The cost of living in San Francisco is high. Those planning a move to the city will need to ensure their pockets are deep enough to cover expenses. Not only is it the third most expensive city in the US (after New York City and LA), but it’s also one of the priciest cities worldwide. Mercer’s 2023 Cost of Living Survey placed San Francisco as the world’s 14th most expensive city out of 227 cities assessed worldwide.

This shouldn’t put prospective residents off moving to San Francisco, though. City salaries tend to be correspondingly high. That said, newcomers should remember that smart budgeting is essential in Golden Gate City.

Cost of accommodation in San Francisco

Housing is a big-ticket item in a person’s total cost of living in San Francisco. House hunters should keep in mind that they may have to compromise on aspects like location and size to find an affordable place to rent. Many apartment complexes also have shared laundry, and newcomers will have to be prepared to pay extra for an apartment with its own washer and dryer.

Some rental accommodation in San Francisco includes utilities or gardening costs, which can be better value for money. However, with the demand for rental properties being so high, many properties are leased within hours of being advertised.

Cost of food and groceries in San Francisco

The cost of food can be fairly cheap in San Francisco’s supermarkets, especially if new arrivals join store loyalty programmes to get discounts on certain items. Speciality organic food supermarkets often provide produce of a higher quality but can be pricier. Also, any imported goods will drive up the grocery bill, so sticking to buying local, in-season produce tends to be more affordable.

Cost of transport in San Francisco

Public transport options in San Francisco are limited for those who don’t live along the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train line. But overall, fares on public transport are reasonable. 

Because of the high price of accommodation in the city, it’s common to drive long distances to work each day, which potentially involves paying several bridge tolls in addition to fuel and car maintenance costs.

Cost of education in San Francisco

Public schools in San Francisco are free, but parents are expected to cover stationery and excursion costs. There are also endless fundraising events at most public schools to cover education costs, though all donations are voluntary. 

The cost of private education in San Francisco, as with most cities, is high. International schools which teach foreign curricula are more expensive than other types of private schools.

Cost of entertainment in San Francisco

One of the most alluring aspects of San Francisco is its fantastic lifestyle. The cost of leisure pursuits and entertainment in San Francisco will depend on personal preferences.  

Ticket costs for popular museums, theatre productions and concerts are quite expensive, but many theme parks and tourist attractions offer season passes or group deals that can make entertainment more affordable.

Cost of living in San Francisco chart

Note that prices may vary depending on the product and service provider, and the list below shows average prices for March 2024.

Accommodation (monthly rent)
Three-bedroom apartment in city centreUSD 5,750
Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centreUSD 4,700
One-bedroom apartment in city centreUSD 3,300
One-bedroom apartment outside of city centreUSD 2,600
Dozen eggsUSD 5
Milk (1 litre)USD 1.60
Rice (1 kg)USD 6.20
Loaf of white breadUSD 4.85
Chicken breasts (1kg)USD 16
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)USD 13
Eating out
Big Mac MealUSD 12
Coca-Cola (330ml)USD 2.75
Cappuccino USD 5.45
Local beer (500ml)USD 8
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurantUSD 100
Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)USD 0.25
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) USD 65
Basic utilities (electricity, water and refuse per month)USD 250
Taxi rate/kmUSD 2.15
One-way bus fare in the city centre USD 2.75
Gasoline/petrol (per litre)USD 1.35

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