Are you trying to decide where to live in Southern California? It’s easy to see the appeal, but certainly challenging narrowing down your options to just one area. After comparing Orange County vs San Diego, make sure you see how the O.C. compares with the City of Angels to decide if living in Orange County is the right move for you.
Orange County is part of metro Los Angeles, but it’s a world apart with sophisticated beach towns, pristine beaches, a more laid-back environment, and a great quality of life. Here are some major benefits and drawbacks to consider when comparing Orange County versus Los Angeles.
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Pros & Cons of Living in Orange County vs. Los Angeles
Is it better to live in Orange County or Los Angeles? Here are the top advantages and disadvantages of each to know before you make a choice.
Living in Orange County Pros
The O.C. Feels More Sophisticated and Laid-Back with a Unique Vibe
Life in Orange County is more relaxed without the rush and stress of life in LA. It feels more like living in the suburbs, yet it blends sophistication with an active lifestyle. With so many smaller cities next to each other, you can enjoy different environments at your fingertips. Each city in the O.C. has its own flair, attractions, and lifestyle. Brea is known for its trendy downtown and Santa Ana is the best place in Orange County for nightlife. You can visit Huntington Beach for its surf culture or stop by Laguna to take in the arts.
This laid-back atmosphere and fun cities to explore is just one of the top perks of living in Orange County!
Orange County Is Right Between LA and San Diego
One of the most overlooked strengths of living in the O.C. is its ideal location. You’re in the perfect place to enjoy all the attractions, beaches, and destinations of Southern California.
Here’s everything you can enjoy within a short drive from Orange County:
- San Diego, less than 90 minutes away
- Joshua Tree National Park, less than two hours away
- Los Angeles, 40 minutes away or less
- Big Bear Lake and Mountain Resort, less than two hours away
- Angeles National Forest, no more than 40 minutes away
You can enjoy the quality of life, low crime, and beaches of the O.C. with San Diego’s parks, the Los Angeles nightlife, skiing at Big Bear, and camping in the forest all less than two hours away!
Orange County Has Amazing Beaches & Top Attractions
Orange County is famous for its beaches which are among the best in California. The O.C. has a strong beach vibe that seeps into the lifestyle of the entire area. The county has 42 miles of pristine coastline to explore, just one of many benefits of living in Orange County.
Along with stunning beaches, Orange County has its own entertainment and attractions – Los Angeles doesn’t hog them all! Love thrill rides and family-friendly entertainment? Anaheim is home to Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland. Interested in cultural attractions? Santa Ana boasts the Discovery Cube Orange County, an interactive children’s science museum, while Irvine is home to the Pretend City Children’s Museum.
Living in Orange County Cons
Limited Nightlife in Orange County
Are you interested in excitement and plenty to do on the weekend? One of the biggest drawbacks of living in Orange County is it mostly shuts down around 9 pm. The lifestyle in the O.C. is more laid-back and centered on the beach. When you want to have fun and hit the dance club or a hip bar, you’ll probably end up driving to Los Angeles.
Living in Los Angeles Pros
Los Angeles Has an Excellent Food Scene
Thanks to its diverse population, Los Angeles is one of America’s best food cities! One of the advantages of living in Los Angeles is the amazing and authentic cuisine you can explore, from Japanese, Korean, and Persian food to Armenian, Ethiopian, and French cuisine. You’ll find everything from street food and top-rated hole-in-the-wall eateries to Michelin-star restaurants, experimental and fusion cuisine, and restaurants from award-winning chefs.
LA Is the Entertainment Capital of the World
Los Angeles is famous for its entertainment industry, one of the biggest sectors of the economy and a major draw that brings in thousands of new residents every year. Its filmmaking, music, radio, and television isn’t the only reason Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world. It’s also home to almost 900 museums and art galleries with more museums per capita than any other city. There are over 4,000 venues and almost 2,000 bars and nightclubs too.
LA isn’t just Hollywood, the entertainment industry, and nightlife. It’s also surrounded by mountains, beaches, and the desert with trails, hiking, and plenty of outdoor recreation. There’s always something to do in LA, day or night. You’ll find community events, festivals, and attractions in nearly every neighborhood, a vibrant arts scene, sports, and theme parks to explore.
Los Angeles Is a Diverse Melting Pot
Los Angeles is one of America’s most diverse cities with over 185 languages spoken in the LA metro area. The city has the largest communities of Filipino, Thai, Iranians, Mexicans, Koreans, Burmese, Cambodian, and Salvadorans outside their home countries. It’s home to many ethnic enclaves like Little Bangladesh, Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia, Thai Town, and Little Tokyo. Almost 40% of people in LA were born outside the US!
This cultural and ethnic diversity is a huge highlight of living in LA. This diversity means you get to understand other cultures, meet people from around the world, and expand your horizons.
When you compare Orange County vs Los Angeles, you’ll find the O.C. is far less diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and culture.
Living in Los Angeles Cons
Getting Around LA Is Challenging & Time-Consuming
Orange County is mostly a suburban area with small cities, many of which are walkable. While it’s definitely a car-dependent area, it doesn’t compare to the hassle of getting around Los Angeles.
It can take anywhere from one to even three hours to get from one side of Los Angeles to another. From Northeast LA, just going to the beach, mere miles away, becomes a day-long adventure. If you have friends on the other side of the city, be prepared to not see them very often.
Los Angeles consistently ranks as one of the worst cities in the world for traffic – a huge obstacle to living in LA. When you look at traffic in Orange County versus Los Angeles, you’ll find that the O.C. still has its share of traffic with some notorious corridors, particularly in Irvine. However, it’s much more manageable.
Los Angeles Smog Is Notorious
When you compare Orange County vs LA, you’ll quickly realize one of the disadvantages of living in Los Angeles: poor air quality and pollution. The five-county LA metro area is the smoggiest in the U.S. with San Bernardino ranking the worst in the nation for smog. While Orange County is part of the metro area, it boasts far better air quality.
Because Los Angeles is a densely populated area in a valley, smog tends to be a frequent problem, despite dropping 85% over the last 50 years. If you have respiratory problems or asthma, this is definitely something to consider.
Cost of Living in Orange County vs. Los Angeles
Which is more affordable: Orange County or Los Angeles? At first glance, the cost of living is similar in both areas – high! The Orange County cost of living index is 150.2 compared to the LA cost of living index of 146.6. On closer inspection, you’ll find some major differences.
There’s a huge difference between the Orange County vs Los Angeles sales tax. The California sales tax rate is 6%. The Orange County, CA sales tax rate is 7.75%, but the sales tax in Los Angeles County is 10.25%, the highest in California!
Los Angeles is still more affordable than Orange County on several metrics. However, it depends on where you’re planning to live. After all, Orange County is made up of many cities and Los Angeles is a massive city with hundreds of neighborhoods and suburbs.
Average rent is $2,518 in Los Angeles vs Orange County average rent of $2,004. The average home price in Los Angeles is $917,000 and $905,000 in Orange County.
Here’s examples of rent and home prices in popular LA neighborhoods.
- Downtown Santa Monica: $3,990 rent, $6.42 million
- Venice: $3,480 rent, $1.77 million
- Bel Air: $2,850 rent, $2.86 million
- West Los Angeles: $2,700 rent, $1.9 million
- Downtown LA: $2,600 rent, $585,000
- Chinatown: $2,500 rent, $820,000
- Hollywood: $2,400 rent, $849,000
- Silver Lake: $2,100 rent, $1.4 million
- East Hollywood: $2,000 rent, $1.01 million
- Highland Park: $1,800 rent, $1.06 million
- El Sereno: $1,600 to rent, $716,000 to buy
Western LA, what many people consider “real” Los Angeles, has a much higher cost of living than areas to the east and northeast where rent and home prices are far below average.
Here’s how much you’ll pay to rent or buy in Orange County.
- Anaheim: $2,000 to rent, $750,000 to buy
- Huntington Beach: $2,400 to rent, $1 million to buy
- Santa Ana: $2,100 to rent, $725,000
- Irvine: $2,600 to rent, $1.13 million to buy
As a general rule, Orange County is more affordable than West Los Angeles, but many areas of LA are cheaper than the O.C. Irvine is the most expensive place to live in Orange County – check out our in-depth guide to the Irvine cost of living.
Additional Things to Consider Between Orange County Versus Los Angeles
Los Angeles County has a population of 10 million over 4,751 square miles with a population density of 2,100 people per square mile. It’s the most populous county in the U.S. and home to more than 25% of all people in California. L.A. itself has a population of 3.9 million and 8,300 people per square mile. Greater Los Angeles is the second-largest metro area in the country and covers five counties, including Orange County plus San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ventura counties. Metro LA refers to Orange and Los Angeles counties.
As you compare and contrast Orange County versus Los Angeles, you’ll quickly notice that the O.C. is smaller and less densely populated. The population of Orange County is 3 million over 948 square miles with 3,200 people per square mile.
Crime in Orange County vs Los Angeles
Are you concerned about crime? You’ll definitely find that the O.C. wins this round. Comparing crime in Los Angeles vs. Orange County, you’ll find Orange County is a much safer place to live.
Irvine in Orange County is even one of the safest cities in the U.S. with one of the lowest violent crime rates among U.S. cities with more than 100,000 and 250,000 people.
Los Angeles crime is 12% higher than the California average with 93% more violent crime than the U.S. average. There are 3,115 crimes per capita (100,000 people) in LA with 732 violent crimes and 2,383 property crimes per capita. Here’s how some O.C. cities compare to LA’s violent crime rate.
- * Orange: 82% less violent crime than LA
- * Anaheim: 57% less violent crime
- * Irvine: 92% less violent crime
- * Huntington Beach: 74% less violent crime
- Santa Ana: 41% less violent crime
- * Laguna Beach: 77% less violent crime
- * Newport Beach: 78% less violent crime
- * Mission Viejo: 91% less violent crime
* These cities have violent crime below the national average too!
Orange County vs Los Angeles Beaches
Southern California boasts some of the most famous beaches in the world. Which has the better beaches: Orange County or Los Angeles? That depends on what you’re looking for.
O.C. beaches are usually cleaner and more pristine. In a recent survey, Orange County had 10 of the cleanest beaches in California! Orange County beaches are ideal for cliff diving, surfing, and sunbathing. By comparison, Los Angeles beaches are more popular for competitive volleyball and they tend to have better boardwalks.
Los Angeles has Malibu, arguably the best beach for surfing, and Venice Beach, with its famous and eclectic boardwalk, shopping, and Muscle Beach. Orange County offers Huntington Beach for surfing, tide pools at Little Corona Del Mar Beach, and bonfires and sunbathing at San Clemente Beach.
Sports in Orange County Versus Los Angeles
If you’re a sports fan, you’ll definitely want to know how these two areas stack up. The LA metro area, including Orange County, has 11 major league pro teams, but Los Angeles itself has teams from all five major leagues:
- Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB), the second most valuable MLB franchise
- Los Angeles Kings (NHL)
- Los Angeles Lakers (NBA), one of the NBA’s most valuable franchises
- Los Angeles Clippers (NBA)
- Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS), the league’s second most valuable club which has had high-profile players like David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimović
- Los Angeles FC (MLS)
- Los Angeles Rams (NFL) based in Inglewood in Los Angeles County
- Los Angeles Chargers (NFL) also based in Inglewood
The O.C.’s Anaheim is home to the Anaheim Ducks (NHL) and the Los Angeles Angels (MLB). Outside of major pro sports teams, Orange County is known for its volleyball and sports with the U.S. Open of Surfing hosted in Huntington Beach.
Los Angeles comes out ahead for sports fans!
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Orange County to Los Angeles Distance
The O.C. is part of the Los Angeles metro area, so you can enjoy everything each area has to offer. The distance from Orange County to Los Angeles is 36 miles. Here’s how to get from Orange County to LA.
Orange County vs. Los Angeles: Where Are You Moving?
As you can see, the City of Angels and the O.C. both have so much to offer. Los Angeles is a city that never sleeps with nonstop action, but insane traffic and incredible sprawl. Orange County offers more pristine beaches, a more relaxed vibe, and safe, picturesque communities.
If you have settled on moving to the O.C., check out our guide to the best places to live in Orange County. Give our 5-star movers a call once you’ve settled on the right place for you so we can help you get settled into your new Orange County life!