Which Cities Have the Highest Cost of Living?

Alexandra Thompson
Alexandra Thompson6 Oct 2022

Since the end of 2021, most people have noticed a substantial increase in the cost of groceries, gas prices, and necessities. As a result, the average cost of living nationwide has also significantly increased, especially in large metropolitan cities. As of August 2022, the cities with the highest cost of living include New York, San Francisco, Hawaii, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. 

About Cost of Living  

The cost of living is the amount of money needed to cover necessities such as housing, food, taxes, and healthcare. The cost of living is tied to the salary individuals earn within each city. For example, if the cost of living in New York City is higher than the national average, the average income of individuals working in New York City will be higher. 

Although the cost of living and income are closely related, a higher salary doesn’t automatically mean you can afford the cost of living, especially in larger cities. Often, the correlating income is insufficient to care for necessities, leaving many residents to make strategic budget costs to save money.

U.S. Cities with the Highest Cost of Living  

The average cost of living for a single person is $61,334 per year. With housing being the most expensive contributor to the bottom line cost, the average single person spends about $3,189 per month or $38,266 per year on housing. The cities with the most expensive cost of living are New York, San Francisco, Honolulu, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. The list below highlights the cost of living index for each city and the average price of housing, food, and health insurance contributions to the cost of living.

City Median Income Average Rent for 1 Bedroom Apartment Average cost of Health Insurance (1 person) 
Manhattan, NY $79,080$3,800$675
Honolulu, HI $66,705 $1,705 $484
San Fransisco, CA $96,570$3,700$426
Washington, D.C.$77,650 $1,557$380
Los Angeles, CA$54,056$1,678$417

Source: Best Places 

Cost of Living Index  

The cost of living index is an essential metric for comparing the cost of living between different cities. Cost of living indexes considers expenses the average person would incur, such as food, shelter, healthcare, transportation, and education. Cost of living indexes is calculated by comparing each city to a baseline value. In the United States, the baseline value is set at 100. If a state has a cost of living index of 200, this implies that the cost of living is twice as expensive as the national average. Below is the cost of living index for the top five most expensive cities. 

Cost of Living Index  

City Cost of Living Index 
Manhattan, New York 215 
Honolulu, Hawaii 176.5 
San Fransisco, California 206 
Washington, D.C. 152
Los Angeles, California 173

Source: Best Places

Other Factors to Consider

Before moving to a new city, you should also consider the following.

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Monthly Grocery Cost

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that in 2020 Americans spent an average of $4,099 on food from households in the lowest income group. On the other hand, an average of $12,245 was spent on food from households within the highest income grouping. 

City Monthly Cost of Food 
Manhattan, NY $486
Honolulu, HI $315
San Fransisco, CA $360
Washington, D.C.$304
Los Angeles, CA$375 


Transportation is another factor to consider when considering the cost of living in each city. In larger metropolitan cities that have public transport, such as a subway system or bus services, the cost of transportation can be between $2.00 per ride and $140 for monthly passes. In contrast, cities that do not have reliable transportation will require you to have a car or utilize ride-share services. If you choose to have a car, you have to consider the price of gas, car insurance, and monthly payments. According to AAA insurance, the average annual cost to own and operate a car is about $9,660.  

Another factor to consider is the walkability score of each city. The walkability score measures how easy it is to get around the metropolitan area without public transportation or a car. The score is based on several factors, including distance to places and pedestrian friendliness, such as crosswalks. Walkability scores range from 0 to 100; the higher the score, the more likely you can complete daily activities and errands without transportation. Additionally, cities with higher walking scores allow you to save money that you would have otherwise used on car maintenance and monthly transit passes.

Walking Scores for Cities with the Most Expensive Cost of Living

City Walking Score
Manhattan, New York 88 
Honolulu, Hawaii 66
San Fransisco, California 89
Washington, D.C. 77
Los Angeles, California 69

Cities with the Lowest Cost of Living Index 

Inflation has caused the cost of living to rise across the country. There are cities with a cost of living index below the national baseline. Below are the most affordable cities with the lowest cost of living index

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Cities with Lowest Cost of Living Index

CityCost of Living Index 
Wichita, Kansas61.0  
San Antonio, Texas61.2
Knoxville, Tennessee62.3
Tusla, Oklahoma64.1
Mesa, Arizona 64.6
Alberquerque, New Mexico65.0
Cincinnati, Ohio65.26
Louisville, Kentucky 65.78
Raleigh, North Carolina65.86
Tucson, Arizona66.18

Source: Numbeo 

Cutting Costs and Saving Money   

Although you can’t control the cost of rent, gas, or even food prices, there are ways to save money and cut costs. Healthcare and insurance costs may appear like they don’t contribute to your bottom line as much as the cost of rent. Still, overtime deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance can all add up. One of the best ways to cut the cost of your health insurance while keeping full coverage and benefits is to enroll in a subscription-based plan, such as Mira. Mira allows you to choose between several subscription plans, starting as low as $45 per month. No matter your plan, you get access to urgent care services, virtual primary care, low-cost lab testing, and even discounts on prescription medications. Additionally, if you have roommates, Mira allows you to add them to your plan as dependents at no additional cost. 

Bottom Line  

This past year inflation and the cost of living reached an all-time high. Unfortunately, experts expect prices to increase even more as we enter 2023. Knowing the comparative cost of living index can help determine how much you should budget to maintain the bare necessities, whether you have been living in a city for years or looking to relocate. In this period of universal inflation, knowing how to budget and which areas you can easily save money on is essential. No matter the city, healthcare coverage can be a substantial monthly expense. However, with a Mira membership, you can find some financial freedom. Mira provides an excellent car without breaking the bank for as low as $45 per month. Sign up today!

Alexandra Thompson

Originally from Houston, Texas, Alexandra is currently getting her Master's in Public Health with a health policy certificate at Columbia University. One of her life goals is to own her own art gallery!