aerial view of Manhattan

Cost Of Living In New York By City: NYC And Upstate

Rachel Burris8-Minute Read
October 12, 2021

Millions of people dream of moving to Manhattan so they can be surrounded by its bright lights and big attractions. However, for most, the ritzy New York City borough is just too expensive to be a realistic option. Fortunately, New York state has a number of wonderful cities to choose from that meet the needs of every budget. Take a look at the average cost of living in New York and see which cities could be right for you.

Cost Of Living Defined

Cost of living is a term that is used to refer to the amount of money a person would need to afford life’s basic expenditures and maintain a specific standard of living. Therefore, the cost of living is relative to an area’s median income and can be used to determine the livability of that area.

To compare the affordability of one area to another, agencies create a cost of living index. By collecting data on the costs of different categories of expenses and weighting each category, the index is able to calculate a composite score for each place and compare it to the national average.

The categories of expenses that are factored into an area’s cost of living are typically:

  • Housing
  • Groceries
  • Health care
  • Transportation

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Average Cost Of Living In New York State

Since the cost of living index sets the national average to 100, each area examined is presented as a percentage above or below the national average. At 20.5% above the national average, the cost of living in New York state is fairly high. Take a look at how the following data points impact New York’s affordability.

  • Cost of living: 20.5% above U.S. average
  • Median household income: $68,486.00
  • Income adjusted by cost of living: $56,834.85
  • Cost of housing: 32.1% above U.S. average
  • Cost of groceries: 3.8% above U.S. average
  • Cost of health care: 5.8% above U.S. average
  • Median home price: $305,400

Although New York state’s median household income is 9% above the national average of $62,843, the higher cost of living means that New Yorkers’ income doesn’t go as far. After being adjusted by the state’s higher cost of living, residents’ income is actually 10% below the national average.

Cost Of Living In NYC Vs. Upstate New York

Living in New York City is more expensive than living anywhere else in New York state. But how much more expensive is it than living north of the New York metropolitan area? To find out the cost of living in New York City vs. Upstate New York, we compared Manhattan, the most iconic part of the state, to Albany, the state capital.

Manhattan’s cost of living is 135.5% more expensive than Albany’s. Let’s take a closer look at each of the basic expenses that make up this considerable difference in affordability.

 

Manhattan

Albany

Cost of living

142.5% above national average

7% above national average

Cost of housing

406.9% above national average

10.5% above national average

Cost of groceries

38.4% above national average

13.9% above national average

Cost of health care

10.9% above national average

3.2% above national average

Cost of transportation

28.5% above national average

3% above national average

 

Housing

Housing is typically the largest determinant of an area’s cost of living. It’s certainly what makes the cost of living in Manhattan so excessive despite the property tax being lower. Manhattanites tend to spend 396.4% more than Albanians to put a roof over their heads.

 

 

Manhattan

Albany

Difference

Median monthly rent

$1,150

$5,133

$3,983

Median home price

$438,200

$2,045,349

$1,607,149

 

Groceries

How much it costs to put food on the table is another important consideration of an area’s affordability. In Manhattan, residents typically spend 24.5% more on groceries than residents of the state’s capital.

 

Manhattan

Albany

Difference

Half-gallon carton of milk

$2.79

$2.23

$0.56

4 pounds of sugar

$4.16

$2.57

$1.59

18 ounces of corn flakes

$5.83

$4.16

$1.67

1 pound of margarine

$3.15

$1.04

$2.11

15.5 - 18 ounces of olive oil

$8.88

$5.51

$3.37

 

Health Care

The cost to see health care professionals and buy over-the-counter and prescription drugs differ between areas of the country, making some places more costly to live in than others. Given how much more expensive Manhattan is in most categories of expenses, it may be surprising that health care is only 7.7% more expensive in the NYC borough than it is in Albany.

 

 

Manhattan

Albany

Difference

Doctor visit - routine examination

$106.72

$106.55

$0.17

100 tablets of ibuprofen

$12.90

$9.32

$3.58

Dentist visit - teeth cleaning

$124.43

$105.45

$18.98

 

Transportation

How much residents must spend to commute to work is yet another factor of a place’s cost of living. To get around, people in Manhattan pay 31.5% more than people in Albany.

 

Manhattan

Albany

Difference

1 gallon of unleaded gas

$2.93

$2.72

$0.21

Typical public transportation fare

$2.75

$1.50

$1.25

Cost to balance four tires

$80.22

$44.67

$35.55

Cost Of Living In New York By City

Curious how much money you’d make and how far it would go if you lived in New York? Well, here’s a rundown of what your personal finances could look like in six different cities in New York state. Notice that half of them are in New York City, while the other half are located in Upstate New York. The cities are presented in descending order according to their cost of living.

Manhattan

Sunset over Manhattan
  • Cost of living: 142.5% above U.S. average
  • Median household income: $86,553.00
  • Income adjusted by cost of living: $35,691.96
  • Cost of housing: 406.9% above U.S. average
  • Median home price: $2,045,349
  • Cost of groceries: 38.4% above U.S. average
  • Cost of health care: 10.9% above U.S. average
  • Cost of transportation: 28.5% above U.S. average

Manhattan is known for its restaurant scene, nightlife, culture, exorbitant prices and inflation rates. The borough has the highest cost of living of any city in the country. Manhattan salaries are, on the surface, 37.7% higher than the national average. However, when you account for the city’s extreme cost of living, you find that Manhattanites actually tend to make 43.2% less than the average American. Meanwhile, with home prices 555.7% higher than the national average, buying a home in Manhattan is a dream not many residents are ever able to realize.

If you’re interested in the area, check out Manhattan real estate listings and the Manhattan Trend Report.

Brooklyn

Street View of Brooklyn Bridge
  • Cost of living: 83.2% above U.S. average
  • Median household income: $60,231.00
  • Income adjusted by cost of living: $32,877.18
  • Cost of housing: 232.2% above U.S. average
  • Median home price: $1,346,308
  • Cost of groceries: 24.5% above U.S. average
  • Cost of health care: 7% above U.S. average
  • Cost of transportation: 12.4% above U.S. average

While Brooklyn was once considered the more affordable option for Manhattanites, the outer borough is now among the five most expensive cities in the United States. Housing may cost around 34% more in Manhattan, but Brooklynites tend to make 30.4% less than Manhattanites. Brooklyn salaries, which are 4.2% below the national average, are surprisingly low, given that its cost of living is 83.2% higher. When considering income in relation to cost of living, you find that residents’ earnings are nearly 48% lower than the average American.

If you’re interested in the area, check out Brooklyn real estate listings and the Brooklyn Trend Report.

Queens

Long Island Buildings
  • Cost of living: 49.6% above U.S. average
  • Median household income: $68,666.00
  • Income adjusted by cost of living: $45,899.73
  • Cost of housing: 122.6% above U.S. average
  • Median home price: $819,600
  • Cost of groceries: 28.7% above U.S. average
  • Cost of health care: 7.9% above U.S. average
  • Cost of transportation: 12.5% above U.S. average

As Manhattan and Brooklyn have gotten increasingly less affordable, Queens has become more gentrified and popular. While residents earn about 21% less than Manhattanites, the cost of living in Queens is 92.9% lower than it is in Manhattan. Therefore, when taking living expenses into consideration, Queens residents effectively make 28.6% more than Manhattan residents. Purchasing a home in Queens is also more feasible. Properties in Queens are 60% cheaper than in Manhattan and 39% cheaper than in Brooklyn. Yet, Queens’ home prices are still 162.75% higher than the national average.

If you’re interested in the area, check out Queens real estate listings and the Queens Trend Report.

Albany

Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza
  • Cost of living: 7% above U.S. average
  • Median household income: $45,825.00
  • Income adjusted by cost of living: $42,827.10
  • Cost of housing: 10.5% above U.S. average
  • Median home price: $438,200
  • Cost of groceries: 13.9% above U.S. average
  • Cost of health care: 3.2% above U.S. average
  • Cost of transportation: 3% below U.S. average

New York state’s capital is 150 miles north of Manhattan, and also situated along the Hudson River. Being a small city, Albany may not experience the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps, but it does possess beautiful, historical architecture and a number of colleges, as well as a large university. Although the cost of living is just 7% above the national average, Albanians’ salaries are actually 27% lower than the average American’s. To make matters worse, the homes in Albany typically cost around 40.5% more than the national average.

If you’re interested in the area, check out Albany real estate listings and the Albany Trend Report.

Rochester

Rochester Skyline
  • Cost of living: 2.8% below U.S. average
  • Median household income: $35,590.00
  • Income adjusted by cost of living: $36,615.23
  • Cost of housing: 15.2% below U.S. average
  • Median home price: $309,302
  • Cost of groceries: 2.6% below U.S. average
  • Cost of health care: 2.4% above U.S. average
  • Cost of transportation: 6% above U.S. average

Rochester’s two large universities – the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology – offer residents significant job opportunities, and employers a new batch of well-educated applicants each year. The downtown area fell out of favor but is in the midst of a revitalization. The cost of living may be just under the national average, but wages are 43.4% below, which means that residents still struggle to get by. Thankfully, home prices are around 1% less than the national average.

If you’re interested in the area, check out Rochester real estate listings and the Rochester Trend Report.

Buffalo

Buffalo Skyline Across Niagara
  • Cost of living: 5.7% below U.S. average
  • Median household income: $37,354.00
  • Income adjusted by cost of living: $39,611.88
  • Cost of housing: 9.5% below U.S. average
  • Median home price: $359,900
  • Cost of groceries: 1.6% below U.S. average
  • Cost of health care: 15.8% below U.S. average
  • Cost of transportation: 9% below U.S. average

While Buffalo was shaken by a post-industrial decline not all that long ago, the city is now experiencing a renaissance that has brought major developments, especially to its waterfront. New businesses are also popping up, thanks to local government programs. Both the cost of living and median household income in Buffalo is lower than the national average, by 5.7% and 40.56%. So, after adjusting for cost of living, Buffalonians’ effective salaries are about 8.2% higher than Rochesterians’. Yet, homes in Buffalo tend to cost about 15.4% more than the national average.

If you’re interested in the area, check out Buffalo real estate listings and the Buffalo Trend Report.

The Bottom Line On The Cost Of Living In New York

Although New York’s overall cost of living is 20.5% above the U.S. average, the state comprises cities that run the gamut when it comes to living expenses. New York City’s boroughs may top the list for the country’s most expensive places to live, but Upstate New York is made up of a number of cities whose prices hover around the national average.

If you’re looking to buy a home in New York, Rocket HomesSM is here to help. Sign up online, and we’ll match you with one of our highly qualified Rocket Homes Verified Partner Agents.

*The state-level cost of living data presented in this article was sourced from Sperling’s Best Places. The city-level cost of living data was sourced from the 2019 Q2 Cost of Living Index published by The Council for Community and Economic Research – with the exception of public transportation prices. Typical fares for Manhattan and Albany were taken from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Capital District Transportation Authority, respectively. Median household incomes for both New York state and its various cities were pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau, and reflect 2019 estimates.

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Rachel Burris

Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Rocket Companies, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.