30 of the Most Expensive Cities in the U.S.
The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, so having cities with high costs of living comes as part of the package. Generally, cities that have booming industries, like technology, are more expensive. The Northeast is also packed with places where rent is high, daycare is exorbitant and regular amenities cost more than other places.
Here is a comprehensive list of America’s most expensive cities.
New York, NY
The Big Apple has breached the “top 10 list of the most expensive places to live on Earth,” so it’s no wonder it tops this list, as well. With over 23.7 million people crammed into this metropolitan area, it’s the most populous city in the United States. The average rent is $3,783, which makes renting alone nearly impossible on an entry-level salary (and still challenging for people with six-figure incomes).
Los Angeles, CA
Home of the famous Hollywood neighborhood, Los Angeles is one of the most well-known cities in the world. Tourists from all corners of the planet come to experience this exciting place that’s the center of entertainment. This boosts the city’s economy and makes it an expensive place to visit – and live.
Combine massive overseas shipping prices and fierce competition for good properties on limited land, and you get the high cost of living in Honolulu, Hawaii. This touristy area is also rife with high prices due to its notoriety as a vacation hotspot, but that means locals are stuck paying these high prices, too.
San Francisco, CA
Another iconic American city full of beautiful sights, culture and career opportunities is San Francisco – home of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s also considered the cultural, business and financial center of Northern California. Naturally, this is where the good jobs are and landlords know they can charge a premium due to high renter competition.
The nation’s capital isn’t actually a city, but the District of Columbia as a whole is quite an expensive place to live. This doesn’t come as a surprise, since it’s the center of government activity and where some of the nation’s most lucrative jobs can be found. As a result, everything is more expensive.
Arlington is a suburb of D.C., and is quite close to the nation’s capital, but still offers some relief in living costs. It’s a prime choice for commuters who don’t want to travel for hours every morning. However, since it’s still very close to lucrative employment opportunities, it’s still expensive to live here. In fact, it is 19.1% more expensive to live here than other places in the nation.
San Jose, CA
San Jose has a rich history with Native American, Spanish, Mexican and American roots. The area has evolved over the years to be one of the most opportunistic cities for modern tech careers. San Jose boasts the most tech-savvy downtown in the nation: Silicon Valley, which is home to Google’s headquarters and many other groundbreaking companies.
Stamford, Connecticut is not the first city on many people’s minds when it comes to expensive cities. But this area is home to four Fortune 500 companies and various other lucrative employers that bring in fresh talent from around the nation. It’s also the seventh-largest city in New England and part of the Greater New York metropolitan area.
El Monte, CA
California has many cities on this list because it’s become a popular state for many employers to set up shop. El Monte is another one of these Californian hubs where many industries have boomed. Though the city’s slogan is "Welcome to Friendly El Monte,” the prices here may not make your wallet happy.
Alaska has similar cost of living issues to Hawaii since it’s expensive to have goods and resources shipped there. This cold state also has sparse local resources, so food items like fresh produce come at a premium. Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, with a cost of living that is 9.2% more expensive than the rest of the nation. For example, a dozen eggs cost more than $4 each.
Famous for Fenway Park and delicious baked beans, Boston is a beloved tourist attraction and home to around 4.8 million people. This city is a major cultural and economic hub for the state and was listed as the fifth-most innovative city in the world in 2017. Boston is also the most populated city in Massachusetts.
Home of the Philly Steak and Cheese, Philadelphia isn’t just a place for great eats – it’s also expensive. For starters, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment easily exceeds $1,800. But, despite the high cost of living, people love this city. There’s plenty to see and do, including a visit to the oldest outdoor market – the Italian Market.
Though New Jersey’s capital city is best known for its excellent pizza, it also had a brief stint as the United States’ capital in 1784. However, Trenton has since become a booming city that borders metropolitan areas in New York and Philadelphia. Therefore, this city is uniquely positioned to appeal to commuters to several major cities.
Boulder is home to Colorado’s largest university, the University of Colorado, and is the 11th most populous municipality in the state. This city isn’t just good for students, but people from all walks of life benefit from the high quality of life it offers. If you can shoulder the high costs of hanging your hat in this city, you’ll enjoy beautiful sights at the Rocky Mountain foothills, as well as a vibrant community that is enthusiastic about healthy living.
Oceanside, California is the third largest city in San Diego County. It’s located right below Camp Pendleton, one of the largest Marine Corps bases in the U.S. Oceanside residents enjoy a comfortable semi-arid climate, where the sea winds keep the weather stable and pleasant all year long.
New Haven, CT
New Haven, Connecticut is part of the New York metropolitan area, and therefore includes a lot of the price and housing hikes associated with the Big Apple. It’s the second largest city in Connecticut and has the honor of being the first planned city in the United States.
Cambridge is the home of the world-renowned Harvard University and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). It belongs to the Boston Metropolitan area and is located across the Charles River, north of Boston. It is the fifth most populated city in Massachusetts.
Miami, Florida is the sixth most densely populated city in the United States. Right now, the average two-bedroom apartment in Miami goes for at least $2,200 a month. However, if you can handle the cost, you’ll be living in South Florida’s economic, cultural and financial center. You’ll also be close to the gorgeous Everglades and Biscayne Bay, if you’re ever in the mood for a daycation.
Glendale is the third largest city in Los Angeles County and is located at the end of San Fernando Valley. It’s considered a suburb of the LA metropolitan area and is known for its excellent shopping (the Glendale Galleria and Americana at Brand). DreamWorks SKG also makes its home here, which often shows up on the Fortune 100 “Best Companies to Work For” list.
Costa Mesa, CA
Costa Mesa has come a long way from its early days as a rural farming community in the 1950s. Today, it’s a bustling suburban area that specializes in commerce, light manufacturing and retail. The average rent in Costa Mesa is $1,720 and the median cost of a home is $671,800.
The city that “Hairspray” made well-known is also the largest city in Maryland. It is just 40 miles from Washington, D.C., and it’s fairly common to see commuters travel to work in the nation’s capital from Baltimore. The average cost of rent is around $1,500 for a two-bedroom apartment.
San Diego, CA
Ron Burgundy’s beloved city has stayed classy with its mild year-round climate, gorgeous beaches and rising star status in the healthcare and biotechnology industries. San Diego is located 120 miles south of Los Angeles and is close to Mexico. It’s the second largest city in California and the eighth largest city in the United States.
Salinas is located in Monterey County and belongs to the southern part of the Greater Bay Area. Just 10 miles south of the city lies the Salinas River. This beautiful city is the capital of Salinas Valley, which is known for its fresh produce, vineyards and flowers. Recently, the area has been delving into agricultural technology.
Tucked away in the Northeast is the most populated city in northern New England, Manchester, New Hampshire. This historical city was once a farming community known as Derryfield, but today it’s home to the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, Manchester Community College and Southern New Hampshire University. Therefore, during the academic year, the downtown area has a young and academic vibe.
Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Barbara is uniquely located between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains. This city has been called an “American Riviera,” likening it to the French Riviera, and is a popular place for tourists. But this area isn’t just a great place to visit. Many career-seekers have come here for jobs in education, tech, health care, agriculture, manufacturing and finance.
You’ll be “Sleepless in Seattle” over the exorbitant cost of living for a family of four, which averages $8,095. Seattle’s cost of living is 10.5% more expensive than the national average, as this bustling urban landscape offers competitive employment and housing around its urban grid. Home to major corporations like Microsoft and Boeing, Seattle has plenty of companies to attract talent from around the nation.
Here's another Connecticut city to add to the list. Bridgeport is a seaport city with a rich history, which includes the Paugussett Native American tribe and English colonization (after the 1640s). Fans of “The Greatest Showman” will appreciate that P.T. Barnum lived in Bridgeport for a time and even served as the city’s mayor in 1875.
Napa, CA, is a prime tourist location as its famous for being part of California’s Wine Country. Though it’s a wonderful place to visit, living here is going to cost a pretty penny. The price of rent is certainly something to “wine” about, with the typical two-bedroom apartment easily costing over $2,500 a month.
Newark is one of America’s oldest cities, having been founded by Puritans in the year 1666. It has the highest population in New Jersey and is a major center for shipping, rail and air traffic. It’s quite common to make a connecting flight at Newark Liberty International Airport or to switch trains at Penn Station. It also is one of the busiest seaports in the nation.
Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz is the largest city in Santa Cruz County. It’s famous for its Redwood forests and for being the home of the University of California, Santa Cruz. The cost of living here is 24.8% higher than the national average and the average rent is over $3,000 for a typical two-bedroom apartment.