San Francisco is a great city and there are so many opportunities, especially in the tech industry, which is why quite a few people gravitate to this incredible metropolis. If you’ve decided to make the move, it’s important that you understand the true cost of living in San Francisco. It’s an expensive city and you need to be financially prepared, especially if you haven’t already got a job locked down.


The cost of an apartment in San Francisco

The first thing you’ll need to secure when arriving in San Francisco is a roof over your head. Your options are to rent or buy, but you’ll probably go with a rental at first.

Unfortunately, affordable housing is virtually impossible to find – both renting and purchasing. According to Zillow, the median value of a home in San Francisco at the end of December 2018 was $1,374,800, which represents an increase of 6.1% over one year.

Blueground offers fully-furnished, equipped and serviced apartments in some of the world's most sought after cities.

Renting is also quite challenging considering that the median rent for an apartment with two bedrooms is $4,650 per month. That’s approximately $1,000 more expensive than New York, and $2,000 more expensive than cities like Los Angeles and Boston.

One common financial rule states that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% on housing costs. By that logic, you would have to earn at least $186,000 per year. Even so, it’s still probably a better option to rent a home rather than buying one.

Despite being so expensive, finding an apartment to rent is still a challenge because of the very competitive market.

a charming Blueground apartment in San Francisco

If finding an apartment is proving challenging, a great option is to work with a company like Blueground that offers a wide range of beautiful apartments in some of the best locations in the city. They’re all fully furnished and equipped, too. Even better, you can secure accommodation before you even set foot in San Francisco, since you can use their website to book your apartment beforehand.


The cost of getting around

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 80% of employees in San Francisco have a car, which might suggest that it’s your best option. Unfortunately, owning a car in San Francisco isn’t cheap, especially if you need to regularly park in high-density areas or in the city center. It can cost $20 or more per day for parking – or a monthly rate between $200 and $400. That’s just for parking.

The price of gasoline is also in line with everything else, meaning that it’s far more expensive than the U.S. average. reveals that the cheapest price of gasoline in California is $2.35, while in San Francisco, it’s $3.29 per gallon. In Chicago, it’s $2.09 per gallon, and even New York is far cheaper at $2.21. Yes, these are the lowest gas prices available, but it’s still a significant difference that will significantly increase the cost of living in San Francisco for you.

The other option is to use public transport, which is, surprisingly, cheaper than in other cities. A pass for the cable car and bus service will cost $68, and one that also provides access to the Bay Area Rapid Transit trains will set you back $80. In New York, it would cost you $116.5, while in Chicago, you can expect to pay $100.


The cost of eating in San Francisco

When talking about the cost of living in San Francisco, food is also a vital consideration. Any way you look at it, eating in San Francisco is more expensive than anywhere else in the U.S.

If you choose to stay at home and cook, you’re looking to pay quite a bit more for groceries than the national average. For example, a gallon of milk will set you back $4.85, which is 27% more expensive than the national average. And things only get worse as eggs are 70% more expensive, cheese 61%, and chicken breasts 72%.  Overall, the cost of living in San Francisco in terms of food is 23% higher than the U.S. average.

woman shopping in supermarket pauses to look at food on shelves while holding a basket

Then there’s eating out. San Francisco has some of the most amazing restaurants in the world and they are run by some of the best and most well-known chefs in the world. Of course, the food in those restaurants is priced accordingly. But even mid-range restaurants aren’t cheap – you can expect to pay about $80 for a meal for two people, which is almost twice the U.S. average.

However, the good news is that, at least, in this case, San Francisco is slightly cheaper than New York, since a meal for two at a similar restaurant would cost $82.5. It’s not much of a difference, but there still is one.


The cost of living in San Francisco: utilities

In San Francisco, according to, you can expect to pay around $109 per month for power, heating, water, cooling, and garbage for a 915 square-foot apartment. That’s actually quite decent when you consider the average in the U.S. is around $147.


Healthcare in San Francisco

Healthcare isn’t cheap in the U.S., even if you have health insurance. And San Francisco is more expensive than the average, making it even more daunting.

doctor and nurse greeting a patient

In San Francisco, the average cost of a visit to the doctor is $251, but in certain areas, it can be as high as $460. Overall, if you live in San Francisco, you can expect your healthcare costs to be 20% higher than the average in the U.S.


How does San Francisco compare to other major U.S. cities?

Overall, the cost of living in San Francisco is 62.6% higher than the average in the United States, while securing housing is three times as expensive. The average salary in this city is generally higher, based on the higher cost of living.

In terms of renting a home, it is the most expensive city in the U.S., followed by New York as a distant second.

In some areas, San Francisco is cheaper, like when it comes to the cost of utilities, but unfortunately, this doesn’t help much. Essentially, at the moment, San Francisco is the most expensive U.S. city to live in.

Rate this article


Share article

We use cookies to personalize content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyze our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.

I accept