[Moving to LA] Just How Much Is the Cost of Living in Los Angeles? 

by Cristina Oprean
Los Angeles

Image: Chones / Shutterstock.com

While the glamorous city of Los Angeles is an exciting place to live in, it’s also notorious for being crazy expensive. After all, LA is a global hub when it comes to fashion, art, commerce and, of course, entertainment.

The largest city in California and the second-largest U.S. metro continues to attract residents from around the world with its pristine beaches, diverse scenery and perfect weather year-round. However, if you’re really considering a move to exotic LA, it might be wise to crunch some numbers beforehand. Read on for some insights into the true cost of living in Los Angeles.

Keep in mind that the figures below are all averages. As such, you can expect prices to be higher in more select areas of the city where high-end products and services are at their finest. After all, enjoying LA luxury does mean paying top dollar.


 
 

Housing

Housing in Los Angeles

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First things first: When relocating to a new area, you need a roof over your head. And, given the real estate boom in the city, you can probably imagine that a home for sale in LA is rather pricey. As a matter of fact, prices here increased by 136% in the last ten years, making Los Angeles one of the hottest housing markets in the country. Whether a significant cool-down is on the way remains to be seen.

What is the Average Home Price in Los Angeles?

Single-family homes in Los Angeles typically go for $860,000, while LA condos and townhouses sell for more “reasonable” prices — around $630,000.

Meanwhile, if you’ve been craving the popular urban lifestyle and want to experience living in downtown Los Angeles, the price per square foot is a little more than $850 here. Outside the city, things look better — the price tag per square foot decreases to around $540.

Additionally, the yearly interest rate for a 20-year, fixed-rate mortgage is around 5% in LA. So, housing costs — which usually include mortgage or rent payments, condo fees, homeowner association fees and so on — amount to about $1,690 per month. Mobile or manufactured homes will also incorporate site rent, mobile home park fees, utility hookups and installment loan payments.

How Much is Rent in Los Angeles?

You’ll pay about $2,730 per month for an apartment for rent in Los Angeles. And, as you might expect, this is above the national average.

More specifically, the average rent for an LA studio apartment is between $870 and $21,900 per month. A 1-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles costs between $630 and $13,680, while 2-bedroom apartments in LA go for $630 to $40,000. Naturally, more elbow room means you’ll have to shell out more money, so a 3-bedroom flat can set you back anywhere between $630 and $28,300 per month.

But some areas are considerably less expensive than others. For instance, the most affordable neighborhoods in LA are:

  • Vermont Knolls (with a monthly rent of about $1,520)
  • Vermont Vista ($1,520 per month)
  • Winnetka ($1,700 per month)

At the other end of the spectrum, the priciest neighborhoods are:

  • Historic South-Central ($4,470 per month)
  • University Park ($4,530 per month)
  • North of Montana ($4,620 per month)

However, as you might expect, mid-priced areas prove to be the most popular among renters, namely:

  • Hollywood ($2,680 per month)
  • Koreatown ($2,170 per month)
  • Palms ($2,580 per month)
  • Westlake ($2,380 per month)
  • Sawtelle ($2,900 per month)

 

What is the Average Cost of Utilities in Los Angeles?

Surprisingly, utilities in Los Angeles have reasonable average costs. For instance, two people in a 915-square-foot apartment pay about $170 per month for gas, electricity and heating. Likewise, one person in a 485-square-foot studio shells out around $130. Consider these as rough benchmarks, though, as the Los Angeles region doesn’t have a monolithic climate and, consequently, the utility bills vary greatly depending on the specific temperatures in the area you’re living in.

Additionally, internet service hovers around $70 monthly, while the prepaid local tariff is $0.13 per minute.

 

Incomes & Taxes

Incomes and Taxes in Los Angeles

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Sporting some of the highest wages — but also some of the highest taxes — in the U.S., California boasts the fifth-largest economy worldwide. And, of course, a large chunk of this activity is concentrated in the big, coastal areas. In fact, Los Angeles County has the second highest GDP output at the national level and accounts for as much as a quarter of the state’s economy.

How Much is the Average Wage in Los Angeles?

A typical Angeleno earns a monthly net salary of about $5,300 after taxes, with yearly household incomes hovering around $65,300 (median) and $101,600 (average).

Unsurprisingly, the management, legal and computer fields yield the highest annual incomes, which are well over $100K, while business and financial operations sport around $81K per year. Meanwhile, jobs in construction, maintenance and repair offer wages in the $60K range; the production sector has salaries of around $40K per year; and personal care services ensure around $34K annually.


 

How Much Is the Income Tax in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles residents are subject to income taxes at the state level and, similar to the federal income tax system, California’s income tax is progressive, so the higher the earnings, the higher the tax rate. Specifically, there are nine tax brackets in California with a minimum rate of 1% applied to the lower range and a maximum of 12.3% applied to the upper end. However, California goes even further and levies an extra 1% to those who earn more than $1 million in annual income, proceedings which are used to fund mental health programs in the state. All in all, the marginal tax rate of 13.3% is the highest tax rate applicable in the entire U.S.



Notably, tax rates are not levied on actual income, but rather on adjusted gross income, which is the income resulted after all exemptions and deductions are subtracted.

How Much is the Sales Tax in Los Angeles?

At 7.25%, California has the highest sales tax rate in the country. Plus, county and city levies apply on top of the state’s base rate.

For instance, Los Angeles County charges an additional 2.25%, but the city of Los Angeles, on the other hand, does not have any specific city-level rate. Essentially, you’ll pay a total of 9.5% tax on most goods and services that you purchase in LA.

How Much Are Property Taxes in Los Angeles?

California’s property taxes are below the national average as a direct result of Proposition 13, a regulation that was approved back in 1978. Basically, it imposes two limitations on property taxes at the state level: 1) Levies cannot exceed 1% of a home’s market value, and 2) Increases in assessed value are limited to 2% per year.

So, the average effective property tax for Los Angeles County sits at 0.72% of the market value, which is lower than the national average of 1.07%. Moreover, LA city dwellers are subject to additional district and special local levies, depending on the area of residence.

 

Transportation

Transportation in Los Angeles

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Los Angelenos typically take advantage of the area’s extensive road and freeway system and use their personal cars to get from A to B. Nonetheless, public transportation is extremely complex in LA and offers a multitude of options — from light rail and subway lines to numerous bus networks. Furthermore, because the city has such a large population and continues to attract so many people from all over the world, traffic congestion is common here. In particular, the average commute time in Los Angeles is 31 minutes.

What is the Cost of Owning a Car in Los Angeles?

If you plan on cruising the streets of LA in your own car, a Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90kW Trendline goes for $23K here, while a Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort sells for a little more than $23K.

When it comes to fuel, prices are higher in Los Angeles than elsewhere in the country, so expect to pay about $6 for a gallon of gasoline. Parking, on the other hand, can be cheaper, as there are free parking spots available around the city. Even so, in some areas, parking fees can be as high as $46 per hour.

How Much Does Public Transportation Cost in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles has the second-largest public transportation network in the country. As such, if you don’t have your own car to get around the city — or if you just prefer to take advantage of the large fleet of buses and trains available — a one-way ticket costs about $2, while a full monthly pass is $50.

What’s more, if you ever need to take a cab, the car starts at about $3 and one mile is priced at $4. An hour of waiting equates to about $30.

 

Healthcare & Childcare

Healthcare and Childcare in Los Angeles

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Taking care of yourself and your family remains important no matter where you decide to plant roots. California is already known for having a costly healthcare system. In fact, in a recent poll, 82% of its residents stated it is “extremely” and “very” important for healthcare to become more affordable.

And, as you can imagine, childcare doesn’t come cheap either, with Californians spending almost 25% of their family income on infant care for one child. Numbers go up even more for households with two kids, reaching 42% of total earnings.

How Much Is a Visit to the Doctor’s in Los Angeles?

A doctor’s visit in LA can set you back by as much as $130, and the same goes for going to an optometrist. However, a visit to the dentist is slightly cheaper at $110. In terms of medication, a box of antibiotics is priced at around $20 and a week’s worth of cold medicine costs $10.

Monthly health insurance costs for an Angeleno are currently around $70 after subsidies.

How Much Does Childcare Cost in Los Angeles?

Childcare center costs for an infant are as high as $17,000 annually. For preschoolers, they decrease to $12,000. However, you can spend less if you opt for home-based daycare, at $10,500 and $10,000, respectively.

Looking ahead, the fee to have your child attend courses at an international school can hover around $23,000 per year.

 

Food

Food in Los Angeles

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Los Angeles is not only a mecca for entertainment, but also one of the ultimate places for food lovers. In fact, it was actually voted fifth-best foodie city in the country. From fine art cuisine to trendy food trucks, LA has it all. So, when going out to eat here, expect some amazing experiences showcasing unique dishes and a fusion of cultures.

However, if you love cooking and want to keep your spending down, there are many supermarkets to choose from. Trader Joe’s, Ralph’s and Galleria Market are just a few of the many major grocery chains in the area that offer a wide variety of food at more reasonable prices.

How Much Does It Cost to Dine Out in Los Angeles?

A meal for one in an inexpensive restaurant costs around $20, while a three-course meal for two people in a mid-range restaurant can be around $90. However, expect to shell out much more for fancier cuisine.

If that’s not your style and you prefer more accessible options, a meal at McDonald’s costs $9. When it comes to beverages, a regular cappuccino is around $5, while a small bottle of Coke or Pepsi costs $3. Plain water is $2 per small bottle.

How Much Does Food Cost in Los Angeles, at the Grocery Store?

Naturally, prices go down at the grocery store. As far as main foods go, a loaf of bread sells for $3, and a gallon of milk is $4. A carton of a dozen eggs costs $3, so does a pound of white rice, and local cheese is $6 per pound. In terms of meat, a pound of chicken or beef is between $2 and $12.

Typical fruits (apples, bananas and oranges) and vegetables (potatoes, onions, tomatoes and lettuce) are all in the $1 to $2 per pound range, on average. You can also expect to pay $2 for 1.50 liters of water.

 

Shopping

Shopping in Los Angeles

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Because shopping is considered a serious sport in Los Angeles, there are endless options to define your style here. From huge retail destinations like the Grove and the Commons of Calabasas (where you can even see some familiar Hollywood faces) to neighborhood boutiques with the best bargains, LA offers some of the richest shopping experiences.

How Much Does Clothing Cost in Los Angeles?

A pair of men’s leather business shoes goes for about $150, while a pair of sport shoes hovers around $110. A summer dress and a pair of jeans are both $50, on average.

How Much Do Personal Care Products Cost in Los Angeles?

Roll-on deodorants typically go for $6, while shampoo bottles are priced at $8 and toothpaste sells for $2. When it comes to personal grooming, a standard men’s standard haircut costs around $40.
 

Leisure

Leisure in Los Angeles

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It’s hard not to find tons of leisure activities when looking for things to do in LA. After all, the city has been dubbed one of the entertainment capitals of the world. From taking studio tours and having fun at concerts to walking around museums or having a nice day at the beach or in the park, you’ll be hard-pressed not to enjoy yourself in Los Angeles.

How Much Does Entertainment Cost in Los Angeles?

With all of the options available, going out to a movie may be one of the first things that pops to mind in the city with the Hollywood sign. On this note, two tickets at the cinema cost $30. If you prefer shows, however, going to the theatre is much more expensive — you’ll have to shell out $80 for two good seats.

How Much Is a Fitness Gym Membership in Los Angeles?

For sports aficionados who enjoy a good workout, the average monthly fee at a fitness club hovers around $40 in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, if activities like tennis are more your thing, renting a court on the weekend goes for about $10 an hour.

 

Methodology:

The information on this page was compiled using data from the following sources:

  • California Association of Realtors for homes prices
  • RENTCafé for rent stats
  • Point2 Los Angeles Demographics page for housing costs and household incomes
  • Numbeo and Expatistan for utility costs; transportation costs; healthcare and childcare spending; food, shopping and leisure costs; home prices; mortgage interest rates; and wages
  • Kidsdata.org for childcare costs
  • NerdWallet for healthcare costs
  • Parkopedia for parking costs
  • SmartAsset for tax information
  • MIT Living Wage Calculator for wage ranges — Glasmeier, Amy K. Living Wage Calculator. 2020. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. livingwage.mit.edu

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