Park, Escondido serves as a perfect home base to raise a family or even retire. If you are looking to live in a laid-back community that offers all the amenities of a large city, Escondido may be the perfect place for you.


With beautiful beaches and picturesque homes, Coronado is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in San Diego and Southern California. With a great school district and a tight-knit community, it’s no wonder so many people would love to live in Coronado. Whether you come for the world-famous beaches or the wide selection of eateries, it’s no doubt that Coronado is one of the best places in the city of San Diego.

Los Angeles vs. San Diego cost of living

When it comes to the cost of living in San Diego, it’s safe to assume that it will be less than in Los Angeles. However, when looking to find the perfect home for you and your family, you’ll likely find that both San Diego and Los Angeles offer a variety of options at different price points. Luxury properties, as well as more affordable options, are available. Generally, Los Angeles can be a more expensive place to live in, but it really depends on the area. At a high level, the median home value and housing costs in Los Angeles is $629,900 vs. $572,100 in San Diego.

Pace of life 

When comparing Los Angeles to San Diego, it’s important to consider your desired pace of life. While all of Southern California is going to be more relaxed than you would find on the East Coast, San Diego moves at a slightly slower pace than Los Angeles. Additionally, with its size, there are often more events happening in Los Angeles in comparison to San Diego. But, like with anything when preparing for a move, think about what your top priorities are and let that be a starting point for your decision for the best place to move to.

Quality of life: San Diego vs. Los Angeles

Deciding whether to live in San Diego or Los Angeles depends on what suits you best. San Diego’s relaxed vibe and beautiful beaches make it perfect for those who enjoy nature. In contrast, Los Angeles offers a vibrant cultural scene and diverse neighborhoods, but you’ll have to deal with the city’s infamous traffic. It’s all about picking the lifestyle that fits you. Now, let’s dive into the details.  

Choosing the right option for you

Choosing between San Diego vs. Los Angles can be a tough choice for some people. Here are a few key points to remember when making your final decision:

If you are considering making the move between Los Angeles and San Diego or are looking to relocate to Southern California and have just started exploring your options, our agents in both counties would love to show you around and help you decide which is the right choice for you.

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