Where to Live: Los Angeles, NYC, or San Francisco

Choosing where to live is quite possibly one of the, if not the, biggest decisions you can be faced with. With an infinite number of possibilities, relocating can be an overwhelming process that requires a thorough consideration of many factors.

Whether you are moving for work, family, or personal reasons, this important choice will impact your future for years to come.

Los Angeles, New York City (NYC), and San Francisco are three of the most popular places in the United States.

They are all known for their unique cultures, standout businesses, and as pivotal hubs of human activity. But of the three, which one would be the best place to live?

In this article, we take a look at a series of critical features so that you can make an informed decision on where to put down your roots.

Population: How crowded is it?

For some, the busyness of a jam-packed city is exactly what they are looking for. For others, they may prefer the quietness of a secluded town. If you belong to the latter, then Los Angeles, NYC, and San Francisco may not be for you.

In terms of absolute numbers, NYC easily takes first place, with a population more than twice that of Los Angeles. San Francisco comes in last with a population of approximately 850,000.

For the past couple of years, due to the global pandemic, some have transitioned from on-site work to working from home. Not having to commute, many have moved out of downtown city cores into surrounding suburban areas.

This not only increases affordability but also offers professionals additional space that may not be available in city condos.

Large coastal cities, such as San Francisco and NYC, have witnessed such shifts recently. When it comes to population density, NYC is by far the most crowded.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

  Los Angeles NYC San Francisco
Population 3,849,297 8,467, 513 842,754
Female population, percentage 50.7% 52.3% 49.0%
Male population, percentage 49.3% 47.7% 51.0%
Median age, years 34.6 36.2 38.3
Population density, thousand per km area 2.4 15.36 2.1

Cost of Living: Will I be able to support my expenses?

It is a good idea to look into each city’s average cost of living. This value becomes all the more important if you have a partner or family that will be moving with you.

With children, you will potentially have to factor in schooling, daycare, healthcare, and other expenses that would otherwise not apply.

If you are relocating on a budget, there may be certain cities with higher costs that you may want to avoid committing to.

Based on current averages, Los Angeles seems to have the lowest cost of living compared to NYC and San Francisco.

Whether you are single, or part of a family of four, monthly costs, average rental fees, and the cost of general needs (i.e. food and transportation) are on the low end among the three cities.

Between NYC and San Francisco, there does not appear to be much of a difference. The cost of living, renting, food and transportation are all on par with each other.

  Los Angeles NYC San Francisco
For a single person per month , without rent $1,078.15 $1,383.13 $1328.73
For a family of four, per month, without rent $3,930.25 $5,097.99 $4,801.57
Average rent of a one-bedroom apartment in city centre, per month   $2,471.73 $3,409.40 $3,159.96
Gasoline costs, per liter $1.60 $1.24 $1.58
Meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant, three course meal $90 $100 $90
One-way ticket for local transportation $1.75 $2.75 $2.98

* All values are reported in USD , source



Employment Opportunities: How much can I make?

Despite remote jobs and digital workspaces, employment and job opportunities remain one of the most influential factors when it comes to finding your next home.

Evidently, these can vary from state to state—especially within different fields of work. To start, do a quick search on positions available within your niche and industry.

This will allow you to acquire a broad gauge of where opportunities are available as well as where they be lacking.

With that said, income levels for the same jobs also differ between states. In general though, the same positions tend to earn more in locations where the cost of living is higher.

If we take a look at Los Angeles, NYC, and San Francisco specifically, it appears that (on average) San Franciscans make more than their LA and NYC counterparts.

This is interesting considering San Francisco does not have the highest cost of living based on conventional estimates.

  Los Angeles NYC San Francisco
Average monthly salary (after tax) $5,903.87 $6,361.08 $8,233.89

* All values are reported in USD , source

San Francisco

San Francisco

Crime Rates and Injury Statistics: Is it safe?

Safety is such a crucial thing to consider when deciding on where to live—even if it is just for a temporary amount of time.

Choosing an area with low crime rates helps minimize local dangers and threats, allowing you to feel secure in your new home.

When it comes to screening for crimes, be sure to include the various types of crime in your investigation; this can have an impact on the relevant kinds of insurance you need and their costs.

When we compare LA, NYC, and San Francisco, we see that San Francisco appears to have the worst safety rating overall (based on crime index). This is interesting, considering San Francisco has the lowest population density.

Of the three, it leads in the amount of burglary cases reported (per 1000). Below are some resources available to you when it comes to looking at crime in an area:

  Los Angeles NYC San Francisco
Crime Index (100 being the safest) 14 19 4
Violent crimes, annual 29,022 9,829 4,922
Crime rate, per 1000 residents 7.44 5.80 5.63
Burglary, per 1000 residents 3.74 2.38 8.60

Source: Neighborhood Scout

John Lamparski

Source: John Lamparski/ Getty Images

Area and Neighbourhoods: How large is the city?

With a larger population and a much smaller area, NYC is much denser than Los Angeles, so if you enjoy the hustle and bustle of a busy city, NYC might be a great fit for you!

New York City itself can be split into five boroughs: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.

Each of these boroughs is like a smaller city within New York and contains many neighbourhoods, each with their own culture and flavor.


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Los Angeles also has its own collection of communities, including: the Santa Monica area, Malibu, the Westside, Beverly Hills, and the Hollywood area. Some say that there are 88 individual areas incorporated across LA! Venice Beach is known for its long stretches of, well.. beach.

Here, you can surf, swim, paddleboard, and lie on the sand to your heart’s content. Hollywood, on the other hand, is the centre of this star-studded city.

There is so much human traffic, both from locals and tourists. In general though, no matter where you are in LA, you can expect bright and sunny days ahead.

Although smaller in size, San Francisco contains a set of well-known neighbourhoods and subsections. There are five broad areas which include: Central/downtown, the Richmond area, Sunset, Upper Market, and Bernal Heights.

SanFrancisco 1


Each can then be further divided into smaller major neighbourhoods and districts. Diversity and inclusivity is one of San Francisco’s greatest highlights.

  Los Angeles NYC San Francisco
Area size 1299 km2 783.8 km2 121.4 km2
Notable neighbourhoods to live in Westwood

Culver City

Silver Lake

Upper East Side



Windsor Terrace


Pacific Heights

Noe Valley

Lower Nob Hill

Los Altos Hills


Source: Instagram

Healthcare: Will I be well taken care of?

If you are middle-aged and in good general health, things like long-term care and chronic healthcare may not be high up on your list of priorities.

However, as you age, healthcare and coverage become ever-growing concerns. No matter how well you take care of yourself, most of us require some form of help in our later years.

Measuring the quality of healthcare can be a difficult task. However, there are some basic indices that can be compared between cities.

Overall, it looks like the citizens of San Francisco are most satisfied with the healthcare they receive. Not only are their medical staff perceived

to be the most skillful and competent of the three cities, they have the best rating in terms of getting care in a reasonable amount of time (responsiveness).

  Los Angeles NYC San Francisco
Health care system index 61.80 61.12 64.30
Skill and competency of medical staff 67.36 73.96 75.20
Accuracy and completeness of filling out reports 70.61 72.90 72.73
Responsiveness (waiting) in medical institutions 51.97 49.66 56.91
Convenience of location 72.25 70.00 70.97

Source: Numbeo


Source: iStock

Transportation: Car, bus, or train?

With subways, light-rails, buses, and shuttles, Los Angeles has one of the country’s best transportation systems. Even if you don’t have a car, you will be able to easily navigate the city and reach your destinations.

The Los Angeles Metro is affordable (a single ride is $1.75) and covers practically all of LA county. There are reusable TAP cards that can be quickly purchased and reloaded as you go. LA’s bus system also has over 200 lines to help you get to where you need to be.

Up next is New York City. As one the most populous cities in the US, NYC has one of the most extensive subway systems in the world. It is also home to a bus system that traverses across all five boroughs.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is responsible for running NYC’s rail and subway system—all day, every day. Like LA, they also have reloadable MetroCards that you can use to pay for your travel fares.

You may have heard some horror stories about New York driving, and they are, in part, true. The city has some impressive costs for parking and heavily trafficked areas.

In San Francisco, Muni runs the bus and metro systems. They have buses, trains, cable cars, and heritage streetcars. Muni has their Muni Mobile App that enables easy payments and also offers a bunch of different options (1-day, 3-day, 7-day passes).

San Francisco is also known one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. Many opt to use their bikes to get around due to dedicated bike lanes and being able to save on rising gas prices.


Source: Pexels

The Weather: It really can affect your day-to-day mood

Do you like snow? Rain? Or do you prefer having sunny skies all year round? No matter where you live, the weather is one of the few things you will not be able to control.

It has a huge impact on your day-to-day activities and may be a make-or-break factor when deciding on where to live.

In Los Angeles, you will have warm summers and long, wet winters. Temperatures range from 9 to 30 °C across the year and warm temperatures usually persist from the beginning of July to late September.

There is not much rainfall during these months and, overall, Los Angeles humidity levels are quite comfortable.

NYC also has warm summers, but they are particularly humid. The winters are very cold and bring a hefty helping of snow. Temperatures vary between -2 to 29 °C and the best times to visit are from mid-June to early July.

With such a large range, you will get to experience the beauty of the four seasons, but this also means you will have to be dressed appropriately to brave both the heat and the cold.

Lastly, we have San Francisco which is known for its long comfortable summers and short winters—it really is quite lovely. Temperatures do not reach quite as high but sits at a comfortable range of 7 to 22 °C.

Summers typically last for 4 and a half months, between the months of June and late October.

  Los Angeles NYC San Francisco
Average annual temperature 17.6 °C 11.6 °C 17.1 °C


The hottest month of the year August (average 29 °C) July (reaches 28.9 °C) September (reaches 23 °C)


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