What is the real cost of living in Los Angeles, CA?

About four million people call Los Angeles home, making it the second largest city in the United States. When you add in all the other smaller cities that make up Los Angeles county, the urban area clocks in at more than 10 million people. It’s hard to make generalizations about such a large and diverse area, but one thing can be stated for certain: Los Angeles is an expensive place to live. 

In addition to its palm-tree laden boulevards and glamorous nightlife, Los Angeles boasts an outsize influence on the national culture. More so than in other cities, jobs in Los Angeles  are focused on the arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media—many people move here to make their mark in these industries.


Table of contents

Housing: Rental PricesHousing: Home Purchase PricesUtilities CostFood CostTransit CostAverage Salary
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On Numbeo’s cost of living index, which factors the cost of consumer goods prices, including groceries, restaurants, transportation, and utilities, Los Angeles scores 79.49 out of 100 in July 2020—meaning that it costs about 20% less to live here than in New York City, the index’s benchmark. 

When you add rent to the mix, the score declines to 74.88, making it far more affordable than San Francisco, but not as affordable as San Diego. Seattle’s prices are quite close to those in Los Angeles, while Portland is less expensive by about ten percent.

Housing: Rental Prices

The biggest factor that makes living in LA so expensive is the high housing cost. With a median purchase price of $650,000, homeownership is out of reach for many Angelenos (more on that below). As a result, about two-thirds of residents rent their homes (a proportion which is higher than the national average, but in line with other big coastal cities). 

With so many people renting, supply tends to be low—the city’s vacancy rate was only 5.1% in March 2020. The lower the vacancy rate, the higher prices can climb for available apartments: New York and San Francisco, the cities with the nation’s lowest vacancy rates, also have the highest rents. 

Low vacancy and high demand mean that average rent in Los Angeles is high compared to the rest of the country. As of January 2020, apartments in LA rented for an average of $2,545, almost double the $1,463 nationwide average.

The average rents in some especially trendy LA neighborhoods are among the highest in the country. These include Playa Vista ($3,415) and Venice ($3,203). Renters can save money by looking in the Valley—rents in Van Nuys hover around $1,960—or northeast of downtown—the up-and-coming neighborhood of Eagle Rock runs about $1,931 per month.

Even if these numbers sound high, living in LA 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 in LA are up to 7% less than the rent of an average studio apartment in the same neighborhood.

Housing: Home Purchase Prices

The average purchase price of a home in Los Angeles is skewed higher by the sales of famous actors’ multi-million dollar mansions. You can get a better idea of the real estate market by looking at the median sale price, which is the number at which half of sales are higher and half are lower. The median sale price of $738,000 is slightly higher than the median price in a number of other major cities, including Washington, D.C., Boston, and New York City. This is about 3 times the nationwide median purchase price of $245,000. City-wide, the median price of a condo is a bit less, at $541,000. 

Since Los Angeles is such a large city, home prices vary considerably based on location. In beachfront Venice, median-priced single family houses sell for $1,763,285, while in Mid-City, typical homes can be found for $835,074. Median prices in Downtown LA are in the $700,000s.

Utilities Cost

When you live in Los Angeles, not only do you get to experience the city’s lovely Mediterranean climate, but you save money on heating and cooling expenses when compared with other parts of the country. Many older apartment buildings in LA don’t have central heat or air conditioning—and on the west side of town, most homes don’t require AC, thanks to the cool beach breezes.

As such, Angelenos can expect to pay about $30 less for monthly utilities than the national average. The average utilities spend in LA is $129 per month—this includes electricity, gas, water, and garbage pickup. Homeowners have the option to install solar panels and can even get money back for generating extra energy.

Food Cost

As the home of the taco truck, Los Angeles is a mecca of tasty, inexpensive food options. Tacos will only set you back about $1.50-$2 each, but a meal in one of the city’s fancier restaurants can cost around $38. That is 28% less than the same meal in New York City. In LA, sales tax will add 9.5% to the bill total.

For the home cook, LA offers access to great produce at a relatively affordable cost. Groceries are generally not taxed, and prices for grocery basics like eggs, milk, and bread are similar to what you find in other parts of the country. The average Angeleno can expect to spend $375 on food per month.

Transit Cost

True to its reputation for gridlock, Los Angeles is a city of drivers. The LA Metro, the city’s public transportation system, is convenient for those who live near transit lines, but LA’s sprawling size means that many neighborhoods and nearby cities are not accessible by transit. For their commute to work, 84% of Angelenos drive, while only 6% take public transit. 

Gas prices in Los Angeles are among the highest in the nation, ringing up about a dollar higher  per gallon than the national average over the last year. From June 2019 to June 2020, LA gas prices fluctuated between $2.75 and $4.25, landing around $3 per gallon at the end of that period. Only Hawaii has higher average gas prices. 

LA drivers spend a lot of time on the highway, and they also spend a lot of money insuring their wheels. Car insurance in Los Angeles costs $1,964 on average. This is $537 more than the national average for comprehensive insurance, which is $1,427. 

To reduce their transportation costs, the LA Metro is an option for people living in and commuting to Downtown LA, Koreatown, Hollywood, Culver City, Santa Monica, Pasadena, and Long Beach. LA’s public transportation system offers bus and rail options for $1.75 for a single ride. Monthly passes start at $100, or $122 with express bus service. This is comparable to the monthly pass prices in nearby San Francisco ($98) and less expensive than in New York City ($127).

Average Salary

High living expenses and housing costs in LA necessitate higher salaries, and this is reflected in the city’s high minimum wage of up to $15. That’s higher than California’s minimum wage of $10, and about double the nationwide minimum wage of $7.25. The average worker in the Los Angeles metropolitan area makes $28.74 per hour, which works out to about $60,000 per year. This is 12% higher than the national average of $25.72, but not enough to make up the 42.6% higher cost of living.  

On the higher end of the salary spectrum, jobs in the Hollywood film industry can pay well, with average producer salaries of over $76,000 per year. LA’s recent emergence as a technology hub has increased demand for software engineers, a job which pays almost $106,000 on average. 

If you’re planning to move to Los Angeles, California, lowering your housing costs and finding a better-than-average paying job will go a long way toward balancing your personal budget

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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