What is the real cost of living in New York City, NY?
There’s no place like New York City. With more than 8.3 million people in the five boroughs sharing ideas and competing professionally against each other, the city is home to many superlatives. Tallest buildings? Check. Acclaimed restaurants? Check. Most spectacular entertainment? That too. The city is a hub for many different industries, including finance, the arts, and a recent tech boom.
NYC is made up of five boroughs, each of which is its own county. From most expensive to most affordable, they are: Manhattan (what some people mean when they say “New York City”), Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Because New York City is such a large and diverse area, cost of living can vary greatly from borough to borough, and even within boroughs.
Table of contentsHousing: Rental PricesHousing: Home Purchase PricesUtilities CostFood CostTransit CostAverage Salary
New York City is generally considered the most expensive place to live in America. The Numbeo cost of living index uses New York City’s prices as the benchmark for their cost of living calculations, scoring it as 100 out of 100 and expressing other cities’ prices as a percentage relative to what you would pay in NYC. If you are considering moving to New York from any other city, this makes it easy to estimate how much (more) you will spend.
Housing: Rental Prices
About two-thirds of New Yorkers rent their homes, and renters in all five boroughs spend, on average, more than 30% of their income on housing costs. According to Rent Cafe’s report in January 2020, the average rent for an apartment in Manhattan was a staggering $4,210—by far the most expensive in the nation, and nearly three times the national average of $1,463. Brooklyn and Queens came in at $2,936 and $2,412, respectively. All three boroughs are more expensive than Chicago, Washington D.C., and San Diego.
Averaging rents across all five boroughs brings the number down to $3,436—which is why some measures rank San Francisco as a more expensive city for housing than New York, with its $3,700 average. However, this average would be misleading to anyone committed to renting in Manhattan or close to it.
Housing prices decline the further from Manhattan you go. As such, you can expect prices in neighborhoods like DUMBO (Brooklyn) and Long Island City (Queens), which are just across the river from Manhattan, to be higher than the averages for their boroughs.
Even if the numbers sound high, living in New York City 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 NYC is half the rent of an average studio apartment in the same neighborhood.
Housing: Home Purchase Prices
In January 2020, the median single-family home purchase price across all five boroughs was $571,000, which means that half of homes sold for more than that price, and half sold for less. Compared to the median price, the average price is higher, because Manhattan has a small proportion of multi-million dollar sales each year that inflate the average but aren’t relevant to the typical buyer.
Single-family homes are extremely rare in Manhattan, and are more likely to be found in less densely-populated parts of the city, like Staten Island. Co-ops and condos, with a median sale price of $537,000, make up the rest of the city’s housing stock. (While these types of homes have a lower purchase price, owners must consider the long term cost of additional monthly fees.)
In Manhattan, the median purchase price is $917,000. Many NYC buyers try to avoid homes priced over one million dollars, the price that triggers the city’s additional one percent “mansion tax.” Only San Francisco has higher median real estate prices (and smaller average home sizes, meaning they cost more per square foot).
Of the five boroughs, Brooklyn has seen the fastest rate of increase in median home prices over the last ten years. As of 2020, the median list price is $730,000. Queens ($579,000), Staten Island ($574,000), and The Bronx ($379,000) follow. While these prices are higher than the nationwide median home price of $245,000, buyers looking outside of Brooklyn and Manhattan can find less expensive homes than in other high cost cities like Boston and Los Angeles.
Renters in NYC may pay less for utilities because heat, water, and sometimes electricity are often included in their rent, especially in older buildings. New York state law mandates that hot water be included in rent. Older buildings typically only have one heating system and one meter for electricity, which prevents landlords from charging tenants for individual use.
If you do pay for your own electricity bill, it will cost about 35-40% more than in the rest of the country, but other utilities are less expensive. This means that renters or owners who do pay for all their own utilities can expect a total bill of around $136, which is lower than the national average of $160.
NYC’s vibrant restaurant scene is a hub of the city’s social life. NYC residents spend 130% more on dining out than the national average. Not only do they eat out more often, but the average cost of a full-service restaurant meal in NYC is $46.14, about $10 higher than in the rest of the country. The priciest restaurants are found in Manhattan, but there are thousands of less expensive meals to be found across the five boroughs.
The price of groceries varies widely across the city, and does not correlate with neighborhood rent or home prices. Numbeo’s cost of living calculator estimates that the average New Yorker spends $477 per month on groceries, more than residents in any other US city.
NYC’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) runs the largest public transportation network in the country, taking riders all over the New York metro area via bus, subway, and commuter rail. Regular fares start at $2.75 for a bus or subway ride. (Rail tickets cost more and rates vary by destination.)
Commuters can save money on transportation expenses by getting an unlimited monthly pass, which costs $127. NYC’s monthly Metrocard is a little more expensive than similar passes in other transit-heavy cities like Boston ($90), San Francisco ($98) and Washington, D.C.’s ($121+). But considering that New York has over 5,000 miles of bus and subway routes, it can be seen as a good value.
The NYC Ferry is another option for the half million New Yorkers who live near one of the ferry’s terminals. Various routes serve all five boroughs, and cost only $2.75 each way (except for the Staten Island Ferry, which is free!)
For the minority of New Yorkers who own a car, parking can be a huge expense. Monthly garage parking in Manhattan ranges from $300-$900 per month, and in Brooklyn, $150-500. Prices in the other boroughs are less, and street parking is more readily available.
NYC drivers pay up to twice the national average of $1,427 for car insurance. The highest prices are found in Brooklyn ($3,550) and The Bronx ($3,022), with Manhattan ($2,273) being comparatively affordable.
Between June 2019 and June 2020, gas prices across New York City have ranged from a high of $3 per gallon to a low of $2.25 per gallon. These prices are roughly 25 cents more per gallon than the national average over the same period, but less than the gas prices in Los Angeles.
Workers of all kinds in Manhattan make significantly more than the national average salary of $61,568. The average in Manhattan is $3,152 per week, or almost $164,000 yearly. The highest paying jobs are in the finance and technology sectors. For workers in the other four boroughs, wages lag behind the rest of the country at around $53,000.
Overall, New York City is the most expensive city in the United States, and one of the most expensive cities in the world (although not as pricey as Hong Kong, Tokyo, or Zurich). But to the hard-working dreamers who make it work in the Big Apple, you can’t put a price on being in the center of it all.
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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