Living Off the Grid in California (Does it Cost Too Much?)

California lies on the west coast of the United States, and if it were its own country, it would be the fifth richest in the world. California has a population of roughly 39.51 million people, and it continues to increase every year, though it has slowed recently. There are plenty of people living off the grid in California.

California is definitely one of the most expensive places for living off the grid. While living off the grid and catching rainwater is legal in California, the cost of living, housing, and property are just too high. California boasts some of the most fertile territories in the country. Still, the state’s biggest concern is severe water scarcity, which is problematic because the crops cultivated here require a lot of water. In fact, there will be limits on how much water a person may use every day in the not-too-distant future.

living off the grid in california
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the bucket list items when visiting California.

General Statistics for Living Off the Grid in California

Although, in recent years, many people have begun to leave California due to its numerous problems. When the computer bubble burst in the early 1990s, a slew of prominent tech businesses relocated to California, bringing a slew of high-paying jobs that drove up the state’s cost of living. The cost of living in this state is so high that you will need to earn much more money to live comfortably than in the rest of the country.

Some of these huge tech companies have started to depart California recently. Other states have lower living costs and more generous incentives for big tech companies. Even Hollywood is slowly departing California. Most films set in the state use CGI rather than real clips. California has a relatively high population density, which makes matters more complicated; the state has roughly 75 cities with over 100,000 people.

Los Angeles has 4 million people, followed by San Diego with 1.4 million, San Jose with 1 million, San Francisco with 870k, and Fresno with 525k. Aside from the high human density, California has a serious freshwater shortage; most of the state is desert, and local aquifers are drying up.

Interested in checking out another state on the west coast? Check out my Complete Guide for Living Off the Grid in Montana.

What’s the Climate in California?

California has a variety of climates:

  • The majority of the state has a Mediterranean climate.
  • The northern parts have a temperate temperature.
  • Certain areas have dry or semi-arid climates.

The typical summer temperature is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average winter temperature is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Although there is a major temperature and climate variation between the northern and southern sections of the state.

What Type of Crops can be Grown in California?

California’s agriculture industry is fairly significant, and it is the main producer of several fruits and vegetables. Almonds, grapes, dates, figs, kiwi, pistachios, prunes, melons, lemons, olives, nectarines, walnuts, and strawberries are among the most prevalent fruits grown here. California’s climate is ideal for growing fruits, and it boasts some of the world’s most fertile soil. Although, to grow fruits, a lot of water is required, and given California’s severe water constraint, who knows how long it will be the leading producer of various fruits.

The main issue is that most of these fruits and nuts require a large amount of water to flourish, and local farmers make considerable efforts to guarantee that their crops receive adequate water. When it comes to freshwater, the first focus is on crop production, followed by the demands of the local people.

What’s Freshwater Availability Like in California?

California is experiencing severe water scarcity, worsening by the year. The average annual rainfall is roughly 18 inches. The average annual snowfall is around 60 inches, with most of the snowfall occurring in the state’s northern regions. The annual rainfall of 18 inches is simply insufficient for local agriculture and human needs. Most people believe that rainwater collection is banned in California. It was until 2012 but changed then. However, rainwater harvesting is now allowed in California.

Water limits are in implementation. The laws will limit each household or individual from using no more than 55 gallons of water per day. However, these restrictions are expected to take effect in 2023.

What Type of Wildlife is in California?

Because of its size, California is home to various creatures, the most common of which include snakes, skunks, lizards, otters, black bears, and white-tailed deer. Chum salmon, pink salmon, American shad, white sturgeon, and grass carp, among other fish, can be found in the nearby rivers and lakes. Barracuda sand bass, white seabass, calico surfperch, and California halibut are the most prevalent saltwater fish.

Both sea and freshwater fishing require licenses which can be found here.

How to Generate Off the Grid Power in California

Solar power: Due to the local climate and California’s geographic location, solar panels are likely the most efficient technique to create electricity. There is a solar tax credit in California and an Investment Tax Credit of roughly 26%. There is also a federal tax credit, but I’m not sure if you can apply for all of them.

Wind power: California also gives an Investment Tax Credit for wind power, which ranges from 12 to 30 percent depending on the county; however, different counties have different rates, so check first.

Are There Off the Grid Living Laws in California?

Living off the grid is permitted in California. You can even legally catch rainwater. Still, there may be freshwater limits in some locations. There are a lot of off grid communities in California. While most of them have no choice, you will also notice many people living in their vehicles. You can also homeschool your children, albeit the homeschooling regulations are somewhat ambiguous, and the California Department of Education does not provide much help in this area.

Thinking about a state with less restrictions and fewer laws? I recommend reading about Living Off the Grid in Alaska.

What’s Road Access Like in California?

California’s roads aren’t the best, and you should expect a lot of traffic because of the state’s high population density. It is not uncommon for people to commute to work for many hours each day. Off gridders use 4WD vehicles commonly when living off the grid in California.

What’s the Price of Land in California?

If you can afford a house in California, you can afford a house in Hawaii. In general, housing and land costs in this state are roughly 140 percent more than the national average. The cost of housing in California will continue to rise as the state’s population grows, yet when the big tech businesses begin to leave, prices will fall.

What’s the Property Tax in California?

The property tax in California is lower than the national average; it is currently 0.77 percent, while the national average is 1.08 percent. The low property tax will cost you a lot more than the national average due to the high cost of housing and property. With a property tax rate of 0.75 percent, Los Angeles County has the lowest in the state.

What’s the Cost of Living Off the Grid in California?

California has a much higher cost of living than the national average, making it one of the most expensive states in the US. Housing will cost roughly 140 percent more, transportation costs 33 percent more, groceries will cost 5% more, and utilities will cost 3% more than the national average. The only less expensive thing in California is healthcare, which is around 8% less expensive than the national average.

California is incredibly expensive, I get it. Looking for a cheaper option? I recommend reading about Maine.

What’s the Job Market Like in California?

Compared to the national average, California’s unemployment rate is 3.9 percent, and it hasn’t gone below that mark in the last few years. However, compared to the national average, California is slightly higher, as the national average unemployment is 3.6 percent. California’s minimum wage is currently $12, higher than its neighboring states. Agriculture, services, movies, manufacturing, and tourism employ most people.

What’s the Crime Rate in California?

California’s crime rate is higher than the national average, with 4.47 crimes per 1000 people compared to 4 crimes per 1000 people nationally. Trona, Albion, Point Mugu, Etna, and Kyburz are the areas with the lowest crime rates. Bakersfield, Redding, Los Angeles, Red Bluff, Palm Springs, Bishop, Oroville, and Santa Cruz have the highest crime rates.

Is Living Off the Grid in California Affected by Natural Disasters?

In California, wildfires, tsunamis, floods, flash floods, droughts, heatwaves, and earthquakes are all common occurrences. Earthquakes are the most common natural disasters. While most of them are minor, they can be frightening if you are unfamiliar with them.

Is Living Off the Grid in California Possible?

I cannot recommend living off the grid in California since the population density is far too great, resulting in excessive living and property costs. Many people born and raised in this state have already moved to neighboring states. You should definitely seek elsewhere if you’re searching for a suitable state for living off the grid.

living off grid in california
California is known for its gorgeous coast and beaches.

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