Moving to the East Coast: What to Expect
East Coast living is quite a different experience from living elsewhere in the US. For those moving to the East for the first time, there is much to learn about life on the East Coast. While nothing can replace living the adventure for yourself, here are a few things to expect before you pack up the car and head east.
Greater access to mass transit
If fact, you may not need to pack your car at all. If you’ve ever considered ditching your car (and the expenses that come along with it), there’s nowhere to do so easier than on the East Coast. Even for those accustomed to mass transit systems like San Francisco’s BART, LA’s Metro, or Atlanta’s MARTA, experiencing public transportation in cities like Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, and especially New York can be an enlightening experience for many.
Four of the top five largest public transit systems in the US are in the Northeast, and residents of cities on the East Coast rely less on cars for commuting than anywhere else. In New York City, 57% of daily commuters use the MTA, and 37% of commuters in Washington DC rely on the WMTA. Compare that to a cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta, and St. Louis where ridership is under 10%.
But it’s not just buses and trains. Residents of the East Coast also bike, walk, and rideshare to work – and play – more than the rest of the nation. If you’re from a low, sprawling Midwest city or California highway haven, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how easy is it to get around without a car in the East. So when moving to the East Coast, consider dumping the cost of ownership of a car, from parking to gas to insurance, in lieu of a more public mode of transport.
Surprising cost of living averages
But what you put into (and get out of) your car isn’t the only expense you’ll find different as you head east. As you might expect, the cost of living in large East Coast cities is more expensive than many other places in the nation, even large cities on the West Coast… but not as substantially as you might think.
The proverbial standard, the cost of a gallon of milk, is about a dollar more in New York and Philadelphia than it is in Los Angeles and about a dollar and a half more than in Dallas. But when you look at the average cost of living index, other cities around the US, especially those in California and the Pacific Northwest, aren’t that much cheaper to live in. In fact, of the top ten most expensive cities in the US in which to live, only four are on the East Coast.
One of the most important cost of living sectors for those moving to the East Coast is the price of utilities, and the comparison may surprise you. For example, the average cost of basic utilities (electricity, heat, water, and garbage) in New York for a 1,000 square foot apartment is about $125 per month. That figure is actually cheaper than places like Kansas City ($200), Houston ($160), and Phoenix ($175). Same goes for other East Coast cities like Boston, where utilities average under $175 a month, and Baltimore, where the figure is under $160.
A variety of affordable rentals
The most important thing to consider about life on the East Coast is where you will lay your head at night. Apartment renting on the East Coast is a different experience than other places in the country.
Again to many people’s surprise, the East Coast isn’t the most expensive place to rent. Only five of the top twenty most expensive cities to rent an apartment are on the East Coast. In fact, topping the list is San Francisco, where the cost of a one bedroom apartment runs upwards of $1,500 more than one in New York.
And if living in Midtown Manhattan or Center City Philadelphia is cost-prohibitive, another advantage cities in the East have over the rest of the nation is a larger, more expansive network of suburbs, especially in some of the nation’s oldest cities. With greater access to public transportation and lower cost of living of many suburbs in the East, it’s easy and comparatively cheap to rent in Manassas VA and commute into Washington DC or live in Dedham MA and work in Boston.
In the East, you’ll find more options of where to rent than elsewhere in the US. Houses, brownstones, rowhomes, and apartments above businesses are much more plentiful in the East than elsewhere, where your choices beyond apartment buildings are more limited.