Top 10 Most Expensive Cities in the United States

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Top 10 Most Expensive Cities in the United States

Many people are attracted to the fast pace and convenience of big cities. They may be drawn by job opportunities or the proximity to various amenities such as shops and restaurants. This is why numerous Americans choose to live in city centers.

Despite their many advantages, the cities on this list also have a higher cost of living. What are the most expensive cities in the United States, and what makes them desirable despite their high price tags? Let's delve into it.

Manhattan (New York City)

New York City's Manhattan borough is the most expensive city in the United States. Around 20% of New York City's population, or 1.7 million people, live in Manhattan.

Living in Manhattan can be expensive as the cost of living index is 237.8% higher than the national average. In New York City, prices are higher for groceries, public transportation, and housing. The median home cost in the five boroughs is $776,946, exceeding the national median of $355,852.

As of July 2022, the city's unemployment rate was 6.6%, slightly up from the previous month but down from July 2021's rate of 10.1%. The national unemployment rate was 3.5%.


Honolulu has a population just over one million, making it the second-highest city in the U.S.

Living in Honolulu can be expensive. The cost of groceries is about 153% higher than the national average, whereas utilities cost 102.2% more. Unfortunately, the salaries are not significantly higher to offset these costs. 

Honolulu's median household income is $87,722, which is higher than the national median of $64,994. However, it is still lower than the median household income of $119,136 for San Francisco. Honolulu had an unemployment rate of 3.8% in July 2022.

San Francisco

Every day, people leave San Francisco. As of July 2022, the city's population was slightly over 815,000.

The city's high cost of living and unaffordable housing prices are well-known. Unsurprisingly, it can be challenging to make ends meet in a city where median home prices are above $1.6 million. The city's primary industries include tourism, IT, and financial services.

To sustain a family of four where both adults are employed, a household income of $128,878 after taxes would be required to cover all the expenses. However, the area's unemployment rate has improved significantly, dropping from 6.4% in June 2021 to 2.6% in June 2022.

Brooklyn (New York City)

Brooklyn, one of the boroughs of New York City, has made it to the list of the most pricey cities in the United States. It is home to popular attractions such as Coney Island and Prospect Park. It is famous for its flourishing hipster culture.

Brooklyn has a larger population than Manhattan despite the latter being more expensive. According to Zillow, approximately 2.6 million people reside in Brooklyn, with median home values equivalent to Manhattan at $776,946. However, the average rent in Brooklyn can exceed $3,100 per month, which adds up to a total of $37,200 annually.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., is an expensive city due to its status as the capital of the United States. The city boasts an abundance of government and private-sector jobs, with numerous federal agencies, think tanks, lobbying firms, and a thriving tourism sector.

The area is home to over 670,000 people. The median household income in Washington, D.C. is about $90,842, and a family of four with both adults working needs to earn $96,163 after taxes to make ends meet. The median home value is approximately $708,000.

Orange County, CA

Orange County is home to approximately 3.2 million people.

Remember that you'll be in an area with a high focus of Fortune 500 companies and celebrities. The location is also home to some of the country's best surfing waters.

If you're hoping to escape from the high cost of living in cities like San Francisco, it might be more challenging than you think. The average value of homes in the area exceeds $1 million, which is a considerable amount of money, especially considering that the median household income is around $94,441. 

However, the good news is that the city boasts a high concentration of major employers, which has resulted in a lower-than-average unemployment rate of just 2.8% as of July 2022.

Los Angeles

When you think of Los Angeles, you might picture wealthy and glamorous movie stars. Still, the city's booming economy is not solely dependent on Hollywood. The shipping industry plays a significant role, with the Port of Los Angeles considered one of the busiest ports in the world. 

Additionally, a thriving manufacturing sector and an emerging start-up scene causes the city's high cost of living. Housing costs are driven up in specific ZIP codes, like the much-discussed 90210.

As of July 2022, Los Angeles had a population of approximately 3.9 million people. The median value of a home in Los Angeles is $991,551, while the median household income is around $65,290. If a family of four with two working adults wants to make ends meet, they would need an after-tax income of $97,687. 

Sadly, about 17% of the city's residents live below the poverty line as compared to the national average of 11.4%.


Roughly 655,000 people reside in Boston. Groceries and healthcare costs exceed the national average by 12% and 16%, respectively.

Boston is a city that offers a lot of exciting opportunities for its residents and visitors. It has a thriving higher education environment, a booming tech scene that can compete with Silicon Valley, and historic sites that date back to the 13 original colonies. 

These factors have made Boston one of the top tourist destinations in the country. However, despite Boston's low unemployment rate of 3.2% and the surrounding areas as of June 2022, the cost of living in the city is high.

The median household income is $76,298, while the median home value is $744,000. A family of four needs an after-tax income of $108,248 to cover expenses.


Seattle is a bustling city situated in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It's widely recognized as the birthplace of grunge music and the home of Starbucks. 

With a population of around 734,000, it's a popular destination for tourists, students, and job seekers. The median household income in Seattle is $97,185, making it one of the wealthiest cities in the country.

The city's unemployment rate as of June 2020 was 3.3%, slightly better than the national average, while the median home value was $981,548.

Oakland, CA

Oakland is easily accessible from San Francisco and San Jose, with a population of approximately 434,000.

According to Zillow, the median home value in Oakland is $981,000, which is high but less expensive than Orange County.

The city's median household income is $80,143. However, it is among the top five most expensive cities regarding grocery and gas prices. For the first quarter of 2022, grocery items in the city cost roughly 30% more than the national average. Additionally, the average gas price in the city is $4.72 compared to the national average of $3.23.


Bottom Line


As populations, job markets, and economies continue to grow, expensive cities become more appealing. Even with their high cost of living, these urban areas provide a sense of community and connection to both renters and home buyers, which can be hard to find in suburban and rural environments.

However, when you are selecting a place for yourself or your family to settle, it's crucial to avoid being overwhelmed by the bright lights of the city. In addition to all the tempting amenities, it's essential to weigh the practical and financial factors to make the best decision for your future.

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