The 25 Best Cities in the U.S. by Rent-to-Income Ratio

As people leave big cities like New York and L.A. in search of more affordable living, they’re finding plenty of quality options in up-and-coming cities where the rent-to-income ratio isn’t too high and there’s an abundance of work and career options, as well as good quality of life, entertainment, culture, art and food.

If you’re considering moving to a place that gives you the best bang for your buck, you can’t beat these 25 U.S. cities.

How much of my income should go to rent?

When creating a cost-of-living budget, there are many different factors to take into consideration, including rent, utilities, food, transportation, entertainment, savings and healthcare. Rent will often be your biggest monthly expense, but it shouldn’t be too big.

You should aim to spend around 30 percent of your gross monthly income on your rent. This type of rent to income ratio allows you to take into account all your other needs, and maybe even have some money left over at the end!

The best cities in the U.S.A. to live in for the best rent-to-income ratio

While only spending 30 percent of your monthly income on rent is a good benchmark, it can be difficult in some of the larger cities in America. However, there are many cities in the U.S. where you can do even better, going down to 15 percent or even lower.

25. Edmond, OK

edmond ok

  • Median income: $76,347
  • Average rent: $953 (monthly), $11,436 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 15.0 percent

This charming city on the outskirts of Oklahoma City offers access to all the cosmopolitan amenities of the capital while retaining its small-town appeal. Routinely ranked one of the best places to live in the Sooner State, in Edmond you’ll find fantastic schools, close-knit communities, a quaint downtown area for shopping and dining and plenty of outdoor fun at Arcadia Lake. And the fact that rent is generally less than a thousand dollars a month ain’t too bad, either.

24. Champaign, IL

Champaign, IL

  • Median income: $50,648
  • Average rent: $632 (monthly), $7,584 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 15.0 percent

The central Illinois city of Champaign, IL, is perhaps best known as being the home of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, sharing this renowned center for higher learning with its sister city of Urbana.

But Champaign has much more to offer, including a thriving arts and culture scene, many fine museums, a lovely historic downtown area and verdant city parks. With Chicago not too far away and average rent just more than $500 a month, what’s not to love?

23. Gilbert, AZ

Gilbert, AZ

  • Median income: $99,866
  • Average rent: $1,240 (monthly), $14,880 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 14.9 percent

Thanks to its agricultural past, the Phoenix-adjacent city of Gilbert, AZ, has a delightful under-the-radar foodie scene, offering barbecue, local craft brews, Mexican cuisine, classic Americana dishes and much more.

Although the city has evolved from a farming-based community into a more modern urban metropolis, it hasn’t lost its roots. It maintains its sense of a shared collective through projects like Agritopia, a shared living community where members grow and produce their own food. There’s also much in the way of outdoor fun at parks and nature areas, shopping and entertainment.

22. Norman, OK

Norman, OK

  • Median income: $56,827
  • Average rent: $704 (monthly), $8,448 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 14.9 percent

Forming part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, Norman, OK, blends urban living with outdoorsy fun, as residents can go from educational museums, art galleries and diverse local restaurants right to the great outdoors at Lake Thunderbird.

The city is also the home of the University of Oklahoma, whose sports team, the Sooners, are a huge part of local living. The National Weather Service is also based in Norman.

21. Johns Creek, GA

Johns Creek, GA

  • Median income: $121,848
  • Average rent: $1,496 (monthly), $17,952 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 14.7 percent

Surrounded by lush forests, babbling streams and gently-flowing rivers, Johns Creek, GA, manages to feel like a quaint small town while still being Georgia’s ninth-largest city. Situated close to Atlanta, it’s easy to head into the city for shopping, dining and entertainment, but Johns Creek embraces a more laid-back way of life, with plenty of parks and wilderness areas for walking, hiking and boating.

With all that, plus an incredibly affordable cost of living, it’s no wonder this town was ranked one of the best cities to live in 2017.

20. Cary, NC

Cary, NC

  • Median income: $102,172
  • Average rent: $1,254 (monthly), $15,048 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 14.7 percent

Located right in the heart of the Triangle Area of central North Carolina, Cary offers residents the best of both worlds — near-instant access to the world-renowned research institutes and companies that make up the Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill and a high quality of life in a town that is consistently ranked one of the safest and best cities to live in. It almost feels too good to be true just how affordable it can be to live here.

19. Montgomery, AL

Montgomery, AL

  • Median income: $49,070
  • Average rent: $602 (monthly), $7,224 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 14.7 percent

Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery is actually one of the most affordable big cities to live in the U.S., with average rents of around $600, less than 15 percent of the average monthly income.

For such a steal, you’ll live close to an incredible wealth of historical landmarks that include the state capital building and the Civil Rights Memorial, cultural institutions, fantastic Southern cuisine and lovely outdoor spaces.

18. Rochester Hills, MI

Rochester Hills, MI

  • Median income: $97,808
  • Average rent: $1,187 (monthly), $14,244 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 14.6 percent

Many will know Rochester Hills, MI, as being the home of Oakland University, making it a city full of history, education and culture. But it’s also great for nature lovers, as there’s a wealth of parks, trails, forests, lakes and nature reserves where you can always get outside to enjoy your favorite outdoor recreation pastime, be it hiking, cycling, fishing or swimming.

17. Bloomington, IN

Bloomington, IN

  • Median income: $67,179
  • Average rent: $815 (monthly), $9,780 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 14.6 percent

There’s much to endear one to Bloomington, IN. It’s the home of the highly-regarded Indiana University and has a charming downtown area full of historic architecture, an abundance of history and tons of beautiful wilderness areas like Monroe Lake.

Besides being a center for higher education and research, Bloomington also inspires inquiring minds through fun museums like the WonderLab Science Museum, among others. A rent-to-income ratio of under 15 percent is pretty great, too.

16. Ankeny, IA

Ankeny, IA

  • Median income: $74,701
  • Average rent: $894 (monthly), $10,728 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 14.4 percent

The suburban city of Ankeny, IA, sits on the edge of the Des Moines-West Des Moines metropolitan area. With tidy homes and communities, it’s considered one of the best places to live in Iowa, offering thriving industries in construction (it’s the home of Deere & Company), education, healthcare, insurance and finance. In their downtime, residents can enjoy the many outdoor parks and recreation areas.

15. South Jordan, UT

South Jordan, UT

  • Median income: $101,374
  • Average rent: $1,203 (monthly), $14,436 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 14.2 percent

South Jordan, a suburb of Salt Lake City, has been rapidly growing in recent years as new transplants are lured here from the city by the affordable cost of living, high median income and rapidly-developing urban amenities like shopping districts and upscale residential areas.

The town also hosts the Salt Lake County Fair and is home to numerous parks and trails along the Jordan River Parkway.

14. Broken Arrow, OK

Broken Arrow, OK

  • Median income: $70,476
  • Average rent: $832 (monthly), $9,984 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 14.2 percent

Barbecue lovers will certainly know the name of this Tulsa suburb, as it’s the home of Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue, run by Joe Davidson who was voted the World Champion Barbecue Pit Master. So you’re sure to have some of the best BBQ in the world in Broken Arrow.

With many diverse industries for work and a thriving arts and culture community, the city is also known for being part of Oklahoma’s Green Country, which is full of lush, green meadows, forests and lakes.

13. Frisco, TX

Frisco, TX

  • Median income: $131,989
  • Average rent: $1,541 (monthly), $18,492 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 14.0 percent

Forming part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and close to wilderness areas like Lewisville Lake, Frisco, TX, boasts a very high median income and you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it average rent prices.

Living in Frisco, not only are you close to downtown Dallas and everything it has to offer, but you have plenty of things to do, like cheering on local sports teams, shopping, dining and hitting up other attractions.

12. Parma, OH

Parma, OH

  • Median income: $59,372
  • Average rent: $680 (monthly), $8,160 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 13.7 percent

In recent years, Parma has become one of Ohio’s fastest-growing cities, attracting new residents thanks to its low rents, tree-filled city center and quiet bedroom communities that are ideal for families. The high-quality schools and an abundance of diverse shopping and retail opportunities make Parma even more appealing. It’s located conveniently close to Cleveland, making for an easy commute if you work in the city.

11. Fishers, IN

Fishers, IN

  • Median income: $98,168
  • Average rent: $1,121 (monthly), $13,452 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 13.7 percent

With its small-town atmosphere, good public schools, low crime rates, attractively-affordable rents and low cost of living, Fishers has been growing over the past few decades.

Located on the outskirts of Indianapolis, the small city attracts people looking to take advantage of outdoor recreation areas like Fort Harrison State Park and Geist Reservoir, along with a growing jobs sector and suburban comforts.

10. Noblesville, IN

Noblesville, IN

  • Median income: $84,388
  • Average rent: $933 (monthly), $11,196 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 13.3 percent

With average rent costing less than a thousand dollars a month, Noblesville ranks as the 10th-most-affordable U.S. city for rent-to-income ratio. Situated to the north of Indianapolis, you’ll find a historic downtown, great schools, laid-back bedroom communities and many entertainment options. Try taking in live concerts and shows at the Ruoff Music Center.

9. Goodyear, AZ

Goodyear, AZ

  • Median income: $89,959
  • Average rent: $983 (monthly), $11,796 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 13.1 percent

If you love sports, Goodyear is one of the best places to live in Arizona. This Phoenix suburb is home to the Goodyear Ballpark, where the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians hold their spring training. There’s also plenty of other entertainment to be had for non-sports fans, from outdoor recreational areas to museums and shopping.

8. Roswell, GA

Roswell, GA

  • Median income: $108,616
  • Average rent: $1,174 (monthly), $14,088 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 13.0 percent

Nope, different Roswell. You won’t find any aliens in this north-central Georgia community, but you will find a lovely historic downtown area, many nature parks, a close-knit, safe community and a robust arts and culture scene. Oh, and a fantastic rent-to-income ratio of just 13 percent to top it all off makes Roswell a great bang-for-your-buck city.

7. League City, TX

League City, TX

  • Median income: $97,980
  • Average rent: $1,045 (monthly), $12,540 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 12.8 percent

With easy access to both Galveston and Houston, League City‘s prime location makes for an easy commute while enjoying a quiet standard of living. Sitting on the edge of Clear Lake, the town is big for year-round, outdoor recreation, including boating, kayaking and swimming on the lake, as well as in the many local parks.

6. Hoover, AL

Hoover, AL

  • Median income: $87,355
  • Average rent: $925 (monthly), $11,100 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 12.7 percent

In addition to being Birmingham’s largest suburb, Hoover, AL, also ranks as one of the most affordable rent-to-income ratio cities in the entire U.S., with the average rent under a thousand bucks a month.

This bustling city is well-known for its many golf courses, access to outdoor areas like the Moss Rock Reserve and seemingly endless options for dining, shopping and entertainment at high-end developments like the Riverland Galleria.

5. Troy, MI

Troy, MI

  • Median income: $96,864
  • Average rent: $1,022 (monthly), $12,264 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 12.7 percent

Coming in at No. 5 on our list, Troy, MI, has made a name for itself as a center for business, having been the founding location or home of many major companies related to finance and auto-mechanics.

In addition to being a leader in commerce and industry, Troy also is a great destination for shopping, offering upscale retail at locations like the Somerset Collection mall. Finally, Troy is considered one of Michigan’s safest cities, making it a prosperous choice for families.

4. Fort Smith, AR

Fort Smith, AR

  • Median income: $45,496
  • Average rent: $473 (monthly), $5,676 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 12.5 percent

The second-largest city in Arkansas, Fort Smith was initially founded as a frontier military post before becoming a hub for settlers heading out to the Wild West. This thrilling history is still evident around town at historic sites, landmarks and museums.

But while honoring its past, Fort Smith lives fully in the modern era as a major manufacturing center. It also hosts vibrant live music and cultural scenes.

3. Carmel, IN

Carmel, IN

  • Median income: $125,168
  • Average rent: $1,244 (monthly), $14,928 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 11.9 percent

The city of Carmel, located north of Indianapolis, has seen incredible growth. Over the past decades, it has gone from a satellite bedroom community to a thriving city in its own right, full of art, culture, dining, highly-ranked schools and lovely neighborhoods.

Routinely ranked one of the best U.S. cities to live in by Money Magazine, Carmel offers incredible value as a renter, with a monthly outlay of around $1,200 a month.

2. Sammamish, WA

Sammamish, WA

  • Median income: $183,038
  • Average rent: $1,674 (monthly), $20,088 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 11.0 percent

Surrounded by lush forests, mountains and pristine lakes but with Seattle just a quick drive away, the affluent community of Sammamish definitely hit the location jackpot. Residents live right next door to parks and wilderness areas for boating, hiking and other outdoor activities. In town, there are numerous options for dining, shopping and entertainment. With most residents earning high in the triple digits, rents here are still amazingly affordable.

1. Maple Grove, MN

Maple Grove, MN

  • Median income: $102,380
  • Average rent: $871 (monthly), $10,452 (yearly)
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 10.2 percent

The most affordable city for rent-to-income ratio at an astonishing 10.2 percent, Maple Grove, MN, is a hub for shopping, healthcare and research, attracting high earners with its thriving industries and career opportunities and sweetening the deal thanks to excellent amenities like top-notch retail and dining.

Often referred to as the Midwest’s first lifestyle center, here you’ll find a fantastic balance between urban and rural living — with a variety of parks and outdoor recreation areas close to malls and mixed-use developments. All this and more for less than a thousand dollars a month in rent.

You don’t have to live on the coast to experience quality city living

As evidenced by these 25 cities, exciting new urban centers are no longer solely to be found on the East and West coasts. Instead, they’re popping up in rural areas full of nature, close to major cities but developing their own thriving way of life.

You’ll be able to find the cutting-edge, innovative jobs and career opportunities you crave, unique arts and culture scenes that highlight both local and international artisans and creators, exciting cuisine and all the amenities you’d expect from a big city — but at a fraction of the cost.

With such affordable rents, you’ll be able to save and invest more money in things you enjoy and love while still getting a taste of city living.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments. Data was pulled in August 2020 and goes back for one year. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Cities with less than 50,000 people or insufficient data were excluded.
Income data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The rent information included in this article 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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Zoe BaillargeonZoe Baillargeon is an award-winning writer and journalist based in Portland, Oregon, where she covers a variety of beats including travel, food and drink, lifestyle and culture for outlets like Apartment Guide, Rent.com, AFAR.com, Fodor's, The Manual, Matador Network and more. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, reading and spoiling her cat.

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