Downtown San Jose at sunset. The sky is tinged pink and blue and bathes the high-rises and townhomes in a warm, soft light.

Living in San Jose, California: Where Innovation Meets Diversity, Arts, and Culture

San Jose California

by Matt Lyons Posted on December 11, 2023
San Jose is an innovative and diverse city in the state of California, defined by its world-renowned companies, top-rated schools, and variety of fun attractions both indoors and outdoors in the surrounding natural beauty. The abundance of job opportunities, along with everything to do in the area, is what makes living in San Jose, California, so desirable for all walks of life, from young professionals to families to retirees.
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Downtown San Jose during the day.

Living in San Jose at a Glance:

  • San Jose lies 50 miles southeast of San Francisco, in the Santa Clara Valley, along Coyote Creek and the Guadalupe River.
  • San Jose is currently the third largest city in California and the most populous component of the metropolitan area around the bay.
  • The total land area of San Jose is approximately 178 square miles.
  • As of July 2022, the population in San Jose was estimated to be around 971,200.
  • The median age in San Jose is 37.5, yet almost 22 percent of the population are people under 18 years old.

Living in San Jose – FAQs

Q: Is San Jose, California a good place to live?
With fantastic job opportunities, attractions for people of all ages, natural beauty, lovely neighborhoods, good schools, and more, San Jose has just about everything you could ask for in a quality place to live.

Q: What salary do you need to live in San Jose?
According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, a single adult should make around $46,100 annually after taxes to live comfortably. For a family of four with at least one parent working, an annual income of closer to $90,600 after taxes is ideal.

Q: Is 100k enough to live in San Jose?
According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, you can live comfortably on $100,000 in San Jose if you are single or married and have up to two kids. If your household contains any more than 4 people overall, $100,000 might be cutting it tight.

Q: Is it expensive to live in San Jose?
Unfortunately, it’s very expensive to live in San Jose, as the cost of living is over 100 percent more than the national average!

1. Living Perks in San Jose Come With a Higher Price.

You may need to spend a little bit more time building your savings up if you’re planning a move to San Jose, as the average cost of living in San Jose, California, is significantly higher than the U.S. average — and even California’s average. 

Cost of Living in San Jose: 231
Cost of Living in California: 149.9
Cost of Living in the U.S.: 100

Housing costs, food, transportation, health care, and taxes are some of the main factors that go into the cost of living index. The factors that contribute the most to San Jose’s high cost of living? That’s housing and transportation. 

2. Living in San Jose Pros and Cons Should Be Considered.

Even though San Jose may be one of California’s largest cities, attracting new residents from all over the world, there are still going to be downsides that go along with all of the city’s impressive features. Here are a couple of the major pros and cons you can expect to encounter after your move. 

Pro: Plenty of Job Opportunities
Silicon Valley is home to various prominent tech headquarters, including Google in Mountain View and Apple in Cupertino. Other prominent companies in the city include Adobe, Western Digital, and Cisco Systems. 

Con: Commute Times 
Because San Jose is situated in such a populated metro area, traffic can be a major issue in the city — especially around rush hour. 

Pro: Ideal Weather 
You won’t have to worry about starting your car early and wiping off the snow from your car’s windows anytime in San Jose, as the city gets warm and sunny weather all year, with an average of 300 days of sunshine per year. 

Con: The Busy Atmosphere 
Along with a greater influx of traffic due to the high population, it will pretty much feel crowded everywhere you go in San Jose, including restaurants, attractions, and on public transportation. Those who enjoy more of a laid-back lifestyle might not find much comfort while living in San Jose. 

Pro: Natural Beauty in the Heart of the Bay Area 
Residents of San Jose have easy access to some of the country’s most beautiful sights, such as the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Diablo Range that cradle the city. 

Con: Limited Parking 
Because of the high population density in San Jose, street parking is very difficult in certain areas, and sometimes the parking garages are just too expensive for comfort. Living in an apartment within the city could get tricky, as you might have to look for a new parking spot nearly every day.

Pro: Access to Entertainment
Whether it be museums, sporting events, or dog-friendly parks around the area, San Jose’s entertainment options will have people from all walks of life feeling fulfilled! 

Con: Natural Disasters
Earthquakes, wildfires, and floods are all types of natural disasters that can take place in San Jose. While the city works to try and mitigate some of these risks, it’s always important to take the proper precautions in the event of a disaster striking. 

A residential street in San Jose, California

3. San Jose’s Housing Prices May Surpass Your Budget. 

As mentioned earlier, a large part of San Jose’s overall cost of living comes from the housing market, with the average home price in the area estimated at nearly $1,330,700.  When comparing this price to California’s average home price of $746,500, you may be reconsidering if living in San Jose is truly worth the price point. 

However, whether you are looking for a single-family home, townhouse, duplex, or condo, San Jose has you covered. And when you visit San Jose for the first time, you’ll notice the beautiful variety of architectural influences in every neighborhood, such as Victorian-, Stick-, and Shingle-style homes. 

4. Renting vs Buying Could Save Your Bank Account.

When planning a move to San Jose, CA, making the choice to rent instead of buying a home right away might just allow for more time to build up that savings account. The average monthly rent is around $2,950 for a one-bedroom apartment in San Jose, with an average apartment size of nearly 900 square feet. 

Apartment hunting in San Jose online can give you better insight into some of the options available out there, with studio apartments generally always being the most affordable. Two- and three-bedroom apartments provide you with lots more space for comfort but ultimately come with a higher cost. 

5. Here Are the Best Places To Live in San Jose.

A birds-eye view of the West San Jose neighborhood

1. West San Jose, CA

Just a quick drive away from downtown San Jose, the neighborhood of West San Jose truly has it all, as it’s currently ranked as the best neighborhood to live in the city by Niche. With public schools ranked among the best in the area, families considering a move to San Jose should look to West San Jose first.

There are also plenty of amenities available to residents living in West San Jose, including fabulous shopping experiences at Santana Row and the Westfield Valley Fair Mall (one of the largest malls in the U.S.).And the Winchester Mystery House is a must-visit local attraction for those who enjoy learning about bizarre history!

2. Campbell, CA

First established in 1952, the neighborhood of Campbell is home to quite the amount of rich history. For instance, this neighborhood is the home of Pierre Omidyar, the original founder of eBay. 

Young professionals will want to know more about Campbell due to its vibrant downtown district, which is home to over 100 shops, restaurants, and other kinds of services. And outdoor enthusiasts have easy access to both Los Gatos Creek County Park and Campbell Park, great places to walk, bring your dog, and even fish. 

3. Rose Garden, CA

Rose Garden is one of the most charming places in the San Jose area. It’s another neighborhood close to downtown that gets its name from the gorgeous display of rose varieties throughout the neighborhood’s gardens and public parks

There is somewhere in Rose Garden to explore for all ages; however, there are a variety of attractions catered toward the retired population. Retirees can keep up an active lifestyle by taking strolls at the Guadalupe River Park and Gardens, along with visiting other attractions full of arts and culture, such as the San Jose Museum of Art and the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. 

6. Public Transportation Is Available To Help With the Headache of Driving in the City.

You can cut down on your commute time and lower your stress level by utilizing a couple different options for public transportation and rideshare services local to San Jose. Most residents rely on the VTA light rail to get around the city and nearby areas, which can be done at an affordable price. Another option is the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, which connects San Jose with some other suburban areas and offers routes to other cities such as Oakland and San Francisco. 

Because San Jose is so spread out, it might be easier to have your own car when needing to travel certain places; however, the public transportation services of San Jose can still get you to where you need to be the majority of the time.

A drone shot of Stanford University shot with a fisheye lens.

7. Top Schools in CA Are Found in San Jose.

Stanford University; the University of California, Santa Cruz; and San Jose State University are among the best higher-education options in San Jose that are also ranked as some of the best schools in the entire nation. 

The public school system in San Jose is also highly rated, and families have a plethora of options when it comes to private schools, if that’s where they would prefer to send their kids. The high schools within San Jose are ranked the highest, which include the University Preparatory Academy Charter School, Lynbrook High School, and Mission Early College High.

8. San Jose Is for the Hockey Fans.

San Jose has a warm climate all year, so you might be surprised to learn just how popular the sport of hockey is in the city. The SAP center is a great place to catch a game with family and friends, where you can cheer on the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are a beloved team who play in the Pacific Division of the NHL.

Enjoying getting out and playing hockey versus just watching it? The Sharks Ice at San Jose is a must visit with the family, accommodating ice hockey, figure skating, and, of course, public skating. 

9. Here’s a Closer Look at What To Expect From the Weather/Climate in San Jose.

In San Jose's summer season, high temperatures usually range from 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The lowest temperatures will generally reach anywhere between 55 and 60 degrees. The sea breeze of the bay can sometimes help alleviate some of the high temperatures during these summer months.

The wet season in San Jose begins in November and ends in March, with a little over 80 percent of the city's annual precipitation occurring during this period. The average rainfall is only around 0.20 inches in the summer, as a comparison.

The wet season throughout the fall and winter is going to cause some cooler temperatures, but nothing even close to freezing, as in other areas of the country like the northeast. And the dry season during spring and summer is characterized by warm and sunny days.

10. San Jose Crime Rates Are Higher Than the National Average.

In San Jose, the crime rate is significantly higher than many other areas in the rest of the country; however, it doesn't have the highest crime rate. Your chances of being a victim of property/violent crime in the city is 1 in 33. According to data collected by the FBI that was analyzed by Neighborhood Scout, the crime rate in San Jose is 83 percent higher than California's other towns and cities of all different sizes.

The rate of motor vehicle theft within San Jose is among the highest in the nation, exceeding communities of all sizes. Residents within this area have a car theft probability of one in 124.

Reusable bags filled with fresh vegetables, including kale, red peppers, and lettuce.

11. The City Emphasizes Reusable Bags To Protect the Environment.

San Jose is known for its progressive policies and encourages residents to reduce their use of plastic products. To help the environment, the city has a Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance, which encourages residents to bring reusable bags to their local stores. If you forget your own bag, you'll have to pay a fee of around $0.10 for each paper bag you need.

If you're planning on relocating to California from out of state, this policy may come as a bit of a surprise at first. However, the reduction in plastic usage in the community has prompted many residents to become more conscious of their impact on the environment.

12. There’s No Better Place To Find Quality Japanese/Vietnamese Food Than in San Jose.

One of the three remaining Japantowns in the nation can be found in San Jose, located on Jackson Street in downtown. Residents can learn more about the culture and history of Japanese Americans by visiting the area's Japanese American Museum, which also has rotating exhibits of art, history, and culture. Local Japanese restaurants include Happi House Famous Teriyaki and Kazoo Japanese Restaurant.  

San Jose is also home to a prevalent Vietnamese culture. If you are ever craving authentic Pho, you can visit some of the local restaurants that include Pho Kim Long as well as Pho Viet and Pho Dao.

13. San Jose Is Dog-Friendly in Every Aspect.

If you are looking to adopt a dog or have one already, San Jose is a dog-friendly area with plenty of dog-friendly apartments and outdoor activities that allow you to bring your pet along. The weather outside is almost always sunny in San Jose, making it easy to take frequent walks and check out local dog parks. 

Dog parks and dog-friendly places in San Jose include:

  • Saratoga Creek Dog Park: This dog park is great for both people and their dogs alike to socialize, with a variety of picnic tables to enjoy. Something to keep in mind about this park is that it doesn't have separate areas for large and small dogs, which could be an issue for certain breeds.
  • Almaden Quicksilver County Park: This park is a great place for local residents to visit who like to keep themselves (and their pets) in shape. With over 4,000 acres in size to explore, you can take walks up high hills and check out San Jose’s most beautiful views.

14. Residents Should Take Advantage of Outdoor Activities.

Speaking of beautiful views, because the Bay Area is home to so many beautiful parks and nature preserves, like the Alum Rock Park, Coyote Creek Trail, and the Santa Cruz Mountains, the abundance of local outdoor activities to engage in never gets old. From hiking to biking to fishing and camping, outdoor enthusiasts living in San Jose will always find a way to keep busy. 

Along with having the best access to outdoor activities right outside your door in San Jose, the breathtaking California coastline is not too far away, where you can lay out by the sun or get some pretty views of the ocean. 

15. There Are Plenty of Fun Things To Do in San Jose, California.

Arts and museums are truly the main attraction in San Jose, and there are so many places to choose from that it almost feels overwhelming. 

Favorite things to do by residents in San Jose include visiting:

  • The Tech Interactive: A family-friendly science and technology center with interactive hands-on activities, labs, and innovative design challenge experiences to inspire the youth. 
  • San Jose Museum of Art: A popular attraction for arts/culture enthusiasts, with exhibitions devoted to artists from California that showcase paintings, sculptures, drawings, and much more. 
  • Monopoly in the Park: A “larger-than-life” size Monopoly, one of the world’s most popular board games. Play the game in real life on a permanent Monopoly board that’s over 900 square feet!

PODS containers on a truck, being shipped toward San Jose.

Silicon Valley Moves Are Done the Right Way With PODS

Getting to San Jose once you’ve chosen your new residence is easy with the help of portable moving containers from PODS, delivered right to your door. You can easily load and pack them on your own schedule, or you can get connected with local packing and loading services for additional support. Ready to pack but not move just yet? You can keep your belongings in a PODS Storage Center until you're ready for it. 

Editor’s note: For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.

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