The 20 Most Expensive Cities To Live In America For 2021


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 2021. This is our seventh 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 10 Most Expensive Cities In America For 2021

  1. Glendale
  2. Daly City
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Inglewood
  5. El Monte
  6. Boulder
  7. Burbank
  8. New York
  9. Irvine
  10. East Los Angeles

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: 200,232

Glendale, CA

Source: Public domain

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

#2 Most Expensive City In America

Daly City, CA

Population: 106,677

Daly City, CA

Source: Public domain

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

#3 Most Expensive City In America

Los Angeles, CA

Population: 3,966,936

#4 Most Expensive City In America

Inglewood, CA

Population: 109,613

#5 Most Expensive City In America

El Monte, CA

Population: 115,517

El Monte, CA

Source: Public domain

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

#6 Most Expensive City In America

Boulder, CO

Population: 106,392

Boulder, CO

Source: Public domain

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

#7 Most Expensive City In America

Burbank, CA

Population: 103,703

Burbank, CA

Source: Public domain

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

#8 Most Expensive City In America

New York, NY

Population: 8,419,316

#9 Most Expensive City In America

Irvine, CA

Population: 273,157

Irvine, CA

Source: Public domain

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

#10 Most Expensive City In America

East Los Angeles, CA

Population: 121,187

#11 Most Expensive City In America

Costa Mesa, CA

Population: 113,159

#12 Most Expensive City In America

Anaheim, CA

Population: 349,964

#13 Most Expensive City In America

El Cajon, CA

Population: 103,186

#14 Most Expensive City In America

Garden Grove, CA

Population: 173,258

#15 Most Expensive City In America

Santa Ana, CA

Population: 332,794

#16 Most Expensive City In America

Oceanside, CA

Population: 175,622

#17 Most Expensive City In America

Boston, MA

Population: 684,379

#18 Most Expensive City In America

Cambridge, MA

Population: 116,632

#19 Most Expensive City In America

Pasadena, CA

Population: 141,258

Pasadena, CA

Source: Public domain

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

#20 Most Expensive City In America

Urban Honolulu, HI

Population: 348,985

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

How We Determined The Most Expensive Cities To Live In The USA For 2021

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 323 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 2021”. 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. Wichita Falls

For more, read on:

Detailed List Of The Most Expensive Cities In The US For 2021

Rank City Population
1 Glendale, CA 200,232
2 Daly City, CA 106,677
3 Los Angeles, CA 3,966,936
4 Inglewood, CA 109,613
5 El Monte, CA 115,517
6 Boulder, CO 106,392
7 Burbank, CA 103,703
8 New York, NY 8,419,316
9 Irvine, CA 273,157
10 East Los Angeles, CA 121,187
11 Costa Mesa, CA 113,159
12 Anaheim, CA 349,964
13 El Cajon, CA 103,186
14 Garden Grove, CA 173,258
15 Santa Ana, CA 332,794
16 Oceanside, CA 175,622
17 Boston, MA 684,379
18 Cambridge, MA 116,632
19 Pasadena, CA 141,258
20 Urban Honolulu, HI 348,985
21 Berkeley, CA 121,485
22 Vista, CA 100,686
23 Miami, FL 454,279
24 Long Beach, CA 466,776
25 Fullerton, CA 139,611
26 San Diego, CA 1,409,573
27 Escondido, CA 151,300
28 Salinas, CA 156,143
29 San Mateo, CA 104,333
30 Santa Rosa, CA 179,701
31 Huntington Beach, CA 200,259
32 Richmond, CA 109,884
33 Norwalk, CA 105,304
34 Hayward, CA 159,293
35 San Buenaventura (Ventura), CA 109,910
36 Pomona, CA 152,209
37 Oakland, CA 425,097
38 Oxnard, CA 208,154
39 Ontario, CA 176,760
40 Antioch, CA 111,200
41 Santa Clara, CA 127,721
42 Arden-Arcade, CA 102,864
43 Yonkers, NY 199,968
44 San Jose, CA 1,027,690
45 Newark, NJ 281,054
46 Simi Valley, CA 125,842
47 Orange, CA 139,887
48 Elizabeth, NJ 128,333
49 West Covina, CA 106,589
50 Paterson, NJ 145,710
51 Torrance, CA 145,492
52 Downey, CA 112,322
53 Vallejo, CA 121,267
54 Santa Maria, CA 106,224
55 Hialeah, FL 234,539
56 Chula Vista, CA 268,920
57 Sunnyvale, CA 152,770
58 Thousand Oaks, CA 127,873
59 Fort Lauderdale, FL 180,124
60 Carlsbad, CA 114,253
61 San Bernardino, CA 216,089
62 Concord, CA 129,183
63 Fort Collins, CO 165,609
64 San Francisco, CA 874,961
65 Stamford, CT 129,309
66 Moreno Valley, CA 207,289
67 New Orleans, LA 390,845
68 Fremont, CA 235,740
69 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 176,379
70 Corona, CA 166,972
71 Gresham, OR 110,494
72 Lakewood, CO 155,146
73 West Palm Beach, FL 109,767
74 Seattle, WA 724,305
75 Washington, DC 692,683
76 Sacramento, CA 500,930
77 Everett, WA 109,766
78 Renton, WA 101,484
79 Santa Clarita, CA 213,411
80 Riverside, CA 326,414
81 Jersey City, NJ 261,940
82 Hollywood, FL 152,511
83 Eugene, OR 168,302
84 Denver, CO 705,576
85 Rialto, CA 103,045
86 Orlando, FL 280,832
87 Lancaster, CA 159,028
88 New Haven, CT 130,331
89 College Station, TX 113,686
90 Bellevue, WA 144,403
91 Pembroke Pines, FL 170,072
92 Worcester, MA 185,143
93 Wilmington, NC 120,194
94 Temecula, CA 113,381
95 Fairfield, CA 115,282
96 Pompano Beach, FL 110,062
97 Stockton, CA 309,228
98 Alexandria, VA 157,613
99 Arlington, VA 233,464
100 Murrieta, CA 112,941

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.

2 thoughts on “The 20 Most Expensive Cities To Live In America For 2021

  1. San Francisco didn’t even make your list. My you must’ve done a lot of research. Gosh this must be very very accurate

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