THE 20 MOST Expensive Cities To Live In America For 2020

We looked at cost of living metrics for every city in America over 100,000 people to determine which ones cost the most.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the most expensive cities in America.

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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 $4,000. 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? Fort Wayne, In.

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

Glendale, CA

Population: 200,372

Glendale, CA

Source: Public domain

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#2 Most Expensive City In America

Los Angeles, CA

Population: 3,959,657

Review Of Los Angeles by HomeSnacks User

There is some crime going on, but it really depends where in LA you’re staying at. What I love is that everything is in close proximity so you don’t need to go very far. Also, they have so many amazing restaurants to check out and love. There are so many different cultures, and that’s what I really like about it.

There is a lot of graffiti and homeless people living in LA, so it makes you not want to go to certain locations. It is also very very overpopulated, and because of this, there is always too much traffic. What should only take 30 minutes to get to, takes over an hour.

#3 Most Expensive City In America

El Monte, CA

Population: 115,669

El Monte, CA

Source: Public domain

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#4 Most Expensive City In America

New York, NY

Population: 8,443,713

Review Of New York by HomeSnacks User

New York is a wonderful city to be in.It is a place like no other from the food to the fashion.It has many things to offer.I like New York specifically for the vibe it has.I enjoy getting pizza from a local pizzeria while strolling the streets and window shopping.I had a good time in New York.

Times Square is a wonderful place to go to but being the tourist site that it is it can be very busy but otherwise a must if you go.There are a lot of scammers and people who pickpocket so it is very important for you to pay attention to your surroundings and keep your distance from people.

#5 Most Expensive City In America

Inglewood, CA

Population: 110,327

#6 Most Expensive City In America

Costa Mesa, CA

Population: 113,198

#7 Most Expensive City In America

Daly City, CA

Population: 106,638

Daly City, CA

Source: Public domain

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#8 Most Expensive City In America

Burbank, CA

Population: 104,275

Burbank, CA

Source: Public domain

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#9 Most Expensive City In America

Boulder, CO

Population: 107,360

Boulder, CO

Source: Public domain

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Review Of Boulder by HomeSnacks User

Boulder is a very unique place – lots of liberal idealism. People live in a somewhat unrealistic world where everyone is equal, everything will be fair if you just fight hard enough, and a gallon of milk is supposed to cost $5. The crime is relatively low, marijuana and drug use is extremely high, and the public school system is fantastic. Architecture and art are incredible; social scene and activities are plentiful – there is always something to do or something to see.

Pearl Street Mall and all of Downtown Boulder is extremely fun, hip, and fast-paced. However, this is also where almost all of the homeless population resides. The Boulder Reservoir has a great swim beach and is fantastic for killing a few hours during the summer. Hiking trails abound, Chatauqua Park is a great option with trails of varying difficulty for any hiker.

#10 Most Expensive City In America

Irvine, CA

Population: 265,502

Irvine, CA

Source: Public domain

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Review Of Irvine by HomeSnacks User

Awesome place. Super safe. Plenty of things to do: nature, city, eats, movies, films, and events.

Expensive. Everything you wanna do here is expensive. You need some income.

#11 Most Expensive City In America

El Cajon, CA

Population: 103,285

#12 Most Expensive City In America

East Los Angeles, CA

Population: 119,827

#13 Most Expensive City In America

Santa Ana, CA

Population: 333,499

#14 Most Expensive City In America

Boston, MA

Population: 679,413

Review Of Boston by HomeSnacks User

Boston is an exciting city with an endless supply of fun and interesting activities. I have felt very safe exploring the many historic sites and tourist attractions in the city. I enjoy taking the Charlestown commute ferry to the aquarium area with my children, who love the quick boat ride to get to this part of town.

The North End is full of small restaurants to grab a delicious meal. Walking around the Gardens, visiting the Frog Pond, riding the carousel, and relaxing on the swan boats is always a hit with my children.

#15 Most Expensive City In America

Anaheim, CA

Population: 349,668

Review Of Anaheim by HomeSnacks User

I always feel safe when i visit, and there is so much to do including knotts berry farm and disneyland

Disneyland is hands down my favorite place to visit in anaheim. The rides are fun and there is so much to eat there.

#16 Most Expensive City In America

Oceanside, CA

Population: 175,389

#17 Most Expensive City In America

Garden Grove, CA

Population: 174,010

Review Of Garden Grove by HomeSnacks User

Garden grove is my hometown in the US. I have lived there for around 7 years. Has a lot of good food places and a lot of fun activities to do such as mini golf or kart racing.

Traffic can be bad sometimes. Drivers can be very reckless. Most of the boba places are very good but use yelp to double check.

#18 Most Expensive City In America

Urban Honolulu, HI

Population: 350,003

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#19 Most Expensive City In America

Cambridge, MA

Population: 115,665

Review Of Cambridge by HomeSnacks User

Crime is low, I believe. The school system is exceptional and unique with the “controlled choice” policies that foster diversity. Lots of quirky and trendy places to eat and hangout.

Lots of young adults because of all the colleges. Also the style is very historic with all the brick.

#20 Most Expensive City In America

Vista, CA

Population: 100,108

Vista, CA

Source: Public domain

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How We Determined The Most Expensive Cities To Live In The USA For 2020

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 319 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 2020”. 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.

There You Have It — 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:

  1. Fort Wayne
  2. Springfield
  3. Cedar Rapids

For more, read on:

Detailed List Of The Most Expensive Cities In The US For 2020

Rank City Population
1 Glendale, CA 200,372
2 Los Angeles, CA 3,959,657
3 El Monte, CA 115,669
4 New York, NY 8,443,713
5 Inglewood, CA 110,327
6 Costa Mesa, CA 113,198
7 Daly City, CA 106,638
8 Burbank, CA 104,275
9 Boulder, CO 107,360
10 Irvine, CA 265,502
11 El Cajon, CA 103,285
12 East Los Angeles, CA 119,827
13 Santa Ana, CA 333,499
14 Boston, MA 679,413
15 Anaheim, CA 349,668
16 Oceanside, CA 175,389
17 Garden Grove, CA 174,010
18 Urban Honolulu, HI 350,003
19 Cambridge, MA 115,665
20 Vista, CA 100,108
21 Fullerton, CA 139,866
22 Miami, FL 451,214
23 Pasadena, CA 141,246
24 San Diego, CA 1,401,932
25 Berkeley, CA 120,926
26 San Mateo, CA 104,035
27 Pomona, CA 152,494
28 Long Beach, CA 468,883
29 Escondido, CA 151,115
30 Santa Rosa, CA 181,038
31 Huntington Beach, CA 200,606
32 Oxnard, CA 207,568
33 Hayward, CA 158,241
34 Norwalk, CA 105,886
35 San Buenaventura (Ventura), CA 110,234
36 Oakland, CA 421,042
37 Orange, CA 139,873
38 Salinas, CA 156,550
39 Santa Clara, CA 126,209
40 Richmond, CA 109,340
41 Ontario, CA 173,580
42 Yonkers, NY 199,745
43 Antioch, CA 110,730
44 Elizabeth, NJ 128,153
45 Newark, NJ 280,463
46 Paterson, NJ 145,800
47 Santa Maria, CA 105,483
48 San Jose, CA 1,026,658
49 West Covina, CA 107,242
50 Fort Lauderdale, FL 178,783
51 Simi Valley, CA 126,199
52 Torrance, CA 146,392
53 Arden-Arcade, CA 100,548
54 Chula Vista, CA 266,468
55 Thousand Oaks, CA 128,481
56 Downey, CA 112,901
57 Hialeah, FL 237,285
58 Sunnyvale, CA 152,323
59 Stamford, CT 129,026
60 Carlsbad, CA 113,670
61 San Francisco, CA 870,044
62 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 175,679
63 New Orleans, LA 389,648
64 Concord, CA 128,758
65 San Bernardino, CA 215,182
66 Vallejo, CA 120,977
67 Jersey City, NJ 261,746
68 Fort Collins, CO 162,511
69 Washington, DC 684,498
70 College Station, TX 110,782
71 Corona, CA 165,355
72 West Palm Beach, FL 108,365
73 Santa Clarita, CA 209,478
74 Seattle, WA 708,823
75 Fremont, CA 233,083
76 New Haven, CT 130,529
77 Moreno Valley, CA 205,034
78 Riverside, CA 323,935
79 Sacramento, CA 495,011
80 Gresham, OR 110,770
81 Everett, WA 108,941
82 Rialto, CA 102,873
83 Worcester, MA 185,195
84 Lowell, MA 111,249
85 Hollywood, FL 151,056
86 Murrieta, CA 111,427
87 Lancaster, CA 159,662
88 Temecula, CA 112,230
89 Eugene, OR 165,997
90 Orlando, FL 275,690
91 Bellevue, WA 142,242
92 Denver, CO 693,417
93 Alexandria, VA 156,505
94 Lakewood, CO 153,522
95 Richmond, VA 223,787
96 Hartford, CT 123,628
97 Wilmington, NC 118,094
98 Pembroke Pines, FL 168,260
99 Renton, WA 101,054
100 Portland, OR 639,387

Most Expensive Places By State

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.

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