Cost of living in the USA: Your 2017 guide
If you’re dreaming of a new life in America, you’re not alone. Something in the region of a million people become new, legal residents in the USA every year. With such a massive range of places to choose to live and work, you’ll find thriving expat communities in every corner of the country.
Before you get started, a word.
Banks and money transfer providers often give you a bad exchange rate to make extra profits.
TransferWise is different. Its smart new technology skips hefty international transfer fees by connecting local bank accounts all around the world. Which means you can save up to 8x by using TransferWise rather than your bank when you send your money abroad.
Check out how to make your first transfer with TransferWise. And give it a try.
Oh, and while you’re at it, check out TransferWise’s borderless multi-currency account. Where you can manage and send dozens of currencies all from the same account.
Now, back to what you came here to read.
The official currency in the USA is the US Dollar (USD or $ on currency exchanges).
You can find out the exact value of your money in USD, using an online currency converter - but here’s a rough guide:
- £1000 = $1,292
- A$1000 = $762
- €1000 = $1,135
|Comparing basic cost of living||1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)||Lunch for 2 (3 courses, mid range restaurant)||Transportation (monthly pass)|
|New York City, USA||$3,003||$75||$119|
|San Francisco, USA||$3,271||$75||$73.50|
One major factor that adds expense for expats in the USA, is the cost of converting cash to dollars from your home currency. Even if your bank says it offers fee-free money exchange, you can be sure that its cut is rolled up in the inflated exchange rate it uses. To get the best deal, you should use an exchange service like TransferWise, which applies the same mid-market rate you’ll find on Google. With a quick service, and low flat fees to transfer your cash, this can be a much better deal than relying on your home bank.
Life in the USA is pretty pricey. The most expensive cities include San Francisco, New York, Boston and Los Angeles. However, there are still some well known places where life comes with reasonable price tag - Oklahoma City or Cincinnati for example, have much lower average costs than other large cities. Naturally, get out of the cities entirely, and you’ll find the cost of living is much lower.
|Living expenses in the USA (excluding rent)||New York average cost||San Francisco average cost|
|Single person, per month||$1,100||$1,114|
|Single person, per year||$13,200||$13,368|
|University student, per month||$794||$852|
|Four person family, per month||$4,045||$4,118|
|Four person family, per year||$48,540||$49,416|
The salaries shown for reference here are for New York. Here, you’ll find some of the best paid data scientists and web developers in the world. Tech and finance roles, naturally are in demand - but New York salaries are also top notch for roles like Executive Assistant or Interior Designer.
|Salary averages for the USA||Average annual salary|
The amount you pay in rent is a big driver of your overall cost of living. Both San Francisco and New York have some of the most expensive rents in the world. If you’re on a budget, consider life in a smaller city or town.
|Renting in the USA||Average monthly cost (New York)||Average monthly cost (San Francisco)|
|One bedroom apartment (city centre)||$3,003||$3,273|
|One bedroom apartment (outside of city centre)||$1,896||$2,542|
|Three bedroom family home (city centre)||$5,832||$6,478|
|Three bedroom family home (outside of city centre)||$3,318||$4,501|
|Utilities (gas, electric and water for a 85m2 apartment)||$128||$117|
No matter where you in America you choose to live, having comprehensive health insurance is essential. For those with the insurance, or savings to pay privately, the healthcare system in the USA is world class. However, if you can’t pay the bills, you will struggle to get adequate care (or face large costs afterwards if you need emergency treatment, for example).
|Healthcare service||Average cost to you|
|Family doctor check-up||$155|
|Cold medicine for 6 days||$9|
Driving is fairly cheap in the USA, and outside of the very centres of cities, it’s normal to have a private vehicle. However, in large cities can be tricky, the public transportation system is usually extensive and easy to navigate.
|Transportation and vehicle prices for the USA||Average cost|
|Gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)||$0.69|
|Monthly bus/transport pass||$119|
|Bus ticket, single use||$2.75|
|Taxi tariff, 8km/5mile journey||$15|
|Toyota Corolla, new||$19,673|
|VW Golf, new||$23,000|
Education in the USA can be expensive, depending on the institution you choose to attend. There are both public and private universities, for example, with very different pricing structures. However, many private educational establishments offer bursaries and financial support to ensure that students from lower income families can still have the opportunity now to attend.
|Preschool / kindergarten (monthly fee)||$1,875|
|Private school for lower grades (annual)||$25,286|
|University tuition (Public, four year university)||Annual average for state residents $9,650, for out of state expect averages up to $24,930|
|University tuition (Private, four year University)||Annual average of $33,480|
America - throughout history - has always attracted immigrants inspired by the opportunities available there. It’s no surprise, then, that plenty of expats still make the leap, and move to the USA for life. Whatever you’re looking for, the US is a fantastic expat destination, for a permanent move, or just to spend a year or two exploring somewhere new.
Good luck with your new life in the USA!
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
Here’s everything you need to know about who can apply, and how you go about getting dual citizenship with the United States.
An SSN might only be a handful of numbers, but it’s essential. Here’s everything you need to know about how to apply for an SSN in the United States.
Nearly 4 million babies are born in the US each year. If you’re a visitor, tourist, or expat planning to have a child in the US, you’re in for a shock. When...
Many people want to live and work abroad. Maybe you’re thinking of a working gap year, or you want to settle permanently in a new place to give your career a...
To call someone in the US, you’ll probably want to use your phone. If you’re not sure about international dialing, area codes, or communication options, read...
The US tax code has many rules. If you’re living in the US as a non-resident or as an expat with a visa, you’ll want to understand how taxes work. The way you...