You don't need a Hollywood star to enjoy the splendor of the City of Angels. Palm-lined sidewalks, scenic beaches and killer Mexican food are just some of the reasons why Los Angeles is Southern California's most flocked-to metropolis.
While living in La La Land will cost you 51.9 percent more than the national average, roughly 4 million people living in this desert oasis make it work — and so can you.
If you've decided Los Angeles is the place for you, check out how the cost of living really breaks down in this high-demand hometown. Take a look at the community and economic research in these categories:
- Housing costs
- Food prices
- Utility costs
- Transportation costs
- Healthcare costs
- Goods and services
- Tax rates
- How much do you need to earn to live in Los Angeles?
Los Angeles housing prices
Rent in Los Angeles is considerably higher compared with the national average. In fact, it's 134 percent above it. This aligns with the current standard in many other major cities like Washington, D.C., and Boston, but doesn't even come close to the higher prices in San Francisco and Honolulu.
Housing expenses in L.A. are so high that you can expect to pay around $2,807 each month for a one-bedroom apartment and $3,845 for a two-bed. What's more, both of these monthly costs are up over last year by 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
Making housing costs even more challenging, nearby cities don't often cut you a break, either. Places like Santa Monica, Venice and Hollywood all have higher one-bedroom rents. The typical one-bed rent in Santa Monica is actually $1,000 more than in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles cost for homes also tells an expensive story. The median sales price in L.A. is at $955,000, up 3.2 percent over last year. The real estate market also continues to stay pretty competitive, too. Most homes are only listed for about a month before selling.
Which neighborhood is right for you?
Among the high-end living, there are hidden gems in Los Angeles, with an average price for rent that's a little more affordable.
First, avoid some of the city's most expensive neighborhoods. These are where the cost of living in Los Angeles is highest. Estimated monthly costs for housing put Playa Vista and Brentwood at the top. Here, one-bedroom rents average out to over $4,000.
It's also possible to find inexpensive apartments in Los Angeles, underneath the living index you'd expect to pay. In areas like Greater Wilshire and Crenshaw, one-bedroom apartments average less than $2,000. Both communities are also seeing a decrease in rents over last year.
Los Angeles food prices
You can't talk about eating in Los Angeles without acknowledging the state has its own signature fare. L.A. restaurants embody the traits of California Cuisine. This means a lot of fresh produce, seafood and leaner cuts of meat. It also means most restaurants cost a bit more money. Living in Los Angeles can make for an expensive night out when it comes to eating. Though you can find a deal at an inexpensive restaurant (where the average meal for a single person is $16.50), a three-course meal for two at a mid-range establishment averages $90.
When it comes to groceries, expenses are 13.7 percent above the national average. This is about a 1 percent increase over last year for food expenses. Based on whether you prefer a higher-end grocery store, most items on your list should only be a little more than average.
Basic groceries like a load of bread or a half gallon of milk have average costs of $3.99 and $2.56 respectively, which are pretty close to the price throughout California.
Los Angeles utility prices
Los Angeles apartments rarely include utilities. This is similar to many rentals in big cities around the country. It means housing is always more than what you expect to pay in monthly rent.
Utilities can include a variety of expenses — electricity, gas, water, trash and even internet. All combined, Los Angeles utilities run 9.9 percent higher than the national average.
What keeps this number slightly above the average is the summer. Warmish weather year-round means heating bills are never high but come summertime, expect to keep your air conditioning blasting. Some parts of L.A. reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit at the peak of the hot season.
With these particular utility needs, expect to pay about $207.75 per month on total energy costs.
Los Angeles transportation prices
We can't talk about L.A. without mentioning one crucial detail: its infamous traffic. It feels like people commute to their job all day long, or are always in a rush to get somewhere. Freeways seem perpetually congested.
Overall, transportation expenses in Los Angeles, CA, are 26 percent above the national average. This is consistent with other cities about the same size and includes maintenance costs and gas.
If you do decide to drive your way around the city, a FasTrack pass is your ideal traffic cheat. This pass gives you access to a special express lane on certain highways, potentially shaving time off your drive. The transponder itself costs $40, but you can put that toward your tolls once you set everything up. After that, there's a $1 monthly fee in addition to what you put into your account to cover tolls.
In addition to paying to drive, you also have to pay to park. Rates for metered parking areas vary between neighborhood — they're set anywhere between 50 cents to $6 per hour, depending on the location.
Public transportation expenses
Unfortunately, Los Angeles isn't exactly known for its stellar public transit system, however, it's certainly possible to get around using the Metro, a network of buses and trains.
On both the bus and the train, a one-way trip costs $1.75. You can also purchase a one-day pass for $3.50 and a seven-day pass for $12.50. Monthly passes, good for 30 days, have a price of $50.
If this works for you, you can save a lot on transportation costs, not to mention the time you'd have to sit in traffic otherwise.
Living the L.A. life on foot
Los Angeles isn't the best city for walking — its walk score is 79. You'll find pockets of highly walkable streets and neighborhoods, but overall, walking from Point A to Point B isn't always easy.
Until recently, biking wasn't a great option, either. Recent initiatives include putting bike paths on more city streets and offering a bike share program through the Metro. The cost is $1.75 per 30 minutes, but day and monthly passes are also available and only incur extra charges if your ride lasts for more than 30 minutes. L.A.'s current bike score comes in at 65.
Los Angeles healthcare prices
From routine check-ups to unforeseen trips to urgent care, healthcare costs are bound to pop up intermittently. Luckily, you're in good hands in Los Angeles.
Healthcare costs in L.A. are only slightly higher than the national average at 15 percent above. This is an increase of about 5 percent over the previous year.
Healthcare expenses in Los Angeles without insurance average out to:
- $130 to see a doctor
- $127.20 to see a dentist
- $131.60 to see an eye doctor
Depending on your insurance coverage, and how often you find yourself in a doctor's waiting room, healthcare will impact your cost of living differently each year.
Los Angeles goods and services prices
Angelenos love staying active, whether that means hiking the surrounding hills, running, cycling or trying out a calming yoga class on the beach. However, this is only one area of all the cost of living elements that create your goods and services category. Everything you like to do, but could live without, fit in here.
What's good about this particular piece of the cost of living in Los Angeles, is that it's all optional. If one month the cost of a movie ticket edges your budget into the red you can skip it.
Overall, prices in this category are 15.2 percent above the national average, and the best way to evaluate what you can and can't do is to look at the individual price of your favorite activities.
For example, if you're the type of person who likes to see a movie every week, it's good to know a ticket costs around $17.89. If yoga is your thing, a single class can set you back $21.33. If grabbing a pizza with friends is your ideal night on the town, it's best to know the average cost for a pie is $12.99.
Taxes in Los Angeles
The cost of living in Los Angeles is greatly affected by taxes. In California, the state sales tax is 7.25 percent. However, localities can add to that total, which can vary your cost of living a lot. In L.A., the sales tax rate is 9.5 percent, but this is only in the city itself. Though some neighboring places still feel like L.A., they can have a completely different sales tax.
This means when you're out at The Grove and you spend $1,000, you'll pay $95 in taxes.
The state also has a progressive income tax, where you pay anywhere from 1 to 13.3 percent based on your salary.
How much do I need to earn to live in Los Angeles?
Experts recommend that renters spend around 30 percent of their salary on rent. That means, to afford an average one-bed priced at $2,835 your annual income should come in at or over $113,400.
With the median salary in L.A. of only $65,290, it's in the best interest of most of those living in Los Angeles, CA, to find apartments or home prices that sit well below average. Luckily, the city provides, and many thrive while having a job that doesn't yield such a high average salary.
To really see how salary numbers impact the Los Angeles cost of living, use our rent calculator to discover how you can make your budget work in the City of Angels.
Living in Los Angeles
Though the city is famous for its glitz and glam, you don't need to call yourself a millionaire to live well in this world-renowned place. Although the price is higher than in most around the country, you can find your niche. And, once you do, you'll have all the benefits of sunny skies, pristine natural parks and a culture unlike any other in enjoy.