Find the perfect Davis student apartment complexes and reduce the hassles in your busy life.

UC Davis students searching for off-campus apartment complexes in Davis, CA often find apartment rentals that have substantial hidden costs. Experienced Housing hunters look for unexpected extra charges for one or more of the following:

  • Wi-Fi

Stop wasting money


How to choose the best in off-campus student housing and balance luxury, cost and convenience.

Are you considering living off-campus life or upgrading your current housing accommodations and asking yourself, “Where am I going to live?”

There are numerous factors to consider when deciding which student housing is right for you. University of California, Davis students should look for the right balance between everything you need and everything you want in your next apartment rental. After all, it will be your “home away from home” while you earn your college degree.

You can remove some of the stress of moving into your new home by being prepared. And to help you be prepared, we created a list of things you can do to be an informed, prepared, and knowledgeable renter in our “10 Steps to Student Housing Success.”

Here is the list to consider.

1. Take your time in the process, but start looking early

Students should begin looking for apartments to rent well in advance of their decision to move off-campus. Those looking to be off-campus at the start of a new academic school year should begin looking before the end of December. Most student housing leases are on a one-year cycle which is in alignment with the UC Davis academic school year; starting September 1 and ending on August 31.

During December and January, you need time to visit several apartment complexes to compare the advantages of one over another. Make a list of features to compare apartment complex to apartment complex. Be sure to compare properties managed by different property management companies. Doing so can reveal significant differences in on-site quality of life and monthly financial obligations. There are huge differences between property management companies in Davis and in other college communities.

Many of the most attractive apartment rentals, especially the large units that can accommodate several roommates, will be rented out by January or February. This makes apartment hunting for the upcoming school year extremely difficult for you and your friends. So if you want to live off-campus during your Sophomore year with a bunch of your friends, be sure to start your planning early.

2. Location! Location! Location!

Many students spend their freshman year on campus living in the dorms. In their sophomore year, they venture out to live with their friends in an apartment or a house. What will make one place better to live than the other? Location of your new off-campus housing will make a difference. It is a major factor in making your decision.

How close to campus do you want to live? Are you driving? You need to consider parking at home and on campus. Are you going to bike? If so, it helps to find a place that’s about a mile or so away from campus with convenient bike routes. Will you take Unitrans to school? You need to live in a place close to the bus lines (maybe multiple bus lines) and know how long it will take you to get to campus each day.

Besides your proximity to the school, you’ll also want to consider how close you are to other places. Where is the nearest grocery store? What about the nearest coffee shop? Restaurants? Laundry? Consider what shopping center amenities you would like to be near and then map out the apartment complexes located within the area. Make sure you have easy access to everything you need for school and for living.

Before making a decision, always visit the proposed rental several times. This will give you a feel for the facility and the location. Visit at different times of day and at night to see if the area appears safe, has adequate lighting, and has an atmosphere in which you would be comfortable. Be sure to check out the neighbors too. Your place may be great, but the neighbors could be bad apples.

When looking at Davis apartments for rent, be sure to check out:

3. Off-campus benefits and drawbacks

Off-campus student housing provides many benefits including increased independence, lower costs, greater freedom, and more space. Whether living alone or with friends, some students find it is beneficial to get off campus each day and unwind away from school pressure.

Living on campus isn’t always the desired preference for new or returning students. When this is the case, students are faced with deciding which off-campus housing options is right for them. Factors such as cost, student maturity level (as off-campus living typically comes with more responsibility), and lifestyle are all big factors in making this decision.

The Pros of living off campus:

  • You get to choose with whom you live.
  • Live near the goods and services you want.
  • Off-campus living is usually less expensive.
  • You can have a place to park your car.
  • It teaches responsibility (cooking, cleaning and paying bills).
  • More privacy.
  • Easier to visit with friends in your home
  • You don’t have to move out every summer
  • You can start building a rental history.

The Cons of living off campus:

  • It may take longer to get to campus.
  • You need to organize with roommates.
  • Possible need to mediate roommate disputes.
  • There are likely to be extra utility and Wi-Fi costs.
  • No resident assistants (RA’s) around to give you advice.

4. By the room vs. whole apartment?

Part of the advantage of living with roommates is that it cuts down on your expenses…drastically. If you are planning to go off-campus, it is a good idea to price out different size units you would share with roommates and break-down the costs by the room vs the whole apartment. It may be less expensive to get a bigger place with a few friends than it would be to get a smaller place with only one friend. Most students who live off campus have roommates. So, you will need to sit down with your new roommates and agree on how the monthly costs will be shared.

Here is an example of typical cost of renting a 2-bedroom with 3 people by the room and by the whole apartment:

By the room:
Shared room $760 – 2 people = $1,520
Private room $1,185 – 1 person = $1,185
Total $2,705 average of $902 per person

By the whole apartment:
Apartment with 3 people = $2,075 average of $692 per person

Here is an example of typical cost of renting a 4-bedroom with 7 people:

By the room:
Shared room $760 – 6 people = $4,560
Private room $1,185 – 1 person = $1,185
Total $5,745 average of $821 per person

By the whole apartment:
Apartment with 7 people = $3,350 average of $479 per person

Here is some info on off-campus apartment prices:

5. What is included in the rent?

Not all rent pricing is the same. Always consider utilities, water, sewer, garbage, Wi-Fi, amenities, gardening and other costs associated with each type of student housing. These items can add up quickly for budget conscious students.
Determine what is included and what is not included with your monthly rent. Ask the apartment manager or landlord, “Are any utilities included in the rent?” This will give you some of the information you need to compare apartment rentals. Or perhaps, the better question would be, “For what items do charge the tenant that are not included in the rent?” There may be a bbq, fitness center, community room, computers, printers available for student use at your apartment complex. But, is there an additional charge to use those items? Ask the right questions to get a complete picture.

The utility bill(s) can come as a shock. Know what is typically charged each month for utilities in the area: water, gas, electric, sewer, garbage, phone, internet, and more. Check with friends that are currently renting in the area. Talk with people at the apartment complex that you are touring. What do they pay each month for utilities? When you get an idea of cost, add a line item in your budget and use that information for comparing the costs of off-campus housing.
Many Davis apartment complexes include water, sewer, garbage, parking and Wi-Fi without any extra charge. But there are also many houses and apartment complexes that have extra charges for several of these items. Remember to ask if you will be charged for these items when you are comparing your student housing options.

You may be looking at cheap rent, but other charges can add-up quickly.

6. Pick roommates carefully

Choosing a roommate is an important decision and requires great thought. While students will most likely have experienced living with a roommate in a residence hall, living off-campus presents a whole new set of challenges. In off-campus housing, you need to think about paying bills, dividing rent, signing leases and sharing responsibility for the space. Regardless of whether you are electing to live with an old friend or someone you just met, everyone sharing the space needs to be very up-front about what they’re looking for in a living situation. If one person is very engrossed in their studies and the other person tends to be focused on a lively social life until 2 am four nights a week, it may be best to find more like-minded roommates and preserve those friendships.

IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that when you sign a lease with a group of people, every person is responsible for the obligations of the lease. One person breaking the lease provisions can lead to lease violations and, quite possibly, an eviction for the whole unit.

7. Parking

Living off-campus means you’ll need to know the parking rules for where you live. If you and/or your roommate(s) own cars, you need to think about parking:

  • Will there be a charge for parking? If so, how much?
  • How many parking spaces are there per apartment?
  • Do your pre-rental visits show adequate parking in the day and at night?
  • Do the parking lots have sufficient lighting for safety?
  • Will there actually be a place to park when I get home in the day or on Sunday night when the lot is usually at maximum capacity?
  • Can guests park in the apartment lot, or is there a designated area for guest parking, or is parking for tenants only?
  • What is the towing policy?

Parking can be extremely frustrating. Know what parking will be like before signing that lease. Add a parking review to your checklist.

8. Amenities

Amenities offered by student apartments are among the most important things to consider when choose off-campus housing. While you might not need some amenities, such as a pool or fitness center, having them can make living in student housing a lot more fun. Make a list of most important things you would like to have in an apartment complex and keep that list in hand when you’re out looking at Davis apartments for rent.

The number one amenity requirement recognized by our students is a strong and reliable INTERNET CONNECTION. Many apartment complexes now offer free WiFi. But “free” doesn’t necessarily meant “fast.” Run a speed test on-site at various locations to assess the facility’s WiFi system. Does Internet access work as advertised? Does it have the bandwidth that you need? This is particularly important if you prefer to use the WiFi and study from the comfort of your own room. So be confident that your student housing choice can deliver trustworthy WiFi. If it doesn’t meet your needs, you may be purchasing your own Internet access which adds to your monthly budget.

Many apartments in Davis have a pool, bbq’s, a fitness center, a clubhouse, and an on-site laundry room. Many student apartment complexes also include a business center with computers and printers for the students to print assignments. Get a full list of amenities and compare among your top student housing choices.

You can get to campus by car, bike, or bus. If you are taking the bus, knowing the proximity of the bus stops and the frequency of the buses will be vital. Some apartments are serviced by multiple bus routes going to different locations on campus. Be sure to pick the apartment on the Unitrans bus routesthat you need.

9. Read the contract

Once students have found the perfect off-campus housing, lined-up roommates, and ensured the rental it isn’t a scam, it’s time to “seal the deal.” Make sure you read the lease agreement carefully and in full…then read it again. Pick out every little detail, ask as many questions as you need to. It is a good idea to get someone with experience to review the lease agreement with you. You don’t want to miss some important details which will come back to haunt you. It’s very important to review terms of the lease agreement with all your roommates to make sure everyone understands what they are agreeing to do. Are all roommates clear on their responsibility to pay for a whole year? If not, does the lease allow for sublets during the summer months or at other times of the year?

It’s also important to make sure an apartment inspection is completed both at the beginning and at the end of the rental period to ensure you and your roommates are not charged for any pre-existing problems with the unit. Tenants should take pictures and or videos of the rental at the beginning rental period and at the end of the rental period to avoid any misunderstandings and to show that the rental was returned clean and in the manner it was received.

10. Don’t feel shy about asking questions

One of the best things to do when learning how to choose off-campus student housing is to always ask questions. Go ahead and ask the apartment manager plenty of questions about the property, about your lease, what it’s like to live there, the management team, etc.

A great way to learn about the apartment complex is to talk with the current tenants. You want to know as much as you can about the property, the quality of the study environment, responsiveness of management, average utility costs, security deposit, and what other items you’ll need to pay beyond the rental agreed rental amount. It is always better to know now that to be surprised later.