Bigger city, bigger rent? Not always.
Bright lights, big city often translates into a big population and big bucks for your apartment.
But often paying the extra moolah for a city rental is just so worth it. Check out this list of the average rent prices in the largest cities in the U.S. by population for an idea on what you can expect to pay, and even how the cost of living index shakes out.
10. San Jose, CA
- Population: 1,021,795
- Population Density (People per Square Mile): 5,359
- Average Studio Rent Price: $2,535
- Average 1-BR Rent Price: $3,006
- Average 2-BR Rent Price: $3,567
- Cost of Living Index: 194.7
It’s no surprise that San Jose, cracks our list since it’s a big chunk of the most affluent county in California. At the southern tip of the Bay Area, smack in the middle of the Santa Clara Valley, San Jose is home to Silicon Valley and all of the clout, money and general prosperity that it helps to create. This is pretty much exactly why the cost of living in San Jose is nearly 95 percent higher than the national average.
The secret got out about San Jose a few decades ago, but the population boom hasn’t leveled off yet. Indeed, the city’s numbers have increased 10 percent since 2010, and are still climbing. Plans for a new Google campus, for example, have the city poised to continue its upward population trend, which is why rent prices are ticking higher all the time. Good thing the median income is around $113,000 per year, otherwise, no one would be able to afford it.
9. Dallas, TX
- Population: 1,343,573
- Population Density (People per Square Mile): 3,518
- Average Studio Rent Price: $1,357
- Average 1-BR Rent Price: $1,531
- Average 2-BR Rent Price: $2,130
- Cost of Living Index: 107.6
Cowboy country has a lot more land to pull from, which is one of the main reasons why it’s a good chunk cheaper than San Jose, even with a larger population. The DFW (that’s Dallas/Fort Worth to you non-locals) area has a lot going for it in terms of industry, affordable housing and overall lifestyle. However, the traffic debacle is one reason why many people choose to live in-town rather than in the ‘burbs.
Located in North Texas just to the east of sister city Fort Worth, Dallas is known for its uncanny ability to balance genteel southwestern charm with a diverse, forward-thinking attitude. The cost of living in this thriving metropolis isn’t bad at all, at only 7 percent higher than the national average. The barbecue isn’t too shabby, either.
8. San Diego, CA
- Population: 1,423,851
- Population Density (People per Square Mile): 4,020
- Average Studio Rent Price: $2,083
- Average 1-BR Rent Price: $2,462
- Average 2-BR Rent Price: $3,204
- Cost of Living Index: 141.1
San Diego has about 1.4 million people within its boundaries, and just about all of them appreciate the incredible weather that Southern California is known for. The mild temperatures and cool ocean breezes make it pretty hard for people to argue with the validity of the typical rent price of $2,462 for a one-bedroom apartment, even if it does hurt a bit to write the check.
Residents of the most chill town in California enjoy its proximity to Los Angeles (an hour and a half or so north), and Mexico (right outside city limits across the southern border). The beaches, marinas and melting pot culture (complete with authentic Mexican cuisine on just about every corner) make it a delightful place to live and relax.
7. San Antonio, TX
- Population: 1,547,253
- Population Density (People per Square Mile): 2,880
- Average Studio Rent Price: $1,011
- Average 1-BR Rent Price: $1,132
- Average 2-BR Rent Price: $1,409
- Cost of Living Index: 85.7
The most affordable on our list of largest cities in the U.S., San Antonio has a cost of living index that’s actually nearly 15 percent less than the national average. Some folks just aren’t cut out for the heat and humidity, but those who can enjoy everything else San Antonio has to offer, including affordable rental prices.
The more than 1.5 million people who call the area home especially love to stroll the city’s legendary and colorful River Walk (also known as Paseo del Rio), the country’s largest urban ecosystem. Plus, it’s easy access to the booming city, not to mention just a hop, skip and a mosey to the historic site of the Alamo.
6. Philadelphia, PA
- Population: 1,584,064
- Population Density (People per Square Mile): 11,380
- Average Studio Rent Price: $1,599
- Average 1-BR Rent Price: $2,146
- Average 2-BR Rent Price: $2,935
- Cost of Living Index: 110.4
The City of Brotherly Love houses nearly 1.6 million people, and who can blame them for setting up shop there? Philadelphia, for being a historic city, is extremely affordable, with a cost of living index at a mere 10.4 percent above the national average.
There’s more to Philly than just the cheesesteaks and Rocky Balboa-related attractions (although those are rightfully beloved). This birthplace of the United States is steeped in historic significance, much of which has been preserved for the appreciation of residents and visitors alike. Still, the city has managed to grow and change with the times, and is also renowned for its entertainment, dining and general amusement options, as well.
5. Phoenix, AZ
- Population: 1,680,992
- Population Density (People per Square Mile): 2,798
- Average Studio Rent Price: $1,142
- Average 1-BR Rent Price: $1,376
- Average 2-BR Rent Price: $1,736
- Cost of Living Index: 100.9
Phoenix has quite a different look than the other cities on this list, what with all the cacti and buttes and such. But the Valley of the Sun has the potential to offer every bit the metropolitan edge than the more populated cities on our list, as it’s the second-largest city in the western United States (behind Los Angeles).
At a cost of living index just about even with the national average, Phoenix offers residents around 300 totally or partly sunny days every year, so be sure to pack lots of SPF if you’re moving there. Don’t forget trail running shoes, a bicycle and a taste for Native American culture because the area thrives on all things related.
4. Houston, TX
- Population: 2,320,268
- Population Density (People per Square Mile): 3,502
- Average Studio Rent Price: $1,030
- Average 1-BR Rent Price: $1,243
- Average 2-BR Rent Price: $1,631
- Cost of Living Index: 95.6
Space City prides itself on not being confined by silly little things like the Earth’s atmosphere. So, it’s only natural that people who want to shoot for the stars (literally and figuratively) wind up in Houston. While they definitely appreciate the cost of living index almost five percent below the national average, the jury’s out as to whether they can handle the humidity.
Houston has a lot to get ready for, as it’s predicted to continue moving up the list of largest cities in the U.S. to become the third-most-populous during the latter half of the 2020s. No doubt it will add to an already impressively multicultural palate, as it’s the most ethnically diverse city in the entire United States.
3. Chicago, IL
- Population: 2,693,976
- Population Density (People per Square Mile): 11,842
- Average Studio Rent Price: $1,831
- Average 1-BR Rent Price: $2,395
- Average 2-BR Rent Price: $3,167
- Cost of Living Index: 98.7
Turns out, there’s no discount for putting up with the big breezes of the Windy City since a two-bedroom unit runs more than $3,000 per month. Still, Chicago is slightly below the national average in terms of cost of living, so there’s that.
With a population density of nearly 12,000 people per square mile, Chicago is second on our list in that regard. An impressive array of sports teams keeps fans of all types happy and cheering (or booing, depending on how the season is going), and world-class museums seem to be on every corner.
2. Los Angeles, CA
- Population: 3,979,576
- Population Density (People per Square Mile): 8,092
- Average Studio Rent Price: $2,514
- Average 1-BR Rent Price: $3,200
- Average 2-BR Rent Price: $4,522
- Cost of Living Index: 146.6
The City of Angels is also the city of high rent, where a two-bedroom will set you back an average of $4,522 per month. Folded into that cost, however, is the benefit of living in an area with wonderfully mild temperatures, beautiful beaches and all the prosperity that Hollywood implies. There’s no deduction for putting up with the insane traffic, however.
With nearly 4 million people within its confines, Los Angeles has a cost of living index that’s 46.6 percent higher than the national average. Add California’s significant state taxes on top of that, and it’s easy to see why many people choose to go elsewhere for a more affordable, if less glitzy, way of life.
1. New York, NY
- Population: 8,336,817
- Population Density (People per Square Mile): 27,012
- Average Studio Rent Price: $3,292
- Average 1-BR Rent Price: $4,333
- Average 2-BR Rent Price: $5,488
- Cost of Living Index: 245.7
New York City’s population density of more than 27,000 people per square mile makes every other member of our list of largest cities in the U.S. look positively podunk by comparison. There’s only so much real estate to go around for all of these folks, so rent prices are among the highest in the world, with a two-bedroom apartment costing $5,488 per month, on average.
For all the inconveniences of cost, crowds and noise, New Yorkers often wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, the Big Apple is probably the best place in the world to blend in or stand out, depending on your personal preference.
Rent prices in the top 50 biggest cities
Did your city fail to crack the top 10? Wondering where Wichita is, anyway? (Spoiler alert: No. 51) Check out this handy chart to find out all the details on some of the other most populated cities in the U.S.
|Rank||City||State||Population||Average Studio Rent||Average 1-BR Rent||Average 2-BR Rent|
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments. Data was pulled in September 2020 and goes back for one year. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Cost of living data is for Q1 2020 from the Council for Community and Economic Research.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.