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Bakersfield Cost of Living (2020) | Is it Affordable? [DATA]

Bakersfield, located in California’s San Joaquin Valley, is notable for its oil production and agriculture and it’s famous as the birthplace of American country music. This city of 385,000 also has something else to offer: it’s one of California’s most affordable cities.

What does it cost to live in Bakersfield? Is Bakersfield expensive or can you afford to live and work in the area? Here’s everything you should know about the cost of living in Bakersfield, CA, including an overview of housing costs, average household income in Bakersfield, taxes, and more.

Bakersfield Cost of Living Index

How much do I need to earn to live in Bakersfield? One of the best places to start to answer that question is by looking at the Bakersfield cost of living index.

The Bakersfield cost of living index is 110% which means Bakersfield is 10% more expensive than the national average. That doesn’t tell the entire story, though. Transportation is 27% higher than average due to Bakersfield’s higher gas prices and dependence on driving. Utilities are also costly at 42.6% above the national average.

What does it cost to live in Bakersfield in terms of housing? Your money will go far: Bakersfield housing costs are 9.5% below the national average! Compare that to high-cost areas in California like Los Angeles (128% above the national average) and San Francisco (265% higher).

You can also assess the Bakersfield cost of living by looking at the consumer price index (CPI). The CPI for Bakersfield’s region is 106.58, up 2.8% in the last year. This index examines the weighted average of consumer goods and services by averaging price changes for items like housing, clothing, transportation, groceries, and education. This number is based on the index average for 1982 to 1984 when it was set at 100.

Average Household Income & Salary in Bakersfield

The cost of housing in Bakersfield and average grocery prices don’t help much without knowing your potential income. The average salary in Bakersfield is $66,000 while the average hourly wage is $17.42 (mean hourly wage is $23.77). Wages have trended slightly downward over the last year.

Here’s the average income in Bakersfield for several common careers:

  • Registered nurse: $37/hour
  • Administrative assistant: $15/hour
  • Office manager: $52k/year
  • Human Resources manager: $69k/year
  • Information Technology manager: $82k/year

The Bakersfield economy is dominated by agriculture, energy, and health care. Top employers in the city include:

  • Kern County
  • Giumarra Companies
  • Grimmway Farms
  • Bolthouse Farms
  • Bakersfield Memorial Hospital
  • City of Bakersfield
  • Mercy Hospitals of Bakersfield
  • ARB
  • Kern Medical Center

As with any other city, median income in Bakersfield depends on your industry. Here’s the local average salary in Bakersfield for several top industries.

  • Farming and forestry: $11.77/hour, $24k/year
  • Office and administrative support: $18.43/hour, $38k/year
  • Sales: $17.96/hour, $37k/year
  • Education: $31.65/hour, $66k/year
  • Healthcare practitioners: $40.66/hour, $86k/year

Cost of Groceries, Food, Gas & Household Items in Bakersfield, CA

Bakersfield is more affordable than many areas of California but you’ll notice high energy costs, especially for electricity. The average electric bill in Bakersfield is $239.41 compared to the national average of $110. The average water bill in Bakersfield is about $65 per month, lower than many areas thanks to the city’s huge underground aquifer and the Kern River. The average cost of groceries in Bakersfield is in line with the national average.

  • Steak (Ribeye, 1 lb): $9.23
  • Milk (Whole, 1/2 gallon): $2.21
  • Eggs (1 dozen, grade A): $2.52
  • Potatoes (5 lb bag): $3.54
  • Bread (Wheat, 1 loaf): $3.99
  • Beer (Heineken’s 6 pack): $9.48
  • Movie (first run): $10.53
  • McDonald’s burger (1/4 pounder): $4.29
  • Average cell phone bill: $172.05
  • Average cost of gasoline: $3.560
  • Average cost of utilities: $300.19

Bakersfield Real Estate Market

Looking at real estate prices is a great way to assess the cost of living in Bakersfield. Planning to buy a house? You’re not alone — Bakersfield’s affordable housing market is one of the biggest reasons people move to the city.

Bakersfield has a median home price of $259,000. That’s a bit higher than the U.S. average of $227,000 but impressive for a city in California! The Bakersfield housing market is so affordable that over half of Bakersfield residents can qualify to buy a house, twice the California average.

Bakersfield has recently had a surge in new home construction with master-planned communities catering to both entry-level home buyers and buyers looking for luxury homes. Some custom homes in Bakersfield sell for $1 million while mid-priced new homes are starting in the $400s for at least 2,500 square feet of living space.

Bakersfield Rental Market – Average Rent in Bakersfield, CA

Bakersfield has a slightly lower homeownership than average with about 41% of residents renting their homes. How much does it cost to live in Bakersfield as a renter? You can expect very affordable rent for California.

The average rent in Bakersfield is $918, according to RentJungle. The average apartment rent in Bakersfield for a one-bedroom apartment is just $753.

Just be prepared for a tight rental market in Bakersfield and low vacancy rates.

East Bakersfield has the lowest cost of living in Bakersfield with average rent of $693 but vacancy rates are very low here. You can usually find similarly low rent prices in the northern part of Bakersfield. The northwest area of Bakersfield is the most expensive in terms of rent: Bakersfield rent in this area for a two-bedroom apartment is between $1,125 and $1,525.

Sales, Income & Property Taxes in Bakersfield, CA

While the Bakersfield cost of living may be low compared to most cities in California, don’t forget to consider taxes. California has among the highest sales and income tax rates in the country and Bakersfield is no exception.

State of California Income Tax Rate

Brace yourself for high income taxes in Bakersfield. The California income tax rate ranges from 1% (on the first $8,544) to 13.3%. The top tax rate of 12.3% applies to taxable income of $572,981 and there’s a 1% surcharge (a mental health services tax) on taxable income over $1 million.

Bakersfield Sales Tax Rate

Sales tax in Bakersfield is 8.250%. This Bakersfield sales tax is a combined rate including state, county, and city sales tax. The state sales tax rate is 6%.

Bakersfield Property Tax Rate

The average property tax bill in Kern County is $1,746. The typical Bakersfield property tax rate is 0.8% of the property’s assessed fair market value. Your tax rate may be higher if you live in a special district with an extra assessed tax.

Bakersfield vs Fresno Cost of Living

Fresno vs Bakersfield: the two San Joaquin Valley cities draw a lot of comparisons, especially in terms of affordability. So, what is the difference in the Bakersfield vs. Fresno cost of living?

In general, Fresno is more affordable than Bakersfield, but not in every area. According to Numbeo, groceries are around 20% cheaper in Fresno but Bakersfield has a higher median household income. You’ll also pay less for rent: average rent is $918 in Bakersfield compared to $1,100 in Fresno.

Read our complete Bakersfield vs. Fresno guide for a more in-depth comparison between these two cities!

While Bakersfield can be expensive when it comes to utilities and transportation, it’s otherwise a great choice for affordable living. As you can see, Bakersfield offers a rarity in California: affordable rent and low home prices close to the national average. Considering moving to Bakersfield? Call the trusted Bakersfield movers at Mentors Moving & Storage for your free moving quote!

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