What Is the Cost of Living in Los Angeles?

FT Contributor
A photo of the Los Angeles skyline.
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Los Angeles has long been known for its opulence. In the land of Hollywood, anything is possible if you can afford it. Beyond the lavish wealth of Beverly Hills, however, is a cost of living that is 43% higher than the national average. To compensate, Los Angeles enjoys a slightly higher minimum wage of $13.25 per hour for small employers and $14.25 for large employers, compared to the state minimum of $12 per hour.

In the United States’ second-largest city, demand is high, so costs are excessive. Healthcare costs are among the highest in the country, and the cost of living exceeds national averages in every category, to include California taxes, housing, food, and gas.

Your cost of living will depend on the choices you make, such as where you live, where you work, and where you eat. Numbeo shows that a family of four can expect to spend upwards of $3,509.92 for their monthly expenses — and that is without rent. A single person spends about $968 before rent.

With these prices, financial planning and budgeting are more critical than ever, and that starts with being informed.

Average Rent in Los Angeles

With only a 36% homeownership rate, the majority of Los Angeles residents are renters, and they fall mercy to a competitive housing market with sky-high rent. The median rent is $2,470 per month.

Most properties only offer one to three bedrooms; large properties are very rare. About 46% of L.A. properties are apartment complexes; 38.6% are single-family homes. Townhomes and small apartment buildings are increasingly rare, and mobile homes are nearly nonexistent.

2019 Median Monthly Rent for a Los Angeles Apartment


Type of Property Median Los Angeles Rent Median National Rent
Studio $1,150 $827
1-Bedroom $1,369 $947
2-Bedroom $1,759 $1,175
3-Bedroom $2,391 $1,578

Los Angeles House Prices

When buying a new home, you need to be careful how much you spend — especially in a place like L.A. Home values are not the nation’s cheapest, and extra fees and hidden costs can really affect the final cost. Therefore, it is important to do your research to find a home you can afford.

According to PayScale, 2019 leaves L.A. with a median listing price of $695,000; the home value index is $635,059. According to NeighborhoodScout, during the  2000 to 2018 timespan, there was a 207.36% appreciation on L.A. homes in just a five-year span. Zillow anticipates a 2% increase in home values through November 2020, further deepening the rift between growing home values and stagnant wages.

Where you buy will drastically affect the cost of your new home. The most recent data shows that Santa Clarita has the best growth, while Irvine is the most expensive. According to Zillow, San Marino has a median home value index of $2.25 million, while South Pasadena runs about $1.2 million. Other areas are more affordable, such as Burbank, which is about $743,000, and West Hollywood, which is $731,900.

Los Angeles Utilities

According to PayScale, an average energy bill in Los Angeles totals $180.74 per month. For a 915 square foot apartment, Numbeo notes that monthly utilities average about $122.46 each month for electricity, heat, A/C, water, and trash service. The average internet service is $62.28 for more than 60 Mbps with unlimited data and cable.

Your exact usage will determine what you pay, depending on the size of your home, how many people live there, and what kind of heating and cooling system you have.

Average Cost of Food Per Month in Los Angeles

Food is not any cheaper in Los Angeles, either. L.A. residents pay 12% more for their groceries than the national average, with a loaf of bread costing $3.73 and a gallon of milk costing $2.17.

Your monthly food costs depend on your dining habits. If you like to dine out a lot, it can cost you quite a bit more than if you cook at home. A meal at McDonald’s runs about $8, and an inexpensive restaurant costs about $15. A three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will cost you about $65.

Los Angeles Transportation Cost

A crucial part of your weekly spending is your transportation costs. L.A. has some of the country’s worst traffic, with a recent study showing that over 150,000 Los Angelenos suffer a one-way commute of 90 minutes or more. Taxi fares can escalate quickly, too; the starting fee is $2.92, with a normal tariff of $3 per hour and a waiting fee of $29.19 per hour.

It is understandable why some Los Angelenos defer to public transportation as the fastest and most economical way to get around the city. For example, monthly passes run about $100 for the L.A. Metro. L.A. commuters have the option of subways, light-rail, buses, and shuttles.

Gas Prices in Los Angeles

With all of that commuting, it is important to budget gas accurately. While wages remain low, the price of gas continues to skyrocket, and it creates a serious issue for commuters.

California gas prices remained around $4 per gallon throughout most of 2019, with the average gas price running about $3.95 per gallon. Gas prices in 2019 ended with $3.454 for regular gas, $3.689 for midgrade gas, and $3.749 for premium gas.

The best way to survive in Los Angeles is by planning out your expenses and creating the right minimalist budget for your lifestyle. It is possible to survive in Los Angeles on low pay if you make smart decisions on things such as where you live, what you eat, and how you travel.

After all, it’s still cheaper than New York!

Image Source: https://depositphotos.com/

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