Top 10 Most Expensive Major U.S. Cities

These cities are hotspots for tourism, tech, movie sets, and more, but how much does it cost to live in a super star metropolitan area? Cost of living can be analyzed and broken down into an affordability range for commodities such as food, transportation, housing, health care, etc. Here are our top 10 most expensive major U.S. cities based on rent for a 2,200 square foot apartment for a family of 4 with 2 cars using ERI’s cost-of-living calculator.


1. San Francisco, California

The “City by the Bay,” coming in at 139% higher than our national average, San Francisco is the most expensive city in California and the nation. Be prepared to find a roommate or look for a tiny home. Rent for this family in San Francisco would be $9,918 a month. Rent for the same family based on our national average is $2,399.



2. New York, New York

The city so nice, they named it twice. Cost of living in New York City is 97% more expensive than our national average.  Rent for a family of 4 could run $7,166 a month. That’s a $2,752 difference between San Francisco and New York City.



3. Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., while technically not a city or a state, is the third most expensive major area in the U.S. Cost of living in Washington, D.C., is 90% higher than our national average. A family of 4 living in the nation’s capital could pay a monthly rent of $7,424.



4. Boston, Massachusetts

Home to the first lighthouse built in the U.S., Boston has a cost of living that is also 90% higher than our national average. The average rent is similar to Washington, D.C., but a family of 4 could expect to pay $4,182 annually for transportation in Boston, compared to Washington, D.C.’s average of $3,764.



5. Honolulu, Hawaii

In the state of coffee and pineapples, Honolulu’s cost of living is 87% above our national average. This equates to a monthly rent of $5,895. While rent is considerably lower than the first 5 cities, transportation will run a family of 4 an average of $13,081 annually. This is higher than Boston and Washington, D.C., combined.



6. San Jose, California

Nicknamed the “Capitol of Silicon Valley,” San Jose’s cost of living is 83% more than our national average. Monthly rent here is higher than Honolulu, coming in at $6,906, but with savings in transportation. San Jose has an average cost of $10,890 annually for transportation.



7. Los Angeles, California

The “City of Angels,” Los Angeles’ cost of living is 78% more than our U.S. national average. The 5% difference between San Jose and Los Angeles is an even spread of lower cost-of-living expenses, such as transportation, health services, and consumables.



8. San Diego, California

The biggest producer of avocados in the U.S., San Diego’s cost of living is 69% over our national average. Here a family of 4 on average will spend $11,934 annually for transportation and an average monthly rent of $6,128.



9. Oakland, California

Home to the nation’s first formally declared wildlife refuge, cost of living in Oakland is 67% over our U.S. average. The average monthly rent for a family of 4 is $5,632. The rent is lower here than in San Diego, but it has more expensive transportation. The average annual cost for transportation is $12,237.



10. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, aka the “Windy City,” has a cost of living that is 58% above our national average. Our tenth most expensive major city in the US has an average monthly rent of $5,644. The first city on this list, New York, has an average monthly rent of $9,918. From number 1 to number 10, the difference in average rent is $4,274.



How does your hometown compare to the most expensive cities?