Have you ever considered moving to North America or simply wondered what it would be like to live in any of the large North American cities?
It is common knowledge that North America has some of the largest and busiest cities in the world. The exceptional standard of living and variety of job opportunities in major American and Canadian cities is a draw for many. Those looking to move to these bustling areas will have to pay a lot for their living expenses.
Despite the high cost of living, it is understandable why so many people flock to these expensive cities. There are plenty of job opportunities, recreational activities, and like-minded communities. But, if your average monthly salary cannot make the cut, you will struggle to survive in these expensive places.
Read on to find out which major cities in North America are the most expensive.
Top Ten Most Expensive Cities in North America
Here are the top ten most expensive cities in North America.
1) New York City, U.S.
It is no surprise that New York City is the most expensive city in North America. The Big Apple, The City That Never Sleeps - New York City is a draw to many looking for jobs and excitement.
New York City is not cheap to live in, with the average monthly rent of a one-bedroom apartment at around $3,400. Food and necessities are also costly, with living expenses at an average of $1,380 per month for a single person.
Plenty of wealthy people call New York City their home. Still, income brackets vary greatly, and the median household income for New Yorkers is just over $67,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With the cost of living 129% higher than the rest of the U.S. and homes costing more than $1M, it is no surprise that New York City tops our list.
New York City attracts people from around the world because of the world-class colleges and universities, Wall Street and other financial companies, media companies, and a steadily growing tech industry.
2) Toronto, Canada
Toronto only recently overtook Vancouver as the most expensive city in Canada, according to Mercer's Cost of Living Index. Toronto is also the most populous city in Canada, with a population of less than 2.8M in 2021. Toronto is also Canada's financial center, attracting many people looking for work in the financial industry.
The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom flat in Toronto is around $1,400, while monthly expenses are $2,250. Coupled with an average salary of $37,050 annually, Toronto is a costly city.
For those looking to work in Toronto but save some money, the suburbs and smaller cities surrounding Toronto, like Brampton and Mississauga, will have lower living costs. Residents can purchase a monthly transit pass to access the city for work.
3) Vancouver, Canada
Until recently, Vancouver was at the top of the list of the most expensive Canadian cities. This large city attracts many residents because of its excellent living standards, universal health care, diversity, and inclusivity. Unfortunately, with all these benefits comes a hefty price tag.
Monthly expenses in Vancouver for a single person average $3,600, whereas a month's rent will be between $2,240 to $3,253, according to Expatistan. This is just an average monthly rent, and there are areas of the city where you will pay significantly more. A monthly pass for transport costs around $111, which is quite expensive compared to other North American cities.
The average salary for those working in Vancouver is around $44,925 annually. Still, those in the top positions can earn over $83,000. So, although Vancouver is incredibly expensive to live in, the average salary is also relatively high.
4) San Francisco, U.S.
San Fransisco is a gorgeous U.S. city that is the tech hub of America. Because of Silicon Valley, many people are flocking to this city in search of jobs, which has significantly increased the rental and housing costs.
Renting a one-bedroom apartment costs an average of $3,397, according to Rent Cafe. Those seeking accommodation in downtown San Francisco or near Silicon Valley can pay much more. Those looking to purchase a family home can expect to pay around $1.5M.
The cost of living in San Francisco is also really high, averaging $3,600 per month without excessive spending.
Fortunately, the average salary is $54,000, which is very high compared to other cities in North America. Alternatively, the prevalence of high-paid employees in the tech industry means that many companies have pushed up their prices accordingly, negatively impacting those earning less money.
5) San Diego, U.S.
Some might be surprised to see San Diego on this list, but it is one of the most expensive cities in America.
San Diego is a draw for many people because of the great universities, the attractive climate, the surrounding nature, and the general friendly vibe of the city.
Monthly expenses for those living in San Diego average $3,600, while a small apartment's monthly rent is around $2,600. This does seem quite expensive when you consider that those living in San Diego earn an average annual salary of $39,000. However, this amount will differ significantly depending on the industry they work in and their qualifications.
This city's high cost of living is primarily because of the rising housing costs. The result of the limited space available for development and a constant influx of people looking to live there makes space a commodity.
6) Los Angeles, U.S.
The City of Angels is an immense attraction to those working in the TV, movie, and music industries, meaning there are plenty of celebrities and executives calling Los Angeles home.
LA has a slightly skewed income bracket, with some of the wealthiest and poorest people in the United States living there.
The average cost of living in LA is $4,093, according to Expatistan, and rent in an average area costs about $2,405 for a furnished one-bed apartment. This can increase to $3,203 in wealthier areas. A single-family home in downtown LA costs around $1.15M, and a house in Beverly Hills will cost about $4M.
The average annual income for a household in LA is just over $71,000. Still, this average income is undoubtedly skewed when considering the number of celebrities and wealthy people living there.
Los Angeles neighborhoods are very diverse, with plenty of affluent areas and areas riddled with poverty and gang violence. It can be difficult for people living in these areas to afford necessities in this expensive city.
7) Calgary, Canada
You're probably surprised to see Calgary on this list, as it is not a very large city in size or population. It is, however, home to plenty of large corporations, with many wealthy people in the city. This, in turn, drives up the cost of living there.
Renting a one-bed apartment in Calgary costs an average of $1,617, according to Expatistan. This is less than other cities on this list; however, utilities cost a whopping $320 for one person in a small apartment. A monthly transit pass is also expensive in Calgary, costing you $81.
8) Boston, U.S.
Not everyone can afford to live in Boston. Although it has lower living costs than other expensive cities on this list, it is still relatively costly for an American city.
Boston is the oldest city in America and has two of the best universities in the world: Harvard and MIT. These reasons are part of why Boston is so expensive - it is a very desirable city.
As a single person, you will need around $2,900 to live a comfortable but modest life in Boston. The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the average salary of people in Boston is $76,850 across all occupations; however, as with any other city, there would be those who earn much more or much less than this average.
This high average is required to afford to live in Boson, which is so expensive because of housing, with the median home cost at $719,000. This high housing cost is because of gentrification, which aims to improve neighborhoods across the city, making them more attractive to residents.
Other daily expenses are also higher than the national average. An estimated single person will require $433 a month to feed themselves home-cooked meals.
9) Washington D.C., U.S.
Washington D.C. is home to the nation's capital and some of America's most influential men and women.
You may not be moving into the White House just yet. However, rent in Washington D.C. still costs a pretty penny, with the average monthly rent priced at $3,300 for a single-person apartment. When you exclude rent from the equation, living expenses are around $1,200.
U.S. Government Census data shows that people living in the capital have an average monthly salary of $7,570 (or $90,842 annually) per household. This is significantly higher than the national average.
Washington D.C is home to many Federal Government employees, and people seeking jobs in government are also moving toward Washington D.C. This increases house and rental prices.
Washington D.C. also houses law firms, trade groups, and contractors and has a booming private sector economy. This vibrant job market is why so many people are living in Washington D.C., despite this city's high cost of living.
10) Seattle, U.S.
Seattle is a bustling city, and the large seaport contributes to this place's booming economy. Seattle is a costly city in North America, with the average price of renting a single apartment at $3,460 a month, according to Expatistan. Buying a home in Seattle is cheaper than in some other expensive cities, at $344,400 on average.
A great draw for people in Seattle is the general vibe of the city. It has a beautiful ambiance and offers excellent job opportunities and a good work-life balance. It is a short flight from many of the major cities in North America, making it a good base for those who travel for work.
Due to its international port, Seattle also has a tremendous international trade sector (especially with Asia).
According to the U.S. Census data, the annual salary for people living in Seattle is $63,610, and the poverty rate in Seattle is 10%.
Discover a City in North America
Many of the major cities in North America are relatively expensive to live in. Still, the average income of people living and working in these cities is also higher than many other cities on this continent.
Understandably, the most expensive cities in North America are also those with limited land for development, plenty of job opportunities in various industries, an excellent standard of living, and an overall good atmosphere.
If you have lots of disposable income, living in any of the cities on this list will be an adventure you will never forget!
Have we sparked your curiosity? Take a look at our article listing the most expensive cities in Canada.
FAQs About the Most Expensive Cities in North America
What is the most expensive city to live in North America?
New York City is the most expensive city in the United States and North America. Housing and expenses are significantly higher than in other large cities throughout North America.
Which city in Canada is the most expensive?
Toronto is the most expensive Canadian city and recently overtook Vancouver, according to Mercer's Cost of Living Index.
Is it more affordable to live in Canada or the U.S.?
In general, Canadian cities are more affordable than U.S. cities. The actual price and cost of living will depend on your city and annual income.
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