A.D. Thompson
apartment utilities

When looking for a new apartment, you'll want to consider utility costs along with rent price. Some leases include full or partial utility coverage; others require you to do the set up yourself.

Ask the apartment manager for details about your utilities before you sign the lease and use these tips to help you estimate how much your apartment utilities will cost.

Estimate costs

There are a lot of utilities you may need to account for, and you don’t want to be caught off-guard by not budgeting for one. As a start, here’s a list of utilities you should consider and a rough estimate of what they could cost:

  •  Electricity: $70/month (excluding air/heat/stove)
  •  Air conditioning: $65/month (averaged over the year)
  •  Heat: $65/month (averaged over the year)
  •  Internet/cable: $100/month (highly variable)
  •  Water: $50/month
  •  Trash/recycling: $20/month
  •  Cooking gas: $10/month
  •  Renter’s insurance: $13/month (about $150 billed annually)
  •  Parking: Highly dependent on area; $150/month in highly urban areas

Total costs: ~$400; more than $500 if parking is necessary


What you’ll actually pay

You might not be directly responsible for everything above, and they’re estimates, which can be higher or lower than your actual costs. Some of your utilities are already paid for with your rent, so start by asking your landlord or apartment manager what you’re responsible for. Some might not even be relevant to your situation, such as cooking gas if you have an electric stove.

Once you know what you’re responsible for, you need to find the costs. The numbers above are just an average guideline, and no one is perfectly average. If you live in a warmer area, you’re going to spend much more on air conditioning over the summer, to give one example.

To get a good estimate, ask your landlord or apartment manager what most tenants pay for utilities. If you have the chance, you’ll likely get a better estimate by asking another tenant.

Don’t forget your current utility bills. Those will give you an idea of your usage that can give you a baseline for what it’ll cost in your new place.

Shopping around for better prices

Once you've determined what utilities for your apartment you'll need to set up, start shopping around for the best prices. Retail energy providers can help you find the lowest rate and lock it in. Search online for one in your area. Gas companies are very competitive, with some even offering cash-back incentives to use their service. Cable and phone companies often bundle services for a discount. In all cases, compare installation charges, services provided, fees and the length of introductory rates. What seems like a bargain to begin with can quickly shoot up once the initial rate expires.

Cutting costs and finding alternatives

When seeing the options offered in telephone, cable or Internet packages, it's tempting to take on more services than you really need. Be realistic about what you’ll use and sign up for just those features. Don’t add phone if you have no need for a landline and consider if you really need cable. Any service you cut saves money, especially if you’d never use it in the first place.

What you buy and put in your apartment can make a real difference. You likely don’t have control over the major appliances but pay attention to the energy efficiency of what you buy, such as TVs, to make sure you’re not buying something that will cost you at the end of the month.

Apartment utilities are a significant hidden cost, so don't leave them to chance. Know what to expect before you sign the lease and do the footwork to get the best possible rates.

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About The Author

A.D. Thompson

A.D. Thompson spent the first half of her 25-year career behind the editor’s desk, including time at Playgirl Magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Orlando Sentinel and a host of other publications, print and online. Now a full-time freelancer, she is the Orlando expert for USA Today’s 10Best.com and writes about everything from Mickey Mouse to marijuana-based tourism with equal levels of enthusiasm – and occasional bouts of the munchies.