Off Grid Living In California ( The Golden State )

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California is located on the west coast of the country, if this state would be a separate country it would be the 5th richest country in the world. California’s population is around 39.51 million residents and the population is growing every year, although it started to slow down. In the early ’90s if you wanted to make something out of yourself or make it big then you had to move to this state.

California is probably one of the worst states for off grid living, you can live off the grid here legally and also harvest rainwater legally but the cost of living and the cost of housing and property is way too high. California has one of the most fertile lands in the country, but the main problem is that this state has a serious shortage of water, and the crops grown here need a lot of water. In fact, in the near future, there will be restrictions on how much water a person is allowed to use per day.

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Although in the past couple of years, more and more people started moving out as California has a lot of issues. In the early ’90s when the tech bubble was in full swing a lot of big tech companies moved here, these companies brought a lot of high-paying jobs which skyrocketed California’s cost of living. Currently, the cost of living is so bad that you will have to make significantly more money in this state to live comfortably than in the rest of the country.

During the past couple of years, some of these big tech companies started to leave California, as there are other states which do have an affordable cost of living and generous incentives for big tech companies. Even Hollywood is slowly leaving California, most movies located in California are not actually shot in this state but made with CGI. California has a fairly high population density which complicates things, this state has around 75 cities with a population of over 100k people.

The biggest cities in California are Los Angeles with 4 million population, followed by San Diego with 1.4 million, San Jose with 1 million, San Francisco 870k, and Fresno with 525k residents. In addition to the high population density, California also has a serious problem with freshwater, most of the state is a desert and the local aquifers are starting to dry up. If you want to take a look at one of California’s neighbors then check out my recent article Off grid living in Nevada ( Silver State ).

Is Off Grid Living Legal In California?

Off-grid living is generally legal in California, with state laws being supportive of this lifestyle. However, strict adherence to building codes and obtaining permits is crucial for compliance. Acquiring water rights and dealing with potential water scarcity, such as well drying, can pose challenges in California.

Off Grid Laws

Living off the grid in California is legal, you can even harvest rainwater legally although in some areas there will be restrictions regarding freshwater. California has a lot of people living off the grid, although most people have simply no other choice, you will also see a lot of people living in their vans in this state. You also have the possibility to homeschool your children, although the homeschooling laws are fairly vague, and the California Department of Education doesn’t really offer any guidance in this matter.

Generating Power Off The Grid

  • Solar power: Due to the local climate and California’s geographical position generating power with solar panels is probably the best way to generate energy. California has a solar tax credit and an Investment Tax Credit which is around 26%, there is also a federal tax credit but I am not sure if you can apply for all of them.
  • Wind power: California offers the Investment Tax Credit for wind power as well,  and the amount can be between 12-30%, although different counties also have different rates so make sure to check first.


California has several different types of climates, most of the state has a Mediterranean climate, in the northern parts the climate is temperate, and in some areas, the climate is arid or semi-arid. Generally speaking, the average summer temperatures are around 90°F and the average wintertime temperatures are around 40°F. Although you will notice a significant difference in temperature and climate between the northern and the southern parts of the state. If you want to take a look at a state which has plenty of options for growing crops then check out my recent article Off grid living in Oklahoma ( Sooner State ).

Types Of Crops

California has a fairly large agriculture industry, and it is the leading producer of several fruits and vegetables. The most common fruits grown here are almonds, grapes, dates, figs, kiwi, pistachios, prunes, melons, lemons, olives, nectarines, walnuts, and strawberries. California’s local climate is great for growing fruits, in fact, it has one of the most fertile lands in the world. Although for growing fruits you will need a lot of water and as California has a massive water shortage who knows for how long will it be the leading producer of some fruits.

The main problem is that most of these fruits and nuts need a lot of water to grow, and the local farmers go to great lengths to ensure that their crops get plenty of water. Basically, when it comes to freshwater, the main focus is on growing crops, and only after that comes the needs of the local population. A lot of people who want to live off the grid move from California to Oregon, if you want to find out why then check out my recent article Off grid living in Oregon ( Beaver State ).

Freshwater Availability

California has a serious water shortage, and it is getting worse every year. The average yearly rainfall is around 18″ and the average yearly snowfall is around 60″, although most of the snowfall occurs in the northern parts of the state. The 18″ of yearly rainfall is simply not enough for local agriculture and for the needs of the people. Most people think that harvesting rainwater is illegal in California, this is because until 2012 it was illegal, although currently, harvesting rainwater in California is legal.

In the near future, there will be water restrictions, limiting every household or person to use not more than 55 gallons of water per day, although these restrictions will probably enter into effect in 2023. If you want to know which are the best places for off grid living in California then check out my recent article Best places for Off Grid Living and Homesteading in California ( Top 5 ).


Due to the size of California, there are a lot of animals living in this state the most common ones are snakes, skunks, lizards, otters, black bears, and white-tailed deer. In the local rivers and lakes, you will find Chum salmon, pink salmon, American shad, white sturgeon, and grass carp amongst other fish. The most common saltwater fish are barred sand bass, white seabass, calico surfperch, and California halibut. You will need a fishing license both for saltwater and freshwater fishing

Road Access

The quality of the roads is not the best in California, and due to the high population density, you should expect a lot of traffic jams. It is not uncommon for people to commute for several hours every day to go to work. People who live off the grid usually use 4×4 wheel drive vehicles, especially in remote areas.

Price Of Land

California is one of the most expensive states in the country, if you can afford to buy a house here you can afford a house in Hawaii. Generally speaking, you will pay around 140% more for housing and land in this state than the national average. As California’s population is always increasing the price of housing will also grow, although as the big tech companies are starting to move out the prices will eventually start doping.

Property Tax

California’s property tax is below the national average, currently, it is 0.77% and the national average is 1.08%. Although due to the high cost of housing and property, the low property tax will still cost you a lot more than the national average. Los Angeles County has the lowest property tax at 0.75%.

Cost Of Living

The cost of living in California is a lot higher than the national average, in fact, this is one of the most expensive states in the country. You will pay around 140% more for housing, 33% more for transportation, 5% more for groceries, and 3% more for utilities than the national average. The only thing which costs less in California is healthcare which is around 8% lower than the national average.


California’s unemployment rate is at 3.9% and in the past couple of years it didn’t go below the 3.9% mark, when you compare it to the national average California is slightly above as the national average unemployment is 3.6%. Currently, the minimum wage in California is $12 which is above its neighboring states. Most people work in the following industries agriculture, services, film, manufacturing, and tourism.

Crime Rate

California’s crime rate is above the national average, currently, there are around 4.47 crimes per 1000 people and the national average is 4 crimes per 1000 people. The areas with the lowest crime rate are around Trona, Albion, Point Mugu, Etna, and Kyburz. The areas with the highest crime rates are around Bakersfield, Redding, Los Angeles, Red Bluff, Palm Springs, Bishop, Oroville, and Santa Cruz.

Natural Disasters

California is prone to wildfires, tsunamis, floods, flash floods, droughts, heat waves, and earthquakes. The most commonly occurring natural disasters are earthquakes, although most of them are fairly small but if you are not used to them it will definitely scare you.

Key Takeaways

  • Living off the grid in California is legal, but compliance with regulations and codes is necessary, especially regarding water, sewage, and building codes.
  • Off-grid solar power is legal and encouraged in California, with the state providing incentives and support for renewable energy installations.
  • California offers diverse landscapes and climate, providing opportunities for off-grid living and homesteading, but thorough research of local regulations and suitability is essential.