As the pandemic slowly begins to recede, rents that plummeted in numerous cities are beginning to rise again. In many places, higher than they were before. But head away from the big cities and you'll find plenty of cheap places. So, just where are these places with the cheapest rent in America? As expected, the cheapest cities for renters are away from the coasts and metropolises, in suburbs and tucked-away enclaves mostly concentrated in Southern and Midwestern states.
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These budget-friendly 'burbs are home to America's most affordable apartments. And out of nearly 800 cities in the nation with 10 or more rental units, only these 10 cheap places to rent offer an average one-bedroom unit less than $650.
Here are the 10 cheapest places to rent in America.
Located in forest land halfway between Cleveland and Columbus, Ashland seems undistinctive. But with rent prices of just $640 for an average one-bedroom, the city is one of three in Ohio among the 10 cities with the cheapest rent in America. And it's the smallest city in the top 10 with just 20,000 residents.
The city has a quaint downtown along Main Street and Claremont Avenues. The 10-block stretch offers several restaurants, bars, an escape room and a brewery. Much of the rest of Ashland is residential blocks of single-family homes and apartment complexes.
While not the bustling city others on this list are, it has a quaint charm. Country foodies will enjoy Grandpa's Cheesebarn & Sweeties Chocolates and Buckeye Country Creamery. Need even more quaint? Monthly bird walks are held at woodsy Byers Woods Park.
If you're looking to live full time in a resort city others come from a long distance to visit, there's no cheaper place in America than Gulfport. As the name suggests, Gulfport is a key entertainment port on the north shore of the Gulf of Mexico. With the cheapest rent in the Southeast, average one-bedrooms in the second-biggest city in Mississippi run just $640 a month.
Having survived both Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Katrina in 2005, Gulfport has rebuilt itself twice over. But one constant is the 80-year-old U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet Construction Battalion complex. It's home to the Navy's Seabees Atlantic construction fleet. Cheap rental housing is key for the 12,000 military personnel and their families.
But what makes Gulfport so desirable is the stunning waterfront that features seven miles of white sand beach. The tourist infrastructure is very accessible for locals. Yacht harbors, marinas, golf courses, seaside hotels and seafood restaurants line the shore. And between Gulfport and neighboring Biloxi, no fewer than 10 casinos offer beachfront gaming, including Gulfport's massive Island View Casino.
There's a town named Springfield in just about half the states in the union. At 170,000 residents, the one in Missouri is the biggest of them all. And in a state with two large metropolises on either side, Springfield, MO, is the third-largest in the Show-Me State. But rent prices are a whole lot cheaper than Kansas City or St. Louis. A one-bedroom Springfield apartment rents for $625 a month on average.
A modern city, Springfield is deep in Old West roots. Especially one notable event in particular. Towards the end of the Civil War, Wild Bill Hickok and a local gambler dueled in the city's town square. They fired single shots at 75 feet. This was the West's first quick-draw pistol showdown, an event repeated in books and movies for decades to come.
Today, the site of the shootout is Park Central Square. Where once Wild Bill dueled, bars, restaurants and the History Museum on the Square now sit. Springfield also fields campuses of Missouri State and Drury Universities. As well, Springfield is the “Birthplace of Route 66." Highway officials named Mother Road at a meeting in 1926. The Birthplace of Route 66 Festival is held annually downtown.
Do you know which city had the most millionaires per capita in the world a century ago? New York? London? Havana? Detroit? Nope. It was the Kentucky city of Henderson. The Ohio Valley town was the world's largest producer of “dark tobacco." Hendersonians sat in the shadows of massive tobacco warehouses and stemmeries downtown. Then, British tariffs came after World War One, and the boomtimes ground to a halt.
But the city came to settle in as a quaint and convenient suburban river town. Henderson lies just across the Ohio River from Evansville, IN. It has doubled in population since its heyday, with decidedly fewer millionaires.
Today, it's an expedient and inexpensive bedroom community at the south end of the Wabash Valley. Rents for an average one-bedroom apartment list for just $615 a month. Henderson still ranks high in the top five despite a $25 a month increase from a year ago. That's the largest increase in the top 10.
Despite lying 270 miles north of Memphis, Henderson has a deep-rooted tradition in traditionally Deep South-rooted Memphis Blues culture. Legendary “Father of the Blues" W.C. Handy called Henderson home for over a decade. Handy played the blues across the city and met his wife here. Today, Henderson hosts the annual Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival.
The city is also home to the world's largest collection of Audubon memorabilia. The John James Audubon State Park and Museum honors the famed naturalist, another native son.
Drive 400 miles west and you'll be in the heart of Chicago. Trek 400 miles east and you'll find yourself in New York's Times Square. It sits an equidistant 60 miles from both Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The Ohio city of Youngstown is surely the center of it all. And to live in that center, average one-bedroom apartments rent for just $615.
But you can't talk Youngstown without talking sports. Primarily, football. The Penguins of Youngstown State are small college royalty. The program won four Division I-AA titles in the 1990s. Both the city and the university have sent many players and coaches to the pros. And a century ago, the city's Patricians won a pro title in the Ohio League, a direct precursor to today's NFL. Nothing surprising considering its location.
And also like its neighbors, Youngstown was a booming steel town until the industry slumped in the 1970s. From a high of 170,000, the city has lost 65 percent of its population in the last 90 years, and 40 percent since the '90s. Youngstown has had to rechart its course and reinvent itself.
The city jolted its economy through financing start-ups. Numerous new businesses, many in tech, set up shop through the city's public incubator program. That cascaded throughout downtown as revitalization took hold. Today, the district is home to bars and restaurants (including legendary pizza) and loft apartments along with entertainment options.
In the last two decades, the modern Covelli Centre and Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater have joined renovated historic venues like Powers and Stambaugh auditoriums and Butler Institute, the first museum in the nation focused solely on American art.
Three unforgettable tragedies over the course of 25 years forever shaped the image of Killeen in the eyes of the rest of America. But a strong civic will and a strong economy have brought the city of over 150,000 a revitalized image. It's that economy that has forged a market where one-bedroom rents average less than $600 a month, the cheapest on the I-35 corridor and an 8.74 percent decrease from 2020. That $57 a month drop marks the largest decrease among the top 10.
The lifeblood of Killeen is 214,000-acre Fort Hood. The “largest military base in the free world" maintains nearly 60,000 military and civilian personnel. It's by far the largest employer in the region. For comparison, the local school district, the second-largest proprietor, staffs 100 times fewer employees. The city's economy is tightly tied to the base.
But not everything in Killeen is olive green and desert tan. The city is home to Texas A&M Central Texas and Central Texas College. Mayborn Science Theater, on CTC's campus, has an active planetarium. The city offers a bevy of restaurants and shops along Veterans Boulevard, the city's main street.
Three large parks sit nearby. Community Center Park offers biking trails, athletic fields and a dog run. Conder Park features a disc golf course and skate park. And Long Branch Park, the city's largest, contains an outdoor pool and tennis courts surrounded by some of Killeen's largest apartment complexes.
In extreme South Texas, on the Mexican border, is the city of Brownsville. Just across the Rio Grande from the Mexican city of Matamoros, Brownsville is both prototypically Texas and its contrast at the same time. And with one-bedrooms running for just $585 a month, it's the city with the cheapest rent in the South.
The city of 200,000 is as far south as Texas gets, on the Rio and just 45 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico. Very Texas but also a world away, Brownsville is eight hours from Dallas, six from Houston and four to San Antonio. On the flipside, Brownsville is just 25 miles from South Padre Island's spring break revelries.
Brownsville, in fact, is so far south even Miami is to its north. Near 90 percent of the city's metro is Hispanic, of which all but 3 percent are Mexican, and their culture is essential to the city's aesthetic. Both the annual Carro Days and Latin Jazz festivals cross the border, celebrated on both sides of the river. Downtown Brownsville is steps from the border crossing at Gateway International Bridge. Here, essential Mexican craft boutiques and cultural shops sit aside taquerias, tequila bars and authentic tabernas.
The formerly sleepy “Mistake on the Lake" of Cleveland is now a hip, booming city. And with it, rent prices have boomed, as well. Many residents have taken up in cheaper Elyria, Cleveland's third-largest suburb. The Southwestern burb of 54,000 offers the cheapest rents on the Great Lakes at just $582 a month for a one-bedroom.
The seat of suburban Lorain County, Elyria is a former industrial town reinventing itself as a self-sustaining bedroom community. Large companies like 3M and Bendix packed up their manufacturing facilities in recent years, necessitating new directions. A voter-approved 0.5 percent income tax increase in 2016 was the impetus for the revitalization of parks, fiber-optics and main street walkability throughout the business districts. Much of the focus was adjacent to the area around Midway Mall, the region's largest shopping center.
South of the Mall district is Elyria's downtown. The heart-shaped downtown sits in the oxbow created by the many bends in the Black River. Downtown's walkable Broad Street becomes kindly residential across the river's outer banks. North of downtown is the wooded neighborhoods around Elywood Park, with strips of single-family homes. Surrounding Eastern and Central Heights are a number of street-front blocks of apartment buildings and complexes.
The home campus of Indiana State University, Terre Haute is about 75 minutes from downtown Indianapolis. But the border city is just five miles from the Illinois state line. And with average one-bedrooms leasing for less than $560 a month, it's the cheapest rent in the Midwest.
The name Terre Haute dates to 18th-century Canadian fur traders, who named the region for the French words for “highland." Despite a population of just 60,000, the “Queen City of the Wabash" is a regional cultural and performing arts hub. The renowned Terre Haute Arts Corridor features the Swope Art Museum, University Art Gallery, Terre Haute Children's Museum and the historic Indiana Theater.
Over the last decade, revitalization has come to the "Crossroads of America," around 7th and Wabash. New developments include several new downtown buildings for ISU and expansion around the Hulman & Company building. As well, the $25 million Terre Haute Convention Center will welcome its first convention in 2023. And there will be no less than four brand new casinos around Vigo County. Now, that's Terre Haute couture.
Halfway between Oklahoma City and the Texas border is the Frontier Region city of Lawton. With nearly 100,000 residents, it's the fifth biggest city in Oklahoma. Seated just west of the Chickasaw Nation, Lawton lies on former reservation lands of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache tribes. And at just $550 a year, the Sooner State city offers the cheapest rent in America.
A very important Native American city, Lawton is also a key military town. The city's largest employer is 100,000-acre Fort Sill. The massive base lies at the north end of town. The 150-year old facility is one of just four Army Basic Combat Training centers in the nation. Over 20,000 personnel and 33,000 family members live here. And for those not housed on base, the city offers incredibly cheap rentals throughout town.
Lawton doesn't have a traditional town square or main street like most towns. The city's downtown sits on the half-century-old Central Mall. In the middle of downtown, developers built the enclosed shopping center to attract consumers to the Central Business District.
However, recent redevelopment has focused on more appealing and pedestrian-friendly blocks from the mall north to Elmore Thomas Park. The Park is the site of both the Museum of the Great Plains and Comanche National Museum, just one of Lawton's 80 city-run parks.
If these 10 locations don't do it for you, there are plenty of other affordable cities with the cheapest rent in America. Here are the top 100 cheap places to rent, all under $900 a month.
|Rank||City||1BR Average Rent|
|2||Terre Haute, IN||$557|
|13||Johnson City, TN||$662|
|14||Midwest City, OK||$666|
|24||St. Cloud, MN||$704|
|32||Cedar Rapids, IA||$735|
|38||Cuyahoga Falls, OH||$747|
|41||Little Rock, AR||$753|
|43||Warner Robins, GA||$755|
|45||Phenix City, AL||$757|
|49||Sioux Falls, SD||$770|
|51||Las Cruces, NM||$775|
|54||High Point, NC||$789|
|60||Wichita Falls, TX||$799|
|62||La Porte, TX||$809|
|66||Watford City, ND||$825|
|71||West Lafayette, IN||$839|
|76||Grand Forks, ND||$847|
|82||West Fargo, ND||$860|
|87||Sioux City, IA||$865|
|88||Corpus Christi, TX||$865|
|94||Madison Heights, MI||$882|
|97||El Paso, TX||$887|
Not everyone can live in one of the cities with the cheapest rent in America. So, when you're searching for a new home, whether it be in a new place or elsewhere in your current place, how can you still keep your lease costs down?
Here are a few basic tips to still find a cheap place to rent.
We all walk into the apartment search with a list of features and amenities we most desire. This usually includes things like a dishwasher, in-suite washer and dryer, proximity to a train stop, pet-friendly, secluded, near restaurants or a location on the first floor.
If you're looking to save some money, decide which of your desired features are most important and which you can live without. When you have fewer must-haves on your list, more options will open to you for an affordable lease.
Some one-bedroom apartments can still be spacious and others downright small. But think about just how much time you spend at home compared to at work or out on the town, and consider a smaller apartment. If you can give up some of that square footage, you'll bring the price of the lease down. It's nice to have a lot of room to stretch out in an apartment, but it's also nice to have more money to stretch out your wallet.
Sure, living downtown around the clubs, cafés and hotspots is wonderful. But if you're on a budget looking for a more affordable apartment, you might consider giving up some of that convenience. Downtowns and trendy gentrified neighborhoods are usually more expensive. Instead, find a more residential neighborhood in your city or a lower-income section of town that's targeted for future redevelopment. Or, find a convenient cheaper suburb with access to public transportation to live in, even if you work and play in the city.
If your job is transportable to any city or you work a remote job, consider a move to a different city. Everyone might want to live in New York or L.A., but you can find amazing nightlife, sports and fun in places like Indianapolis, Memphis or Denver for much less money.
Just because an apartment lists for a particular price, that doesn't mean that's the price you have to pay. Meet with the landlord and see if you can negotiate the price down. Be respectful and willing to compromise. Come with two prices in mind: The one you open with and the one you're willing to pay. Bring reference letters and show you'd be a good tenant. Also, remember it's OK to walk away if you can't get your price.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a number of subsidies and grants for renters with a lower income who have trouble affording rent. Check out the HUD website and see if you qualify.
Rent prices are based on an average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com's multifamily rental property inventory as of October 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets. We excluded all cities with insufficient inventory.
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.