If you are a Californian considering a move to Oregon, you’re not alone. Statewide, more new residents of Oregon from 2013 to 2017 came from California than any other place, according to a report from the Oregon Employment Department. During that time period, an average of 39,320 Californians moved to Oregon each year, but an average of 19,523 Oregonians moved to the Golden State, resulting in a net gain of 19,797 new residents from California each year.
In fact, so many Californians have moved to Oregon that Oregonians can boast a new Congressional seat, while their neighbors to the south recently lost a representative.
I was among those making the exodus from the crowded state to our south when I moved from Central California to Brookings in 2014. For me, it has been a paradise. But I had lots to learn about the Beaver State. In the past, migration to Oregon was offset by people moving to California, but recently that trend reversed and California actually lost population.
Here are some things I learned that Californians moving to Brookings, Oregon, might want to know:
There aren’t very many people
Compared to California, there aren’t really that many people in Oregon. And especially not in rural areas such as Brookings.
According to the website World Population Review, there are more than 39.9 million people in California and a bit more than 4.3 million people in Oregon. Of course, California is physically larger, so it’s a good idea to look at relative population density as well.
In California, there are an estimated 255 people per square mile compared to only 45 people per square mile in Oregon. And in Curry County, where Brookings is located, the population density is only 13 per square mile!
Considering that you could approximately double the population of the state of Oregon and still have only reached about 80 percent of the population of Los Angeles County, I’m sure you would agree that there aren’t very many people here.
You don’t have to pump your own gas
When a Californian first moves to Oregon, they have to learn not to jump out of their car at the gas station and grab the nozzle. Although recently the state legislature made self-service legal in rural areas, full service is still the norm. In Oregon all you have to do when you want fuel in your vehicle is lower your window, pop open the lid to your gas tank, and tell the attendant how much and what kind of fuel you want.
What a life!
And the gas is cheaper
Fuel prices go up and down and that’s as true in Oregon as in California. But relatively, gas is cheaper in Oregon largely because California has piled lots of extra taxes and fees on fuel.
Although fuel costs have increased many places recently, in July 2021 I did a search at a popular fuel price comparison website, gasbuddy.com, to compare the prices in Brookings, Oregon (97415) and Crescent City, California (95531), which is about 26 miles south of us. The cheapest price in Crescent City was $4.45 per gallon at a Patriot gas station. The cheapest price in Brookings was $3.69 per gallon at Fred Meyer. According to AAA, the average price in California was $4.322 per gallon (the most expensive in the nation including Hawaii).
As you might imagine, a lot of people drive from Crescent City to Brookings to buy gas.
There’s no statewide sales tax
With California sales tax ranging from 7.25 to 10.75 percent (and more taxes on the drawing board), you might be surprised when you drive through the McDonald’s in Brookings, Oregon, and find that the $1 soda pop is exactly that, one dollar! Nothing added on for tax.
And the same is true when you buy clothing or other items that are taxed in California, even if you’re ordering online.
I should note that although there is no statewide sales tax, there have been efforts across Oregon to impose a sales tax or similar “consumption” taxes and a few locales have taxes on restaurant meals, as an example. And in January 2018, the state started charging a half-percent “privilege” tax on new vehicle purchases and also charges a use tax when first registering vehicles purchased out of state. You can find information about these taxes here.
You don’t have to ‘smog’ your vehicle in Brookings
In certain areas of Oregon (including Portland and Medford), there is a requirement to provide emissions testing, but this is not needed on the coast because we don’t have air quality issues (unless, as can happen in the summer or fall, we have a wildfire sending smoke our way. We have lots of forestland in Oregon, and as with the rest of the Western United States, smoke from wildfires is sometimes part of our reality.)
Vehicle registration fees are much less than in California
Another area where Californians will find savings in moving to Oregon is in fees and taxes related to vehicle purchase and registration. Oregonians, for instance, do not have to pay stiff registration fees for pick-up trucks which are typically considered commercial vehicles in California, commanding very high registration fees.
Someone I know purchased a brand new 2018 Mazda CX-5 in Brookings, Oregon, in November 2018. The total of licensing, registration and similar fees tacked onto the retail price of the vehicle was $621.65.
The State of California provides a calculator to allow residents to estimate their DMV fees. I was astounded to see that a resident of Sacramento, California, would have a total of $3,109 added to the purchase price of the same vehicle (assuming the same sales price). In some areas of the state, the total would be less and in other areas, it would be higher.
And guess what? In the example above, the new vehicle registration was for four years. That’s right! The DMV fees paid were about 20 percent of what California would have charged, and the buyer won’t have to buy new tags for four years.
Both California and Oregon have made some changes since November 2018. Oregon now charges more fees for vehicles that use less gas in order to help pay for roads (since buyers won’t be paying as much fuel tax). Here’s the latest on related fees for Oregon.
Other taxes may be higher (or not)
Well, there are costs associated with our government and providing essential services such as law enforcement. Because Oregon does not have a statewide sales tax, the state relies on income and property tax to run the government.
Everyone’s income tax situation is different, but the Tax Foundation report on state individual income tax rates and brackets for 2021 compares the top state marginal individual income tax rates of the various states with California at 13.30 percent and Oregon at 9.90 percent.
However, a better way of gauging the difference between income tax you might pay in Oregon compared to California is the calculator offered by the website SmartAsset. It allows you to enter your current ZIP Code and see an estimate of various taxes. Then you can enter the ZIP Code for Brookings (97415) and compare your numbers.
Oregonians don’t have the property tax protections that Californians currently enjoy because of the 1978 Proposition 13 (which limited property tax increases). However, Oregon passed two laws passed during the 1990s that together cap both the total effective tax rate that can be applied to a property and the growth of assessed values (upon which taxes are based).
As with income tax, every homeowner’s property tax situation is different. However, the website smartasset.com allows you to compare the property tax of a home of a certain assessed valuation in California with the same valuation in Oregon. As an example, Smart Asset’s calculator shows that if you purchased a home today in Sacramento, California, with an assessed valuation of $360,000, you could expect to pay about $3,416 annually in property taxes, compared to $2,459 in Brookings. (You might pay greater or lesser tax in other areas of California).
Likewise, Oregon property tax rates vary by area. Curry County (where Brookings is located), has one of the lowest residential property tax rates in Oregon.
Cost of living
There are many factors to consider when planning a move to another area. Taxes and governmental fees are part of the picture and real estate costs are also very important. The website bestplaces.net provides a number of helpful calculators to guide you in your decision-making.
And when it comes to real estate, I make it my business to keep up with the market in Brookings, Oregon. I’d be happy to share my own experience moving here from California (and eventually building my dream home). I’d love to help you find your perfect Brookings, Oregon, home!