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 or more above the national average. To compensate, wages in these 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 2018, New York City is the 13th most expensive city in the world. Twenty 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 and suburban 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

Those 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 healthcare in the USA

Although the healthcare facilities in the USA are some of the world's best, costs are extremely high. For this reason, comprehensive health insurance is essential. Expats relocating to the USA for work should find out whether this is included in their benefits.

Cost of education in the USA

The quality of public schooling in the USA varies widely. While public schools are free to attend, the best ones are often in expensive neighbourhoods due to the fact that schools are partly funded by property taxes. In turn, since schooling is zone-based, a good school will tend to push up housing costs in the surrounding area as well. Still, the absence of school fees helps to balance this out.

Expats who would prefer to send their child to a private or international school will have to bear high fees as well as additional expenses in the form of uniforms, stationery, textbooks and more.

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 in February 2019.

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 4,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 2,800


Eggs (dozen)

USD 3.20

Milk (1 litre)

USD 0/90

Rice (1kg)

USD 4.50

Loaf of white bread

USD 3.50

Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 14.50

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)


Eating out

Big Mac meal


Coca-Cola (330ml)



USD 4.50

Bottle of beer (local)


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

USD 70


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

USD 0.20

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

USD 55

Basic monthly utilities (includes electricity, water and refuse)

USD 150


Taxi rate per km

USD 1.30

Bus fare in the city centre 

USD 2.50

Gasoline/petrol (per litre)

USD 0.70

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Aetna International

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Cigna Global

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