There’s more to a city than just its population or geographical location; it’s also about the vibe. Every city has a unique vibe that draws new people and keeps others. In addition, we prefer cities with better economic benefits and those that help us improve or complement our lifestyle.
But not all cities are created equal, and that includes the cost of living. This blog explores 15 U.S. cities with the highest cost of living and the characteristics that make them unique.
Stanford is located on Long Island, just an hour away from New York City, arguably one of the most expensive cities in the world. As a result of its proximity, Stanford is also lumped into the category of being one of the most expensive cities to live in the U.S.
The city has a booming commercial district with high-profile corporations like the Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, and Charter Communications. These corporations are also major employers for area residents.
There’s a considerable amount of wealth at Stanford thanks to the lucrative salaries paid by many of the corporations. As a result, the city has an inflated cost of living. Homeowners in Stanford typically pay double the average price of a house.
Bethesda is a suburb of Washington, D.C. Bethesda is technically not a city, but it has a population of over 63,000, making it the smallest city on our list. It’s also home to many prestigious government institutions such as the National Institutes of Health and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. There are also other large companies with headquarters based in Bethesda; these include Bethesda Software, Lockheed Martin, and Marriott International.
Compared to other cities, the average cost of food and utilities in Bethesda are comparable. So why is it ranked among the most expensive cities to live in in the U.S.? The answer lies in Bethesda’s real estate market. Housing prices here tend to exceed the national average. The median household income is the highest in the country, which definitely helps in terms of keeping up with Bethesda’s cost of living.
San Diego, California is the eighth most populated city in the United States and the second most populated city in the state of California. The city is famous for its beautiful weather, beaches, parks, and restaurants.
San Diego’s economy mainly relies on the defense and tourism industry. The Deepwater Port is a major contributor to San Diego’s economy. There are also national defense headquarters in San Diego including General Atomics, Cubic, and NASSCO. International and domestic trade are also significant players in San Diego’s economy.
Tourism is also a significant part of the city’s economy. There are many beaches, parks, and other tourist attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, Belmont Amusement Park, SeaWorld San Diego, and Balboa Park that see visitors from around the world year-round.
San Diego is also known as America’s Craft Beer Capital. Around 32 million people visit San Diego every year, which generates annual revenue of $8 billion. In addition, the tourism industry provides upward of 160,000 jobs.
Los Angeles is considered by many to be the most glamorous city on our list. After all, it’s the home of Hollywood. Aside from the movie stars, Los Angeles is the second largest U.S. city. It’s also famous for its climate. Ethnic and cultural diversity make Los Angeles even more appealing.
Los Angeles’s economy primarily runs on its entertainment offerings like movie studios, video game development, and music recording/production. Its economy is also nicely served by the aerospace and technology industries, oil and gas, fashion, and tourism.
Unfortunately, living in Los Angeles means paying about 2.5 times more in rent than anywhere else in the country. This is particularly troublesome given the low average household income.
Orange County is a southern California city located between Los Angeles and San Diego. Due to the favorable weather, residents of Orange County are often more engaged in outdoor activities like surfing, boating, and hiking. The average home price in Orange County is more than three times higher than the national average.
There are many companies that have headquarters in Orange County. These include Ingram Micro, First American Corporation, Western Digital, Pacific Life, and Broadcom. There are also many regional shopping malls in Orange County. Coast Plaza is the largest shopping mall in California, the third largest in the United States, and the 34th largest in the world.
Tourism is a significant contributor to Orange County’s economy. The central tourist hub in Anaheim where Disneyland and its resorts are located. Tourists also visit Knotts Berry Farm. In fact, around 7 million people visit the farm each year.
Miami is a famous tourist city in the U.S and across the world. A large portion of Miami’s population includes people from other countries. Miami is also home to many international financial institutions; there are more than 1,400 multinational firms based in Miami. The city’s real estate market saw an upswing in the 2000s, which led to an increase in Miami’s cost of living.
Boston has a collection of historical sites, which contributes to it being one of the best places to live. Not only is it a historical hub, but it’s also where prestigious institutions like Harvard are located.
Boston is known for its seafood, its mild summers and frigid winters, and its high cost of living. In fact, the median home prices in Boston are more than two times higher than the national average.
Arlington is located across the Potomac River just a few miles away from Washington, D.C. Its proximity to the nation’s capital makes it a hotspot for the ambitious and wealthy. So, naturally, the cost of living rises tremendously. Household and renting expenses in Arlington are more than two and a half times higher than the national average.
Arlington has an impressive school system, and government jobs are plentiful thanks to the number of federal buildings located throughout the city.
Seattle is a beautiful city in the center of splendid mountain ranges and next to the Pacific Ocean. Seattle is also one of the U.S.’s fastest growing cities due to the presence of large tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon, which are headquartered there. Seattle’s tech industry has played a significant role in the city’s low unemployment rate and higher than average annual household income, which averages nearly $20,000 higher than in other cities.
With the higher average salary comes a higher cost of living. The average monthly rent in Seattle is almost 2.8 times more than the national average, and the surging population placed a major strain on the housing market. With the city struggling to meet the growing demand for homes, house prices have shot through the roof.
Oakland sits in the middle of an area surrounded by San Francisco Bay, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley. Oakland is relatively affordable compared to its surrounding cities, but the average household expenses in Oakland are almost three times higher than the national average. The average household income is just 23% higher than the national average.
For years, Washington, D.C. has been considered a “commuter city,” making most of its inhabitants come in from the suburbs to work and then returned to the suburbs afterward. But that trend is shifting; the nation’s capital is becoming a lively place where residents are choosing to live full-time.
The primary reason behind the population surge is the abundance of job opportunities, most of which are in the government sector. With D.C.’s continuously increasing population, it is becoming difficult for people to find places to live. Large scale skyscraper-type multi-family apartment buildings like the ones found in New York City have been prohibited thanks to a law passed by Congress in 1910.
According to this law, buildings in D.C. could not be built higher than 20 feet tall, which equates to roughly 11 stories. As a result, space and housing come at a premium – the average home price in Washington, D.C. is around three times higher than the national average, easily making it one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.
If you are searching for a home in the Bay area and have money to spare, San Jose is a good option. San Jose is located in Santa Clara County, one of the fastest-growing counties in California (its total population reached 1 million in 2014). Tech companies are largely responsible for the growth in the area.
America’s favorite tourist destination is the Hawaiian islands. One of the islands, Honolulu, is included on our list of most expensive cities in the U.S. because of its higher than average cost of living. Groceries alone are nearly 64% more expensive than elsewhere in the continental United States. This is primarily due to the cost of importing goods. The energy cost in Honolulu is 95% higher than the national average. The average monthly rent and the average home price in Honolulu are also much higher.
San Francisco is a beautiful place full of landmarks. San Francisco has also become a launching pad for most of the world’s technology. It has a diverse population filled with creative entrepreneurs and business people.
San Francisco may be one of the very few cities in the United States that not only has a remarkably high income but also a high cost of living. Technology, tourism, and financial services are significant industries that contribute to San Francisco’s economy.
The evolution of San Francisco into a tech hub and the presence of a highly-paid workforce have caused housing costs to increase extensively. The average home price in San Francisco is shockingly over four times higher than the national average, and the average monthly rent is even more than San Francisco’s average home price. Despite the higher prices, there is still a huge demand for housing in San Francisco.
New York City is not only America’s most expensive city, but it’s also the world’s most expensive city. The cost of living in one of the city’s boroughs is 150 % higher than the national average. It’s not uncommon to see homes priced in the millions in New York City, so there’s no mystery as to why it’s on our list as one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.
According to various cost-of-living indices, including the Consumer Price Index and the Cost of Living Index, San Francisco, California, is currently considered the US city with the highest cost of living.
In the 2021 Mercer Quality of Living Ranking, which assesses living conditions in cities worldwide, within the United States, the top-ranked cities were Honolulu, Hawaii, and San Francisco, California, which tied for 26th place globally.
One city that is consistently ranked highly for its friendliness is Charleston, South Carolina. It has been named “America’s Friendliest City” by Travel + Leisure magazine multiple times.
One city that consistently ranks highly for its happiness is Boulder, Colorado.