A Guide to Orange County vs. San Diego (2024)

A Guide to Orange County vs. San Diego Deciding between living in Orange County vs. San Diego? Get started with this quick guide

May 18th, 2023 at 11:00 am

A Guide to Orange County vs. San Diego (1)

A Guide to Orange County vs. San Diego (2)

Whether you already live in Southern California and are considering making a move, or you are completely new to the area, many people find themselves comparing Orange County versus San Diego.

Orange County and San Diego are amazing options for both families and singles alike. When deciding which area is right for you between San Diego vs Orange County, it’s important to consider a number of factors such as the cost of living, the current real estate market, the school districts, and the overall culture and vibe of the county. We’re breaking down some of the core differences between Orange County vs. San Diego for you to consider before making a move.

Orange County

With over 3 million residents, Orange County has become a popular place to live due to its ideal climate and proximity to Los Angeles. As the third most populated county in California, it is a popular option for many people who are looking for a safe and beautiful place to live.

The four largest cities within Orange County are Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine, and Huntington Beach, each offering a variety of school districts, shopping areas, and things to do. It’s easy to see why Orange County is such a great place to live. With over 24 different cities within Orange County, it’s important to dig into each to see which is truly the best fit for you as there is a wide range of options to choose from. Is your priority being near the beach? Huntington Beach and its beautiful Pacific Ocean views might be for you. Finding the best school for your child? Consider Santa Ana. Minimizing your commute to work? These are all important factors to consider as you make your choice between San Diego vs Orange County.

A few popular Orange County neighborhoods

Laguna Beach

Known for its beautiful beaches, Laguna Beach is located on rugged cliffs layered with homes that offer amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. While property here is highly coveted, the downtown area has managed to hold onto its artistic culture making it a truly unique place for its residents to live.


Known for its low crime rate as well as ample housing and job options, the city of Irvine offers a number of communities with something for everyone. Often rated high on national round-ups of the best place to live in the country, Irvine is a great place for families and individuals seeking a high quality of life.

Aliso Viejo

Located on the border of Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo offers residents an ample amount of job opportunities and access to great schools. With plenty to do in the area as well, Aliso Viejo is a great choice for families who are looking for a central location with access to a number of activities.

Orange County Facts

Orange County presents an exceptional opportunity for its residents. To determine its attractiveness compared to San Diego, one must scrutinize vital information and statistics regarding Orange County. Let us closely examine these figures.

Cost of Living & Median Income

Orange County is well-known for its prosperity, featuring a median household income of around $100,000[1]. Nevertheless, this affluent community necessitates a high cost of living, significantly higher than its neighboring San Diego.

In particular, housing can be a significant expense, with a median home price hovering around $700,000[2]. Nonetheless, both counties present numerous job opportunities, and their residents enjoy a high quality of life despite the high cost of living.


Regarding safety, Orange County proves to be one of California’s safest areas, with a relatively low crime rate. According to current data from NeighborhoodScout, Orange County has a crime rate of 1.27 incidents per 1,000 people. In addition, the property crime rate is lower than the national average, with 18.60 incidents per 1,000 people[3].

Orange County’s emergency services help keep it a safe city for residents, including first-class hospitals, police stations, and fire departments. It is incumbent upon all residents, regardless of location, to remain vigilant and cognizant of their environment. However, Orange County offers a safe and secure location for habitation and work alike.


In terms of educational opportunities, Orange County is home to a plethora of top-tier public schools in the state of California, rendering it an ideal environment to nurture a family. The majority of schools in the area are known for academic rigor and thus serve as a great foundation for higher education and beyond. In addition, there are a number of private schools for those who prefer a more tailored approach.

Moreover, some of the most eminent institutions and universities across the state of California are situated within Orange County, namely the University of California, Irvine, and Chapman University. These institutions are renowned for their unyielding academic rigor and pioneering research, thereby attracting students aspiring towards advanced educational opportunities.

Transportation and Commute

Orange County offers a variety of public transportation and commuting options including buses, trains, and bike paths. However, the county remains heavily reliant on automobiles, and traffic can be intense during peak hours. Compared to San Diego, Orange County presents fewer public transportation options and can be less convenient for those without cars. Nevertheless, the Orange County Transportation Authority has made efforts to upgrade its infrastructure and extend its services in recent years. While Orange County may not have the best public transportation system, travel by car and bike remains relatively convenient.


When it comes to any destination in Southern California, the beach is always going to be the number one destination within this region. Plus, being home to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, there is no shortage of activities in Orange County. Additionally, sports fans can feel confident knowing that Orange County has both an MLB and NHL team in the Los Angeles Angels and Anaheim Ducks.

Dining out

When it comes to dining out, Orange County has a variety of options for sipping and savoring. Whether you are looking for a casual seaside lunch spot or a five-course dinner for two, you can find it all in these beautiful beach cities. When dining in California, you can expect to sample a melting pot of different flavors, and that is no exception when it comes to this region. While there are many healthy restaurant options offering fresh and local ingredients, you can also find fun and innovative dessert spots, traditional burger joints, and classic brunch eateries perfect for a lazy Sunday.

With everything from amazing bars and restaurants to beautiful hiking trails, there is truly something for everyone in Orange County.

Proximity to both Los Angeles and San Diego

One of the great things about Orange County is that it lies in close proximity to both Los Angeles and San Diego. This makes it an excellent middle point for residents commuting from either location or looking to enjoy the perks of being an hour to an hour and a half away from two other major destinations. If the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles simply isn’t for you, choosing a city in Orange County is a great happy medium to consider.

San Diego

Located just north of the border, the city of San Diego offers a number of beautiful beach towns and unique neighborhoods to explore. Known for it’s laid back culture, San Diego is the perfect fit for residents looking for access to some of the best beaches and schools around. With Los Angeles being located a good three to four hours away, San Diego tends to draw a more relaxed crowd while also being home to some of the largest technology and biotech companies in the United States.

San Diego County extends from the borders of Orange County to the U.S.-Mexico border and has over 18 cities to choose from giving residents plenty of options. Whether you are looking for something coastal or more inland there are a number of unique and diverse communities that are ready to welcome you home. With over 3 million residents, San Diego is the second most populous county in the United States. Home to many serving in both the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, San Diego draws a large crowd of navy and military families.

A few popular San Diego neighborhoods

La Jolla

A gorgeous beach town and destination, La Jolla is one of the most sought after areas of San Diego. Beautiful homes line the coast and the downtown area is filled with all of your favorite staples, boutiques, and popular eateries. What more could you ask for?

North Park

Located on the border of Hillcrest, North Park is a central hub filled with plenty of craft breweries and delicious restaurants. That, combined with a thriving music and arts scene, has made a popular neighborhood for both young people and families alike.

Rancho Bernardo

About 20 miles north-east of downtown San Diego, Rancho Bernardo is a community of rolling hills and canyons that feature a number of amenities and activities for residents. Residents will be able to enjoy the classic suburb feel while also still being centrally located, which gives them quick access to all the benefits of coastal living as well.

San Diego Facts

Let us dive into the more details about San Diego so we understand how they compare to those of Orange County.

Cost of Living & Median Income

Concerning the cost of living, San Diego is marginally less expensive than Orange County. The median residential property value in San Diego is lower than that of Orange County, although San Diego also has a lower median income. The expenses for groceries, utilities, and healthcare in San Diego are somewhat higher than those of Orange County.

Nonetheless, San Diego’s flourishing job market, with the primary industries being technology, defense, and tourism, provides a plethora of high-paying job opportunities. Furthermore, the agreeable weather, outdoor pursuits, and cultural points of interest make San Diego an enviable location to reside and work.


San Diego is a relatively secure location to live, with minimal crime rates and a robust public safety presence. According to recent statistics, the rate of property crime in San Diego is 19.32 incidents per 1,000 individuals, while the rate of violent crime is 3.96 incidents per 1,000 individuals. San Diego possesses a well-equipped and responsive fire department, and police services are promptly available throughout the city.

While no area is entirely immune to crime, San Diego’s endeavors to reduce crime have proven successful, resulting in lower crime rates than many other cities in the United States. However, as with any urban setting, residents should take basic safety precautions such as securing doors and windows, being aware of their surroundings, and reporting any suspicious activity to law enforcement.


San Diego proudly presents an exemplary public school system, replete with top-tier academic institutions that emphasize Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. The San Diego Unified School District consistently garners commendable rankings statewide. Moreover, San Diego houses some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, including the University of California San Diego, San Diego State University, and the University of San Diego. These institutions provide a diverse array of programs ranging from commerce to applied sciences, magnetizing students from every corner of the globe.

Transportation and Commute

Similar to Orange County, San Diego has access to public transportation systems like buses and trains. Additionally, San Diego also has a trolley system that simplifies citywide commuting. Commutes can be arduous in both areas due to heavy traffic, but San Diego is known for being less congested than Orange County.

Moreover, San Diego’s bicycle-friendly culture and balmy climate make it an excellent choice for individuals who prefer cycling or walking to work. San Diego’s transportation and commute options may make it a more appealing option for some residents in comparison to Orange County.


As with Orange County, San Diego is known for its gorgeous beaches, ocean views, and sunsets. Also, home to SeaWorld and the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Del Mar Racetrack, San Diego offers tourists a ton to do outside of simply enjoying their natural surroundings. The San Diego Padres also offer residents a source of entertainment in the lively Petco Park venue.

Dining Out

When it comes to dining out, San Diego offers residents a number of fun neighborhoods and restaurants to choose from. Some key neighborhoods to explore are Little Italy, as well as North Park, but all around San Diego offers a diverse mix of foods with something for everyone. With close proximity to the border, there are a number of local Mexican restaurants that offer truly authentic cuisine.

Choosing the right place for you

With a similar cost of living, it’s important to consider which county is truly best for you and any family members to reside in. While this can often be a tough decision for many people, think back on the core factors that matter the most for you. It can be hard to find a place that checks all of your boxes but you can compare and contrast against your wishlist to decide what is best for you and your loved ones.

At the end of the day, much like all of Southern California, both San Diego and Orange County offer residents a wonderful lifestyle and quality of living. Whether it comes down to finding the right school district or figuring out which location will set you up for success at a new job you cannot go wrong with either Orange County or San Diego.

Ready to buy or sell a home in Southern California? Connect with one of our local real estate experts today!


  1. “U.S. Census Data.” USAGov, www.usa.gov/census-data. Accessed 25 May 2023.
  2. U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: Orange County, California, www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/orangecountycalifornia/PST045222. Accessed 25 May 2023.
  3. “Orange, CA Crime Rates.” NeighborhoodScout, www.neighborhoodscout.com/ca/orange/crime. Accessed 25 May 2023.

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