- Download our Moving to Houston Guide (PDF)
Expats and new arrivals from elsewhere in the US moving to Houston will be glad to know that their hard-earned dollars will have higher buying power here than in many other major metropolitan areas in the country. The cost of living in Houston is significantly cheaper than other major US cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. In Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey, Houston is ranked 61st out of 227 cities worldwide.
While the cost of living in Houston tends to be more affordable than in other large US cities, there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved in various activities and recreational pursuits – naturally, this can cut into one's budget. The cost of living in the city is likely to vary according to each individual newcomer's priorities and lifestyle choices.
Cost of accommodation in Houston
Accommodation in Houston is plentiful, though the cost of purchasing a house is outpacing salaries in some areas. An alternative is renting, which tends to be much more affordable.
For some, renting may even be preferable if they're planning to be in Houston only for a limited time. Most rental accommodation in Houston comes fully furnished. Even rental homes that are advertised as unfurnished will include some basic appliances such as a washing machine, dishwasher and fridge.
The initial cost of renting a property in Houston will usually include a security deposit of a minimum of a month's rent. New arrivals will also need to take care of utility bills monthly over and above their rental fee. The list of utilities can include water, gas, electricity and rubbish removal depending on where in Houston newcomers live.
Cost of groceries in Houston
The cost of groceries in Houston is 2 percent lower than the national average. New arrivals can find affordable and high-quality fresh produce throughout the city, and they can extend their savings by buying in-season fruit and vegetables.
Shopping at supermarkets such as Kroger's, Trade Joe's and Aldi will also likely lead to significant cost savings, as these chains often offer a range of discounts and are generally cheaper than speciality stores. Houston is also home to many markets selling organic produce and speciality items at prices more affordable than elsewhere in the US.
Cost of entertainment and eating out in Houston
Entertainment and nightlife are cheap in Houston, and new arrivals can do many activities without paying a fortune, such as visiting one of the city’s many parks. Houston is also home to several outlet malls where designer clothing is sold at discounted rates.
With plenty of award-winning restaurants and a thriving culinary scene, Houston is one of the best foodie cities in the country. The cost of eating out is reasonable in Houston. Newcomers are also likely to find that portions at restaurants in Houston are large and therefore good value for money.
Cost of transport in Houston
One expense that people relocating to Houston should budget for is the cost of owning and maintaining a car. While Houston does have a public transport network that is reasonably cost-effective to use, it is limited and most of the city’s residents find that owning a car is essential to life in Houston.
Those who would like to avoid this cost can consider using a mixture of the light rail and bus systems and taxis. These are plentiful in downtown Houston and the city has authorised a flat rate of USD 6 for the downtown area, making using taxis more affordable. That said, taking a taxi regularly over longer distances can become expensive.
Cost of education in Houston
There are several good public schools in Houston that can be attended free of charge, but admission is based on catchment zones, so parents will need to carefully consider which areas and suburbs they choose. Public schools in the more affluent areas will usually offer excellent teaching standards and facilities, but parents who decide to live in one of these areas will likely incur a higher cost of accommodation.
The other option is private or international schools. Expat parents who will only be in the US for a short time will typically enrol their children in a school that offers a globally recognised curriculum, such as the International Baccalaureate programme. These parents will need to shoulder the high fees often associated with these schools and the additional costs of uniforms, extracurricular activities and textbooks.
Cost of healthcare in Houston
The healthcare in Houston is among the best in the US, and the city is a well-known medical tourism destination in the country. As the US lacks universal healthcare, the cost of accessing healthcare services in Houston is high. New arrivals are encouraged to secure employer-sponsored or private health insurance to affordably access healthcare in Houston.
The cost of health insurance varies according to individual risk, but is likely to be the second-highest expense for new arrivals in Houston after housing. That said, the Texas Medical Centre (TMC) offers several free programmes for several population groups, including the homeless and elderly, allowing them to access lifesaving care at no cost.
Cost of living in Houston chart
Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for November 2023.
|Accommodation (monthly rent)|
|One-bedroom apartment in the city centre||USD 1,900|
|One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre||USD 1,600|
|Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre||USD 3,800|
|Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre||USD 2,600|
|Eggs (dozen)||USD 5|
|Milk (1 litre)||USD 1.10|
|Rice (1kg)||USD 6|
|Loaf of white bread||USD 4|
|Chicken breasts (1kg)||USD 14|
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)||USD 9|
|Big Mac Meal||USD 10|
|Coca-Cola (330ml)||USD 3|
|Local beer (500ml)||USD 6|
|Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant||USD 90|
|Monthly mobile phone plan with calls and data||USD 90|
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)||USD 95|
|Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)||USD 253|
|Taxi rate (per kilometre)||USD 3.11|
|Bus/train fare to city centre||USD 2.38|
|Petrol/gasoline per litre||USD 0.89|
What do expats think about living costs in Houston?
"Gas was cheap – both for your car and for your heating. Designer clothes, bags, shoes, kid’s clothes and convenience foods – all cheap. Electricity (AC all summer!) and fresh fruit and vegetables were more expensive." Read what else Las, an Irish expat, has to say about life in Houston in her interview.
"It is less expensive and you can have larger beautiful homes with pools for something that would be half the sq ft in Canada." Read what Janice shared with us about her expat experience in Houston in her interview with Expat Arrivals.
►For more on managing finances, see Banking, Money and Taxes in the USA
Are you an expat living in Houston?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Houston. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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