Cost of Living in Seattle, WA

by Cristina Oprean
Seattle skyline

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Seattle has so much to offer! Located between Lake Washington and Puget Sound, it’s surrounded by stunning natural scenery that takes in sprawling forests and mountain ranges. Within the city, you’ll find a booming economy, a bustling nightlife and a laid-back vibe.

Not only is Seattle the largest city in Washington state, but it’s also the biggest one in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. However, it’s also among the priciest places in the nation, with rents and house prices here typically around twice as expensive as the state average. Nevertheless, Seattle is regularly listed among the fastest-growing major American cities — due, in no small part, to the thriving tech industry and plentiful, high-paying job opportunities.

So, if you’re one of the many people considering a move to “The Emerald City,” it’s well worth crunching the numbers to see how feasible it really is. In this guide, we’ll cover everything regarding the cost of living in Seattle, from housing to shopping to healthcare and more.


 
 

Housing

Seattle neighborhood

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Washington state is among the states with the highest average house prices in the contry. Here, prices increased by 80.7% between 2009 and 2020, and the trendy neighborhoods in downtown Seattle are arguably a large contributor to these figures. Moreover, thanks to the tech boom in the area, it’s also currently one of the hottest housing markets in the U.S.

What Is the Average Home Price in Seattle?

The median price for a house in Washington state is $660,000. However, people looking to move to Seattle should expect a median sale price of around $890,000 and, for the most part, homes in Seattle sell more or less at their list price, providing a somewhat balanced market. While swings in either direction do occur from time to time, these are often short-lived.

In particular, condos are generally more affordable than single-family homes in Seattle, with a median price of around $510,000, while the latter list for just shy of $1,020,000. Granted, prices do differ depending on where you plan to live; inner-city neighborhoods, for instance, cost an average of just under $670 per square foot, while this figure drops to about $460 outside the city center.

The median value of homes financed with a mortgage is around $720,000, while homes purchased without a mortgage is $700,000. In Seattle, a 20-year, fixed-rate mortgage typically has an annual interest rate of about 3%. So, monthly housing costs can hover around $1,900, including homeowner association fees, mortgage payments and so on.

How Much Is Rent in Seattle?

On average, you can expect to pay around $2,190 per month to rent an apartment in Seattle, which will be about 700 square feet. Note that this is considerably higher than the national average of approximately $1,630. While it is also possible to find monthly rent for as little as $700, such units are few and far between.

In general, 48% of rental units cost between $700 and $2,000 per month, while 52% are priced at more than $2,000. Specifically, the average rent for a Seattle studio apartment is between $750 and $17,700 per month. In contrast, you’d pay between $1,000 and $12,490 for a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle, $1,070-$15,200 for a two-bed apartment in Seattle and $1,180-$22,000 for a three-bed apartment.

However, location plays a major role in calculating how much you can expect to pay on rent each month. For example, some of the most affordable neighborhoods in Seattle are:

  • Innis Arden ($1,500/month on average)
  • Richmond Beach ($1,500/month on average)
  • The Highlands ($1,500/month on average)

If you’re looking for something pricier, these are the most expensive neighborhoods in Seattle:

  • Central Waterfront ($2,560/month on average)
  • Belltown ($2,690/month on average)
  • Pike Market ($2,690/month on average)

Notably, the most popular neighborhoods aren’t necessarily the most affordable. They include:

  • Belltown ($2,690/month on average)
  • South Lake Union ($2,470/month on average)
  • Broadway ($2,050/month on average)

What Is the Cost of Utilities in Seattle?

The average monthly cost of utilities in Seattle is fairly reasonable, at around $110 for one person in a 480-square-foot apartment. For a larger, 915-square-foot apartment, it gets to about $150 per month. Both prices include all basic utilities, such as electricity, heating, cooling, water and garbage collection.

Additionally, an internet connection costs $70 per month on average, and a basic prepaid local mobile tariff will cost $0.13 per minute.

Incomes & Taxes

Seattle pier

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If house and rental prices seem high in Seattle, it’s worth remembering that they’re balanced by generous wages. The city has many high-paying job opportunities, with a host of Fortune 500 companies — such as Amazon, Starbucks and Costco — calling Seattle home. I.T. and tech companies are among the top employers, offering annual wages that are considerably higher than national averages.

How Much Is the Average Salary in Seattle?

A typical Seattleite earns a monthly net salary of $7,400 after tax — way above the U.S. average of $3,600. In addition, the median household income in Seattle is $97,200, higher than the state median of $64,900. The average household income sits at $134,400.

The most common jobs held by residents of Seattle are in management occupations. Around 13% of the workforce is employed in such roles, and the typical annual salary for a management role is $101,000. Other common jobs include computer and mathematical occupations, employing just over 12% of the workforce and paying $126,000 per year, on average. Likewise, the average annual wage is $84,800 for those in business and financial operations, where about 8% of the workforce is employed.

What Is the Income Tax in Seattle?

Because there is no income tax in Washington state, residents of Seattle avoid the tax altogether. While the idea of introducing income tax has been proposed several times in the past, so far, no motions have been passed. However, the city is far from a tax haven, as you’ll see in the next section.

What Is the Sales Tax in Seattle?

While Seattleites may avoid income tax, they are subject to some of the highest sales taxes in the U.S. — the sales tax in Washington state is 6.5%, plus a city and county rate of 3.75% for King County and Seattle add up to a total sales tax of 10.25%. This tax is levied on most goods and services sold in the city, as well as digital purchases, including music and videos. However, there are some exceptions, including unprepared food and ingredients, newspapers and medicine. When purchasing a vehicle, expect to pay an additional 0.3% tax on top of the sales tax.

How Much Is Property Tax in Seattle?

When budgeting for a new home, it’s essential to consider the cost of local property taxes. For instance, King County (and, subsequently, Seattle) has a sales tax of 0.93% of the assessed home value. Therefore, with a median home value of $493,500 in King County, the median annual property tax payment for Seattle is $4,611. This equates to around $9.34 of property taxes per $1,000 in assessed value, making it the highest median annual property tax payment in the state. What’s more, an additional statewide tax — known as the real estate excise tax (REET) — is also applied to real estate sales. The REET ranges between 0.75% and 2.50% of the sale price and is paid by the seller, who may factor it into the listing price.

Transportation

Seattle roads

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Seattle offers a comprehensive public transportation network and, as a result, has seen a massive drop in residents traveling by private vehicle. Moreover, with fewer than 45% of commuters driving to work alone, people are increasingly moving toward mass transit, cycling and even walking to work. It also helps that Seattle is ranked among the most walkable major cities in the U.S. by Walk Score.

What Is the Cost of Owning a Car in Seattle?

If you own a car, expect to pay around $4.80 for a gallon of gas in Seattle. And, if you’re in the market to buy one, a new Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 K.W. Trendline will cost around $25,000 on average, whereas a Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort is slightly more expensive at $25,700.

When it comes to parking, you’ll find plenty of affordable options on the streets of Seattle, with fares typically starting at $0.50 per hour. There are also several garages in the city — although prices are a little higher and, therefore, you can expect to pay between $2 and $12 per hour. More expensive facilities may charge as much as $50 per hour.

How Much Does Public Transportation Cost in Seattle?

Seattle’s extensive public transportation network is operated by King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit. Between them, they provide a number of bus, light rail and electric streetcar services in and around the city. In general, a one-way fare costs $2.75, while regular users of public transport can purchase a monthly pass for around $90. A typical taxi in Seattle starts at $3.25, plus $1.77 per mile.

Healthcare & Childcare

Seattle family

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While healthcare costs in Seattle are more or less in line with national averages, visiting a healthcare professional is priced just marginally higher. However, the city is home to several top-rated healthcare establishments, many of which are centered on First Hill (nicknamed “Pill Hill” by locals). Seattle also has a long history of pioneering medical research and developing modern paramedic services.

Conversely, childcare is notoriously pricey in Seattle. Specifically, annual fees for an infant in a daycare center typically cost more than enrollment at Washington State University. This high price is due to a limited number of facilities and ever-increasing demand. The state is also among the least-affordable for childcare — here, parents spend 14% of their income, on average, to have their children taken care of. Plus, Seattle residents typically pay more than the state average, so parents’ finances can be quite affected.

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

On average, a 15-minute visit to a private doctor costs around $140. Meanwhile, a typical visit to the dentist will be just under $150, and it will cost around $160 to see an optometrist. In terms of medicine, a box of antibiotics averages at $26 for 12 doses, while six days’ worth of cold medicine (such as Coldrex or Tylenol) will be about $7.

What Is the Average Cost of Childcare in Seattle?

The average monthly fee for a private preschool or kindergarten in Seattle is just under $1,700. This is based on a full daycare for one child, although prices generally hover between $1,300 and $2,400, depending on location and facilities. And, while fees do drop as children get older, you can still expect to pay between $16,000 and $35,000 per year for enrollment in an international primary school in Seattle.

Food

Seattle food

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Seattle has a fantastic food scene with a wide array of restaurants, food trucks and food stands offering dishes and flavors from across the globe. The city also has a lot of its own specialties, including Seattle dogs and stunning seafood, such as geoduck. Meanwhile, for home cooks and meals in, you’ll find all the usual grocery stores here, such as Trader Joe’s, as well as several artisan bakeries, delis and farmers markets.

And, of course, we can’t talk about Seattle’s cuisine without mentioning coffee. Home to the original Starbucks, Seattle is also famous for its bustling café culture. Independent coffee shops can also be found across the city.

How Much Does It Cost to Dine Out in Seattle?

Eating out in Seattle isn’t as cheap as it is in other parts of the U.S., but it’s well worth the extra cost. On average, you can expect to pay around $80 for a three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant in Seattle. Meanwhile, a standard lunch menu will typically cost about $19 per person, including a drink. Alternatively, you can usually grab a combo meal at a fast-food joint for around $10. When eating out, you can expect to pay just under $2 for a 12-ounce bottle of water, or around $2.60 for a bottle of Coke or Pepsi. And, if you need a little fuel in the morning, a regular cup of coffee in one of Seattle’s iconic coffee shops will cost around $5.10.

What Is the Average Cost of Food in Seattle, at the Grocery Store?

Grocery prices are pretty affordable in Seattle, and you’ll find plenty of fresh produce — from fruit and veggies to fish and meat. Specifically, a one-pound loaf of fresh white bread typically costs $3.80, 12 eggs are about $3.50, a pound of chicken fillets is just under $8 and a gallon of milk will generally cost around $4. Additionally, a pound of common fruit and vegetables — such as onions, potatoes, apples, bananas or tomatoes — will typically cost between $1.50 and $4. Finally, a 1.5-liter bottle of water costs around $2 on average.

Shopping

Seattle shopping

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Seattle offers a veritable treasure trove of shopping experiences for visitors and residents alike. Numerous shopping districts can be found throughout the city, each offering something a little different. From locally made arts and crafts at the famous Pike Market and Waterfront district to the latest trends in the Ballard neighborhood, there’s something for everyone.

How Much Does Clothing Cost in Seattle?

When you need to update your wardrobe, expect to pay around $50 for a new pair of jeans. A new summer dress from a typical chain store costs approximately $40, while a pair of running shoes will average out at just under $90 and a pair of men’s leather business shoes will set you back around $120.

How Much Do Personal Care Products Cost in Seattle?

Keeping yourself groomed is relatively affordable in Seattle, with a roll-on deodorant costing just under $5 and a 12-ounce bottle of shampoo around $6. You’ll generally pay $5 for four rolls of toilet paper, while a tube of toothpaste costs about $2. A standard men’s haircut goes for $30.

Leisure

Seattle waterfront

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Seattle boasts a thriving local arts scene, diverse culture and a wealth of sights to take in. Costs vary depending on what you want to do, with a vast array of free activities to enjoy — such as picnicking in one of the many city parks, hiking local trails or simply losing yourself in Pike Market.

How Much Does Entertainment Cost in Seattle?

Whether you want to catch a classic like “Sleepless in Seattle” or take in the latest blockbuster, there are many cinemas and movie theaters in the city. Expect to pay around $30 for two tickets to the movies, plus extra for popcorn and drinks. Or, at one of the many theaters or opera houses, two tickets will cost around $220 for the best seats in the house.

Alternatively, if you want to ascend to the dizzying heights of the iconic Seattle Space Needle, general admission runs $35 per person. And, while museum tickets can vary greatly, general admission typically hovers around $20 to $30 per person. For example, the famous Museum of Flight costs $25 to enter, whereas the Museum of History and Industry has an entry fee of $22.

How Much Is a Fitness Gym Membership in Seattle?

Keeping fit is increasingly important, and there are plenty of opportunities to do so in Seattle. Gym memberships typically cost $65 per month in Seattle, with fitness centers dotted throughout the city.

However, you can also stay fit for free by enjoying the many miles of hiking and cycling trails within the city limits and beyond. In particular, the Discovery Park Loop Trail is a popular choice, offering superb views and stretching almost three miles. It connects to numerous other trails, many of which take you down to the beach.

Methodology

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