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.

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.

Make Your Money Work for You

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

Major City Cost-of-Living Index in City Average Cost-of-Living Index in Suburbs
Atlanta 101.8 122.36
Austin, Texas 117.4 102
Baltimore 90 123.22
Boston 169.9 166.98
Charlotte, N.C. 97.2 97.96
Chicago 110.9 105.2
Columbus, Ohio 84.3 97.14
Dallas 95.2 112.02
Denver 127.5 131.4
Detroit 72.9 90.36
Houston 102.3 106.7
Indianapolis 90.4 96.58
Jacksonville, Fla. 92 107.24
Kansas City, Mo. 87 92.7
Las Vegas 104.5 111.66
Los Angeles 166.2 188.7
Louisville, Ky. 87.9 98.6
Memphis, Tenn. 74 102.7
Miami 122.8 114.62
Milwaukee 84.1 99.3
Minneapolis 109.4 116.52
Nashville 99.6 116.38
New York City 180 154
Oklahoma City 87.2 86.54
Philadelphia 99.5 102.7
Phoenix 99.4 113.5
Portland, Ore. 140.5 139.72
Raleigh, N.C. 102.1 110.64
San Antonio 93.2 94
San Diego 166 175.34
San Francisco 272.6 217.9
San Jose, Calif. 222.2 326.56
Seattle 176.5 136.94
Tucson, Ariz. 95.2 110.26
Washington, D.C. 158.5 132.4


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.

Share this article:

About the Author

Gabrielle Olya

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. 

Read More