Cost of Living in the USA

The cost of living in the USA varies from region to region and from city to city. However, the chief cosmopolitan centres – regardless of geographical location – are the most expensive places to live in the USA.

The cost of living in a major city can be 50 percent more than that of the national average. To compensate, wages in cities do tend to be higher, but they are often not in proportion to the cost of city living.

Some cities in the USA even rank among the most expensive cities in the world. According to the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2017, New York City is the eighth most expensive city in the world. About 20 other US cities also make an appearance in this survey of 209 cities worldwide.

On average, expenses are lower than in Western European countries. However, some expenses that expats may be unaccustomed to will also need to be considered. 

Cost of accommodation in the USA 

A large portion of the high cost of living in the USA is due to expensive property prices, a burden that can be somewhat alleviated by living outside of city centres. In rural communities, property prices are much lower. The cost of utilities should also be kept in mind – in many parts of the USA, heating and air conditioning are also widely used throughout the year, and costs can quickly add up. 

Cost of transportation in the USA

Expats living outside of major cities in the USA will have to invest in a reliable vehicle for commuting. Luckily, petrol tends to be much cheaper than in Europe but expats will need to bear in mind that consumption is likely to be higher.  

Cost of living in the USA chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Washington DC for March 2018.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 2,100

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 1,700

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 3,800

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 2,800


Eggs (dozen)

USD 3.30

Milk (1 litre)


Rice (1kg)


Loaf of bread


Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 11.50

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)


Eating out

Big Mac Meal


Coca-Cola (330ml)

USD 1.80



Bottle of local beer


Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

USD 65


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

USD 0.20

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

USD 60

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

USD 140


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

USD 1.30

Bus/train fare in the city centre

USD 2.50

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

USD 0.65