Cost Of Living Comparison: Tennessee vs California

Cost of living comparison between Tennessee and California

Why Are Californians Moving To Tennessee?

Here at The Tennessee Life, we are incredibly biased towards the numerous benefits of living in Tennessee, but locals repeatedly ask our real estate team the same question: “Why are Californians moving to Tennessee?”. Well, most notably, and confirmed by several research studies and polls, residents of California decide to leave because of the incredibly high cost of living. There are many other reasons noted in any of these studies, but largely, people simply cannot afford to live there. Let’s dive deeper into the cost of living in Tennessee vs California.

According to the World Population Review, only Hawaii has a higher “cost index” than California in all of the 50 United States. Not only is California the second most expensive state to live in, but the third most expensive state (New York) isn’t even close. 

Is Tennessee Affordable?

On the contrary, according to the cost index ranking of this same study, Tennessee is ranked as the sixth cheapest state

On the surface, this comparison alone would explain why Californians are moving to Tennessee. Let’s dive into a few of the more obvious financial differences. 

Breakdown Of Cost Of Living

House Costs In Tennessee

In general, houses cost a lot less in Tennessee compared to California (this should come as no surprise to anyone). 

There are several reasons for that, so feel free to check out the best places to live in Tennessee if you want to compare the way of life between the two.

However, in terms of house costs, see below for a comparison of the state of Tennessee vs California. As well as a comparison of the capital cities of Nashville vs Sacramento. We are confident that seeing the analysis of these comparisons will help you understand the drastic differences in housing costs. 

*all of the following housing cost numbers are as of 2-28-2021, according to Zillow

Average Housing Cost in Tennessee

$277,805 (Cost of Home)

+25.7% (12-month change)

83.8% (cost compared to $331,533 national average)

0.84% (population growth)

ANALYSIS: On average, the price of a home in Tennessee is higher than it was a year ago. It is still cheaper than the average home in the United States. This would explain part of the allure of moving to Tennessee from many other locations. 

Average Housing Cost in California

$758,360 (Cost of Home)

+21.1% (12-month change)

228.7% (cost compared to $331,533 national average)

0.13% (population growth)

ANALYSIS: On average, the price of a home in California is also higher than it was a year ago. The annual growth in cost (as a percentage) is actually lower than that of Tennessee. This is due in part to the fact that prices in California started off much higher than in Tennessee, to begin with, which makes it harder for it to climb at the same rate as a significantly cheaper state that had more room to grow from the start. As previously mentioned, you have to analyze if the way of life in California is a good fit for you, because you’re going to pay for it, at almost three times the cost of a home in Tennessee (not to mention taxes or any other living expenses)

Housing Costs In Nashville TN

$420,533 (Cost of Home)

+28.3% (12-month change)

126.8% (compared to $331,533 national average)

1.73% (population growth)

ANALYSIS: On average, the price of a home in Nashville is higher than it was a year ago, and also more expensive than the average home in the United States. However, you can still find a house in Nashville for less money than the average house in Sacramento.  

Housing Costs In Sacramento CA

$494,278 (Cost of Home)

+20.9% (12-month change)

149% (compared to $331,533 national average)

1.44% (population growth)

ANALYSIS: On average, the price of a home in Sacramento is also higher than it was a year ago. It is still cheaper than the average home in the United States. This would explain part of the allure of moving to Tennessee from many other locations. 

Tennessee Taxes vs California

Overall, out of all fifty United States, California is ranked 10th out of 50 for the highest total tax burden, while Tennessee is 49th. Right off the bat, you can tell that there is a drastic difference in the cost of living in Tennessee vs California simply based on taxes. 

Let’s break it down a little bit more…

Total Tax Burden

9.48% | California (10th highest out of 50)

5.74% | Tennessee (2nd lowest out of 50… only Alaska is lower)

Income taxes

3.78% | California (4th highest out of 50)

0.08% | Tennessee (43rd highest out of 50)

Sales taxes

3.06% | California (34th highest out of 50)

3.96% | Tennessee (14th highest out of 50)

Property taxes

2.64% | California (32nd highest out of 50)

1.70% | Tennessee (3rd lowest out of 50… only Oklahoma and Alabama are lower)

Summary? The beaches and weather of California are absolutely amazing, but you’re going to pay for it! 

Cost of Living Compared to other locations:

Living In Tennessee vs California

We will spend plenty of time breaking down the difference in cost of living in Tennessee vs California, but there are definitely a few other big areas that differentiate living in Tennessee vs California. 

Pace of life

In general, people in the South (Tennessee) enjoy a much slower pace of life than those in the faster-paced, big cities that California enjoys. The fact that the state of California is home to almost SEVEN TIMES as many people as Tennessee naturally leads to a faster pace of life, if only in an effort to keep up!  

Outdoor activities

Since California is a coastal state, you’ll find that the vast majority of outdoor activities center around the ocean, with a primary focus on surfing, whale watching, and hiking in the mountains. 

Tennessee, meanwhile, is a landlocked state, home to some of the cleanest lakes and rivers you’ll find in the country. This inherently leaves the majority of outdoor activities to hunting, fishing, and hiking. 

Type of people

There are stereotypes about people from both California and Tennessee, and regardless of how accurate either one of them is, there is no denying that the states boast two very different types of people: the West Coast versus the Deep South. 

How Far Is California From Tennessee?

The difference between life in California and life in Tennessee is pretty drastic, but how far is California from Tennessee in miles?

If you were to drive from the capital city of California (Sacramento) to the capital city of Tennessee (Nashville), you would travel approximately 2,275 miles! 

However, since Sacramento is part of Northern California, and Tennessee is a southern state, there is quite an extra distance between the two capitals and the SHORTEST distance between the borders of the two states.

If you were to leave California from the small town of Needles, you would only need to drive just over 1,500 miles! 

So, the answer… very far.

How Many Hours From California To Tennessee

Based on the Google Map directions of the route mentioned above, from Needles, CA to Memphis, TN, you would be driving for about twenty-two hours… if you never stopped. If you factor in a fifteen-minute break every four hours of your trip, you could get from the tip of California to the tip of Tennessee in just over twenty-four hours of driving. 

However, since most people aren’t crazy enough to drive that far, you could catch a flight from the capital (Sacramento) to the capital (Nashville) in just over five and a half hours, with one connecting flight along the way. 

Taking a flight would be more than worth it, especially when considering the cost of living in Tennessee vs California is so much lower.  

Time Difference Between California And Tennessee

United states map showing time differences

Navigating the time difference between California and Tennessee can definitely be tricky, especially when you consider the fact that Tennessee is so wide that it spans two different time zones. 

One thing you can be sure of is that California is firmly positioned in the Westernmost time zone of the United States and goes by Pacific Standard Time (PST). 

As for Tennessee, the Western part of the state is situated in the Central Standard Time (CST) zone, creating a time difference of just two hours. When it is noon in California, it is 2:00 pm in the Western half of Tennessee. 

Once you travel east past exit 340 on Interstate 40 (Rockwood), you will enter the Eastern Time (EST) zone, which is three hours different from the Pacific Time zone of California. 

I Want To Move To Tennessee

Looking at the average price of a home in California versus Tennessee, you may be saying to yourself… 

“I want to move to Tennessee with my family!”

Since we hear this so often, we’ve spent some time putting together resources to break down the differences between living in California versus Tennessee, including the average cost of a home in each, as well as comparing what an average $745,000 California home gets you versus what $745,000 gets you in Tennessee. After reading about the difference in the cost of living, are you thinking about making a move?

PREDICTION: If you currently live in California, this comparison will convince you that you belong in Tennessee!