Photo of Route 1 in California

Where California’s Household Bills are the Most Expensive

How does living in the Golden State affect your wallet? doxo breaks down key insights about California’s household bills, with a close eye to how expenses differ in towns and cities across the state. The average household in California, doxo’s data reveals, pays $2,562 in bills per month.

doxo’s data also has infographics for 34 cities and towns across California, breaking down localized bill pay data figures as well. The state-wide rankings for most and least expensive cities provide insight into cost of living in California and how it changes according to location.

The data sheds light on California’s cost of living through other metrics, too. For example, the “percent of household income” data point shows what percentage of household income local residents spend on bills. doxo’s data also indicates how much more or less expensive specific cities are than the national and state average.

California residents pay $2,562 in household bills a month

The average California household pays $2,562 a month for the 10 most common household bills. This figure takes into account the 10 most common household bills, which are: Mortgage; Rent; Auto Loan; Utilities (electric, gas, water & sewer, and waste & recycling); Auto Insurance; Cable & Internet & Phone, Health Insurance (consumer paid portion); Mobile Phone; Alarm & Security; and Life Insurance.

Only Hawaii bears higher costs to consumers than California, at $2,755 on average per month for residents. This is 35.7% higher than the national average of $1,889.

Absolute dollar amounts don’t tell the full story, however. The “percentage of household income” metric provides a more proportional look at bill spending in a particular location. For example, New Jersey is the 3rd most expensive state and Alaska is the 4th most expensive, but Alaskans spend 37.5% of their income on bills, while New Jersey residents spend only 35.4%. Still, California residents spend more than both groups on bills, at 39.7% of household income.

Annually, California residents pay $387 billion in household bills. See more data about bill pay in California by clicking on the infographic link below.

Data: doxoINSIGHTS’ bill pay infographic about California

Map of the US with California shaded on it
  • Average Bill Cost per HH: $2,562 per month
  • State Bill Pay Market Size: $387 billion
  • doxoINSIGHTS State Rank: 2 out of 50
  • Percent of HHI Used for Bills: 39.7%
  • Difference from the National Average: 35.7% higher
  • Share of Bills Paid by Credit Card: 12%

Housing bill category drives California’s higher monthly bill expenses

The average California household pays $2,562 in the 10 most common household bills per month. Rent and mortgage are the largest expenses of this share, both considerably higher than the national average. The average mortgage payment in California is $2,097, and average rent is $1,570.

Other than housing-related expenses, auto loans are the largest of the 10 most common bills for Californians. The average auto loan bill in California is $448 a month, compared to the national average of $411.

Utilities is also a notably higher expense for residents of California. The average household in the state pays $346 a month for utilities, compared to the national average of $316.

Auto insurance, however, is an exception. While US residents on average spend $185 per month on car insurance, in California they spend just $159. This is the only bill, in fact, that California residents spend less on than the national average.

Note: Health Insurance and Life Insurance expenses do not account for payments made by employers on behalf of employees. These just include out-of-pocket expenses.

Average California Household Bill Spending

Bill CategoryAverage California Monthly BillNational Average Monthly BillCalifornia Percent +/- National Average ($1,889)
Mortgage$2,097$1,279+64.0%
Rent$1,570$1062+47.8%
Auto Loan$448$411+9.0%
Utilities$346$316+9.5%
Auto Insurance$159$185-16.7%
Cable & Internet$118$115+2.6%
Health Insurance$127$113+12.4%
Mobile Phone$109$102+6.7%
Alarm & Security$97$87+11.5%
Life Insurance$97$88+10.2%
Total$2,562$1,889+35.7%

San Jose tops the list of most expensive cities for California’s household bills

Residents of the San Jose metro area (including Sunnyvale and Santa Clara as well) pay the highest household bills in the state of California, at an average of $3,151 per month. This is 66.8% higher than the national average of $1,889. The San Francisco Bay area (including Oakland and Berkeley) comes second in the rankings, with residents paying $3,080 on average per month.

Access detailed infographics about each city or town by clicking on the hyperlinks in the “City” column in the tables below. You can also browse doxoINSIGHTS’ regional bill comparison database to see infographics about more than 900 cities and towns across all 50 states in the US.

Note: Some city data includes surrounding metro areas and neighboring towns, as designated in the US Census Bureau’s Core Based Statistical Areas. (For example, Los Angeles data is grouped with data from nearby Long Beach and Anaheim, since Census Bureau’s CBSA for Los Angeles does the same.)

10 Most Expensive California Cities for Household Bills

Rank
(1-10 out of 34)
City Monthly Bill Expenses Per Household* Percent of Household Income Used for Bills Percent +/- from State Average ($2,562) Percent +/- from National Average ($1,889)
1San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara area$3,15131.6%+23.0%+66.8%
2San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley area$3,08035.1%+20.2%+63.0%
3Santa Cruz, Watsonville area$3,02944.8%+18.2%+60.4%
4Salinas$2,85947.8%+11.6%+51.4%
5Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Ventura area$2,80038.5%+9.3%+48.2%
6Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim area$2,75344.3%+7.5%+45.8%
7San Diego, Chula Vista, Carlsbad area$2,66840.8%+4.1%+41.2%
8Santa Maria, Santa Barbara area$2,64642.4%+3.3%+40.1%
9Napa$2,63436.9%+2.8%+39.4%
10Santa Rosa, Petaluma area$2,55539.6%+0.3%+35.3%

*Household Bill Pay Expense averages shown above reflect the ten most common bills paid, including housing (rent/mortgage).

In proportion to household income, however, the Bay Area’s bills are costlier than ones in San Jose. While San Jose’s monthly bill basket makes up 31.6% of average household income there, San Francisco’s bill basket accounts for 4.5% more of average household income: 35.1%

Urban centers in California, perhaps unsurprisingly, are some of the most expensive places to live in the state. For example, in addition to San Jose and the Bay Area, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles are also featured on the list of the 10 most expensive towns and cities. All 10 cities on the list have bill baskets that cost over $2,500 per month.

Clearlake is the most affordable California city for household bills

The most affordable cities and towns in California, meanwhile, tend to be smaller on average than the most expensive ones. Clearlake, with a population of 15,000, is the most affordable, with residents paying $1,700 on average for household bills, 10% lower than the national average. Household bills account for 45.6% of local income in Clearlake.

Crescent City comes in at the second most affordable town or city in California, with residents paying $1,741 per month on average, at 7.9% lower than the national average.

Also on the list of 10 least expensive cities in California are Susanville ($1,818 per month), Merced ($1,900 per month), and Redding ($1,787 per month).

10 Most Affordable California Cities for Household Bills

Rank
(25-34 out of 34)
City Monthly Bill Expenses Per HouseholdPercent of Household Income Used for Bills Percent +/- from State Average ($2,562)Percent +/- from National Average ($1,889)
25Sonora$1,92341.3%-24.9%+1.8%
26Red Bluff$1,90154.0%-25.8%-0.7%
27Merced$1,90045.1%-25.8%-0.6%
28Hanford, Corcoran area$1,88040.8%-26.6%-0.5%
29Susanville$1,84437.8%-28.0%-2.4%
30El Centro$1,81846.4%-29.0%-3.8%
31Visalia$1,81345.3%-29.2%-4.0%
32Redding$1,78742.0%-30.2%-5.4%
33Crescent City$1,74145.6%-32.1%-7.9%
34Clearlake$1,70045.6%-33.6%-10.0%

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some Californians may be deciding whether to move from a more expensive city to a less expensive one. doxoINSIGHTS’ report can be a valuable resource for consumers seeking to make decisions like this, allowing them to compare average expenses in different cities. They can also use doxoINSIGHTS’ regional bill comparison database to compare average costs for over 900 towns and cities across the country.

Last month, research from doxo also showed how the rise in remote work also led to elevated household expenses in certain key bill categories, specifically Utilities, Cable & Internet, and Mobile Phone.

If you have any questions or would like to sign up for updates to doxoINSIGHTS’ research, email aria.thaker@doxo.com

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