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Moving to California

July 8th, 2015 - 3:33 PM

Making the move to California

With new adventures to last a lifetime, career opportunities around every corner, and beautiful sights at every turn, it’s no wonder that California is the most populous state in the U.S. – and, with 163,000 sq. miles of land, there’s plenty of room to call it your own. If you’re thinking about living in the Golden State, this guide will serve as your one-stop shop for preparing for your move and learning about life as Californian.

moving to California

Moving to California

We’ve compiled a list of answers to some of the most-asked questions about moving to and living in California. If we missed anything, leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help!

Should I move to California?

These reasons to move to California might convince you that it’s time to pack your boxes and get going:

  • You can live as far north as Redding and Sacramento or as far south as L.A. and San Diego. Or, meet somewhere in the middle like Fresno. In California, you’re not bound to a certain area – just pick the city that works for the lifestyle you want.
  • The weather is perfect year-round…which means you’ll want to be outside all the time.
  • Californians are extremely friendly, laid back, and welcoming. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever meet a stranger!
  • If you love Mexican food, California is a top spot in the U.S. for delicious tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, and other Mexican specialties.
  • Health and fitness is a priority for many Californians, so if your goal is a healthier lifestyle, you’ll have plenty of friends and neighbors around for support.

Where should I live in California?

California is a BIG state, and there are plenty of cities to call home. Check out our list of the 10 best places to live in California, or consider what regional qualities you’re looking for to narrow down your options.  Sunny beaches, refreshing mountains, and bustling city life are just a few examples of the prime California real estate.

How should I travel to California?

Since California snuggles up next to the Pacific Ocean, there are plenty of interstates that provide easy access to wherever you’re moving.

  • Coming from a neighboring state or a few states east? The drive won’t be bad at all! You’ll travel through Nevada on Interstate 80 or Interstate 15, or you’ll come through Arizona on Interstate 40, 10, or 8.
  • Traveling from Oregon or Washington? You’ll drive directly into California via Interstate 5.

If you’re moving from the east coast, you may want to catch a flight to avoid the long drive. You might also consider flying if you’re starting a new job and need to move to California quickly. Have some time to take in the sights? Go the scenic route and travel to California by bus or train – both economical options.

How do I establish residency in California?

According the California Department of Motor Vehicles, you’re a California resident if you’re present in the state on more than a temporary basis for 6 months or more in a 12-month time period and/or you’ve completed one of the following: registered to vote, are paying resident tuition, filed for a homeowner’s property tax exemption, or receive any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to non-residents. For example, this means that if you live in California for six months, you’re a resident, or if you register to vote, you’re a resident.

How do I register my car after I move to California?

You need to visit the California DMV on whichever date occurs first: within 20 days of establishing residency or when your out of state registration expires. You’ll need an application for title or registration, your out-of-state title, a verification vehicle form, and money to pay the appropriate fees. There are other documents you may need to present depending on your vehicle.

How do I get a California driver’s license?

It’s easy. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  • Complete a DL 44 and pay an application fee
  • Make an appointment to visit your local DMV
  • Give your thumb print and get your picture taken
  • Provide your social security number and true full name
  • Verify your birthday and legal presence
  • Pass a vision and traffic laws/signs test

California requires you get a driver's license within 10 days of establishing residency to avoid penalties.

What is the cost of living in California?

Unfortunately, living in California isn’t cheap. If you’re moving from a state with a low cost of living (such as Arkansas, Nebraska, Texas, Tennessee, or Louisiana), then you might be pretty shocked at the prices for housing, food, clothes, etc. Before you move, make sure you have the appropriate funds to manage a higher cost of living. In California, the sales tax rate is 7.5%, which is much higher than a state like South Dakota that has only a 4% sales tax rate. If you’re moving from a city that has an equally high cost of living, like New York City, Honolulu, Anchorage, or Boston, you’ll transition easily to the price of living in California. Try this cost of living calculator to compare living costs in your current city to your new Californian city.

When is the best time to move to California?

If you can swing it, try moving during the spring or summer, when the weather in California is consistently sunny and balmy. Autumn isn’t a bad month to move either (if the weather is cooperative in your current state), since temps stay in the 70s and 80s. If you decide to move in the winter, you might see lower moving costs, but keep in mind that temps can be cooler and there will be snow at higher altitudes within the state.

How’s the weather in California?

Sun shines in full force in California. You’ll find spring and summer to be dry and warm – perfect for spending most of your time outdoors. During the winter, temps are mild and it’s often rainy. It hardly ever freezes in California though, so you won’t see snow on the ground very often, unless you visit a local ski park during the winter.

One thing to note: The San Andreas Fault extends from northern to southern California, with the greatest risk of experiencing a quake in southern California. This means you should be earthquake-ready at all times. Two other natural disasters that can occur in California are droughts and wildfires. Take a look at these drought preparedness tips and wildfire prevention tips before you move.

How can I find a job in California?

Jobs in California are abundant, with thriving industries such as agriculture, energy, tech, entertainment, tourism, or manufacturing. If you’re moving to California without a job, use CalJobs from the California Employment Development Department to start your search in your area.

How are the schools in California?

Whether you want to enroll your child in public or private school, there are several education options to choose from. Use this school directory to see all the institutions available in your area. You can search by public or private school, districts, or school types. Did you know there are 10,366 schools in the state enrolling more than 6 million K-12 students? For higher education, California offers the University of California school system and California State University school system, as well as many private universities and community colleges.

What are some fun things to do in California?

After you move to California, you’ll definitely want to get out and explore. Use the California Visitor Site to plan your next trip (hint: use the free visitor’s guide if you’re not sure where to go first). Here’s just a taste of what you can do and see in California:

  • Visit the animals at the San Diego Zoo
  • Tour Alcatraz Island in San Francisco
  • Go for a swim at Venice, Coronado, Laguna, Pismo, or Huntington Beach
  • Get hands-on at the San Jose Tech Museum
  • Travel to Yosemite to gaze from Glacier Point
  • Spend time touring wineries in Mendocino
  • Cruise Highway 1 up the Pacific Coast for breathtaking views

What should I know about moving to northern California?

Northern California (also known as NoCal) is very different from the southern half of the state. The weather is cooler, you’ll see more evergreen trees than palm trees, and ocean visits are more for whale watching than swimming. Northern California is also known as wine country, home to the world-famous Sonoma and Napa Valley vineyards. It also features some great destinations, such as San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and the renowned Redwood National Park. If you want to be in the middle of all the action, but still just a step away from the great outdoors, northern California is the right place for you.

What should I know about moving to southern California?

Southern California (also known as SoCal) is the spot to be if you want to move to California for entertainment, weather, and beaches. Los Angeles, San Diego, and Long Beach are filled with friendly people who enjoy a laid back lifestyle and spending time outdoors. Southern California is also home to many tourist attractions, including Disneyland, SeaWorld San Diego, Universal Studios Hollywood, Legoland, and Hollywood. If you’re looking for a place that always has something going on, southern California is where you should be.

What are some fun facts about California?

  • The motto is “Eureka!” meaning “I have found it!”
  • Death Valley (located in the eastern part of the state) is the hottest and driest place in the United States.
  • The state produces 17 million gallons of wine each year.
  • Mount Whitney (located on the eastside of the Sierra Nevada Mountains) is the highest mountain in the lower 48.
  • 38.8 million people reside in California.
  • The California coastline stretches 840 miles.
  • The state is divided into four regions: the Central Valley, the Coastal Region, the Desert Region, and the Mountain Region.

More turkeys are raised in California than in any other state.

More need-to-know info before moving to California

  • Remember that California is often a vacation destination, especially around southern California. If you’re moving to this area, try to find alternate routes to work and your child’s school so you don’t end up constantly stuck in traffic.
  • If you’re on the hunt for some celebs, head to West Hollywood. Grab a bite to eat, go shopping, or enjoy the nightlife – who knows, you might just run into someone famous!
  • Get a FasTrak toll pass – it can be used on any toll road, lane or bridge in the state, and is especially helpful if you live in San Diego, L.A., or San Francisco.
  • In California, state law requires that everyone in a vehicle wear a seatbelt (not just front-seat passengers), and motorcyclists must wear a helmet.
  • California belongs to the Pacific Time Zone, which puts the city three hours behind those on the east coast.
  • If you’re moving to California with a pet, make sure it’s not on the illegal pets list. The state won’t allow you to possess ferrets, hedgehogs, monk parakeets, gerbils, caimans, bats, or alligators…to name a few.

Moving from New York to California?

More people relocate from coast to coast than you might think! We have just the guide for you – read all about driving from NY to CA here.

How do I move to California?

U-Pack® is an excellent option. We’re a “you pack, we drive” moving company that’s all about making moving affordable and easy. Here’s how we work:

  • We deliver a ReloCube or moving trailer to you.
  • You load.
  • We drive your items to California.
  • You unload.
  • We pick up the equipment when you’re done.

And compared to truck rental, U-Pack is typically priced competitively – sometimes even cheaper.

How much does it cost to move to California?

While the cost of living in California can be high, moving there doesn’t have to break the bank. Instead of renting a truck and driving it yourself, or paying the cost of a full service mover, go U-Pack. We’ll take care of the driving and help you stay within budget. Win-win.

Get a free, instant moving quote online, or call 800-413-4799 to speak to a knowledgeable moving consultant.

Info about moving to California

  • A Gypsy Moth/Insect Inspection Checklist is required for all moves to California. The USDA requires that all outdoor household items moving into California be inspected for gypsy moth life stages. By doing this inspection, you can help ensure that the gypsy moth will not destroy trees and shrubs in California. When you reserve your move with U-Pack, we’ll send you the inspection checklist. Once you complete the inspection and we have your checklist on file, we’ll submit it for you to the USDA.
  • There are some places in California where parking options may be limited, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, and San Jose. U-Pack advises customers to secure parking for the trailer or Cube in advance to avoid parking fines on moving day. Check with your local city or police department to find out if a parking permit is required in your area.


We’re here to help. Leave a comment in the section below and we’ll do our best to find the answer for you, or point you in the right direction.