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America’s Most Expensive Cities

Written by Nickel - 15 Comments

I just ran across an interesting article on Forbes.com that talked about America’s most expensive cities. In many ways, the results aren’t surprising, with New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco all ranked in the top five, but there are some names that I didn’t expect to see.

Here’s the rundown:

  1. New York, NY
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. White Plains, NY
  4. San Francisco, CA
  5. Honolulu, HI
  6. Miami, FL
  7. Chicago, IL
  8. Boston, MA
  9. Houston, TX
  10. Washington, DC

While American cities haven’t traditionally ranked amongst the most expensive worldwide, New York moved from #22 in the world in 2008 to #8 in the world in 2009. If you’re interested in looking more broadly, you can find the complete, worldwide dataset from which the above list was generated by visiting this link.

Not surprisingly, the main reason that New York sits atop the US leaderboard is the high cost of housing. In fact, housing costs (as measured in terms of 2 bedroom luxury apartment rents) in New York are nearly double those of #2 Los Angeles. Of course, many Los Angeles residents also have to deal with long, costly commutes.

A couple of other interesting tidbits:

The city on this list with the most expensive cup of coffee (on average) was San Francisco at $4.50.

As for fast food hamburger meals, the highest cost was in White Plains, NY at an average of $6.29.

Where does your hometown rank?

I’m just thankful that we live in a place where I can earn a good income without facing an astronomical cost-of-living. According to an online cost-of-living calculator that I just dug up, New York is nearly twice as expensive as our hometown. Once again, housing makes up a disproportionate amount of that difference.

What about you? How does your hometown stack up?

Published on January 5th, 2010 - 15 Comments
Filed under: Real Estate

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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15 Responses to “America’s Most Expensive Cities”

  1. 1
    Floridian Says:

    New York is
    75%
    more expensive than where I live.

    Housing is the biggest factor in the cost of living difference.

    Housing is
    188%
    more expensive in New York.

    thanks for the link! I wonder how accurate it is?

  2. 2
    Keith Morris Says:

    I moved from Suffern, NY to Raleigh, NC and went from a crappy suburban $1,675/mo two-bedroom condo with zero ammenities to a $1,000/mo three-bedroom apartment with a heated pool, gym, indoor basketball court, racquetball court, dog park and more, walking distance from a huge shopping area. AND we’re saving $300/mo in commuting fees. I love the Triangle area.

  3. 3
    Jim Says:

    There is no way Houston is in the top 10. Median home prices in Houston metro are below the national average. They seem to be using some sort of concocted formula based on multiple cost factors and I think they’ve got their #’s or assumptions a bit out of wack at least for Houston.

  4. 4
    TheDebtHawk.com Says:

    I agree with Jim that Houston must be a mistake. I don’t think that Houston is that expensive. All of the other ones make sense to me.

  5. 5
    Nickel Says:

    Yeah, Houston was the most surprising entry on the list. Not sure what to make of it, but I bet that once you get beyond the truly expensive places, things move around a lot depending on how you weigh the different factors.

  6. 6
    GM Says:

    Just a couple of thoughts..

    It is a good thing that not many American cities are amongst the world’s most expensive. Often an “expensive” city show a lack of something – be in affordable housing or affordable hotels or the like. That is the reason why so many third world cities often show up on these lists.

    For instance if you only have 3 good hotels in the city then they will be exhorbitantly priced..or if there are a lack of apartments or homes for sale/rent then the available stock will be high priced.

  7. 7
    Susan Says:

    I live in one of those ridiculously priced NY suburbs where the property taxes start at $10,000 a year and houses start at $300,000 for something you will need to tear down and start over. But, this is where we grew up, this is where all of our family is, and it has plenty of benefits that we take advantage of and we love it, warts and all.

    On the upside, we can vacation in places like California, Hawaii, and London and it doesn’t seem all that expensive to us. :)

    I do feel badly for people who relocate here and haven’t quite done their research. Ouch.

  8. 8
    Evan Says:

    Hey Susan I may be your neighbor! Long Island here. My current City is only 5% less expensive than NYC. I am about 35 mins from the City.

  9. 9
    El Cheapo Says:

    Having lived many years in Chicago and now Los Angeles with a sister whom I visit frequently in New York…. my pocketbook hurts the most when I’m in Hawaii than anywhere else. Maybe its the island/tourist effect, but even the most basic stuff out there costs 30% more than what we pay in LA. Just my 2 cents.

  10. 10
    Jo/GaelicWench Says:

    Last night while eating at our favorite small-town diner, I overheard a young (early 20s) man talking about the cost of living in CA; the COL was twice as much as here (Podunk, PA).

    When I was done eating, I politely walked up to the group and said that I was from San Diego. Using our property as an example (2000sf on nearly 2 acres)which cost us $111k, I went on to say that over there the same piece of property would be around half a mil – easily, if not more.

    All of a sudden, moving to CA didn’t sound as appetizing to him as before.

  11. 11
    Frank Says:

    I was surprised to see White Plains stuck between New York and LA, but then I realized Westchester County, New York has the highest property taxes in the country. Other cities on the list have something to offer while I can tell you from personal experience that White Plains is quite dismal and — on the basis of this survey — a gigantic ripoff compared to all other cities listed.

  12. 12
    LasX Says:

    a cup of coffe costs $4.80 in Moscow :( ((average)

  13. 13
    Dan Says:

    I think Seattle should be there too. Seattle is very expensive, especially housing.

  14. 14
    Brian Says:

    I would swap Seattle with Houston and call the list complete, if only for the enormous difference in real estate prices. Everything else looks about right, although it seems silly to include White Plains when most of greater NYC is at or near the top of this list.

  15. 15
    home realtors Says:

    Your style is really unique in comparison to other folks I have read
    stuff from. Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this page.

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