It’s estimated that by 2050, 89% of people in the US will live in urban areas. However, some of those cities are a lot pricier than others. In this article, we uncover the 10 most expensive cities to live in the US.

Most Expensive Cities to Live in the US

According to studies by the Council for Community and Economic Research, many wealthy Americans are relocating from California and New York to Florida and Texas. They are motivated by lower taxes, larger living spaces and a perceived higher quality of life.

Long Island and Lake Tahoe were in high demand as people sought refuge from the pandemic. Cities with a high influx of new residents include Jacksonville and Tampa in Florida, as well as Austin and Dallas in Texas.

The most expensive cities to live in the US
The most expensive cities to live in the US

Of course, there’s a difference between owning a property and renting. We’ve considered these factors, together with the cost of grocery items, health care, transport and utilities to come up with this list of the priciest places to live in the US.

Research suggests that there are now 312 US cities with an average home value of at least $1 million. This is compared to the US national average of around $250,000.

Most of these million dollar cities are situated in 9 coastal urban areas. Many of these are clustered around San Franciscso, New York and Los Angeles. Boston, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, D.C. also have several cities with an average home value over $1 million.

10. Newport Beach, California

Orange County, Southern California is known for its beaches and theme parks including Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, as well as The O.C. TV show. The Golden State has several of the most expensive cities in the US.

Newport Beach and the seaside neighbourhood of Corona del Mar is one of the most exclusive areas on the California Riviera. However, the cost of utilities is surprisingly reasonable.

There’s an extensive capital improvement program, with plans for a new lecture and performance hall.

Huntington Beach, Orange County, CA
Huntington Beach, Orange County

9. Arlington, Virginia

One of the most expensive cities in the United States, Arlington VA is home to the Pentagon. With a cost of living that’s over 50% higher than the national average, Arlington is nevertheless a very pleasant place to live.

In 2019, the median income in Arlington was $119,755. This is 36.2% higher than the state of Virginia’s median annual houshold income of $76,456.

Unemployment is relatively low, the workforce is highly educated and Arlington is one of the safest cities in the US. Popular with singles and families alike, the most expensive zip codes in Arlington County are 22201, 22202, and 22203.

Rosslyn, Arlington, VA is one of the most expensive cities to live in the US.
Rosslyn, Arlington, VA – the most expensive cities to live in the US

8. Boston, Massachussets

A study by found that Boston is the second most expensive city to buy a home in the US. It’s also the fifth most expensive place to rent.

The cost of living in Boston is over 48% above the national average. Housing is in high demand due to the number of universities, tech and biotech employers. The median household income in Boston is $71,115, according to the US census.

Some of the most affluent neighborhoods in Boston are historic Beacon Hill and Back Bay. On the waterfront, Seaport District and Commercial Wharf are revitalized areas with a range of restaurants and luxury apartments.

Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts

7. Oakland, California

This port city in California is cheaper than San Francisco but the cost of living in Oakland is still 54% above the U.S. average. Being in close proximity to the Golden City, has pushed up real estate values.

Oakland is greener than SF yet close to Silicon Valley. According to real estate listing site Zumper, Oakland is now more expensive for rentals than nearby San Jose.

Around 90% of new Oakland apartments are high end, with panoramic views and in some cases, exercise rooms and fire pits. Piedmont, Crocker Highland and Upper Rockridge have many luxury houses and are among the most expensive neighborhoods in Oakland.

Oakland, California, USA
Oakland, California

6. San Diego, California

Renowned for its white-sand beaches and mild year-round climate, San Diego is a popular place to live. Nicknamed America’s Finest City, it is home to the largest naval fleet in the world and has a vibrant manufacturing sector.

The cost of living in San Diego is 6% higher than the average in California itself. Goods and services are 8% higher here than the average in the rest of the country. However, income is twice that of the national average.

Some of the wealthiest communities in San Diego are Ashley Falls, North City, La Jolla, Carmel Canyon, Rancho Sante Fe and Torrey Pines. The average length of time that people stay in their homes in San Diego is 12 years, with many passing them on to their adult children.

However, in recent years this West Coast city has experienced an exodus of lower earning residents. They’re seeking out more affordable places to live such as Riverside County and Phoenix.

Sunrise at Coronado Island. San Diego, California, USA
Coronado Island. San Diego

5. Los Angeles, California

Due to high demand, it’s fairly expensive to live in Los Angeles. This is one of the rare cities in the U.S. where there are more renters than homeowners. 64% of LA residents rent and 36% own their home.

According to GasBuddy, a gallon of gas in LA is around $4.09, compared to the $2.88 national average. Healthcare is also considerably higher here than in many parts of the U.S.

The most expensive neighborhoods in Los Angeles include Bel-Air, Malibu, Beverly Hills and North of Montana. Santa Monica and Venice are also popular for their walkability and entertainment options.

Los Angeles seen from the Hollywood sign
Hollywood sign, Los Angeles

4. Washington, D.C.

The cost of living in Washington, D.C. is approximately 60% higher than the rest of the country. Demand for homes outstrips supply, and congressionally mandated restrictions on building heights make apartments expensive.

There’s a 62% premium on homes in the District. Some of the most affluent neighborhoods in Washington DC are Massachusetts Avenue Heights, Berkley, Kalorama and Foggy Bottom.

A report from RentCafe lists the most expensive ZIP codes for DC renters. Top of the list is 20037, which covers West End and the parts of Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom. 20003, which includes Hill East, some of Capitol Hill and Navy Yard and 20001, which covers Truxton Circle and Shaw are also in high demand.

Foggy Bottom is one of the most expensive places to live in Washington D.C.
Foggy Bottom, Washington D.C.

3. Honolulu, Hawaii

One of the most expensive cities in America, Honolulu is blessed with a beautiful beachfront and temperate year-round weather. Living here costs 82% more than the rest of the US.

Although the cost of housing is high, it’s the need to import all physical goods that really drives the cost of living up. The most expensive single-family neighborhood in Honolulu is Kai Nani. For rentals, Triangle, Upper Hahaione and West Marina are also in high demand.

2. New York City, NY

It’s no surprise that New York is one of the most expensive cities to live in the US. Manhattan and Brooklyn are the two most pricey boroughs.

The average rent of a one bedroom apartment in the Big Apple is $2,350 according to Zumper. This is the second highest in the US after San Francisco.

And it’s not just housing that is costly in New York, transportation, movie tickets and even grocery store provisions are considerably higher than elsewhere in the country.

A study by GoBankingRates found that New Yorkers earning the state’s hourly median wage of $21.63 need to work 76.16 hours a week on average to have a comfortable lifestyle.

Manhattan, NYC seen from Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan seen from Brooklyn Bridge

1. San Francisco, California

The most expensive city to live in the US is San Francisco. Well paid tech jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area and a lack of new housing have resulted in a shortage of supply.

According to Zumper’s National Rent Report, a one bedroom apartment costs on average $2,680 in San Francisco, the highest in the United States.

The cost of living in San Francisco is almost 95% above the U.S. average. Gasoline costs are also much higher, at $4.20 per gallon according to a study by GasBuddy.

Income tax rates are among the highest in the nation and an average meal for two in a restaurant costs $80, almost double the national average. Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, Presidio Hights and Russian Hill are all desirable places to live in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Here’s a recap of the most expensive cities to live in the US:

  1. San Francisco
  2. New York City
  3. Honolulu
  4. Washington
  5. Los Angeles
  6. San Diego
  7. Oakland
  8. Boston
  9. Arlington
  10. Newport Beach
Most expensive cities to live in the US
Most expensive cities to live in the US

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10 Most Expensive Cities in the US
Most expensive cities in the U.S.

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