What's it like to live in Modesto, CA?

David Scheuber

Profile written by local expert:

David Scheuber

Modesto, California, attracts those looking for the balance created by a culturally rich city center that's surrounded by quiet residential neighborhoods. Downtown offers lots of entertainment, from concerts to comedy showcases, in both large and intimate venues. Meanwhile, the peaceful residential areas were the childhood homes of several big-name entertainers like filmmaker George Lucas and actors Jeremy Renner and Timothy Olyphant.

The region's thriving agriculture industry and pleasant weather have influenced the landscaping everywhere. Neighborhoods are lined with towering old trees and numerous parks provide peaceful settings for walks and jogs. Modesto is also encircled by farmland that's focused on feeding the nation and the world with lettuce, grapes, almonds and dairy products.

What's more, Modesto's central valley location puts residents in close proximity to the grandeur of Yosemite National Park, the snow sports of Lake Tahoe and the cultural attractions of San Francisco.

See all the best places to live in California.


U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Modesto, California is ranked:

#120 in Best Places to Live

#122 in Best Places to Retire

#10 in Best Places to Live in California

#13 in Most Expensive Places to Live




Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
  • Value
  • Job Market
  • Quality of Life
  • Net Migration

Read how we rank places

Modesto, CA Quick Stats

  • 803,074

    Metro Population

  • $46,176

    Average Annual Salary

  • 76.0° / 51.3°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 32.9

    Median Age

  • $289,168

    Median Home Price

  • 13.1 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 7.0%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $1,011

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 27.8 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in Modesto, CA?

The cost of living in Modesto is far less than that of California's coastal metro areas, though it is higher than the national average. The region's median home sale price is slightly higher than the national median. Additionally, Modesto residents tend to spend more on daily expenses like groceries, transportation and utilities. Workers receiving minimum wage will find it hard to meet basic needs without additional income.

Unlike in most major cities, Modesto actually sees home prices drop slightly the closer you live to downtown. With much of the area's economy dependent on agriculture, it's understandable that homes closer to the farms would be more desirable and therefore cost more. Families with children tend to live to the north and east of the downtown area to be closer to quality schools.

Value Index

Index Score: 4.8 /10

How we calculate this.

Modesto offer a lower value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs 2018



Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Modesto, CA.

What's the weather like in Modesto, CA?

Modesto experiences a mild winter with some rain and a few below-freezing nights. Spring is pleasant and summer is hot and dry. Fall ushers in cooler weather and brings colorful foliage to the urban forest.

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)









Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

2.6 in


2.0 in


0.1 in


1.4 in


Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around Modesto, CA?

Modesto Area Express, or MAX, is the primary city bus system with more than two dozen routes. Although public transit is available, most residents use their personal vehicle to get around.

The Modesto City-County Airport stopped commercial flights in 2014, so most locals now book flights out of Sacramento, Oakland or San Francisco. The Amtrak train station is located on the northeast edge of town, and charter bus companies like Greyhound provide transit to nearby cities like Los Angeles.

Commuting in Modesto, CA

Means of Transportation
Above national average

Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Public Transit
Below national average
Average Commute Time

27.8 minutes

1.4 minutes more than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Modesto, CA?

Families make up an especially large chunk of Modesto's population, and their presence is reflected in the multitude of single-family homes found in many neighborhoods.

About 40 percent of the population in Modesto is religious, and the largest amount of religious people identify as Catholic. Because the city is home to a growing Evangelical population, it's sometimes referred to as "the Bible Belt of California." 

Roughly 18 percent of the population in Modesto lives at or below the poverty level.

Modesto's population is fairly diverse, with residents from other parts of the world sharing their culture with the community in a number of ways. For example, the Crows Landing district brings the flavor of the Latino culture to the area with its restaurants, taco trucks, supermarkets and shops.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown

About the same number of single people in Modesto as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in Modesto, CA?

Those with an athletic lifestyle will find a number of outlets for activity, including local gyms, yoga studios and golf courses. There's a path for biking and running, which weaves through the scenic Dry Creek area. Nearby reservoirs, lakes and rivers make for great opportunities to swim, water ski and boat.

Meanwhile, Modesto offers plenty for lovers of the performing arts. The Gallo Center for the Arts, home to the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, hosts a variety of performances, as do the Prospect Theater Project and the Sankofa Theatre Company. The Stanislaus County Office of Education offers the Yes Company, which welcomes all school-age children for theater productions.

Families can find go-karts and mini golf at Boomers, a rock climbing wall at Stonehenge Indoor Climbing Gym and trampolines at Rockin' Jump. For the 21 and older set, downtown's restaurants, bars and dance clubs are a great way to spend the evenings.