There are many reasons why you might consider moving to a major US city. Maybe you’re moving to San Francisco to live in Silicon Valley because you’ve been offered your dream job at Google. Maybe you love the fast-paced lifestyle that you can only find in cities. Or maybe you love being close to great entertainment, shopping, and dining choices. Whatever your reasons for moving to a big city, you should understand just how much it costs to live in one.
These are our choices for the top 10 most expensive cities in the US. While cities such as New York and Honolulu have always had high price tags, living costs in some cities such as Seattle and San Francisco have gotten more expensive because of gentrification or increased job opportunities.
Top 10 Most Expensive Cities in the USA
- New York City, New York
- San Francisco, California
- San Jose, California
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Bethesda, MD
- Washington, D.C.
- Oakland, California
- Seattle, Washington
- Miami, Florida
How Did We Choose Our Top 10 Most Expensive Cities?
Our data was collected from several sources, including Numbeo and BestPlaces. We also compiled data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Take note that while a city is expensive, it is also affordable as long as the income is greater than the cost of living. Thus, cities such as Seattle and Oakland are more affordable because of the high median income of residents.
New York City, New York
Cost of living: $4, 975 for family of four (without rent)
Average rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $1,788 per month
Unsurprisingly, New York tops the list of most expensive cities in the USA. What’s more, New York is also one of the most expensive cities to live in the world! Known as a mecca for luxury dining and housing options, rent and food costs are the highest factors for residents living in the Big Apple.
The interesting thing about New York is that rent prices can vary wildly depending on the neighborhood. While you might be familiar with pricey Manhattan neighborhoods such as the Upper East Side and SoHo, there are affordable neighborhoods where rent won’t break the bank.
Cost of living: $4,785 for family of four (without rent)
Average rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $1,595 per month
If you’ve ever dreamed of living on a tropical island where you can wake up and enjoy gorgeous views of the beach, then you've probably thought about moving to Honolulu. There is something undeniably romantic about living in Hawaii, with its laidback lifestyle, friendly locals, and love for surfing.
However, you might not have taken the cost of living in Hawaii into account, particularly how *everything* is more expensive. Keep in mind that pretty much everything in Hawaii has to be shipped in, and the cost is passed onto the consumers. This accounts for groceries being 39% more expensive and utilities being 76% more expensive than what you’d pay on the mainland.
San Francisco, California
Cost of living: $4,492 for family of four (without rent)
Average rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $2,639 per month
While New York has the highest cost of living in the USA, San Francisco actually wins over the Big Apple when it comes to the highest rental prices. The city’s median rent is almost 4.4 times higher compared to the national average due to a combination of limited space as well as increased job opportunities due to the tech industry.
Of course, ‘Frisco residents say that living in the city is more than worth the cost. The city has a long, diverse, and colorful history, from being the center of the hippie movement in the ‘60s to being one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly places in the USA. Today, San Francisco is known as a city that’s proud of its progressive culture.
Cost of living: $4,457 for family of four (without rent)
Average rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $1,836 per month
With a thriving tech scene that can rival that of San Francisco and one of the best educational environments in the country, Boston is quickly becoming one of the most popular cities to live in the US. The city’s proximity to world-class universities make it a premier destination for college students, graduate students, and young professionals.
If you’re thinking about living in Boston, take note that the cost for groceries and healthcare are significantly higher than the national average. Healthcare costs nearly 26% more, and you can expect to spend 16% more on groceries compared to other cities.
Cost of living: $4,448 for family of four (without rent)
Average rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $1,997 per month
While Bethesda is not technically a city, it still garners a place on this list because of the high cost of living and rent. It is located adjacent to Washington D.C., and it is home to the National Institutes of Health and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
A thriving urban center, you’ll find an abundance of great restaurants, shopping centers, and art venues in Bethesda. With a population of less than 64,000 people, this is one of the least-populated places on this list. Thus, you’ll find a strong community vibe here.
Cost of living: $4,390 for family of four (without rent)
Average rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $1,743 per month
If you love the cool climate and great restaurants of the Bay area but find that San Francisco is just a bit out of your price range, then you might want to consider renting in Oakland. Located right across the Bay, you’ll be able to enjoy cheaper rentals AND easy access to downtown San Francisco through the BART. It’s a win-win!
Oakland has some of the most diverse neighborhoods in California, from the quiet suburbs of Montclair to the chic arts scene in Rock Ridge. If you love great food finds, listening to live music, or visiting a local farmers market during the weekend, Oakland is the city for you.
Cost of living: $4,188 for family of four (without rent)
Average rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $1,728 per month
Seattle is known for being the headquarters of two of the world’s most well-known companies: Amazon and Microsoft. You’ll likely find a city filled with young professionals, tech entrepreneurs, and start-up companies looking to make their mark. The dynamic tech industry in the area has caused the city to become one of the fastest-growing cities in the US.
Perhaps one of the best things about Seattle is the city’s proximity to nature. The city is brimming with green spaces, and just a few hours outside of the city, you’ll find Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain in the state.
Cost of living: $4,072 for family of four (without rent)
Average rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $1,469 per month
The heart of the nation’s government, Washington D.C. is home to the country’s political elite, think tanks, federal agencies, and lobbying firms. While this has also led to a booming tourism sector, it also means that living in this city is pretty expensive. You should expect to pay 8% more in utility bills compared to the national average.
Aside from being the seat of government, Washington D.C. is also home to iconic destinations such as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural Sciences and the National Gallery of Art. Whether you are a resident or a visitor, you’ll never run out of things to do and see in this city.
Cost of living: $3,900 for family of four (without rent)
Average rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $1,191 per month
Miami is known for being a tourist destination and a great place to retire. It's sunny climate, diverse culture, and great dining options make it attractive to both residents and tourists alike. The cost of living in Miami is 14% higher than the national average, and the rental prices are among the highest in the South US.
Miami is best known for its great year-round weather, beaches, and large Latin-American community. There is also a great arts and culture scene, as you can visit the Historic Art Deco District and the Miami Beach Cinematheque & Gallery.
San Jose, California
Cost of living: $3,535 for family of four (without rent)
Average rent for 1-bedroom apartment:$2,286 per month
Rounding out the list for the most expensive cities in the USA is San Jose. Another great city near the Bay area, this is also a viable option for those looking for affordable rent in California. Prices in the rental market have dropped 7.7% in recent years, particularly in the luxury apartment niche.
Just like many nearby cities in the Bay area, San Jose is home to huge tech companies such as PayPal and Adobe. You’ll also find the same diverse dining scene and thriving nightlife in this city.