Brian Carberry
most affordable states

Good news, America!

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income went up by nearly 2 percent last year. From Topeka to Tacoma, Americans are now earning around $61,372 per year. This is the third year in a row that our country’s median household income has gone up, so go us!

Before we break out the bubbly to celebrate, consider how the cost of living fluctuates from state to state. The experts tell us that we should be spending no more than 30 percent of our gross income on housing costs, which means the average American should earmark around $1,534 for rent every month to live comfortably.

While that’s easier said than done in some states, it’s entirely doable in others. We’ve looked through RentPath data to determine the average combined rental price of two- and three-bedroom units in each state to identify which portions of the country you can comfortably live in if you’re making the median yearly income.

Stay out of the red

 

national map

Wondering where you can expect to spend less than 30 percent of your paycheck on rent? In the gray states on our map, rent will set you back less than $1,534 each month. Things get tighter in the red states, where rent generally costs more than the recommended 30 percent of your pre-tax income.

Breaking it down by region

Not ready to settle on a specific state just yet? We hear you. Consider the bigger picture first, and see how different regions stack up when it comes to comfortable living.

Northeast | Mid-Atlantic | Southeast | Midwest | Great Plains | Southwest | Northwest

Northeast average rental prices

northeast average rent

If you’re earning the country’s median annual salary, you’ll be hard-pressed to spend only 30 percent of your income ($1,534) on rent for a two- or three-bedroom apartment in the Northeast.

Maine comes close ($1,675) with New Hampshire not far behind ($1,737), but the only state in the region where you can expect to spend less than 30 percent of your income on housing is Vermont, where rent will only set you back about $1,304 per month.

Mid-Atlantic average rental prices

Mid-Atlantic average rental prices

Surprisingly, the Mid-Atlantic is home to the states with both the highest and lowest average rent. Washington D.C. is deep in the red (no political affiliation intended) with an average rent of $3,782.

On the flip side, you can live large in the state of West Virginia, where rent will only set you back around $611 per month – less than 12 percent of the median income.

Southeast average rental prices

southeast average rental prices

Home to nearly half of the country’s fastest-growing cities, the Southeast also boasts some of America’s most affordable housing. Only two of the region’s nine states cross the 30-percent threshold for housing (Georgia and Florida). Still, at $1,804, Georgia’s average combined two- and three-bedroom rent is just about 35 percent of the average income. Could be worse.

Midwest average rental prices

midwest average rental prices

 

The majority of Midwestern states keep rent prices comfortable, with two-thirds of the region in the gray zone. Illinois is another story (thanks a lot, Chicago). Rent prices in this state are going to put a painful dent in your paycheck to the tune of $2,973 per month.

Great Plains average rental prices

Great Plains average rental prices

Rent prices throughout the Great Plains are reasonable, with only one state (Colorado) dipping into the red. In both Wyoming and North Dakota, you can even find a two- or three-bedroom apartment for less than $1,000 per month.

Southwest average rental prices

Southwest average rental prices

Aside from Hawaii and California (no surprises here), you’ll find several options for affordable living in the Southwest. Rent in New Mexico is the region’s most affordable, coming in at $1,068, or just under 21 percent of the median national paycheck.

Texas toes the line a bit, with an average rent of $1,719 per month that stretches the comfort zone to roughly 34 percent of the median income. But with no state income tax, your paycheck will go a little further.

Northwest average rental prices

 

northwest average rental prices

The Northwest is a mixed bag, with an equal amount of states in the red and gray. Right in the middle, Oregon’s average rent runs a bit high at $2,272, while Alaska falls within the gray at $1,426. Bonus for both states: There’s no sales tax.

Average rent across the country

Want to see the full list of how average rent prices stack up across all 50 states and the District of Columbia? We've compiled a table with the complete information, plus a look at the percentage of the national median income that will go to rent in each state.

State Average Rent Percent of Median Income for Rent
Alabama $1,292 25%
Alaska $1,426 28%
Arizona $1,308 26%
Arkansas $920 18%
California $3,294 64%
Colorado $2,032 40%
Connecticut $2,495 49%
Delaware $1,564 31%
District of Columbia $3,782 74%
Florida $1,753 34%
Georgia $1,804 35%
Hawaii $3,520 69%
Idaho $1,355 26%
Iowa $1,034 20%
Illinois $2,973 58%
Indiana $1,194 23%
Kansas $1,418 28%
Kentucky $1,091 21%
Louisiana $1,377 27%
Maine $1,675 33%
Maryland $1,707 33%
Massachusetts $3,546 69%
Michigan $1,294 25%
Minnesota $2,143 42%
Mississippi $1,229 24%
Missouri $1,305 24%
Montana $1,094 21%
Nebraska $1,144 22%
Nevada $1,452 28%
New Hampshire $1,737 34%
New Jersey $3,512 69%
New Mexico $1,068 21%
New York $3,385 66%
North Carolina $1,494 29%
North Dakota $976 19%
Ohio $1,282 25%
Oklahoma $1,042 20%
Oregon $2,272 44%
Pennsylvania $2,499 49%
Rhode Island $1,980 39%
South Carolina $1,308 26%
South Dakota $1,282 25%
Tennessee $1,382 27%
Texas $1,719 34%
Utah $1,525 30%
Vermont $1,304 25%
Virginia $1,944 38%
Washington $2,601 51%
West Virginia $611 12%
Wisconsin $2,025 40%
Wyoming $939 18%

Source: RentPath internal data of the combined average of two- and three-bedroom apartment rental prices, August 2018.
The rent information included in this article is based on current rental property inventory on ApartmentGuide.com and is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

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About The Author

The managing editor of Apartment Guide and rent.com, Brian Carberry has more than 10 years' experience as a content creator and award-winning journalist. Brian's work has been featured on CNN, Search Engine Land, Randstad and a number of other organizations around the world. In his free time, Brian enjoys sports, cooking and debating the correct pronunciation of "gif."

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