The cost of living in the USA varies widely from region to region and city to city. The chief cosmopolitan centres, however – 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, salaries 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 rank among the most expensive cities in the world. According to the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2023, New York City is the 6th most expensive city worldwide, with California's Los Angeles and San Francisco ranking 11th and 14th, respectively. Another 16 US cities also make an appearance in this survey of 227 cities worldwide.

Cost of accommodation in the USA 

A large portion of the high cost of living in the USA is due to expensive accommodation prices, a burden that can be somewhat alleviated by living outside city centres. In rural and suburban communities, property prices are much lower. The cost of utilities should also be kept in mind, as they're often an extra expense on top of rent. In many parts of the USA, heating and air conditioning are widely used throughout the year, and these 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 getting around. Luckily, gas (petrol) tends to be much cheaper than in Europe, but expats will need to bear in mind that consumption is also likely to be higher. The lower gas prices also translate into more affordable public transport services for commuters, though the quality and extent of public transport networks can vary widely from city to city.

Cost of healthcare in the USA

Although the healthcare facilities in the USA are some of the world's best, the cost of medical treatment here is also the world's highest. 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, and if so, what the extent of coverage is.

Cost of education in the USA

The quality of public education 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 May 2023.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 2,400

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 1,900

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 4,900

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 3,400


Eggs (dozen)

USD 4.40

Milk (1 litre)


Rice (1kg)

USD 4.40

Loaf of white bread

USD 3.15

Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 11.80

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

USD 11

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

USD 10

Coca-Cola (330ml)

USD 2.45



Bottle of beer (local)

USD 7.50

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

USD 100


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

USD 0.18

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

USD 55

Basic monthly utilities (includes electricity, water and refuse)

USD 165


Taxi rate per km

USD 1.35

Bus fare in the city centre (one way)

USD 2.75

Gasoline/petrol (per litre)

USD 0.99

Expat Health Insurance

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