Rent Prices: The 10 Most Unaffordable Cities in America

MCCAIG / Getty Images

MCCAIG / Getty Images

The cost of living in the average American city is $5,111.17 per month. That comes out to $61,334 per year. For many, that would stretch their budgets to the absolute limit, but to renters in America’s most unaffordable cities — mostly in California — anything that far south of six figures isn’t even doable.

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To find the most financially challenging cities to live in America, GOBankingRates used rental data from ApartmentList, cost-of-living data from Sperling’s Best and average expenditure data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Any city with an AreaVibes livability score under 65 didn’t make the cut.

So, you think it’s tough making ends meet where you live? Try these 10 cities, which are the most unaffordable for rent in America.

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Emeryville, California

  • 2022 1-bedroom rent: $2,631.29

One of just two cities in the ranking where you can get by on five figures, the annual cost of living in Emeryville — home of Pixar Animation Studios — is $94,147.69, or $7,845.64 per month. The tradeoff is a comparably low livability score of 67, which is considered just average and the lowest on the list.

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Marina del Rey, California

  • 2022 1-bedroom rent: $4,471.14

On the other end of the livability spectrum is Marina del Rey — at 84, only one other city can boast a higher score. It, too, offers a sub-six-figure annual cost of living. You can carve out a life there for $98,931.74, or $8,244.31 per month. Rent is crushingly high, though — a one-bedroom in Marina del Rey costs nearly $1,400 more than the next most expensive city.

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Lake Forest, California

  • 2022 1-bedroom rent: $2,544.00

Lake Forest has the third-lowest livability score on the list at 77. It’s one of only four that lands under 80. The tradeoff is the second lowest rent in the ranking. The annual cost of living there is $102,979.79, or $8,581.65 per month.


Hoboken, New Jersey

  • 2022 1-bedroom rent: $2,988.14

Hoboken is the only non-California city on the list, but its excellent livability score of 85 might be worth the cross-country trip — no other city on the list scores higher. Housing there isn’t cheap — residents of just three cities pay a higher monthly rent. The annual cost of living is $107,518.50 or $8,959.88 per month.

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Irvine, California

  • 2022 1-bedroom rent: $2,675.57

The last of only four cities on the list with a livability score under 80, Irvine lands a 79, which is still considered exceptional. Its $114,755.91 annual cost of living breaks down to $9,562.99 per month, making Irvine the last city on the list where you can get by on less than $10,000 per month.

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Union City, California

  • 2022 1-bedroom rent: $2,497.29

Union City’s livability score of 68 is the No. 2 worst on the list behind only Emeryville. The tradeoff is that it has the lowest rent out of all 10 cities. With a $122,054.66 annual cost of living, you’ll need $10,171.22 per month to make a life there.

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Dublin, California

  • 2022 1-bedroom rent: $2,753.29

You’ll have to pay to enjoy Dublin’s exceptional livability — the city boasts a score of 82. Nearly on par with Union City, the annual cost of living in Dublin is $122,115.99, or $10,176.33 per month.

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Foster City, California

  • 2022 1-bedroom rent: $3,085.14

One of only two cities with an average rent above $3,000, housing in Foster City is second only to Marina del Rey. That will buy you an enviable cost of living score of 80, but rent is hardly the only financial consideration. The cost of living in Foster City is a staggering $176,764.59 per year, or $14,730.38 per month.

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Newport Beach, California

  • 2022 1-bedroom rent: $2,664.00

Newport Beach is one of only two cities on the list with an annual cost of living above $200,000 — $216,693.02, to be exact. That boils down to $18,057.75 per month.

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Cupertino, California

  • 2022 1-bedroom rent: $2,996.00

If you want to put down roots in Cupertino, the home of Apple, you’ll have to come up with $18,124.20 every month, or $217,490.36 per year. Apple, however, has good taste in real estate — Cupertino’s 83 livability score lands the city a spot in the top three.

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Methodology: To find the most unaffordable cities to rent in, GOBankingRates first used ApartmentList data to find (1) average 2022 1-bedroom rents. GOBankingRates then used (2) Sperling’s Best to find cities’ overall cost of living index. Next, GOBankingRates used (3)average annual expenditure data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey in order to determine how much a renter might spend in each selected city per month. GOBankingRates then ranked qualifying cities by most to least average monthly expenditure. In order for a city to be qualified for the study, it must have (4) a livability score of 65 or above, as sourced from AreaVibes. All data was collected on and up to date as of August 8, 2022.