Annapolis, MD

The Cost of Living in Maryland in 2022

Squished between four different states, the Mid-Atlantic state of Maryland makes up for its small size with a whole lot of character. Although it’s not a part of New England, it has the same kind of deep forests, scenic waterways and charming small towns the region is known for.

With the Chesapeake Bay cutting a deep gash into the heart of the state, its lengthy coastline serves up some of the best seafood in the nation. Nature lovers have their choice between spending time on land or the water, and urbanites get their fill in fun cities like Baltimore and Annapolis.

Between the vibrant cities, excellent seafood and its integral role in early U.S. history, Maryland is a popular place to live along the East Coast. But as with most East Coast states, the cost of living in Maryland is high. From housing to groceries, prices here are up there. So, is Maryland worth it? Would living in this scenic state fit your budget? We’ve broken down the cost of living in Maryland to see how it stacks up against the national average.

Maryland row houses, a cost of living

Maryland housing prices

Maryland is not the best state when it comes to affordable housing. Maryland’s cost of living for housing in its two biggest metropolitan areas significantly exceeds the national average. The numbers in one major metro area, in particular, are painfully high. Thanks to being part of the metro area that includes the nation’s capital city, housing costs are more than double the national average. If you’re looking for affordable housing around Maryland, you’re better off looking in smaller towns and cities like these cheap places to live in Maryland.

Time to rip the Band-Aid off. Here’s what housing costs look like in a few of Maryland’s biggest cities and metro areas.

Baltimore

Baltimore is Maryland’s largest city by population with around 576,498 residents. This dynamic city that’s full of history and culture is now a destination for art, dining, higher education and sports. It forms part of the Baltimore-Washington metro area. Housing costs here are 13.6 percent higher than the national average. The overall cost of living here is 6.7 percent over the national average.

Paying for a one-bedroom apartment in one of Baltimore’s many vibrant neighborhoods costs around $1,354 per month. This figure is 7 percent lower than last year. Two-bedroom apartments cost an average of $1,662, which is up just one percent from last year. But a more spacious three-bedroom rental sits nicely in the middle at around $1,540. The biggest growth has been in studio apartments, jumping 22 percent to $1,628. You’re better off ditching the studio and getting a roomy three-bedroom for essentially the same cost.

The housing market has seen some slight growth over the past year, as well, climbing a meager 5.3 percent. If you want to own a home in Baltimore, the median sale price for a house is $237,000.

Bethesda

Located in Montgomery County in southwestern Maryland, Bethesda is part of the larger Bethesda-GaithersburgFrederick urban area. This county and area, in turn, is part of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Also known as the National Capital Region, this metropolitan area encompasses 25 counties or county-equivalents across the District of Columbia and three other states, including Maryland. It’s one of the biggest metro areas in the country, as well as an affluent area.

Being part of the same metro area as the U.S. capital is part of why housing costs in Bethesda are so incredibly and painfully high. The cost of housing here is an unbelievable 129 percent above the national average. That will make you look for some roommates real quick. A one-bedroom apartment in Bethesda costs an average of $2,144 per month, with no change from last year. A two-bedroom apartment will set you back a jaw-dropping $3,632. This number is up 18 percent from the previous year.

You may have better luck if you’re looking to buy a home here. Bethesda’s housing market is down 4.4 percent from last year. The median sale price of buying a home here is an unbelievable $963,000.

Steamed crabs

Food prices

The costs of living in Maryland for food are thankfully lower than housing costs. But they still exceed the national average. For the overall state, the cost of groceries is 8.7 percent higher than the national average. It’s the 37th most expensive state for food costs. Marylanders annually pay between $3,201 to $3,600 per person for food. All that fresh, delicious seafood does come at a cost. Here’s what food costs look like in Maryland cities:

  • Baltimore is 3.8 percent above the national average
  • Bethesda is 15.8 percent above

Bethesda is the more expensive city for food costs in Maryland. This is partially due to its overall inflated cost of living. But within the Washington metro area, Bethesda’s dining and food scene receives a lot of attention. The city is home to tons of great restaurants, wineries, breweries and distilleries. So, that can also impact the cost of food.

But when it comes to the exact prices of food items, Baltimore and Bethesda residents generally pay similar prices. The price of a half-gallon of milk is $2.24 in both cities. A dozen eggs in both cities also cost the same at $1.80. Even where there are price differences, they’re not too big. A loaf of bread in Baltimore sets you back $3.60 compared to $3.76 in Bethesda.

Since Bethesda is such a big foodie town, you can expect to pay more for dining out there. Going on a date to a nice 3-course meal at a fancy restaurant costs around $75.00. But in Baltimore, it’s $68.50. While that’s only a price difference of 8.67 percent, residents of both cities love to eat out thanks to the great restaurants. So, those prices will start to add up.

Hydropower plant in Maryland, a cost of living

Utility prices

The utility cost of living category in Maryland includes expenses like energy, internet and water costs.

Maryland gets its energy from a mix of natural gas, coal, petroleum and nuclear energy. But renewable energy is on the rise here, as well. To generate renewable energy, the state is utilizing one of its biggest assets: water.

Reports state that 11 percent of Maryland’s in-state electricity in 2020 came from renewable sources. Hydropower was responsible for the lion’s share of that number, accounting for two-fifths. Due to some bad practices, like Maryland companies using renewable energy credits, renewable energy in Maryland still has a way to go.

The average cost of utilities in Maryland is slightly higher than the national average. Due to its higher overall cost of living, Bethesda once again ranks the highest in the state:

  • Baltimore is 5.8 percent above the national average
  • Bethesda is 8.4 percent above the national average

In Bethesda, your total energy cost for the month is around $196.52. It’s slightly cheaper in Baltimore at $187.33. The average cost for water in Maryland is $42. Out of the 50 states, this price is pretty mid-tier.

One area where the tables turn is the cost of the internet. Getting an internet package of 60 megabits per second costs more in Baltimore than in Bethesda, with a 27.44 percent difference. In Baltimore, the internet costs $85.22 compared to $66.88 in Bethesda.

Maryland highway

Transportation prices

Using public transportation is a great way to save money on gas and car expenses. It’s also better for the environment. When you live in a state with as much natural beauty as Maryland, you want to protect it. Most Maryland cities and towns offer some form of public transportation. The cost of living for transportation in Maryland does exceed the national average, but not by too much.

  • Baltimore is 5.5 percent above the national average.
  • Bethesda is 6.6 percent above.

Both Baltimore and Bethesda benefit from being part of bigger public transit systems that service their larger, overall metro areas.

Maryland Transit Authority in Baltimore

State-operated Maryland Transit Administration provides mass transit in Baltimore. This system services the entire Baltimore-Washington metro area. Their fleet consists of different buses, light rail, the MARC commuter rail, the subway Metro SubwayLink and paratransit vehicles and routes. Baltimore has 80 fixed-route bus lines.

Fares vary depending on what part of the system you’re using. A one-way regular fare on the bus, light rail or subway costs $1.90 and $74 for a 31-day pass. On the MARC commuter rail, the cost of a single ride depends on where you got on and where you plan on disembarking. Fares start at $6 and can go up to $14. Prices also vary depending on which train line you’re using. Monthly and weekly passes are available. On the commuter bus between cities, a single fare starts at $3 and a monthly pass is $136.

Baltimore has two toll tunnels. The Baltimore Harbor and Fort McHenry Tunnels run under the Patapsco River in downtown Baltimore. Standard Maryland toll rates are $1.40 for commuter cars in both tunnels.

The MTA offers so many affordable methods of getting around Baltimore and its larger metro area. The city’s transit score sits at a satisfactory 62. Since monthly parking rates range from $70 to $273, taking the bus or subway is a great way to save money. You can also walk and bike around town to save money, and Baltimore is a good city to do so. Baltimore’s walk and bike scores are 72 and 62, respectively.

Ride On and Metro in Bethesda

Bethesda has its own local mass transit service provided by Montgomery County. Ride On buses operates 80 different routes in Bethesda and around Montgomery County. A single fare costs $1.00 and a monthly pass is $45. Until August 2022, however, using Ride On buses is free.

But being part of the greater Washington, D.C., metro area, Bethesda is also connected to Metro. Operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Metro provides bus and rail mass transit throughout the Washington metro area. Bethesda is accessible with Metro’s bus and rail services.

Rates on Metro are variable depending on the type of service used, time of day and length of ride. At peak travel times on Metrorail, the pay per ride starts at $2.25. At non-peak times, it’s $2.00. On Metrobus regular routes, a single-ride fare is $2.00. An unlimited monthly pass to use both rail and bus starts at $64 and goes up to $192.

There are toll roads throughout the Washington, D.C., metro area. But Bethesda doesn’t have any in the immediate area.

Despite having essential two mass transit providers, Bethesda’s transit score is only 54. When not using a bus, train or car, it’s easy to get around Bethesda on foot or bike. The city boasts high walk and bike scores of 74 and 73, respectively.

Johns Hopkins hospital, a cost of living

Healthcare prices

While it’s easy to find medians and averages for things like housing, healthcare is tricky. The cost of living in Maryland for healthcare is very subjective. It can vary widely from person to person in a specific city or state. Things like preexisting conditions, access to quality healthcare and the cost of over-the-counter healthcare impact these fluctuations and price differentials. So, just because Maryland’s average healthcare costs are lower than the national average, that doesn’t mean it’s true for each and every person.

But, it is true that healthcare is Maryland’s only cost of living category that is below the national average. Here’s how healthcare costs in these two cities stack up to the national average:

  • Baltimore is 15.8 percent lower than the national average
  • Bethesda is 13.5 percent lower

One reason healthcare costs are lower in Maryland is that the state has excellent hospitals and healthcare systems and medical education programs. Baltimore is the home of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. This elite private research institution is one of the best in the country. Producing world-class healthcare professionals, hospitals around the city have the best of the best. The Washington, D.C., metro area also has great hospitals. Baltimore is also 45 minutes from Bethesda. So, Bethesda residents live close to two nationally-regarded healthcare cities.

This access to top-notch care keeps healthcare prices down. A doctor’s visit in both Baltimore and Bethesda costs $80. Going to the dentist is $92.50 for both cities. Buying a bottle of Ibuprofen will set you back $10.27 in Baltimore and $11.79 in Bethesda. With such low rates, it’s easy to stay on top of your health and make annual visits to your doctors.

Maryland harbor

Goods and services prices

The miscellaneous goods and services part of a household budget accounts for all other general spending. This includes activities like going to get your haircut or going to see a movie. Since Maryland is an expensive state, the overall cost for such goods and services is also higher than the national average.

  • Baltimore is 5 percent above the national average
  • Bethesda is 9.4 percent above the national average

Sure, going to get a haircut every once in a while won’t make or break a budget. But all these little items and activities add up. This is especially true of cities like Baltimore and Bethesda that have such vibrant social scenes. That’s why it’s still important to consider these costs as part of your overall budget. For example, the price for getting a haircut in Baltimore is $23.33. In Bethesda, it’s $26.25. Taking in a movie costs roughly the same at $15.01 and $15.03 for Baltimore and Bethesda, respectively. Taking your clothes to the dry cleaners in Baltimore costs $12.75 compared to $14.99 in Bethesda.

A key part of any goods and services budget is the cost of caring for others in your family. Namely, this includes children and pets. A trip to the vet is more expensive in Baltimore, costing $65. But in Bethesda, getting your furry friend checked up will only set you back $54. For childcare costs, Baltimore is the preferable city. The price for one month of preschool or kindergarten is $1,024. But in Bethesda, it jumps 25.07 percent to $1,366.67.

Maryland shops, a cost of living

Taxes in Maryland

Maryland has a statewide sales tax of 6 percent. Counties and cities don’t levy additional sales taxes. So, say you go out and buy $1,000 worth of fresh crab. Sixty dollars of that $1,000 will be going straight to taxes. Hey, for all that delicious crab, it’s worth it.

  • Baltimore has a combined tax of 6 percent
  • Bethesda has a combined tax of 6 percent

The only change to the statewide sale tax rate applies to alcoholic beverages. These have a 9 percent tax rate.

The other kind of taxes you need to consider living in Maryland are income taxes. Since income taxes impact your monthly take-home pay, they’re important to consider when setting a budget. The Maryland income tax rate ranges from 2 to 5.75 percent depending on your income bracket. And don’t forget, that’s on top of any city and federal taxes.

Maryland office buildings

How much do I need to earn to live in Maryland?

Housing costs take the biggest chunk out of our monthly budgets. That’s why, in order to live comfortably, experts recommend that you only spend 30 percent of your gross monthly income on rent.

Maryland’s average rent is $1,729 for a one-bedroom apartment. To only spend 30 of your monthly income on rent in Maryland, you’d need to make $5,763 per month. That comes out to around $69,156 a year. The median household income in Maryland is $87,063 according to 2020 U.S. census data, so affording the average sounds manageable and within reach for most residents.

Of course, that scenario does change when you look at the big picture of housing in Maryland. That’s only accounting for the statewide average. If you want to live in ultra-pricey Bethesda, these numbers and the amount of money you need to earn shoot way up.

To help you determine what part of Maryland you can comfortably afford to live in, use this handy rent calculator.

Living in Maryland

With such high housing prices and overall cost of living, being a Maryland resident can definitely make you feel “crabby” every now and again. But consider everything you get with that price tag. You have access to world-class cities like Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, as well as peaceful, beautiful nature. You can dine on fresh, tasty seafood on a daily basis. Median incomes are high. Determining whether the costs outweigh all the benefits is up to you. But overall, Maryland gives back plenty to its residents.

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The Cost of Living Index comes from coli.org.The rent information included in this summary is based on a calculation of multifamily rental property inventory on Rent. as of June 2022.Rent prices are for illustrative purposes only. This information does not constitute a pricing guarantee or financial advice related to the rental market.

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