21 Pros and Cons of Living in Sacramento, California

The community of Sacramento was named after the river which forms the western border of the city. It was named by Gabriel Moraga, a cavalry officer for Spain, referring to the Catholic Eucharist in doing so.

What put Sacramento on the map was the discovery of gold in the region. It happened at Sutter’s Mill, who arrived in Monterey in 1839. The governor gave him the land he wanted, establishing New Helvetia with the use of a private army and relative autonomy from the Mexican government. As prospectors arrived during the movement of the 49ers, Sutter’s ambitions floundered, and the modern city developed under the guidance of his son.

Although the city has struggled economically throughout much of its history, it is still growing rapidly as a community. Numerous suburbs provide families with modern amenities and reduced commuting times compared to what the rest of California experiences. A new arena for the Sacramento Kings of the NBA is fostering growth there as well.

List of the Pros of Living in Sacramento

1. There are plenty of neighborhoods from which to choose.
Although Sacramento is somewhat small when compared to the other cities in California along the coast, it is still larger than most communities in its northern region. It’s a mid-sized metro area that offers quiet, tree-lined streets and several different neighborhoods from which to choose. Midtown offers a fast-paced way of life, South Land Park features ranch-style homes from the 50’s and is near the state capital, and College Greens is where you’ll find the college.

East Sacramento is the upscale part of town that is more expensive, but it is also quiet and welcoming. You’ll find McKinley Park there, offering 32 acres of green space to enjoy. There are plenty of suburbs to settle down in as well.

2. Winter is rarely a problem when living in Sacramento.
When you get a little further north, closer to Mount Shasta, then you can start seeing feet of snow each winter. That isn’t the case when you live in Sacramento. Although native Californians sometimes feel like it gets too cold there, the season is mild, and precipitation is minor. There are subtle weather changes that you’ll enjoy when living here, and it is one of the few seasons where the autumn colors come out in full bloom.

Consider Apple Hill, which is about 60 minutes from the city. There are lots of apple orchards that allow you to pick your fruit.

3. The cost of living in Sacramento is lower than most parts of the state.
Sacramento seems to take the brunt of the tough economic times that California and the United States experience. Then the recovery period for the economy takes much longer to materialize. Some parts of the city are still trying to recoup after the 2007 recession, so housing prices are lower here than in most other places in the state. The cost of living is less as well. If you can secure a steady income before moving here, then you’ll find it to be a fairly affordable place to live according to California standards. Entry-level homes for families begin around $300,000, which is about 60% less than the coastal cities.

The cost of living in Sacramento is 5% higher than the national average, but Los Angeles is 21.5% above that figure. It is expensive to live in California, but it isn’t too bad in this city.

4. You’ll have access to numerous outdoor adventures.
When most people think about having access to water in California, they think about the coast and the Pacific Ocean. Although the state is fairly dry without much fresh water, that is not true for the Sacramento area. There are several large lakes and rivers for you to enjoy. One of the best activities that you can try when living here is to float down the river or splash in one of the watering holes. You can cool off without a long drive, enjoy some nature, and head up into the mountains for skiing in the winter.

The American River Parkway is a stretch of river and land that you’ll want to get to know when living here. More than a dozen parks are in this area, providing hiking, fishing, rafting, and boating activities.

5. Sacramento is one of the best cities for employment in the United States.
Not only is the cost of living an advantage for you to think about when living in Sacramento, but the robust job market is one of the best in the country. It ranks sixth according to Indeed when looking at salary, the number of postings, the unemployment rate, projected job growth, and the cost to live there.

Your salary will go over 20% further here than it would in Ventura, 17% further than San Diego, and 15% further that living and working in Los Angeles. The average salary for a job in the city is over $71,000 per year.

6. There is plenty of history to explore when living in Sacramento.
The discovery of gold here in 1848 shaped American history in numerous ways. Over 750,000 pounds of gold was eventually extracted during the rush, resulting in more than $2 billion of economic output in 1850 dollars. That’s the equivalent of $65.7 billion with today’s value, and all of that came through in just a few years.

You can visit Sutter’s Fort, Gold Rush Days, and the historic California State Library as a way to get to know the town. The world’s oldest triathlon is run in the city too, which uses kayaking instead of swimming for the water-based event.

7. There are weekend getaways all over the place for you when living in Sacramento.
One of the best advantages that come with living in Sacramento is the chance you have to take a weekend trip in any direction. You’re only a quick drive away from wine country, the mountains, or gaming. Some of the top places you can visit by hopping into your car include Napa and Sonoma, Yosemite, Muir Woods, Lassen National Park, Reno and Tahoe, or Apple Hill. Although you’ll want to leave early in the day to avoid traffic issues, the central location means a day trip can help you to avoid lodging expenses.

8. There are plenty of trees for you to enjoy when you call Sacramento home.
Downtown Sacramento enjoys the fact that it has one of the highest density rates of trees in the area than most other communities in the state. They even say that it is one of the best urban forests in the United States. There is a practical reason to keep this much shade available, since the summer heat can be scorching. Great care is given to them to ensure their health and growth. There are hundreds of parks around the city where you relax in the shade, enjoy a quiet lunch, or even take a nap if you wish.

9. Cultural experiences are plentiful when you live in the city.
Sacramento is one of the most diverse cities in California and the rest of the country. It can be fun to take a weekend trip away from the community sometimes, but there is a lot to see and do when stay home too. Annual festivals include Carnival, the Chinese New Year, and Cinco de Mayo. You can watch professional sports here, visit the Philharmonic and the Opera, or enjoy the public art featured at Wide Open Walls.

There is also a culture built around coffee in the city. Handmade drinks at gourmet shops create the perfect place to meet-up with friends or relax as you do some work. Some of them offer brunch on the weekends too.

10. Recycling is an expected activity in Sacramento.
Sacramento and the rest of northern California embrace the idea of being environmentally friendly. Making the effort to recycle, reduce fossil fuel consumption, and embrace other green concepts is consider normal. There are schemes going on throughout the state that encourage positive choices in this area in a variety of ways, from upgrading your appliances to replacing your windows.

Part of this emphasis is due to the higher population levels. If you don’t keep vehicular exhaust in check, then smog can form in the city very quickly. There are some expenses to consider with this advantage, but it tends to work out in a positive way for most families.

11. You’ll have access to an airport here.
Sacramento International Airport allows you to connect with most major airline hubs in the United States without needing to go to LAX or San Francisco. You can also drive a couple of hours to have more options out of Reno. If you want to take a vacation in Mexico, there are flights you can take there as well. That makes it very easy to explore different regions if you are ready to enjoy some time away from everything.

List of the Cons of Living in Sacramento

1. The summers in Sacramento are exceptionally hot.
Although Death Valley and Palm Springs tend to offer the hottest temperatures in California, you might be surprised to know that Sacramento isn’t that far behind. It is common for temperatures to soar above 100°F during July and August because the coastal breeze doesn’t come far enough inland to impact the climate. The humidity levels aren’t as high due to this fact as well, but it is challenging for those who don’t appreciate hot temperatures. You’re only a couple of hours from the coast or the mountains though, so there are some ways to manage the heat if you stay proactive.

The summer heat can last well into October as well, even though the monthly average high is 78°F as you get later into autumn. You won’t start to see the cooler weather arrive until November, and then it can heat up again as early as March in some years.

2. Crime is a significant problem in Sacramento.
Although every community has crime that happens at some level, you must take this issue seriously if you are thinking about a move to Sacramento. You have a 1 in 28 chance of being the victim of any crime when living in the city. That’s because the crime rate is 32% higher than the national average. For every 100,000 people, there are 9.9 crimes that occur. In 2017, the violent crime rate was still nearly double the national average despite the fact that it was declining for the previous two years.

The safest and most affordable neighborhoods in the city tend to be Hollywood Park, Natomas Park, and Willow Creek.

3. Allergies can be a significant problem when living here.
If you don’t have seasonal allergies where you currently live, then you might experience them when you move to Sacramento. When the pollen comes from all of the trees in the city, sneezing becomes a way of life for local residents. Quest Diagnostics rates the community as one of the Top 30 worst places to be for allergy sufferers.

The winds that do come into the city can cause problems as well. You can pick up more pollen from the mountains, dust from the desert, and the occasional Pineapple Express that can wreck some havoc with your nose.

4. If you don’t work a government job, then you might be out of luck.
Because Sacramento is the state capital of California, the city is a mecca for government workers. There are more than 80,000 employees who work in this community to support the overall bureaucracy that comes with being the fifth-largest independent economy in the world. When you consider the city’s population is about 500,000 people, that means about 1 in 5 workers is doing something for the government. If you can’t get your foot in the door in that sector, then you might find it a little difficult to get a job before you complete your move.

5. The cost of renting is higher than the national median in Sacramento.
Although you will find Sacramento is significantly cheaper than what the rest of California tends to be, especially when you compare costs to the coast, it still isn’t affordable for some families. You can expect to find one-bedroom apartments renting in the $1,100 range. Stepping up to a two-bedroom place will average almost $1,400. About one out of every three homes rents for $1,000 to $1,500, and 11% of the market is priced above that. Price increases are in the 8% range over the past two years.

6. There is a vagabond population that is bothersome to some people.
Because of the high housing costs that people face in the cities, there are significant homeless populations that you’ll find throughout the state. Sacramento is no exception to the vagabond lifestyle. The reason why this is a disadvantage is because there is a lack of shelters available for those who need a place to live. A 2019 report on this issue found that homelessness jumped 19% in 2018, with some calculations putting that figure as high as 52%. About 70% of those in this situation are sleeping in vehicles, abandoned buildings, outdoors, and other locations not suitable for human habitation.

Families make up 20% of the total count for 2018, representing 688 children where half were living on the street. Although there are fewer chronically homeless living out there, the $100 million the city is committed to spending to combat this issue is not making the impact that some people think is necessary.

7. Traffic is a growing issue in Sacramento.
Although you won’t encounter the problems with traffic in Sacramento that you’ll see in Los Angeles or San Francisco, it wouldn’t be accurate to call the situation “good.” The reason why you want to leave early if you plan on going anywhere is that your total drive time can double without warning. Even when people can use public transportation, use a bicycle, or walk to work, the number of cars continues to grow because the city is experiencing a surge in population growth.

One of the reasons for this problem is the fact that the I-5 and I-80 come together here, but neither really goes through the heart of the downtown region. You need to take the Business I-80 for that need, which means there are fewer arterials for you to use. That’s why the traffic can clog the roads rather quickly here.

8. There are places in the city where you need to avoid.
Gang activities in the city are creating neighborhoods that you are better off avoiding if your plan is to start living in Sacramento. North Highlands has a high crime rate and drug use with few job opportunities. Del Paso Heights sees high levels of violent crime and a median household income of less than $30,000. Florin struggles with poverty, which creates another issue with crime. Parkway is another challenge where crime, lack of income, and unemployment could put you and your family at risk.

9. Taxes are one of the reasons that it can be a struggle to live in Sacramento.
California will take up to 12.3% of your income through taxes, which is one of the highest rates in the country. If you make more than $56,000 per year, then you are in the 9.3% tax bracket – which is the same rate that someone who makes $280,000 per year pays too. There’s a 1% surcharge as a mental health services tax that is collected on any income above $1 million per year. Then the minimum combined sales tax rate is 7.5%, and it is higher in cities or counties with a special taxing district.

10. There is a lot of urban sprawl to manage in the city.
Even the city government admits that urban sprawl and a lack of gentrification are causing problems in Sacramento, but their solution is this: if you move here, then volunteer to do something about it. That’s easier said than done since there are 22 cities that make up the entire Sacramento urban area, with over 1.5 million people calling the county home. It’s a problem that means driving is a necessity – and you’ll be paying for a parking spot. The average commuter pays $15 per day or $145 per month for garage access or street spots.

Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Living in Sacramento

There are some fantastic opportunities in Sacramento to save money, explore California, and create the life that you want. The stories that are told here go back 150 years, yet they still seem relevant to this day. You can experience some of them by taking the underground city tour, thanks to the need to raise the city streets an average of 10 feet because of flooding issues.

Sacramento is also a taco town. You’ll find stands, trucks, and joints everywhere putting all sorts of different ingredients into a shell. This community takes its pizza pretty seriously too.

The pros and cons of Sacramento must also take a look at crime. Google even offers an interactive map that shows where the various territories tend to be and their color allegiances. Make sure that you consult all of the information necessary to choose the right home in a safe neighborhood so that when you start living here, the positives are primarily what you discover.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.