8 Most Expensive Cities in the U.S. (2022)

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When calculating which cities are more expensive, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about housing. We’re looking at the whole cost of living, including employment, food costs, dining, entertainment costs, and more. While some of these cities should come as no surprise (especially to the people who live there), you may be interested to discover some you didn’t expect.

Here’s our list of the 8 most expensive cities in the U.S.

  1. Boston, Massachusetts
  2. Population: 684,379
    Cost of living: $76,000
    Unemployment rate: 4.8%
    Boston, Massachusetts
    photo source: Flickr

    You may be surprised to see Boston, Massachusetts feature on this list, but the city has an overpricing problem. People pay about 125% the national average for healthcare in Boston, and around 116% for food. One of the reasons is the city’s age – this is one of the oldest places in the United States, dating back to the original colonies. This makes it a huge tourist destination (and therefore a more competitive housing situation).

    Boston is also home to a huge technology industry owing to its education centers, such as Harvard and MIT. The average home costs $685,000 in Boston. The average family would need around $76,000 to make ends meet in this expensive city.

    Did you know?

    Being one of the nation’s oldest cities, you can bet that Boston has quite a few “firsts.” It established the first subway in America in 1897, the first public park in 1634, and (most importantly of all), the first Dunkin’ Donuts (technically 11 miles outside the city limits, but we’re counting it).


  3. Oakland, California
  4. Population: 425,097
    Cost of living: $77,360
    Unemployment rate: 6.6%
    Oakland, California
    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    This is not the first city in California on this list and it won’t be the last. Oakland is one of the most expensive cities in arguably the country’s most expensive state, across the Bay Bridge away from San Francisco (more on that in a bit). The average homes in Oakland cost almost $940,000. Even the average rental price is $3,000 per month, almost twice the national average.

    The cost of living in Oakland is around $77,360, just for a single person.

    Did you know?

    A lot of unique selling points make Oakland, California one of the country’s most expensive cities. One of them is the over eighty parks in the city, including fifty historic locations. It’s the birthplace of Bruce Lee’s martial arts training in America. But best of all is Lake Merritt, a gorgeous saltwater lake that holds the distinction of being the only one within a city’s limits in the entire country. It even has a legendary creature, the “Oak-ness Monster,” who supposedly lives in the lake.


  5. San Diego, California
  6. Population: 1.41 million
    Cost of living: $80,000
    Unemployment rate: 4.6%
    San Diego, California
    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    San Diego, California is stuffed with sunshine and military contractors. The numerous corporations that populate San Diego naturally drive up its cost of living, which at the moment sits around its median household income of nearly $80,000.

    The average home costs around $830,000 and the unemployment rate is around 4.6% for its 1.41 million people. Though that’s higher than the national average (3.9%), on this list, that’s doing pretty well.

    Did you know?

    San Diego is known as a quirky city, as well as an expensive one. It has over 7,000 farms, more than any city in the United States, as well as the highest avocado production in the country. It has an antique wooden rollercoaster at Belmont Park called The Giant Dipper, which is the only rollercoaster in the country registered as a historic landmark. It also has a law stating that you will be fined if your Christmas lights are still up past February 2nd, and potentially arrested for … shooting jackrabbits from the back end of a streetcar.


  7. Washington D.C.
  8. Population: 692,683
    Cost of living: $80,000
    Unemployment rate: 5.2%
    Washington D.C.
    photo source: Pixabay

    The nation’s capital is inevitably going to be one of its most expensive cities (maybe you thought it would be even higher?). The truth is that the wealth of both federal and private-sector jobs draws huge attention to would-be workers while the city’s healthy legal, tourism, and lobbying industries only further increase the city’s allure.

    The average home in Washington D.C. costs around $692,000, while a normal family needs to make around $80,000 just to survive.

    Did you know?

    You may know that the most venerated United States federal buildings in the city are decorated with antique designs, such as the gargoyles adorning the National Cathedral. However, you may not know that one of the gargoyles on the Northwest tower of that cathedral is shaped like Darth Vader!


  9. Honolulu, Hawaii
  10. Population: 898,000
    Cost of living: $85,000
    Unemployment rate: 7.1%
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    You may not have thought of Honolulu, Hawaii as part of a list of United States cities, but this vacation destination hotspot is one of the most expensive in the country. Groceries alone in this city are over 70% more expensive than the average in the rest of the country, while utilities cost more than double. To pay for everything, the average Honolulu household has to make over $85,000 just to get by.

    With an unemployment rate of over 7%, the nearly 900,000 people of Honolulu are definitely challenged by their city for jobs. When even a loaf of bread costs nearly twice what it does for everyone else, resilience is key. The tradeoff is of course living in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

    Did you know?

    Due to its history as a former sovereign monarchy, Honolulu, Hawaii contains the only royal palace in the whole United States. Throughout modern history, Honolulu has been the site of many modern trials, including the Pearl Harbor attacks, which started WWII.


  11. San Jose, California
  12. Population: 1.028 million
    Cost of living: $110,000
    Unemployment rate: 3.8%
    San Jose, California
    photo source: Flickr

    San Jose, California may not be in the San Francisco Bay Area, but that doesn’t mean it goes easy on its one million people, 6% of whom are unemployed. The city is extremely expensive to live in, with many homes topping $1 million in price and a median household income that has to be around $110,000 just to survive. The city is a tech center and historical landmark.

    In the past, it’s been a farming community, canning center, supply station, Mercury mine, and more. Today, it’s just expensive.

    Did you know?

    San Jose, established as an agricultural center for Nueva California, the Spanish faming colony, was actually the first city established in California. For a few years (1849-1852), it was even the state’s capital.


  13. San Francisco, California
  14. Population: 873,965
    Cost of living: $110,000
    Unemployment rate: 6.1%
    San Francisco, California
    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    Though its population doesn’t crack a million, San Francisco, California is nearly the most expensive city in the U.S. Within city limits, homes cost $1.4 million or more on average due to the city’s central location for majorly profitable industries like finance, technology, and entertainment.

    A family would need over $110,000 in San Francisco just to get by. Though unemployment in the city is not as high as it is in our last city, a 6.1% rate is still about 1.5 times the national average.

    Did you know?

    San Francisco is one of the most recognizable cities in the world. Since the Gold Rush drew in people from all over, the city has been built and rebuilt to suit its fluctuating population. So many ships were sent and discarded there during that time that many of the city’s municipal buildings and older homes are made from the parts of old sailing ships.


  15. New York City, New York
  16. Population: 8.419 million
    Cost of living: $145,000+
    Unemployment rate: 9%
    New York City, New York
    photo source: Pixabay

    The most expensive city in the U.S. is New York City, New York. It probably comes as no surprise to see the Big Apple take the top spot in the United States as its reputation for wealth, glamor, and expenses precedes it. New York City is packed with 8.419 million people, all competing, all looking for a job. As of last year, the city’s unemployment rate was just over 9%, which is more than twice the national average of 3.9%.

    Cost of living in New York City is over 150% of the national average, with the average home in the boroughs costing over $600,000. In Manhattan itself, a $1 million home is far from a rare sight.

    Did you know?

    Despite being the most expensive city in the United States, New York City is barely in the top 10 when it comes to expensive cities around the world. Compared to Tokyo and Hong Kong, New Yorkers have it cheap!


The Takeaway

The most expensive cities in the U.S. are defined by their high unemployment rates, exorbitant housing costs, prevalent tourism and technology industries, and even high grocery prices. While New York City predictably took the top spot, these other cities are still incredibly tough to live in for a normal family. While they can’t compete with the most expensive places to live in the world, in America, these are the cities to beat.

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