Just last year, San Diego ranked No. 1 most fun city in the U.S. And in past years, it's reached the top spot for just about everything — from the weather and beaches to the food and entertainment.
With such a high rating, you might think that apartments for rent in San Diego would automatically reach exorbitant prices. While you'll find quite a few apartments in the luxury price range, you can also find more affordable places to live. The key is to find the cheapest neighborhoods in San Diego.
What is the average rent in San Diego?
In January 2022, the average cost of rent for a two-bedroom apartment came to $3,844, an increase of nearly 19 percent over the past year.
Interestingly (and possibly encouragingly), San Diego didn't make the top 10 list of cities with the highest rental cost increases. That honor went to cities like Salt Lake City and New York City, with a whopping 40.3 and 49.9 percent increase, respectively.
Even though rent increased in San Diego, it's important to remember that this is just an average. You can find apartments for rent in this city that are less than $3,844 — as long as you're looking for apartments in the most affordable neighborhoods in San Diego.
The 10 most affordable neighborhoods in San Diego
If affordability is at the top of your “must-haves" list, make sure to visit the 10 cheapest neighborhoods in San Diego.
Source: Rent./850 Beech St.
- Average 2-BR rent: $2,482
- Rent change since 2021: +3.86%
Cortez is a renter-friendly neighborhood with nearly 80 percent of residents renting their homes. It's also a commuter's paradise. Most (41 percent) say their commute is no longer than 14 minutes. Cortez is also great if you love walking for exercise, love spending as much time as possible in the Southern California sun or want to save some gas. This neighborhood has a walkability score of 95!
Many residents who live in Cortez are families and young professionals who like the convenience of city living but don't want to deal with the congestion of the downtown area.
Even though this is one of the cheapest neighborhoods in San Diego, apartments for rent in Cortez still have some of the best views in the city, particularly of Balboa Park, Downtown San Diego and the Pacific Ocean.
9. Midway District
Source: Rent./Loma Portal
- Average 2-BR rent: $2,350
- Rent change since 2021: 0%
The Midway District is one of the most affordable neighborhoods in San Diego. Most residents are young professionals who like an easy commute to Downtown. The Midway District is close to the CA-209, I-5 and I-8 freeways, resulting in commutes between 14-30 minutes. Most commuters take their own car to work or to go shopping, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of public transit options, including 41 MTS bus stops.
The walkability score of the area is higher than average (69), and depending on which apartment you rent in the Midway District, you'll likely have easy access to Ralphs, Barons Marketplace and Trader Joe's.
Source: Rent./The Hills
- Average 2-BR rent: $2,320
- Rent change since 2021: +4.16%
If you love the great outdoors, you'll be happy to know that there's so much more to do in San Diego than go to the beach. There are also mountains, canyons and trails galore! If that sounds like heaven to you, you'll want to look for apartments for rent in the Glens neighborhood.
The Glens neighborhood has Black Mountain Open Space Park on the west, a 2,352-acre park full of hills, ridges and canyons covered in sage and chaparral. At the center of the Park is Black Mountain, a summit of more than 1,500 feet, where you can get a 360-degree view of the area. In addition to getting some exercise and having some outdoor fun, you can also volunteer for trail maintenance, habitat restoration and cleanup projects. It's a great way to spend some time doing what you love while giving back to the community.
7. Bay Park
Source: Rent./Canyon Ridge
- Average 2-BR rent: $2,269
- Rent change since 2021: +29.10%
Though Bay Park is one of the cheapest neighborhoods in San Diego, many think of it as one of the best neighborhoods in the city – even ranking No. 1 on the list of most liveable neighborhoods in San Diego.
Many of the apartments for rent in Bay Park have gorgeous views of the ocean, as well as Mission Bay.
Residents love the community feel of Bay Park. Many of the businesses in this neighborhood are locally owned. Pride of ownership is strong here, as is the welcoming spirit of the locals.
Along West Morena Boulevard, you'll find Bay Park's Restaurant Row with numerous restaurants, cocktail lounges, bars and microbreweries.
6. Serra Mesa
Source: Rent./8785 Regency Road
- Average 2-BR rent: $2,112
- Rent change since 2021: -0.75%
Are you raising a family? Would you like a neighborhood that's close to work but has a small-town vibe? Look no further than Serra Mesa. The community is in the heart of the city, located between I-15 and I-805, providing an easy commute to work and all the world-class amenities in San Diego.
As one of the most affordable neighborhoods in San Diego, Serra Mesa is ideal for families on a tight budget. Some other reasons why families should find apartments for rent in Serra Mesa is because there are nine public schools in the area, and it's close to family-friendly amenities like the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld and Legoland.
Source: Rent./Fashion Hills Terrace Apartments
- Average 2-BR rent: $2,112
- Rent change since 2021: -0.75%
Located between I-805 and Highway 163 is the triangle-shaped neighborhood of Birdland. Originally established in the late-1950s as El Dorado, Birdland is one of the cheapest places to live in San Diego.
While some might think that a cheaper neighborhood might automatically mean fewer amenities and more crime, the opposite is true for Birdland. There's a strong sense of community in this diverse neighborhood, with residents looking out for one another.
Apartments for rent in Birdland are approximately 15 minutes from Downtown San Diego, making it an easy trek to the San Diego Zoo, La Jolla Shores and any other amenities or fun activities you could desire!
4. San Carlos
Source: Rent./Terra at Mission Trails
- Average 2-BR rent: $2,110
- Rent change since 2021: +3.58%
When you were younger and thought about getting your own place, did you have the “American Dream" in mind? You know, the three-bedroom house with a garage and a yard for your 2.5 kids and golden retriever?
If so, you're not alone. Many developers designed communities in the U.S. with this ideal in mind, including the San Carlos neighborhood. While you can find modern and older, renovated condo complexes and apartments for rent in San Carlos, the community is also full of beautiful single-family homes with plenty of yard space for kids and pets.
The neighborhood, which is only 10 minutes from Downtown, is centrally located. You'll have easy access to various communities, suburbs and small towns, including Navajo, Fletcher Hills, Del Cerro, El Cajon and La Mesa. And if you're a fan of outdoor activities, San Carlos is close to the Lake Murray reservoir and Mission Trails Regional Park.
3. College East
- Average 2-BR rent: $2,084
- Rent change since 2021: +12.82 percent%
College East is one of the more walkable areas on our list of the cheapest neighborhoods in San Diego, with a walkability score of 87. The average age of residents in the area is 24, many of whom are students. Being able to walk to class, work and run errands is a money saver for residents of College East, especially those dealing with lower incomes (because of their class schedule), tuition rates, the cost of living and college loans.
Apartments for rent in College East average just over $2,000, but you can find studios for about half that. Plus, you can find many college students in the area looking to rent rooms, which can cut your costs even more.
In addition to walking the neighborhood, you can bike or take public transportation, as there are several metro bus stops throughout the community.
2. Southeastern San Diego
Source: Rent./Bonita Mesa
- Average 2-BR rent: $1,670
- Rent change since 2021: +6.36%
If you're looking for a neighborhood that's known for its diversity and love of all things fun, you should consider finding an apartment for rent in Southeastern San Diego.
The Market Creek Plaza is full of colorful shops and restaurants. The neighborhood has an amphitheater and hosts concerts, community events and other live performances. Restaurants, festivals and art galleries showcase the area's diversity, particularly Filipino-American art, culture and culinary specialties.
And one of the best parts: Despite being so close to Downtown San Diego, this area is one of the cheapest neighborhoods in San Diego. That's definitely a win!
1. Paradise Hills
Source: Rent./Pebble Cove
- Average 2-BR rent: $1,631
- Rent change since 2021: +3.86%
Just east of Rachael Avenue (the boundary between San Diego and National City) is the neighborhood of Paradise Hills, one of the most affordable neighborhoods in San Diego – if not the most affordable.
The neighborhood is ethnically diverse, with many families living here. Forty percent of residents are of Hispanic descent, while another third is Filipino.
Residents have a strong sense of community pride, with at least two local organizations collaborating with community members to revitalize the neighborhood. For instance, The Project Reo Collective helped residents start a coffee shop and are responsible for community clean-ups, mural projects and holiday events. Another organization – Made in Paradise Hills – helps promote the accomplishments of residents of the neighborhood.
If this sounds like your kind of neighborhood, make sure to check our listings for apartments for rent in Paradise Hills.
The most expensive neighborhood in San Diego
How do the cheapest neighborhoods in San Diego compare to the most expensive? We learned that the average for the city is over $3,800, but that's relatively modest compared to the most expensive neighborhood in San Diego, Medical Complex. Apartments for rent in the Medical Complex neighborhood average $5,672.
The second most expensive neighborhood is Uptown, with an average rental fee of $5,533, an increase of over 56 percent in the past year. Again, that's an average. Some two-bedroom apartments in the area hit the $10,000 a month mark.
Find an affordable neighborhood for your next apartment
Once you've browsed the cheapest neighborhoods in San Diego, now it's time to find your dream apartment. And we can tell you that finding an awesome apartment in such a fantastic city isn't difficult! Check our listings to find the best and most affordable apartments for rent in San Diego.