License or reprint this slide show
printer-friendly without images

Slide Show | June 2013

Most Expensive U.S. Cities to Live In

slideshow image

Thinkstock

When you leave the nation’s heartland and head to the coasts, costs can skyrocket. Five of the ten most expensive cities we found are in California, and four are on the East Coast. The tenth city is located outside the contiguous 48 states.

We compiled our list based on the Council for Community and Economic Research’s calculations of living expenses in 307 urban areas. Its Cost of Living Index measures prices for housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services. We screened out cities with population below 50,000. And because we wanted to pinpoint specific cities with the highest living costs, we also omitted pricey counties with multiple large population centers, such as Orange County, Calif., and Nassau County, N.Y.

Take a look at our list of the 10 most expensive places to live in the U.S.

Data on population, household income and home values provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. Number of millionaire households, defined as households with at least $1 million in investable assets, courtesy of Phoenix Marketing International.


Most Expensive U.S. Cities to Live In

10. Los Angeles

slideshow image

Thinkstock

Cost of Living: 30.8% above average

City Population: 3,819,702

Median Household Income: $50,028 (U.S.: $52,762)

Median Home Value: $513,600 (U.S.: $186,200)

Beverly Hills shopping sprees aside, living in L.A. is surprisingly affordable on many fronts. Health care, groceries and utilities don’t cost much more than is typical for the nation as a whole. That’s good news considering that household incomes fall slightly below the norm. However, transportation costs are 12% above average -- think about all of the gas wasted in the city’s infamous traffic jams -- and housing expenses are nearly double the national average. The median home value in L.A. is more than half a million dollars. (Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Los Angeles area.)

10. Los Angeles

9. San Diego

slideshow image

Thinkstock

Cost of Living: 31.9% above average

City Population: 1,326,179

Median Household Income: $63,739

Median Home Value: $477,100

The sun, surf and sand might be free in San Diego, but you pay a stiff price to live near it all. Apartment rents and housing expenses are more than double the national average in this Southern California city. (Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the San Diego area.) And groceries, transportation and health care are about 10% pricier than the national average. Household incomes are well above the norm, which helps offset higher living expenses, and utilities actually come in 3% below average. Some residents cross the border into Tijuana in search of cheap fun and bargain shopping.

9. San Diego

8. Oakland, Calif.

slideshow image

Joe Parks via Creative Commons

Cost of Living: 35% above average

City Population: 395,817

Median Household Income: $51,144

Median Home Value: $492,200

Like much of California, Oakland is plagued by pricey real estate. Housing expenses are double the national average, a heavy burden considering that household income falls below the U.S. median. (Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Oakland area.) A typical Oakland apartment rents for $1,604 versus the national average of $870. Groceries are another burdensome expense, coming in 22.5% above the national average. A T-bone costs 19% more in Oakland than in a typical U.S. city. That’s one of the highest steak prices among the 307 urban areas surveyed.

8. Oakland, Calif.

7. Boston

slideshow image

Thinkstock

Cost of Living: 39.9% above average

City Population: 625,087

Median Household Income: $51,739

Median Home Value: $381,900

While by no means cheap, the capital of Massachusetts sports the most affordable housing expenses and home values among our top ten expensive cities. (Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Boston area.) That’s a nice perk for Bostonians, who enjoy big-city benefits, including renowned universities, art collections and historic sites. But what residents save on housing, they spend elsewhere. Groceries run 18.9% above the national average; health care comes in 26.4% higher; and utilities, 47.3%.

7. Boston

6. Washington, D.C.

slideshow image

Rictor Norton & David Allen via Creative Commons

Cost of Living: 44.7% above average

City Population: 632,323

Median Household Income: $61,835

Median Home Value: $442,600

At 2.5 times the U.S. average, housing expenses in the nation’s capital can be onerous. Good thing there are almost 183,000 millionaire households in the greater Washington area -- the fourth-highest total of millionaires, after New York, L.A. and Chicago -- who can afford the inflated rents and mortgage payments. (Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Washington, D.C. area.) For those with more modest bank accounts, near-normal prices for other goods and services, including health care, transportation and utilities, help lessen the sting of D.C.’s real-estate market.

6. Washington, D.C.

5. Stamford, Conn.

slideshow image

Lee Cannon via Creative Commons

Cost of Living: 46.1% above average

City Population: 123,868

Median Household Income: $78,201

Median Home Value: $571,400

There’s good reason Stamford has the second-highest concentration of millionaire households in the country. Housing costs are double the national average, and other living expenses run anywhere from 17% to 32% above average. But the median household income is second-highest on our list, and the easy commute into New York makes the Connecticut city a much more affordable alternative to the Big Apple. Because while housing is indeed expensive, it still runs less than half what it costs to live in Manhattan. (Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Stamford, Conn., area.)

5. Stamford, Conn.

4. San Jose, Calif.

slideshow image

Kyle Flood via Creative Commons

Cost of Living: 53.4% above average

City Population: 967,487

Median Household Income: $80,764

Median Home Value: $605,400

What makes this city in the heart of Silicon Valley so expensive? Everything. Groceries and utilities exceed the national average by more than 20%, and health care expenses are nearly 20% above the norm. But as in most super-pricey cities, real estate is the real killer. Housing costs, at more than 2.5 times the national average, top everywhere else except New York and San Francisco. (Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the San Jose area.) San Jose has the highest median household income on this list, which helps residents keep up with the big bills.

4. San Jose, Calif.

3. San Francisco

slideshow image

Thinkstock

Cost of Living: 63.4% above average

City Population: 812,826

Median Household Income: $72,947

Median Home Value: $767,300

Living expenses in San Francisco can be as steep as the city’s famed hills. Housing costs, at nearly three times the national average, are the main culprit. The median value of a home in San Francisco is by far the highest on our list of expensive cities, beating out runner-up San Jose by a whopping $161,900. (Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the San Francisco area.) A typical apartment rents for $2,630 a month, triple the national average. One of the few bargains to be had in San Francisco: wine, which sells for 18% below the national average. Napa is just an hour north of the city.

3. San Francisco

2. Honolulu

slideshow image

Thinkstock

Cost of Living: 67% above average

City Population: 345,610

Median Household Income: $56,939

Median Home Value: $545,700

Hawaii has many positive attributes -- the beaches, the luaus, the world-class surf -- but the inflated cost of living isn’t one of them. The state’s remoteness means residents pay a premium for just about everything. Utilities in Honolulu run 67.6% above average; groceries, 58.1%; and transportation, 27.8%. More specifically: Gasoline costs 21% more than average, and a dozen eggs command 73% more. Housing expenses in the state capital are 2.5 times what’s typical for the rest of the U.S. (Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Honolulu area.)

2. Honolulu

1. New York

slideshow image

Thinkstock

Cost of Living: 125.4% above average (Manhattan only)

City Population: 8,244,910

Median Household Income: $51,270

Median Home Value: $514,900

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. New York takes the top spot on our list of the most expensive cities, thanks in large part to its famously exorbitant real estate market. Housing costs in Manhattan, New York City’s most expensive borough, are 4.5 times the national average. Even in Brooklyn, they are nearly 3.5 times the norm; in Queens, more than double. (Find the best, latest mortgage rates for New York City.) The financial pain doesn’t stop there. Steep commercial rents and distribution costs mean groceries run more in New York than just about anywhere else in the U.S. Consider this: A T-bone steak from a Manhattan grocer averages $15.52. In Harlingen, Texas, the cheapest place to live in America, the same steak goes for $8.34.

1. New York

More From Kiplinger

slideshow image

Thinkstock

SLIDE SHOW: 10 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In

SLIDE SHOW: Where the Millionaires Live in America

SLIDE SHOW: 10 Great Cities for Starting a Business

SLIDE SHOW: 6 Rags-to-Riches Millionaires

TOOL: Find the Best, Latest Mortgage Rates

More From Kiplinger

This page printed from: http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/real-estate/T006-S001-most-expensive-u-s-cities-to-live-in/index.html

All contents © 2014 The Kiplinger Washington Editors