Moving to USNewsMar 28, 2024

Average Cost of Living in the US: Main Types of Expenses and Prices

The average cost of living in the US can significantly differ from one state to another. How much money you’ll need to cover monthly expenses will depend on where in the US you choose to live. But before you move to the US and settle in the local economy, it’s important to have a general grasp of how much things cost in the US.

Type of expense Average cost per month
Rent for a single-bedroom apartment $1,500 – $2,500
Monthly utilities (electricity, water, etc) $170 – $420
Grocery shopping $290 – $500
Transportation cost  $200 – $300
Eating out  $100 – $700
Internet and mobile service  $60 – $150
Healthcare  $120 – $600
Leisure (going to the movies, a nightclub, etc) $100 – $350
Various (using a laundromat, gym membership, etc)  $100 – $300
Buying clothes  $50 – $200

US average cost of living single person: source NRI

The average monthly income in the US is around $6,000, while the average cost of living is estimated to be around $2500-4000. This means that, with an average-paying job, a person living in the US will have more than enough to cover all their monthly expenses. 

Cost of Living in the US: Housing

Cost of Living in the US: Housing

If or when you move to the US, housing expenses will probably take up most of your monthly budget. In general, housing costs will be higher in more populated metropolitan areas. So, be prepared to pay more if you’re going to live in places like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Houston. Having shared that, we should also note that housing expenses in smaller communities in the US can be extremely affordable. They can be separated into two distinct categories:

  • Renting expenses
  • Buying expenses

Renting in the US 

If you choose to relocate to the United States, paying for rent is one of the most significant expenses you’ll have to deal with. For example, the average national rent for a regular apartment is around $1,700, but this number can go up or down based on the exact location, neighborhood or state, or even the current supply and demand.  

Some states that have a lower monthly rent than the national average include:

  • Alabama — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $1,251
  • Arkansas — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $1,036
  • Indiana — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $1,234
  • Minnesota — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $1,504
  • Texas — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $1,451
  • Wisconsin — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $1,462

Some states that have a higher monthly rent than the national average include:

  • New York — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $2,639
  • California — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $2,531
  • Florida — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $1,934
  • Massachusetts — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $2,714
  • New Jersey — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $2,236
  • Vermont — average rent for a single-bedroom apartment is $1,936

Renting a home in the US is a good option for those who want to get to know the country a bit more before choosing a place to settle in. It gives you more flexibility and doesn’t require you to put up any money in advance, as buying a house in the US does. 

Buying Property in the US

Purchasing a house in the US is done in two main ways:

An average home in the US costs around $420,000, and buying that kind of a property with cash is not something many people can afford to do. On the other hand, financing a house with a mortgage loan can be better in the long run. Your monthly loan payments will be the same or a bit higher than rent payments, but at the end of it you’ll be a homeowner in the US, which opens up many opportunities, including financial ones.

Now, this does come with one obvious downside: you’ll need to have enough money to cover the down payment (usually 15%-25% of the property’s value). But, if you have enough money to pay for a down payment, it’s better to purchase a property in the US than to rent it, especially if you plan on living there for some time. It will not only lower your monthly expenses (as paying a mortgage can be cheaper than paying for rent) but is also an excellent investment. 

To learn more about investing in US real estate and why it is a good option, check out our article on the best strategies for international real estate investing

Want to learn more about US mortgage loans for foreigners and how you can get one? Book a free call or contact us to find out!

Average Cost of Living in the US: Transportation 

Expenses associated with transportation can play a significant role when it comes to the cost of living in the US. They can be divided into the following categories:

Type of expense Average cost per month
Public transport (bus, metro, etc.) $50 – $150
Ride-sharing (Uber, Lyft)  $60 – $120
Renting a car $1,603
Buying a used car  $2,000 – $12,000

Prices are from March 2024

Average Cost of Living in the US: Transportation

1. Public Transport

Many places in the US have public transit, like buses, trains, or metros. Using a public transportation system can be a good way to lower monthly expenses and decrease the cost of living in the US.

The average cost of a single bus or a subway ride in the following US cities is:

  • New York City — $2,90 per ride; $127 per month
  • Los Angeles — $1,75 per ride; around $100 per month
  • Houston — $1,25 per ride; discounted ride is $0,60
  • Miami — $2,25 per ride; around $112 per month
  • Austin — $1,25 per ride    

2. Ride-sharing Services 

Using ride-sharing services in the US is extremely popular, although a bit expensive. An average ride in an Uber or Lyft will cost you anywhere between $10-$50, depending on the distance. We should mention that this is not something most people in the US will use every day, as the costs of sharing rides can quickly add up and increase the cost of living in America to a point where it’s not easily manageable.  

3. Renting a Car

The cost of renting a car can vary between rental companies, the exact type of the car, and the total renting period. On average, renting a car  for longer periods of time (more than a couple of weeks) in the US will cost:

Class of car Price per day
Economy $15
Small SUV $30
All terrain vehicle $75
Luxury SUV $93

It’s important to note here that if you wish to rent a car for one or two days, the average prices per day will more than likely be doubled, than those listed above. 

4. Buying a Used Car 

Depending on the exact type, an average used car can cost between $2,000 and $12,000. Car ownership also includes various other costs, such as insurance and registration expenses, which usually cost a couple of hundred bucks per year. The cheapest part about owning a car in the US is the gas prices around $3,5 per gallon or less than $1 per liter.

Cost of Living in the US: Groceries 

Another thing that can have a big impact on the average cost of living in America is grocery shopping, especially if you want to purchase organic foods. Historically speaking, naturally grown, non-GMO organic foods have always been more expensive in the US than their inorganic counterparts. 

Type of product Average price of non-organic Average price of organic
Apples (1 lbs or 0,45kg) $2 $2,33 
Bananas (1 lbs or 0,45kg) $0,88 $0,99
Beef (1 lbs or 0,45kg) $6 $10
Butter (1 lbs or 0,45kg) $3,98 $5,17
Eggs (dozen) $3,49 $4,89
Milk (half a gallon 1,8l) $3,79  $7,36
Whole chicken (3 lbs or 1,2kg) $7,5 $14,07

Average Cost of Living in the US: Utilities

Average Cost of Living in the US: Utilities 

Although the cost of utilities can be drastically different from state to state and city to city, on average, your monthly or annual bills in the US will most probably look like this:

Utility  Monthly cost Yearly cost
Electricity  $137 $1,644
Gas $63 $756
Water $45 $540
Cell phone  $157 $1,884
Cable and Internet  $118 $1,416

Cost of Living in the US: Health Insurance 

One thing that the US is famous/infamous for is the high cost of health care. In 2023, a single coverage’s average health insurance cost was around $8,400 per year or around $700 per month. On the other hand, family coverage in the US in 2023 was around $24,000 per year or just around $2,000 a month.

Cost of Living in the US: College Tuition 

The average college tuition in the US was around $20,000 per year. The average cost of a year at a college (tuition plus living expenses, room, books, food) was around $37,000 per year. This means that, for all four years of attending a college in the US, you can expect to pay around $148,000.

The top five most expensive colleges in the US are:

  • Columbia University —  $61,850 per year
  • University of Chicago — $59,298 per year
  • Tufts University — $58,578 per year
  • Brown University — $58,504 per year
  • Duke University — $58,194 per year

The top five most affordable colleges in the US are:

  • Brigham Young University — Provo: $5,790
  • Florida State University — $6,507
  • Binghamton University — $10,201
  • University of Buffalo — $10,180
  • Stony Brook University — $10,076

Average Cost of Living in America: Miscellaneous Expenses 

Apart from the type of expenses we’ve already mentioned, there are other miscellaneous costs that are a natural part of life and can impact the cost of living in the US. These expenses include anything from technology (mobile devices, PCs or laptops, etc) to prices of individual movie tickets, designer clothes and beauty care products.

Type of expenses Average cost 
Single movie ticket  $15 – $20
Live sporting event or concert $20 – $120
Night on the town  $60 – $100
Restaurant meal per person $15 – $50

The cost of mobile devices, PCs, and laptops is usually much lower in the US than in Europe, primarily due to lower tariffs and import duties. For example, an iPhone 15 costs around $815 in the US, while that phone in Europe will cost around $1,050. The same is true for many different computer brands and PC parts: in the US, they are 10-30% less expensive on average than in Europe. The main reason for this is that the US doesn’t have The Value Added Tax or VAT; instead, they rely on sales tax, making electronics 10-30% less expensive on average. 

Need Help Getting a Mortgage in the US? Check out NRI

Rent payments are among the highest expenses that significantly impact the average cost of living in the US. For an average single-bedroom apartment in the US, rent can be as high as $20,500 per year. Instead of paying rent, a much smarter thing to do is to buy a house in the US, make loan payments instead of rent every month, and slowly build equity in the property. 

NRI is a full-cycle agency that helps people from all over the world gain access to and buy real estate in the US. Our services include: 

Connecting you with a network of real estate agents with international experience, helping you find the best mortgage lenders, even if you don’t have a US credit score or history, and ensuring all tax returns are filed according to US laws. If you’re new to the US and are looking for a way to permanently solve your living situation and start living the great American dream, get in touch with NRI and see how we can assist you.

Founder & CEO
Luka Malkovich is a serial entrepreneur with years of experience in international real estate investing. As the CEO of Nonresident Investor, Luka’s mission is to educate foreign nationals about the US real estate market and help them secure funding and buy property in America. That’s why he’s using his expertise to turn the NRI blog into a knowledge hub for anyone interested in learning about US real estate. This article was written by a professional content writer in conjunction with Luka Malkovich. Luka has thoroughly reviewed this article and has given his final approval before publishing.

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