Aerial view of Miami.

10 Most Expensive Cities In The US

April 20, 2024 6-minute read

Author: Katie Ziraldo


There’s something to be said for the hustle and bustle of a big city. Whether they’re drawn to the job opportunities or the proximity to shops, restaurants and other amenities, there’s a reason so many Americans continue to flock to these city centers.

But for all their advantages, the cities on this list also come with one significant drawback – a higher cost of living. So, what are the most expensive cities in the U.S. and what makes them so appealing despite their price tag? Let’s get into it.

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1. New York City, New York

Brownstone buildings in NYC.

  • Population: 8,467,513
  • Median Household Income: $67,046
  • Median Home Price: $850,793
  • Median Monthly Rent: $1,489

As the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. (and the fourth largest in the world by population), the city of New York is packed to the brim with opportunities to explore and embrace culture, entertainment and business.

From Far Rockaway Queens to the North Bronx, there’s something for everyone in this city – which happens to be among the richest in America, with a cost of living 87.2% higher than the national average, according to Best Places. But this hefty price tag doesn’t seem to be deterring future generations of New Yorkers from making a move to The Big Apple, with the population growing 6% since 2020.

2. Los Angeles, California

Downtown neighborhood in LA.

  • Population: 3,849,297
  • Median Household Income: $65,290
  • Median Home Price: $971,257
  • Median Monthly Rent: $1,523

On the other side of the country sits another large (and expensive) city – though the atmosphere in the City of Angels couldn’t differ more from what you might find in NYC. Low buildings are sprawled across nearly 500 square miles, with green spaces taking up nearly 35% of the city landscape – making LA the greenest city in America, according to World Cities Culture Forum.

The cost of housing is the largest contributing factor to the cost of living here, with housing costs sitting 198.2% higher than the national average. But if you can happen upon affordable housing, the cost of utilities in Los Angeles is actually 6.3% lower than average.

3. San Francisco, California

San Francisco aerial view.

  • Population: 815,201
  • Median Household Income: $119,136
  • Median Home Price: $1,196,125
  • Median Monthly Rent: $2,010

Further north up Interstate 5, the city of San Francisco – and the surrounding Bay Area – offers its own unique environment where city living meets coastal charm. Ranked by U.S. News as the 10th best place to live in the country, San Fran is best known for steep hills, cable cars and The Golden Gate Bridge.

But with the added benefits of a booming economy, an ever-growing job market and year-round good weather, it’s no surprise that this city has seen its population grow by 9.5% in just the last two years. You’ll pay a price for all these perks though, with a cost of living 169.3% higher than the norm and housing alone costing nearly five times more than the national average.

4. Honolulu, Hawaii

Seacoast Honolulu.

  • Population: 1,000,890
  • Median Household Income: $87,722
  • Median Home Price: $625,000
  • Median Monthly Rent: $1,779

The city known as the Crossroads of the Pacific may be seen as a tourist destination for some, but for others, it’s home. Honolulu is the largest city in the island state of Hawaii, easily recognizable by its beaches and historical landmarks. But this city has a lot to offer beyond surf and sun, with authentic local cuisine, museums and shops just waiting to be explored.

Of course, there’s a lot of important considerations to make if you’re thinking about moving away from the mainland, not the least of which is the fact that just about everything costs more on the island. For example, because groceries have to be shipped from the mainland to Hawaii, grocery costs will run you about 38.9% more the national average.

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5. Washington, D.C.

Row houses in downtown Washington DC.

  • Population: 670,050
  • Median Household Income: $90,842
  • Median Home Price: $678,689
  • Median Monthly Rent: $1,607

Our nation’s capital is rich with both history and culture, and with a total of 120 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified projects, Washington D.C. was the first city globally to receive a LEED for Cities Platinum leadership certification – the highest award given by the U.S. Green Building Council – making it one of the greenest cities in the world. In fact, 9/10 city residents live within a half-mile of a park, according to Curbed.

But if you’re looking to capitalize on all this monumental city has to offer, note that housing and transportation costs make up the biggest cost of living differences between D.C. and the national average.

6. Boston, Massachusetts

Brownstone buildings on Acorn street in Boston.

  • Population: 654,776
  • Median Household Income: $76,298
  • Median Home Price: $770,797
  • Median Monthly Rent: $1,685

Ranked by U.S. News as the 7th best place to live for quality of life, living in Boston may appeal to history buffs looking to explore one of the best historical cities in America, scholars looking to study at one of the dozens of colleges and universities scattered across the city or even sports fans looking to experience the oldest ballpark in the league, Fenway Park.

Boston is also considered one of the best places to raise a family, with top-ranking health care institutions nearby and local schools spending approximately $10,000 more per student than the U.S. average.

7. San Diego, California

Train going through San Diego.

  • Population: $1,381,611
  • Median Household Income: $83,454
  • Median Home Price: $837,696
  • Median Monthly Rent: $1,770

Known for its moderate climate and palm-tree lined beaches, San Diego is considered the birthplace of California, founded in 1769. But with plentiful shopping centers, museums and entertainment, there’s no shortage of things to do even if laying out in the sun isn’t your thing.

And though San Diego is certainly still an expensive place to live – with a cost of living 60% higher than the national average – it’s a more affordable option for California city living when compared with others on this list, like San Francisco and Los Angeles.

8. San Jose, California

Aerial view of downtown San Jose.

  • Population: 983,489
  • Median Household Income: $117,324
  • Median Home Price: $1,312,163
  • Median Monthly Rent: $2,232

As the heart of Silicon Valley, the city of San Jose is a major player in both the finance and technology industries, leading to bountiful job opportunities and an unemployment rate lower than the U.S. average.

Though cheaper than the nearby city of San Francisco, San Jose still has a cost of living that is 114.5% higher than the national average – though it’s important to note that the median household income is also higher. And for those who see good weather as a top priority, San Jose is considered the second best place to live by U.S. News, with an average 257 cloudless days per year.

9. Seattle, Washington

Skyline of Seattle, Washington.

  • Population: 733,919
  • Median Household Income: $97,185
  • Median Home Price: $825,126
  • Median Monthly Rent: $1,702

The Space Needle, Pike Place Market and Starbucks: all are icons of the Pacific Northwestern city of Seattle. The Emerald City – which has also been called Rain City and The Coffee Capital of the World – is known for playing home to big companies like Microsoft and Amazon and offers the perfect balance between what people want in a city – restaurants, shopping, entertainment and more – alongside opportunities for outdoor exploration, including hiking and kayaking.

Housing is the costliest expense in Seattle, with housing within city limits costing 209% more than the national average and nearly 145% more than the rest of the state of Washington.

10. Miami, Florida

Art deco homes in Miami.

  • Population: 439,890
  • Median Household Income: $44,268
  • Median Home Price: $542,218
  • Median Monthly Rent: $1,242

If you’re looking for nightlife, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place than Miami, which was ranked behind Las Vegas as the second-best city for bars, entertainment and nightlife by U.S. News. With a strong Latin influence that can be found across the city in its architecture, cuisine and music, Miami is truly a one-of-a-kind destination.

And as a bonus, the cost of living in here is only 23.1% higher than the national average. Compared to some of the other cities on this list, that’s downright affordable!

Our Methodology: Most Expensive Places To Live In The US

To build this list of the most expensive cities in America, Rocket Mortgage® leveraged data from the Mercer Cost of Living Index to determine the cities with the highest cost of living, which is defined as the amount of money needed to cover necessary expenses – like housing, utilities, transportation and groceries – in a given area. In addition to evaluating the cost of over 200 goods and services, this data from Mercer also accounts for currency fluctuations and the rate of inflation.

For additional context alongside these cost of living factors, we gathered population, median household income and median monthly rent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, median home price data was collected from Rocket HomesSM based on housing market reports listing all properties sold over the last 12 months.

The Bottom Line

With growing populations, job markets and economies, it’s easy to understand the appeal of these expensive cities. Despite their higher cost of living, these urban areas offer a sense of community and connection to renters and home buyers alike that can be difficult to come by in suburban and rural environments.

But when you’re choosing a location for yourself or your family to settle down, it’s important to avoid being blinded by the city lights. Alongside all the exciting amenities, be sure to consider the practical, financial factors to make the best choice for your future.

Ready to take the next step toward homeownership? Whether you’re in the market for a house in one of these expensive cities or opting for somewhere more affordable, apply for a mortgage with Rocket Mortgage today to begin browsing homes!

Get approved to see what you can afford.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you do it all online.

Katie Ziraldo Headshot

Katie Ziraldo

Katie Ziraldo is a financial writer and data journalist focused on creating accurate, accessible and educational content for future generations of home buyers. Her portfolio of work also includes The Detroit Free Press and The Huffington Post.