What is the Real Cost of Living in San Mateo?

A closer look at the costs and benefits of this vibrant California city.

San Mateo, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is a vibrant city known for its booming tech industry, excellent schools, beautiful parks, and conveniently close proximity to San Francisco. When considering the cost of living in San Mateo, housing costs aren’t the only factor. You should be aware of the utilities, food and entertainment, and transit costs associated with life in the city, as well as the average salary you can expect to make working in the area. While living costs in San Mateo may seem high at first glance, the city's unique offerings make the investment worthwhile for many people. Let’s take a closer look at the real cost of living in San Mateo, and the many benefits of living in this thriving California city.


The first, and most obvious, living cost to consider is housing. If you’re planning to buy in the city, you should keep in mind San Mateo has one of the highest median home values of any county in California, with home prices averaging around $1,575,000. Although this is the median price point, San Mateo does offer a diverse range of homes with varying price points, from spacious family estates to trendy downtown condos. In addition, housing prices are less expensive as you go farther out from the city center.

Even with these considerations, San Mateo’s average home cost is still well above the national average, and the city's housing market is robust and competitive. If you’re considering a home purchase in the city, it’s essential to have expert guidance from a realtor familiar with the local market. Despite higher housing prices, the thriving housing market and steady appreciation in property values make purchasing a home in San Mateo an excellent investment for your future.

Utility costs

Utilities are also an essential expense to consider when researching the cost of living in San Mateo. The average monthly cost of home utilities in the city (this includes electricity, heating, water, and garbage pickup) is approximately $200, although this can vary significantly depending on individual usage and the type of home you live in. This is actually below the national average cost of utilities, thanks in part to San Mateo’s mild climate, short winters and comfortable summers. In addition to essential utilities, you can expect to pay an average of $58.57 for monthly internet usage, which is comparable to the national average cost.

Food and entertainment

Beyond housing and utility costs, it’s also important to consider your other day-to-day expenses, such as food and entertainment. San Mateo is a food lover's paradise, with an abundance of diverse and delicious dining options. From gourmet bistros to authentic eateries, the city offers an array of culinary delights to satisfy any palate. While food expenses can vary significantly depending on your lifestyle, the average cost of a meal in San Mateo can range from $10 at a fast-food restaurant to $50, or more, at a fine-dining establishment. If you prefer to cook your meals, the average cost of groceries for one person is approximately $400 per month, although this will vary based on your specific eating habits.

For those seeking entertainment, San Mateo has a thriving arts and culture scene. The city also hosts numerous events throughout the year, including farmers markets, outdoor concerts, and cultural festivals, offering ample opportunities to get out and experience the community. The cost of these entertainment options will obviously vary considerably, but in general hovers just above the national average costs of entertainment, with movie tickets ranging from $10 to $20 and outdoor activities like golfing costing up to $200.


If you’re considering a move to San Mateo, don’t forget about transit costs. Although getting around in San Mateo can be costly, the city offers an excellent public transportation system. This includes a train station and a bus system that can take you from the city center of San Mateo to San Francisco along with many other neighboring cities. A one-way ticket for the bus or train can range from around $3 to $8, depending on the destination.

If you plan on driving around the city instead, be prepared to pay a bit more. The city's average gas price is higher than the national average, at around $4.60 per gallon, and parking can also be a significant expense, with some lots charging up to $30 per day.

Average salary 

Now for the good news – while living expenses in San Mateo are above the national average, so is the typical salary. Living in San Mateo, you can expect to take home an average of $6,355 a month, which is the median net salary after taxes. This is significantly higher than the national average of $4,366. So, although the average San Mateo resident is paying more for living expenses, they’re also making more – about 45% more, in fact.

Ready to find your next home?

The real cost of living in San Mateo can be high, with home prices and associated housing costs being the most significant living expenses. However, with its prime location, thriving tech industry, and plenty of entertainment options, many people find the cost of living to be well worth the investment.

With such a competitive housing market in San Mateo, it’s important to work with a realtor familiar with the area to ensure you get the best home at the best possible price. When you’re ready to find your next home, reach out to the experienced Serena Conti for expert guidance at every step of the home buying process.

*Header photo courtesy of Serena Conti