Moving to San Diego from another state

Are you thinking of moving to San Diego from another state? The idea of packing your entire life into a UHaul and hauling it across the country might send your anxiety through the roof, but be not afraid! We have a few tips and tricks to set you up for success before you even buy the packing tape.

Whether you’re only heading a few hundred miles, or trekking all the way from Boston, knowing these pointers can help to make your move to San Diego from another state as smooth and painless as possible.

What will it cost to get to San Diego?

The question of how much it costs to get to San Diego is a loaded question, because the answer will be different for everyone. First of all, if you already have a job and the move is mandated by your employer, you might have a relocation package provided from work, and that’s GREAT! Having your move paid for can honestly be the deciding factor for many as to whether or not they can afford to uproot their lives and move halfway (or more) across the county.

Even if your relocation package doesn’t cover absolutely everything, every little bit helps. If you’re a freelancer, in between jobs, or otherwise don’t have work lined up for your arrival, the cost of moving can be anywhere from a couple thousand dollars, all the way to $20,000  and more if you’re moving a four bedroom home, a family-worth of belongings, and even cars.

An average breakdown of the cost of moving might look something like this: moving truck: $7,500, shipping a car: $1,500, packing and supplies to move: $2,000, first month’s rent: $3,000, etc.

The cost of the move is very closely correlated to how many people you are relocating, and how much you need to take with you. A single person with few belongings could theoretically bring just a suitcase and purchase only a plane ticket. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, the most important thing is to plan a budget for the trip, project the expenses, and have savings to dip into or save up in advance of the move.

San Diego coastline at sunset, Moving to San Diego from another state

Research what part of town you want to live in:

Knowing the atmosphere you desire to live in San Diego is extremely important, so make a list! Decide what is most crucial to you and your family. Are you looking for good San Diego school districts? Perhaps you want to be close to your new workplace to ensure a brief commute. Maybe your number one goal is to live near one of our many beautiful SD beaches.

Once you have narrowed down your priorities, then the research can commence. Look for areas that offer what you need, and if you can’t seem to pare down the final contenders, local neighborhood YouTube videos and our San Diego neighborhood directory can be really helpful. These resources can give you eyes on the ground even if you aren’t there, allowing you to see what living in the area would actually be like.

Generally speaking, everyone wants to live near the coast, so property is harder to find and more expensive the closer to the beach you get. You can probably get a bigger home, with more yard space, garage space, and maybe even a pool for a fraction of what you’d pay for something even smaller that is close to the beach.

San Diego Marina walkway, Moving to San Diego from another state

Make sure you have a reliable car (or get one):

This point of consideration will mostly apply to those moving from cities like New York City or Chicago, where public transportation is commonly used and many people live without their own vehicles. San Diego (most of southern California, in fact) is very highway-centric, which means you will need a car if you’re moving to San Diego. The cities are large and spread out, and there aren’t many public transportation options that can actually see you completely from Point A to Point B.

In parts of San Diego people use the train to commute up and down the coast, which is both cost effective and a beautiful ride, but you’ll still probably need a vehicle if you plan to live in San Diego for awhile. You can definitely use rideshares to get around, but the cost is really going to add up. Before you leave your current home, decide if you’ll be shipping a car, driving it out, or buying once you get here.

And one additional thing to note if you’re going to drive or ship your current vehicle to San Diego – California has strict smog check regulations. It’s required for Californians to have their vehicle go through a smog inspection every other year, and if your vehicle doesn’t pass, you can no longer drive it in the state. So, if you have an older vehicle (we’re talking over 15 years old at least), then know that your car may not pass a San Diego smog inspection check.

San Diego bridge over the bay, Moving to San Diego from another state

Plan your visit to the California DMV:

Most people consider the Department of Motor Vehicles to be a circle of Hell Dante failed to mention in Inferno, but it’s a grin and bear it experience, because we all have to go through it. California requires residents to get their California drivers license within ten days of becoming a California resident. This isn’t a lot of time when you have just made a move (don’t worry, almost NOBODY actually does it on time.)

With the massive population density in Southern California, it can take half of the day standing in line just to get to the front door, only to get a number and wait even longer. Making sure you make a reservation for an appointment at the San Diego DMV is a game changer. This doesn’t mean you won’t still wait in a line. Usually getting an appointment as early as possible in the day means you will beat all of the people trying to fit their visit in on their lunch break or after work.

Even among the “appointment people” there’s still plenty of hurry up and wait, so bring a book or your laptop and just commit to the wait. Make sure you have double checked on the DMV website to assure you have all of the needed documents to get your new drivers license and that you’ve read all material you might need to study for taking the written test. Usually, if you have a valid driver’s license from another state, you do not need to take the driving portion of the test to get your California driver’s license, only the written portion about traffic laws and signage.

San Diego highway traffic, Moving to San Diego from another state

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San Diego Earthquakes and Wildfires:

You don’t need to worry about hurricanes or tornadoes in San Diego, but you aren’t out of the reach of natural disasters. The California coast is well known for experiencing both earthquakes and wildfires. Fire and earthquake insurance can be purchased by Californians, but you by no means need it. Sometimes the deductibles on this particular kind of insurance are exorbitant, so even if you do experience home damage due to one of these natural disasters, it would have to be a lot before your insurance will cover the damages. In reality, most residents of SoCal only feel a couple of earthquakes a year, and the fires tend to stay in highly wooded areas. The gamble is absolutely up to each individual, but it might sound like a scarier threat than it actually is.

When to best time your move to San Diego

If you’ve done all your research, looked around at neighborhoods, and still haven’t found your dream home and area, don’t fear! Many people make the move into short term rentals, and you can even find furnished short term rentals if that fits your needs. Airbnb monthly is a great resource, as well as sites like Hello Landing, designed specifically with the relocating new resident in mind.

The only catch to this pro tip is how many belongings you’ll be bringing with you. If you’re trying to fit everything you moved with into an already furnished home, this could be as easy as putting it all in a spare bedroom if you didn’t bring much, or nearly impossible. If you DO have a lot to bring, though it’s an added expense, you can also consider paid storage in your previous location. If you think paying for a storage unit back east for six months is absolutely worth getting to explore the town a little bit before settling down and buying (and saves you the hassle of moving everything out of a short term rental less than a year after you’ve arrived) this might be just the right move for you.

Personally, we booked two weekend trips to San Diego and explored the neighborhoods we had researched before committing to a place to call home. We did this 6 months prior to us moving, which gave us enough time to research the best place for us. But everyone is different and has a unique timeline. Luckily, San Diego is used to transplants wanting to live that SoCal coastal lifestyle at the drop of a hat, so there are plenty of options when it comes to finding a place to stay until you find your perfect home base.

Mission Beach in San Diego at sunset aerial view, Moving to San Diego from another state

The beauty of package lockers:

Like we’ve previously mentioned, timing is everything. If you know you’re moving and have maybe downsized some items, but also realized there are quite a few new things you’ve had to order. Then you might realize you don’t have an address yet for these items to be sent to. Usually, they can often be stored. Amazon, for instance, has locker facilities all across the country that can store your purchases until you arrive and can pick them up. This is particularly useful with household items like gifts that have been purchased for you, but you don’t want to haul them across the country, paying for the space they are taking up in the truck. These little resources are all around if you do a little bit of research, and doing the legwork beforehand makes the move that much more seamless!

Thinking of Moving to San Diego?

Now that you have all the pro tips you need, what are you waiting for? If you’re thinking of moving to San Diego, we have all the tricks of the trade, and everything you need to know for your new life in beautiful, sunny California! Reach out to us today.