Top 10 Most Expensive Cities in the United States to Live in


Not all cities in the United States are equal. You might live a regular middle-class lifestyle in your city, but then find yourself spending more money on the same goods in the next city. This is simply due to the fact that not all cities have the same cost of living. And for some cities, the cost of living can be incredibly high. 

Given that the national median cost of an average house is $245,000 and the median income of $60,300, expect to pay more to buy property if you want to live in these cities.

New York City, New York

Population: 8.4 million

Median Cost of a House: $652,700

Everything costs more in New York City, making it the most expensive city to live in the United States. The borough contributing the most to this high average is Manhattan, where the cost of living is 154% higher than the national average, and nearly every home in the area costs more than a million dollars.

And even if you do find a less expensive (we can’t really call New York City cheap or affordable) home in one of the other four boroughs, everything else there – from the food to the public transportation – is relatively more expensive than anywhere else in the United States. While other cities on this list have a much higher median cost for housing, the cost of living in NYC is incredibly high that it offsets the additional thousands of dollars of housing property. 

Living in New York City is so expensive that, in a list of most expensive cities to live in the world, New York City is the only US city to enter the top 10, placing 9th. But if you’re in NYC to live in luxury, New York ranks 4th as the most expensive cities for living a high-end lifestyle, according to Julius Baer.

San Francisco, California

Golden Gate bridge
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

Population: 883,305

Median Cost of a House: $1.4 million

When California is arguably the most expensive state to live in (it’s the only state with more than one city on this list – and these take up half of the Top 10), you can imagine how expensive San Francisco has to be to place second. Its median housing price is the highest on this list, making SF a place with a staggering cost of living almost close enough to rival New York City’s. 

Because of the high costs of living, an average family of four needs a bare minimum household income of $103,200 just to make ends meet. The current average salary of a college graduate is $45,000. This means you and your partner have to be making more than the average salary just to get by if you want to raise a family with two kids. The unemployment rate here is low at 1.8%, but given the high cost of living there, you really wouldn’t want to live in San Francisco if you didn’t have a job or had the financial means to live there.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Population: 342,933

Median Cost of a House: $625,000

The median cost of a house in Honolulu is the second lowest in this list. But what makes this city the third most expensive one to live in the United States are its higher costs that can barely be offset by the higher paychecks. 

Grocery shopping in Honolulu costs 64.6% higher than the national average, while utilities are 72.5% more expensive than the average. Paychecks are not much higher in Honolulu compared to the average cities, but the city’s median household income is $82,900, almost $22,600 more than the average national median.

Boston, Massachusetts

Population: 694,583 

Median Cost of a House: $632,000

Given the fact that it has a higher education environment, a growing tech industry rivaling Silicon Valley, and a popularity as one of the leading tourist destinations in the United States, people are now paying more to live in Boston. 

With the given median home value, a family of four needs $84,905 to get by. It’s more doable for couples with college degrees and well-paying jobs compared to living in San Francisco. But given that groceries and healthcare are 14% and 22% more expensive than the average, respectively, you really need to be raking in the dough to live in this city.

Washington, D.C.

Washington DC
Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

Population: 702,455 

Median Cost of a House: $636,000

Home to the most powerful government positions in the country, think tanks, lobbying firms, federal agencies, and a strong tourism sector, it’s no surprise that the cost of living in Washington, D.C. is very high. A family of four will need at least $75,100 in household income to survive on the basics.

Oakland, California

Population: 429,082

Median Cost of a House: $765,400

Just at the opposite end of the Bay Bridge, Oakland was the cheaper alternative to living in San Francisco. People who worked in San Francisco but couldn’t afford the high cost of living but wanted to live as close to work as possible opted to live here instead. 

While Oakland is cheaper than San Francisco, it’s still an expensive city to live in compared to the cost of living average in other cities. If you’re thinking about renting a good home here, expect to fork over $3,000 a month, nearly twice the national average of rent in the United States.

San Jose, California

Population: 1.3 million

Median Cost of a House: $1,000,000

So, if San Francisco and Oakland are too expensive, you might be thinking about moving away from the Bay Area. San Diego’s high cost of living proves that that isn’t the case. While still a commuting distance away from the two cities’ bustling centers, San Jose is home to Silicon Valley, arguably the hub for tech and IT in the United States. 

Because of that area alone, San Jose has become so expensive to live in that the median house value is a million dollars. The median household income in San Jose is up at $104,200. Because of the high number of jobs in the city, expect that neighboring cities like Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and Cupertino will be to San Jose what Oakland is to San Francisco.

San Diego, California

Population: 1.4 million

Median Cost of a House: $652,200

Further south of California and home to military and science firms, San Diego is one of the more expensive cities in the area. Residents have a median outcome of $75,000 and has an employment rate of 2.8%, close to the national average.

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles CA
Photo by Joel Mott on Unsplash

Population: 3.99 million

Median Cost of a House: $723,800

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not Hollywood’s celebrities and movie stars that make this city one of the more expensive places to live in. While it does make a bump in the city’s economy, the shipping industry plays a huge role in affecting the city’s cost of living, as Los Angeles is home to the Port of Los Angeles, one of the busiest ports in the world. The manufacturing and start-up industry within the city also affect the high cost of living. 

With the high cost of living and large population, it’s easy to understand why 19.1% of Los Angeles residents are considered to be living in poverty. But with the many opportunities for stardom and start-up success, it’s easy to see why many choose to live in an expensive city like this.

Miami, Florida

Population: 470,914

Median Cost of a House: $435,000

The only southern city on this list, Miami is home to wealthy foreigners and international financial institutions. It’s also home to the busiest cruise ship port in the world, which definitely drives up tourism. 

With a lot of foreign relations going on in the city, it’s no surprise that those flocking to the city are met with high cost of living prices. To life comfortably, a family of four would need more than $70,800. 

These cities are definitely expensive places to live in. Should you choose to live here, don’t be surprised when you see how everyday products are almost twice its regular price – there’s a big reason for that.  

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