6 Cities Where it’s Not as Affordable to Live as it Seems
Determining if you can afford a place to live goes way beyond your rent payment. You also have to account for things like utilities, groceries and transportation. And you would think those all determine the other — if the rent's low, then everything will be pretty low, right?
For the most part, yes. But just like with everything in life, there are always exceptions to the rule. We combed through Apartment Guide's rental price data and compared it to the national cost of living and found several cities with low rent, but high costs for other things. Sure, you might still be paying less than the national average when all's said and done, but that bargain you were searching for is a lot less than you first thought.
Here are six places (in alphabetical order) where the rent is less than the national average, but where you'll pay more than average in almost every other cost of living expense.
- Rent costs: 13.4 percent lower than the national average
- Total cost of living: 4.4 percent higher than the national average
We all know California is expensive. Located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Bakersfield has great scenery and a warm climate, and you save about 13 percent on rental costs compared to average. So, Bakersfield looks like a good compromise.
Unfortunately, that's about all you'll save money on by living there. Utilities are a whopping 39 percent above the national average and transportation more than 17 percent higher. Overall, it comes out to about 5 percent more expensive than average to live there, so if you can afford it, don't let that stop you from enjoying the bright, warm climate or great scenery for a morning jog.
- Rent costs: 14.8 percent lower than the national average
- Total cost of living: 0.1 percent higher than the national average
Columbia is a college town, so if you like that atmosphere, it seems like a steal. Rent is about 15 percent lower than the national average.
But there's always more to spend. Groceries are about 10 percent more expensive than average and utilities are 24 percent higher. Taking everything into consideration, the cost of living there is almost exactly average. Not bad for a college town, but not a steal, after all.
- Rent costs: 14 percent lower than the national average
- Total cost of living: 0.7 percent higher than the national average
Dover is located in the middle of Delaware, about an hour-and-a-half drive from both Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Super commuters might initially be attracted to this city for its below average rent prices — 86 percent of the national average — but that's just about the only cost of living factor where you'll be getting a deal.
Grocery costs and miscellaneous goods and services are all about 10 percent higher than the national average in this capitol city. When it add it all up, Dover costs slightly more than the national average for all of your living expenses.
Eau Claire, WI
- Rent costs: 49 percent lower than the national average
- Total cost of living: 13.3 percent lower than the national average
Eau Claire is one of the most beautiful places to live in Wisconsin. Great scenery, a nice and calm suburban area and very low rental rates — about 51 percent of the national average. What's not to love?
It's still cheaper than average to live there, but only by about 10 percent. Almost all of those savings come from low rent prices. The other costs of living are much closer to or above average, with transportation and healthcare costs being the main culprits.
However, having a Mayo Clinic residency program nearby goes a long way towards justifying the higher medical costs. It's still a good deal if you like the area, just more than the rent might lead you to expect.
- Rent costs: 14.4 percent lower than the national average
- Total cost of living: 1.7 percent lower than the national average
Like Columbia, Mankato looks like another college town steal, assuming you like the colder weather. Minnesota State University is right there and rent is only 85 percent of the national average.
That's about all you'll save on though. It's still cheaper than average, but once you've accounted for higher than average healthcare, groceries and miscellaneous items, that 30 percent difference in cost of living shrinks to 6 percent. Still a good choice if you're looking for a college town, but not as much as you might have thought.
- Rent costs: 28.3 percent lower than the national average
- Total cost of living: 7.4 percent lower than the national average
What more could you ask for from Mobile, especially if you're an outdoorsy type? The weather is great, there are plenty of easy hunting and fishing spots available and you're not far from the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, and the rent is only 72 percent of the national average.
Don't get too excited about it staying your bank account, though. While total cost of living is still below average, everything else is closer to what you'd expect to pay anywhere else. By the time you factor everything else in, that 28 percent discount is down to just a little more than 7 percent.
We took the 2018 end-of-year Cost of Living data from C2ER (The Council for Community and Economic Research) and combined it with rental prices from the Apartment Guide and Rent.com inventory as of January 2019. The Cost of Living data includes prices for groceries, rent, utilities, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services. Our average rental costs are based on the price of a one-bedroom apartment in the 241 cities where there was overlapping data in the Cost of Living report and the Apartment Guide and Rent.com inventory.