San Diego, California, a beachside haven, is one of the top locations for those looking to rent or buy a home in the state. With calming views of the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay, stellar fish tacos, California burritos, and endless ways to spend your days, it shouldn’t come as a shock that nearly 1 million people are living in San Diego. If you’re considering buying a home or renting an apartment in San Diego, keep in mind that the median home sale price is $900,000 and the average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $2,890.
If that number is out of your budget, don’t worry. We’ve got options to help you find a home. We’ve collected the 8 best affordable San Diego suburbs to consider living in. And the best part is that they’re all less than 30 minutes away from the city center. If you decide to live in any of these suburbs, you’ll still be close enough to San Diego to explore the city’s great neighborhoods without the price of living there.
#1: Winter Gardens
With a median home sale price of $605,000, Winter Gardens lands the number one spot on our list as the most affordable San Diego suburb. Only a 25-minute drive away from San Diego, you can comfortably live in the suburb and still experience what the city offers.
#2: El Cajon
20 minutes away from downtown, you’ll find yourself in El Cajon. The city’s name means “the box” in Spanish, which describes the valley in which El Cajon is located. From parks and outdoor recreation to supporting local businesses, many things make El Cajon a great place to live. If you find yourself moving to the third most affordable suburb, make sure to visit the Olaf Wieghorst Museum.
#3: National City
A little more expensive than El Cajon is none other than National City. Home to 62,000 residents, this suburb is the second oldest community in San Diego and is full of rich history. Whether you decide to move to or visit National City, be sure to check out the four buildings in the city that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Granger Music Hall, Brick Row on Heritage Square, St. Matthews Episcopal Church, and the Santa Fe Rail Depot.
#4: Chula Vista
Only a 15-minute drive into the city, consider adding Chula Vista to your list of San Diego suburbs to see. With 285,500 residents, moving to this affordable suburb can keep you close enough to San Diego without paying the premium for a home there. Chula Vista features more than 52 square miles of coastal landscape, canyons, rolling hills, mountains, quality parks, and miles of trails. The area is also known for its great attractions, including the Living Coast Discovery Center and Aquatica San Diego.
#5: Lemon Grove (tie)
Located to the east of San Diego is the suburb of Lemon Grove, where the home prices are about $150K less than in San Diego. Home to 26,500 residents, Lemon Grove is known for its 3000-pound lemon monument that sits near the Orange Line trolley tracks. The area also features a variety of local shops and mom-and-pop restaurants for residents to enjoy.
#6: Santee (tie)
The next post on our list of affordable San Diego suburbs is Santee, which is roughly 25 minutes away from downtown. With a population of about 58,500, you’ll live in a smaller area, but there’s no shortage of things to experience in Santee. Don’t miss out on visiting Big Rock Park and checking out the Creation & Earth History Museum once moving here.
#7: Mira Mesa
Mira Mesa is a great place to consider moving to that will get you access to downtown San Diego in just about 25 minutes. Close to 44,000 people live in this neighborhood. Attractions in Mira Mesa include exploring Hourglass Community Park and San Diego Ice Arena.
Escondido takes the last spot on our list of affordable San Diego suburbs. Without traffic, you’ll find yourself in San Diego in roughly 30 minutes. This suburb has a population of 151,000 and is home to San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Dixon Lake, and Daley Ranch. You’ll have plenty of activities to explore during your free time living in this great suburb.
Methodology: Affordability is based on whether a suburb is less than the median sale price of San Diego and under a 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego. Median home sale price data from the Redfin Data Center during April 2022. Average rental data from Rent.com May 2022. Population data sourced from the United States Census Bureau.