Denver is a dream destination for many, but just how steep are the Mile High City’s prices?
If you can’t decide between the mountains and the metropolis, Denver is the obvious choice for your next home. Big-city convenience and small-town friendliness make Colorado’s capital one of the most popular relocation destinations.
Not too long ago, affordability was one of the main draws of Denver. It had the many modern amenities of a more major metropolitan area, but it flew relatively under the radar. Today, it’s gone from a hidden gem to a mecca for anyone outdoorsy and the prices have changed to reflect its newfound popularity.
The cost of living in Denver is 13.4 percent above the national average. However, the city might still seem like a bargain to those coming from the coast. If you’re moving from San Francisco, where the cost of living is 94.0 percent above the national average, finding a place to live in the Mile High City is a breeze.
It’s not just housing that will impact your budget — it’s also the other costs that fluctuate depending on where you live. Let’s talk about how much it costs to live in Denver, right down to the taxes.
Housing costs in Denver
The housing cost of living in Denver have been on a mostly upward trend for the past decade or so. Expect to pay 38.5 percent more for housing in Denver than the national average. However, reasonably inexpensive neighborhoods in Denver exist. The average rent price for a one-bedroom apartment in Denver is $1,854 dipped 1.8 percent since last year.
If you want to live smack dab in the middle of everything, it will cost you. The average one-bedroom rent for downtown Denver is $2,100, though that number is down 11.4 percent from last year.
Yet, you can still get in on all the Denver fun by living just a bit farther from the action. South of downtown, the Hampden neighborhood costs only half that, and it has an average one-bedroom price of $1,243, so don’t let the central Denver prices scare you away. It just takes a bit of looking to find the right combination of price and location.
Those who would prefer to buy a place can expect an intense experience. The average cost of a house in Denver is $530,852. As of May 2021, housing costs went up 19.6 percent from last year. Most homes spend only five days on the market, so buyers must act fast as lightning.
Food costs in Denver
Denver’s burgeoning food scene is something transplants will relish.
Good news: Some of Denver’s best-loved and most well-known cuisine is — to put it bluntly — cheap and affordable. Denver is less a place for white tablecloths and dress codes — though those fine dining experiences do exist. The vibe is about going to an outdoor food stand where you sit in the sunshine and eat a breakfast burrito that may change your life.
Groceries here offer savings, too. The cost of food in Denver is about 5 percent less than the national average. You’ll see steak for around $12.57 per pound and ground beef for $4.11.
Utility costs in Denver
People expect more snow than Denver typically delivers. With over 300 days of sunshine each year, utilities aren’t too bad.
The winters are milder than many Midwestern states and the snow tends to melt quickly. However, don’t expect to mitigate much of the summer heat by leaving your windows open at night. Denver’s air quality is nothing to brag about — in large part due to the annual summer wildfires and air pollution. You’ll have to venture out to the mountains to feel that crisp, clean Colorado air.
Despite the snow and pollution, utilities here are pretty affordable. In fact, the cost of living in Denver for utilities is 20.2 percent cheaper than the national average.
While phone service costs roughly $2 above average, electric utilities are roughly $40 less per month than the national average. Total energy bills average $105.51 monthly, which is more affordable than the national average of $166.22.
Transportation costs in Denver
If you move to Denver, you will probably hear the locals complain about the traffic. The transition from being off the grid to a well-known city is not fully complete. The public transportation systems are improving quickly, but they aren’t comparable with other bustling metropolises.
The light rail and bus system will get you pretty far, but there are still many places you can live where a car is an absolute necessity.
The transportation costs in Denver are 13.1 percent above the national average. Gas averages $2.49 per gallon regular unleaded, 28 cents more than the national average. Beyond that, you can plan to spend a bit more on car maintenance due to the all-weather tires you’ll need if you want to make any trips around the mountain passes in the winter.
Public transportation costs
The cost of a Regional Transportation District day pass, which provides access to both light rail and bus routes, depends on if you’re traveling locally or regionally or if you’re headed to the airport, is pricey. A local monthly pass is $114 and allows you to travel between two zones, but a regional pass (which includes the airport) is $200 and you can travel through up to three zones.
However, the regional pass provides decent access to Denver’s surrounding areas and will trim a significant portion of most commutes. If you need to use the light rail less frequently, a day pass is only $6.
The overall transit score here is 55 with a walk score of 71 and a bike score of 78. Walking to get from here to there is a challenge if you don’t live in the immediate downtown area, but biking is a common way to get around.
Tolls and parking
Denver doesn’t have many toll roads — E-470 is the exception. E-470 can help you get to the airport in a hurry but isn’t otherwise a major route through the city.
However, tolled express lanes are becoming more common across the city, so an ExpressToll pass that allows you to prepay the tolls is worth the $35 cost if you drive a lot.
Healthcare costs in Denver
Determining the average healthcare costs in any city is tricky because prices depend on health conditions.
Luckily, there are a few benchmarks that provide insight into where Denver falls relative to national averages. Overall, healthcare in Denver is only 0.2 percent more than the national average.
More specifically, the average doctor visit costs $111.77. Dentist visits are about $6 more here. Annual prescription drug costs are $469.10.
Despite being an incredibly pet-friendly city, veterinary visits cost a bit more in the Mile High City. The average price for vet services is $59.07, $6.25 more than the national average.
Goods and services costs in Denver
Many of the goods and services expenses incurred in Denver reflect the active, healthy and busy lifestyle of many Denverites. Generally speaking, the cost of living in Denver for goods and services is about 11.5 percent more than other cities.
Yogis will find that yoga in Denver pricey: A sweat session costs $19.78, $4.52 more than average. If you prefer the dark, cool movie theater atmosphere to a heated, humid studio, movie tickets cost on average $12.90. A trip to the salon costs $44.29, whereas the national average is $39.28. In that same vein, haircuts in Denver cost roughly $21.67, $2.79 more than average.
You can tell how much Coloradans value a good craft brew, as beer costs more than wine on average. Beer comes in at $8.98 and wine at $7.52 — both cheaper here than the national average though.
The good news is that a significant portion of Denver’s entertainment is free. The majority of hiking and biking trails offer free access!
Taxes in Denver
Taxes play a significant role in any city’s affordability. Colorado’s income tax rate is 4.55 percent, plus Denverites will pay $5.75 per month on income over $500.
The sales tax is 4.81 percent in Denver, but combined with state and transportation taxes and the scientific and cultural fund — the total sales tax is 8.81 percent. Going on a $1,000 spending spree at the 16th Street Mall means that you will spend $88.10 in taxes.
Another tax unique to Colorado is the marijuana tax. Medical marijuana has an additional 2.9 percent sales tax, but the state levies up to a 15 percent tax on all recreational purchases.
How much do you need to earn to live in Denver?
Though Denver costs a bit more than some other cities in the landlocked states, its booming economy helps shore up some of the costs. However, a general guideline is not to spend more than 30 percent of your income on rent.
With the average rent of a one-bedroom in Denver hovering around $1,854, you would need to earn at least $74,160 annually. For more accurate insight into how Denver rent may impact your budget, try out our rent calculator.
Living in Denver
Looking from a purely numerical perspective, the cost of living in Denver seems expensive. But when you consider the phenomenal views, healthy lifestyle and unbeatable day trips at your fingertips, it’s a steal.
Plus, if you’re willing to live a bit farther out from the city’s center, you can find an apartment or home that caters to nearly any budget and still grants you access to everything that Denver has to offer. Start looking for the perfect apartment in Denver or a home to call your own.
Cost of living information comes from The Council for Community and Economic Research.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments in April 2021. 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.
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.