10 Most Expensive States in the U.S.

The United States covers 50 states spread across millions of square miles. Each state has its own culture and climate, as well as higher or lower cost of living based on the factors that make it unique. There are some generalizations that can be made: states on the west coast and the northeast coast of the country tend to be more expensive, as are the noncontiguous states, Hawaii and Alaska.

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Table of contents

1. Hawaii2. New York3. Massachusetts4. California5. Maryland6. New Jersey7. Oregon8. Connecticut9. Rhode Island10. Alaska

Prices don’t tell the whole story though. Comparing the cost of living with local incomes indicates how relatively affordable goods and services are to the people who live there. The most expensive state to live in feels even less affordable because incomes are lower than in other expensive areas. A Massachusetts income in Hawaii gets you more than a Hawaii income in Hawaii. 

Some states have been among the most expensive consistently. These include Hawaii and Alaska, based on their far-flung locations, and California and New York, because of their high-priced cities which concentrate opportunity and wealth. Some states are changing more rapidly: Oregon would not have made this list a decade ago, but job and population growth in Portland and smaller cities like Salem and Bend has driven up prices. 

These rankings are based on 2019 living wage data from MIT. Salary information comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Incomes are often reported in terms of household income, but the numbers in this guide are based on average individual wages to make the information easier to compare to your own salary. 

These are the nationwide statistics against which to compare each state’s data:

  • Median home purchase price: $245,000 in January 2020.

  • Average rent: $1,463 in January 2020.

  • Average annual wage: $53,490 in May 2019. 

1. Hawaii

If you live in Hawaii, expect to pay higher than average prices for everything from utilities to groceries to gasoline. The added cost of shipping goods to the islands increases cost of living by 88% compared to the rest of the US. Since the middle of last century, housing in Hawaii has typically cost double or more compared to the national average, and that trend has continued, with the median home price hitting $593,000 and the average rent at $2,413. Not only is the state the most expensive, it is also the least affordable state to live in on Hawaii’s average income of $54,930.

2. New York

Outsize costs for everything from childcare to housing put New York City, and especially Manhattan, among the most expensive places to live in the country. These high prices bring up the average for the state as a whole, but living outside the city is considerably more affordable. Median list prices for homes in New York state are around $429,000, a quarter lower than the going rate in New York City. The state’s average income is the second highest in the country, at $63,970.

3. Massachusetts

The Bay State boasts the highest per capita income in the US, at $65,680. This corresponds to the state’s status as the most educated, with 41% of adults having at least a bachelor’s degree. Boston, the state’s capital, is one of the country’s biggest college towns, and also had the fastest growing jobs market in 2019. Homes in Massachusetts sell for a median price of $429,000, and about two-thirds of residents own their homes

4. California

The Golden State is home to a number of the most expensive cities in the country, including San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Home prices are higher near these cities, which bring the state median sale price up to $518,000. In addition, California has the highest state income tax rate, at 13.3%, on an average income of $61,290. Gasoline can also hit more than $4 per gallon, about a dollar more than the national average.

5. Maryland

From the Appalachian Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay and the United States Naval Academy, Maryland packs a lot into a small state. Depending where they live, Maryland residents can commute to Washington, D.C. to take advantage of the city’s higher salaries ($72,600 versus the Maryland average of $60,230) while benefiting from Maryland’s lower median home price of $279,000. Maryland has the highest homeownership rate of the most expensive states, at 67%.

6. New Jersey

One thing that makes the Garden State so appealing is its combination of suburban charms with close proximity to both New York City and Philadelphia. Luckily, median home prices are lower than in either city, at $316,000. One downside is that NJ homeowners pay an effective property tax rate that is the highest in the country in the country, at 2.16%.

7. Oregon

Since 2001, Oregon’s economy has grown 16% faster than the rest of the country. Bend, the third-fastest growing city in the country, is located in Oregon, although about half the state’s population of 4 million lives in trendy Portland, where average housing costs and salaries are typically higher than the statewide median home price of $355,000 and salary of $53,890. In 2019, Oregon became the first state in the country to enact statewide rent control laws aimed at keeping rental housing affordable for all Oregonians.

8. Connecticut

This state’s major industries are finance, insurance, and real estate. It may not sound exciting, but Connecticut is a safe and pleasant place to live, with the best access to healthcare in the country. It is also the most affordable state on this list when you factor in the high average salary ($62,350) with the relatively low cost of living. The typical house cost in Connecticut was $255,000 as of January 2020, which is only 8% higher than the national average.

9. Rhode Island

This tiny state is known for its quirky state drink, coffee milk. Groceries like coffee milk cost 6.5% more in Rhode Island than the national average. Similar to Connecticut, well-priced homes can be found here: the median sale price is around $279,000, but the state’s average income of $57,220 is a little lower than their neighbor to the west.

10. Alaska

Like Hawaii, Alaska does not grow much of its own food. Shipping food to and throughout this huge state adds to its cost, meaning groceries are 42% more expensive than in the Lower 48. Cold winters keep utility bills high as well, at 70% above the US average. Housing varies widely in price by region, but as of January 2020 the median list price for homes across the state was $282,000, or 17% higher than the national average. Despite the high cost of living, Alaska’s average income is just ten percent higher, at $59,290. People who dread paying taxes will love Alaska: the state has no income tax and no sales tax. Another perk is the yearly Permanent Fund dividend check that Alaskans receive from the state. In 2019, this check put an additional $1,606 in residents’ pockets.

If you’re considering moving to another state for a job, for school, or just for an adventure, be sure to compare the costs of the parts of your lifestyle that matter most to you. Some states have expensive housing but great weather, which might have more weight in your personal calculation. There are many moving parts when it comes to estimating cost of living, but overall trends can help you determine which states may offer you the best quality of life relative to your income. 

Even if the numbers sound high, living in these states doesn’t have to be out of reach. Coliving with roommates allows you to spend significantly less than the average cost of solo housing. For example, Bungalow's average price for a private room in a shared home is an average of 30% less than the rental cost of an average studio apartment in the same neighborhood.

Bungalow offers private rooms in shared homes that are more affordable than solo housing options in the same neighborhoods. Wifi, utilities, and monthly cleaning are set up before you move in so that coliving is seamless. Unlike other shared housing options, Bungalow vets all residents and helps you match with roommates who share your living preferences and interests. Find your next home on Bungalow.

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