What is The Cost of Living in the USA?

The UK is an expensive place to live, there can be no doubt about that but is it any more expensive than the USA which has its own mounting debt problems and recession to worry about? According to the Mercer Cost of Living Survey 2012, London is more expensive than New York which comes as no surprise but these are the only two cities from either country to make it into the top 50 of the world’s most expensive cities.

The only way, it seems, to discover the cost of moving to America is to take a closer look at the facts behind the figures.

Most Expensive American Cities

Forbes ran a story in July 2012 which looked at 51 metro states to discover the most expensive places to live in the US. The results concluded that the top 10 least expensive cities (where your salary will stretch the furthest) included Houston, Texas, Ohio, Fort Worth and Cincinnati.

Those cities which made it into the top ten of the most expensive cities in America included, rather obviously, New York and Los Angeles where residents are migrating away to other parts of the country.

The survey took into consideration housing prices, annual salaries, employment growth, transport, consumer goods and services and utilities. So whilst some cities like New York might enjoy one of the highest average salaries in the country, the cost of living is so high that you have very little disposable income left at the end of it.


According to the US government census in 2009 the average household income was $52,029 but this figure is increased in the cities and decreased in the country.


If you want to go somewhere with cheap housing then head for Memphis Tennesse where the average property price is $180,375 (as of Aug 2012). Compare this with the median house price for New York which, according to Realor Trulia.com was $1,192,500 during the second quarter of this year.

You might think that renting would be a more sensible choice but unfortunately rental prices are on the increase, rising 4% in 2012 and as usual New York tops the bill as the worst place to rent with montly rentals way over $1,000 per month for a 1 bedroom apartment but you can still find bargains if you are prepared to hunt them down. In Tuscon Arizona it’s possible to pay an average of just $652 per month.


Heating and air conditioning are the two main utilities you will spend money on. America’s winters are harsh and the summers can get blisteringly hot. Back in 2010 the average US household spent $1419 on electricity according to USA Today and that figure will have already risen.

Having said that, petrol prices are much cheaper than in the UK with an average of just under 1.40p per litre which equates to 8.646 USD. In the US the actual price of gas per gallon is 3.80 USD.

Other expenses such as groceries and leisure can be discovered on the Numbeo website which compiles data sent in by viewers.

To find out more about moving to the USA read our in-depth expat guide, covering general lifestyle, retirement, finances, education, driving and more.