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Walk with me down memory lane for a quick example of how expensive some cities costs.
My old rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, CA in 2013 – $2,000.
My mortgage for a 4-bedroom house in Durham, NC in 2013 — $1,300.
The rent on that old apartment now… close to $5,000. My mortgage now? Still $1,300.
The cost of San Francisco was one the major factors in our decision to leave, but is San Francisco even the most expensive city in America? According to the most recent data, Glendale, CA. What?
Well New York City didn’t have all the available indexes, so apparently Glendale had to step in and take the top spot while San Francisco comes in at number 3.
The least expensive city in America? Springfield, Il.
While San Francisco might not have been able to take the top spot, twelve cities from California appear in the top 20 most expensive. A lot of that does in fact have to do with housing costs, but San Francisco didn’t take the top spot because things like services and groceries aren’t as expensive.
For more on the top twenty, read on. Or if you’re looking for some cheaper places to live, check out:
The Top 20 Most Expensive Cities In America
#1 Most Expensive City In America
#2 Most Expensive City In America
Los Angeles, CA
#3 Most Expensive City In America
#4 Most Expensive City In America
#5 Most Expensive City In America
#6 Most Expensive City In America
Daly City, CA
#7 Most Expensive City In America
El Monte, CA
#8 Most Expensive City In America
#9 Most Expensive City In America
New York, NY
#10 Most Expensive City In America
El Cajon, CA
#11 Most Expensive City In America
#12 Most Expensive City In America
#13 Most Expensive City In America
#14 Most Expensive City In America
#15 Most Expensive City In America
San Mateo, CA
#16 Most Expensive City In America
Costa Mesa, CA
#17 Most Expensive City In America
East Los Angeles, CA
#18 Most Expensive City In America
Urban Honolulu, HI
#19 Most Expensive City In America
#20 Most Expensive City In America
Garden Grove, CA
Methodology: How We Determined The Most Expensive Cities To Live In The USA For 2023
To create our list of the most expensive cities in America, we looked to a cost of living index across several bundles of goods for every city over 100,000 for which there was data available.
This left us with 332 cities from across the country.
With that example in mind, we derived several statistics from the latest Census American Community Survey 2013-2017 around incomes and costs. They are:
- Median Home Price / Median Income (lower is better)
- Median Income / Median Rent (Higher is better)
- Median Home Price
We added simply median home price because high home prices generally correlate with higher expenses for all costs related to homes (heating, electricity, etc).
You can then compare these metrics in each of the places in California to figure out which is the least expensive.
We ranked every city on each of these indexes, averaged the indexes into a score, and ranked the city with the best score as the “Most Expensive City In America For 2023”. You can download the data here.
It’s important to note that by ranking these linearly we removed some of the impact of stupidly high rent. San Francisco has the highest rent in our database and is almost twice as much as Yonkers, but Yonkers has rent in the top 10%, so it balances out against other expenses.
Summary: The Most Expensive Big Cities in America
After measuring the cost of living in every city in the county, Glendale is the most expensive there is to live.
My plan now? Stay in Durham for as long as I can — it’s one of the cheaper big cities to call home in America.
And for those playing at home, here’s a look at the least expensive cities in America:
- Cedar Rapids
For more, read on: