The Cost of Living in Baltimore

Baltimore is a historic port city with everything from quaint colonial rowhomes to modern apartment high-rises. Off the gorgeous Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore has a lot to offer, from water views to historic monuments to colorful local pubs.

You can only find cities like Baltimore on the East Coast — cities rich with history, filled with classic architecture and cozy row homes on tree-lined, walkable streets.

Baltimore also has an engaging culture, with a bustling arts district, as well as world-renowned institutions of higher learning, such as Johns Hopkins University, known for its premier medical school.

If you're moving to Baltimore, you have a lot to look forward to. So, how will it affect your pocketbook?

Fortunately, the cost of living in Baltimore isn't too bad, just 6.3 percent more than the national average, 4.2 percent less than the previous year. This makes the cost of living in Baltimore pretty affordable for people who want to live in a city but don't want to break the bank.

For this reason, it's not uncommon for people to commute to Washington, D.C., from Baltimore via train because D.C.'s cost of living is much higher at 53.3 percent more than the national average.

True, housing in Baltimore is 12.7 percent higher than the national average, but this is still far more affordable than Washington, D.C.'s 153.4 percent higher housing prices.

With a thriving waterfront and access to nearby cities such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and quaint Annapolis, MD, Baltimore is a great location with many reasonably-priced housing options. Read on to find out more about the cost of living in Baltimore, from housing to transportation to healthcare.

Row of houses in Baltimore

Housing costs in Baltimore

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Baltimore is $1,662, a 15.4 percent decrease from the previous year.

Baltimore has its share of modern high-rise apartments, renovated warehouse lofts and beautiful old row houses. As you would expect, the more popular and posh a neighborhood is, the higher the neighborhood's average rent in Baltimore will be. For example, the touristy Inner Harbor boasts average rents of $4,371, an 18.25 increase from the previous year. The cheapest neighborhood in Baltimore is West Forest Park at $903, down 8.87 percent.

Well-kept historic neighborhoods in Baltimore tend to run at least $2,000 for rent on average, but you can check out Mount Washington, which is at $1,873 but rising, as this is 10.98 percent higher than last year. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Mount Washington is located in northwest Baltimore.

Other popular neighborhoods in Baltimore include Fells Point ($2,434, down 8.36 percent), Canton ($2,193, down 3.86%), Hampden ($2,605, up 3.50 percent) and quirky Charles Village ($2,008, down 1.57 percent).

Average rent prices in cities near Baltimore

The average rent in Baltimore (at $1,662 for a two-bedroom) is actually quite a bit less than most of Baltimore's suburbs, but you also have to consider that many suburban apartment complexes will provide “luxury" amenities like pools, spas and gyms. Annapolis is also its own city with a very historic downtown area and its own small, attractive harbor.

Home prices in Baltimore

Houses in Baltimore are reasonably priced with a median price of $210,000, according to Redfin, up 8 percent from the previous year. You can find much more expensive homes in Baltimore's suburbs that line the Chesapeake Bay if you want water access. The average time a Baltimore house spends on the market is 24 days (last year it was 38).

Baltimore crab cake

Food costs in Baltimore

If you're moving to Baltimore, we hope you like crab — because you are going to see a lot of it. Crab cakes are one of Baltimore's signature seafood dishes, and they're harvested from the nearby Chesapeake Bay. You can also enjoy a craft beer from one of the many local breweries in Charm City.

Of course, if you're interested in the cost of living in Baltimore, you probably want to know about local grocery prices. Groceries have also dropped 5.6 percent but are still 10.6 percent higher than the national average. Baltimore's grocery prices run 10.6 percent above the national average. Steak runs $13.77 per pound, but this is a seafood town anyway, right? A dozen eggs cost approximately $2.06, margarine $1.19 and bread $3.89.

Utility costs in Baltimore

Baltimore is really the first major city south of the Mason-Dixon Line, which technically makes it a Southern city. Thus, you'll find that winters are generally mild here, but you can expect some snow days. Summers have some hot days and many thunderstorms rolling through. Energy costs will likely run you around $181.15 per month, with utilities approximately 5.6 percent above the national average.

Baltimore sidewalk

Transportation costs in Baltimore

Baltimore can get a bit hairy with the traffic. The surrounding beltway and connecting freeways can be a bit of a maze. If you're not careful, you can find yourself driving in circles!

On the positive side, if you need to get to nearby cities, such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia or New York, all you need to do is hop on a train. With Washington, D.C., you can take an express line in, which makes Baltimore a popular home for D.C. commuters who want to benefit from Baltimore's lower rents and housing prices.

If you're living and working in Baltimore, you might benefit from the walkable nature of some parts of the city, as well as its public transit. However, it depends. Baltimore's Walk Score is 72, which is strong, but its Transit Score and Bike Score are both 62, which is above average but not stellar. Thus, you'll probably still need a car in Baltimore.

Approximately 38 percent of Charm City residents have a commute of just 15 to 29 minutes.

Baltimore is serviced by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). The system includes local and commuter buses, light rail and commuter rail.

Baltimore bus and light rail fares for a one-way trip are $1.90 ($.90 for seniors/disabled and $1.40 for students.) A day pass is $4.40 ($2.20 for seniors/disabled) and you can get a week pass for $21.00.

Light RailLink runs through downtown Baltimore and provides access to several suburbs. The light rail system also connects the BWI Marshall Airport to downtown Baltimore, Timonium and Hunt Valley.

MARC Train Service is a three-line commuter rail system that connects Baltimore with the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The different rail lines and their stops have different fares, which can range from $6 to 14.

Healthcare costs in Baltimore

Baltimore residents are lucky because the city is home to one of the top medical schools on the planet, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. You'll have access to some of the best medical doctors in the world by living in Baltimore. You'll also benefit from lower healthcare costs. Baltimore's cost of living for healthcare is actually 19.6 percent less than the national average, 3.6 percent less than a year ago.

The average cost for prescription drugs in Baltimore is $370.40 (a bargain compared to the $548.84 spent in New Haven, CT). A visit to a Baltimore doctor will cost you an average of $82.95, even less than the dentist at $84.98. An optometrist will also cost $82.95. Need some ibuprofen from the local drug store? Expect to pay around $9.74.

Baltimore marina

Goods and services costs in Baltimore

The cost of living in Baltimore is not that bad when it comes to some popular goods and services. For example, you can catch a yoga class in Baltimore for $15, far less than the $21.63 you'd pay in nearby Washington, D.C. Dry cleaning averages $12 and a trip to the beauty salon is just $51.60 (or you can go for a cheap haircut at $24).

If you have a pet, you might spend more than other cities with an average cost of $60, but at least washer repair is only $58.19.

If you're looking for entertainment, a movie ticket costs $14.09, which is a bit more expensive than in many cities. But with so many great things to do in Baltimore — from enjoying local pubs and sports bars to visiting the many museums and art galleries — you might not even need that movie ticket.

Taxes in Baltimore

Baltimore doesn't have its own city sales tax, but Maryland has a sales tax of 6 percent. That equals $60 in taxes for every $1,000 spent. The State of Maryland does have a state income tax that's variable based on your income. The Maryland income tax includes a flat fee, plus a percentage of income that ranges from 2.00 to 5.75 percent. For example, at the highest tax rate of over $250,000, you would pay $12,760.00 and 5.75 percent of excess income above $250,000. Baltimore County also has a local income tax of 3.20 percent.

How much do you need to earn to live in Baltimore?

The standard calculation for determining how much rent you should pay is typically 30 percent of your income. Thus, with an average rent of $1,662 for a two-bedroom, you would need to earn $5,540 per month or $66,480 per year. We offer a free online rent calculator to help you plan your budget for living in Baltimore.

Understanding the cost of living in Baltimore

Baltimore, MD is a great place to live, and even better, the average rent in Baltimore is reasonable. Charm City is filled with fun, arts and entertainment and boasts a beautiful waterfront that opens into the vast Chesapeake Bay. With nearby outlets for hiking, sailing, kayaking and paddleboarding, Baltimore has lots to do inside and outside the city — many of which are cheap or free. Ready to start your new life in Charm City? Find apartments for rent in Baltimore today.

Cost of living information comes from The Council for Community and Economic Research.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and's multifamily rental property inventory of two-bedroom apartments as of August 2021. Our team uses 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.
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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Stephanie BrailStephanie Brail has a diverse background as a writer and holistic health expert with a previous incarnation as an internet consultant/web developer. Her writing has been published in numerous venues from computer magazines to life coaching websites to mindfulness publications such as Elephant Journal. She has lived in South Jersey, Michigan, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin (Texas), Florida and just outside of Annapolis, MD off the Chesapeake Bay in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. If she had to choose between gambling in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, she’d skip the gambling and see a show in Vegas and go to the beach in Atlantic City.

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