When thinking about the cheapest places to live in the country, New York State probably isn’t at the top of your list.
New York City and its suburbs are pricey, but the rest of the state isn’t too bad, actually. There are plenty of affordable towns to consider when searching for the cheapest places to live in New York.
New York state average rent prices
Average rent prices are $2,316 for a one-bedroom apartment, which is up 9.14 percent year over year.
The overall cost of living is 20 percent above the national average, with housing costs bearing the brunt of it at 40 percent above the average. New York City is the main culprit of these high numbers. It’s difficult to find affordable apartments for rent in the city, especially in popular boroughs Manhattan and Brooklyn.
But travel just a few hours north to upstate New York or head west to Central or Western New York and your prospects for lower rents drastically improve. So does your view of the sky and access to freshwater lakes.
The cheapest cities in New York for renters
While downstate New York may host Broadway and Wall Street, the rest of the state also offers great theaters, world-class orchestras, music venues, museums and a foodie scene — as well as breweries, cideries and wineries, excellent universities and miles of space for any outdoor endeavor. This part of New York was hit hard in past years by manufacturers decamping to less expensive states and countries and growth in this sector remains sluggish.
Yet, with more people working remotely, in part due to coronavirus restrictions, many are moving away from Manhattan and into these towns, most of which surround the other cities in the state — Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse — to get a bigger bang for their buck.
- One-bedroom average rent price: $978
- Average rent change in the past year: 3.81%
A suburb of Rochester, N.Y., Fairport is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in Monroe County. The town’s center is a quaint, historical village with shops and restaurants on the Erie Canal.
The waterway has a towpath enjoyed all year round by joggers, walkers and cyclists, and in warmer weather, kayakers and boaters travel the canal. With several major universities nearby, Fairport has a highly educated populace, great public schools and low crime.
Source: Rent.com / Saratoga Crossing
- One-bedroom average rent price: $951
- Average rent change in the past year: -42.86%
Farmington is both suburban and rural. With no real town center, most residents head to shops, bars and restaurants in Rochester, about 30 minutes north, the nearby suburb of Victor or Canandaigua, 20 minutes south.
Canandaigua, with its many 19th-and early 20th-century homes, sits on Canandaigua Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, and the gateway to Western New York’s wine country. There are plenty of areas for hiking, biking, water sports and skiing at Bristol Mountain.
- One-bedroom average rent price: $944
- Average rent change in the past year: 0%
Rural living just 20 miles south of Syracuse. Not far from the Finger Lakes, Tully offers great hiking trails, so-called “quiet” boating and kayaking on Tully Lake, skiing at Song Mountain and easy access to wineries. If you don’t like snow, think twice, winters can bring an average of 100 inches of the white stuff.
Syracuse University is the region’s largest employer and gives the area a college-town feel. The school’s basketball team is a big attraction (Go Orange!). And, of course, there’s Wegmans.
- One-bedroom average rent price: $943
- Average rent change in the past year: -5.23%
Also in the Syracuse metro area, Liverpool is just a 10-minute drive south along Onondaga Lake to downtown. Its cost of living is 13.1 percent lower than the U.S. average.
Unfortunately, many of these Western New York towns have lost much of their manufacturing base. Hospitals in the area, like Syracuse University’s Upstate University Health System and St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, have become among the largest employers.
- One-bedroom average rent price: $901
- Average rent change in the past year: -8.55%
Located 10 miles northeast of Buffalo, Cheektowaga is the city’s second-largest suburb and home to village, hamlet and suburban living. It’s a family-friendly place with lots of Western New York boomerangers returning home. Leading employers include Kaleida Health, Catholic Health, M&T Bank and Wegmans Food Markets.
Of course, Niagara Falls, just a half-hour away, is a big attraction, but there are Buffalo River tours, places to cycle, sail and hike. And, if you’re a sports fan, you’ve got easy access to the Buffalo Bills football and Buffalo Sabres hockey teams.
- One-bedroom average rent price: $844
- Average rent change in the past year: -7.77%
Another Buffalo suburb, known as one of the “Southtowns,” just 13 miles south of the city and on Lake Erie, Hamburg has a mostly suburban vibe, although, there is a village. Hamburg’s tag line is “the town that friendship built.” It’s a friendly place full of middle- and upper-middle-class families.
If you live in Hamburg, you’ll find lots of ways to enjoy the lake, but there’s plenty of hiking, and it’s just 40 minutes from Holiday Valley Ski Resort in Ellicottville, called by locals the “Aspen of the East.”
- One-bedroom average rent price: $805
- Average rent change in the past year: 0%
A college town located in the North Country (northern part of New York State), Potsdam is home to SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University is just 10 miles outside of town. There’s a nice old village with shops and restaurants.
The schools are the major employers, and the community is tight-knit. It’s a great place for outdoor activities, but winters are long so be prepared for lots of snowshoeing, skiing and ice skating.
3. Glens Falls
Source: Rent.com / Glen Street Associates Apartments
- One-bedroom average rent price: $775
- Average rent change in the past year: N/A
Glens Falls, known as “Hometown U.S.A.,” is in the middle of the Eastern border of the state, a little less than an hour’s drive from the state’s capital in Albany. Glens Falls has a small-town vibe and is a great place to live, but the economy hasn’t been great in the past few years.
The town is at the gateway to the Adirondack Mountains, and Saratoga Springs — known for horse racing — is just 15 miles south.
- One-bedroom average rent price: $774
- Average rent change in the past year: 0.55%
Elmira is a small city in Western New York at the Pennsylvania border. It’s a pretty quiet place, with a small downtown that’s been growing in recent years. Corning is just 14 miles away and is home to Corning Glass Works, and one of Elmira’s larger employers.
The surrounding area is beautiful with its hills and forests, and there’s great hiking — and a famous racetrack— at Watkins Glen just 20 miles north of Elmira.
- One-bedroom average rent price: $655
- Average rent change in the past year: 29.7%
About 70 miles from Syracuse and just outside the city of Watertown on the Black River is Carthage, a small, quiet town. It’s a safe, multigenerational community with an educated populace. There’s a village with historical 19th-century buildings and homes, and beyond that, the town has a suburban feel. It’s not far from Fort Drum Army Base and the Adirondack Mountains, with its gorgeous peaks and parks for hiking, camping, fishing and hunting.
The 25 cheapest places to live in New York
Outside of New York City and its boroughs, New York is a vast state with mid-size cities, suburban towns and villages all with access to great schools and beautiful landscapes.
Here are 25 of the cheapest places to live in New York State.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments. We pulled our data in December 2020, and it goes back for one year. Our team uses 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.
We excluded cities with insufficient inventory from this report.
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.