City vs. Suburban Living: New Study Finds Out Which Is Cheaper

Find out where you should live to save on living costs.

Are you thinking about relocating from the city to the suburbs to save on living costs? If saving money is your thing, you might be better off staying put. A new GOBankingRates study analyzed the cost of living in 35 major cities and their suburbs across the country — and in most places, living in the city is cheaper.

GOBankingRates determined whether living in a major city or its suburbs is more costly by looking at the median rent and cost-of-living index score  for each of 35 major cities and their five major suburbs, based on population size and data availability. The cost-of-living index score, sourced from Sperling’s Best Places, takes into consideration costs such as utilities, transportation and healthcare. The higher the cost-of-living index, the more expensive the city or suburb is to live in.

Of the 35 cities and their suburbs analyzed, living in the city is cheaper in 25 areas, while living in the suburbs is cheaper in 10. Places where living in the suburbs is more affordable tend to be around the cities that require the most income to live comfortably, including San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C.

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Although San Jose, Calif., is one of the most expensive cities to live in, it’s cheaper to live in the city than its suburbs. In general, it also is cheaper to live in cities in the South, but Austin, Texas, and Miami are exceptions to this rule.

Here’s a complete look at the cost of living in the city and surrounding suburbs analyzed in the study:

Major CityCost-of-Living Index in CityAverage Cost-of-Living Index in Suburbs
Austin, Texas117.4102
Charlotte, N.C.97.297.96
Columbus, Ohio84.397.14
Jacksonville, Fla.92107.24
Kansas City, Mo.8792.7
Las Vegas104.5111.66
Los Angeles166.2188.7
Louisville, Ky.87.998.6
Memphis, Tenn.74102.7
New York City180154
Oklahoma City87.286.54
Portland, Ore.140.5139.72
Raleigh, N.C.102.1110.64
San Antonio93.294
San Diego166175.34
San Francisco272.6217.9
San Jose, Calif.222.2326.56
Tucson, Ariz.95.2110.26
Washington, D.C.158.5132.4


Click through to see which cities are getting more expensive.

Methodology: Beginning with a list of the 50 largest U.S. cities by population that was narrowed down to 35, GOBankingRates analyzed costs of living for each major city against five surrounding suburbs, chosen based on population size and availability of data. A maximum of four cities per state was allowed.

The main factors were (1) median rent in the main urban city vs. the average median rents of surrounding suburbs, sourced from Zillow’s rent index for February 2018; and (2) overall cost of living, which includes itemized categories like utilities, transportation, health and miscellaneous, in main urban city vs. average costs of living of surrounding suburbs, sourced from Sperling’s Best Places.

About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.