15 Most Expensive States in America to Live In

How much money you have to make to live comfortably differs greatly from sea to shining sea.
Last updated Oct. 15, 2022 | By Kate Puentes | Edited By Ellen Cannon
future buyers considering house variants and options on laptop screen

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With prices higher than they’ve been in years, thanks to inflation, it seems like everyone is looking for ways to save money. This includes everything from how to reduce the cost of gas to ways you can save at the grocery store. But what you’re paying in the first place is highly dependent on where you live. What is it, then, that makes some states so much more expensive than others?

From having a pleasant climate to transportation factors, these are the states that will cost you the most to live your life.

New Hampshire

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Portsmouth New Hampshire

At the bottom of the list is New Hampshire, landing at No. 15 with a cost-of-living index of 113.2. This makes it the most affordable state in New England, as the entire region made this list. In a deviation from nearly every other state mentioned, it’s health care that’s driving costs in New Hampshire, as it’s more expensive here than in every other state but one.

Rhode Island

mandritoiu/Adobe Providence skyline and Rhode Island capitol building at dusk

Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the country, but it’s not the cheapest. It comes in at No. 14 with an index of 113.8. One culprit is the cost of housing, which is about 20% higher than the national average. You’ll also pay more for utilities here. Fortunately, salaries skew higher in Rhode Island, helping to offset the cost of living.

Washington

SvetlanaSF/Adobe Seattle downtown skyline sunset from Dr Jose Rizal

With its mild climate, it’s no surprise to see Washington in the No. 13 spot, with an index of 113.9 — just a hair above Rhode Island. Housing is the primary driver of the cost of living here, with health care having a significant impact as well. It’s notable that the western part of the state is the most expensive due to Seattle’s influence.

Connecticut

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Hartford Connecticut

If you’re located near New York City, things are probably going to be a bit more expensive. That’s part of the reason Connecticut snagged spot 12, with an index of 116.7. Again, housing is a big reason for the rating, though utilities are higher here than in most other states. Experts also point out that Connecticut residents vote for premium services on every level.

Vermont

vermontalm/Adobe Burlington Community Boathouse on Lake Champlain waterfront

Also sharing a border with New York State is Vermont, in the 11th spot on our list with an index of 116.7, tied with Connecticut. Not surprisingly, housing costs here are on the higher side — only 15% of residents can afford to purchase a home here — as are utilities and transportation. Unlike other states on this list, wages are on the lower side in Vermont, which is a factor.

Maine

leekris/Adobe Mount Battie overlooking Camden harbor

Coming in at No. 10 on our list is Maine, with an index of 116.9, just a smidge higher than Connecticut and Vermont. Housing is the main driver for this rating, though transportation costs here are on the higher side as well. Interestingly enough, Maine ranks No. 7 on the list of states most dependent on the federal government for revenue, more than 43% of the overall total revenue the state collects.

New Jersey

Roman Babakin/Adobe Staten Island with St George Ferry terminal

Yet another neighbor of New York state to appear in the rankings is New Jersey, in the No. 9 spot with an index of 118.6. Again, being near the Big Apple means higher living costs. The cost of housing is responsible for the top-10 rating once again, more so here than in any of the other locations covered thus far. Population density also contributes to the squeeze.

Oregon

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Portland Oregon USA downtown

Back in the Pacific Northwest with its mild climate, Oregon lands in the No. 8 position with an index of 120.6. Housing here is more expensive than in New Jersey, as we continue the escalation of this expense toward the top spots on the list. Transportation costs are also higher in Oregon than any other state, including California, due to taxes on gasoline.

Maryland

Kevin Ruck/Adobe City skyline Maryland

While health care costs are super cheap in Maryland, it still grabbed the No. 7 spot on our list with an index of 125.1. And while that advantage could help you manage your budget if you live in an expensive state, housing costs may negate those efforts; only five states have higher price tags on real estate. Fortunately, wages are high and poverty is low in Maryland.

Alaska

Rocky Grimes/Adobe Anchorage Alaska Skyline

Simply put, everything in Alaska is expensive, the No. 6 entry with an index of 126.7. While housing is lower here than nearly everywhere on this list, other costs are super high: health care and utilities are the highest in the country, and groceries are second. Alaska is also the fifth-most dependent state on the federal government for aid, over half of its total income.

New York

f11photo/Adobe Statue of Liberty and New York city skyline at sunset

Not surprisingly, New York state comes in at No. 5 on our list with an index of 136.8. The big factor in this equation is housing, which is the fifth most costly in the country. However, the New York City area is responsible for this more so than the rest of the state, which is fairly affordable by comparison. Homeownership is also lower in New York than it is in any other state.

California

Luciano/Adobe Laguna Beach aerial view

California lands in the No. 4 spot on our list with an index of 139.8. Like New York, housing is prohibitively expensive here, just a smidge more than in the Empire State. However, transportation will also cost you in California, second only to Oregon for the same reason; groceries and utilities aren’t cheap, either. Overall, prices tend to be the highest in coastal urban areas.

Massachusetts

thomas/Adobe Massachusetts-Rockport harbor

In the No. 3 position is Massachusetts — the most expensive state in New England to live in — with an index of 147.9. Like California, housing prices are exorbitant in Massachusetts, accompanied by higher-than-average costs for pretty much everything else. On the upside, poverty is remarkably low in Massachusetts, with less than 10% of people under the line.

Washington, D.C.

Brandon/Adobe Washington DC

Washington, D.C., isn’t a state — it’s a district — but it has the dubious distinction of being the second-most expensive place to live on our list, with an index of 154.5. The reason? Housing, housing, housing. Land here costs $1.2 million per acre on average — that’s two times more than in Boston, which is already super high. Other costs are not especially remarkable.

Hawaii

tomas del amo/Adobe Hawaii

Life in paradise comes at a high price, as Hawaii is by far the most expensive state to live on our list, with an index of 189.9. Nowhere is housing more expensive, which is through the roof in Hawaii at twice the national average. Groceries are also 50% more expensive, and utilities and transportation are similar to Alaska’s numbers. Remarkably, poverty is low here.

Bottom Line

LStockStudio/Adobe family moving new home

If you live in a super-expensive place, you may be looking for ways to supplement Social Security, especially if you’re thinking about retirement. That can be especially helpful if you call one of these states home, as every penny counts there. However, there’s a reason why we live where we live, even if it costs us a lot more than we’d like it to. You can’t put a price tag on feeling perfectly at home, after all.

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Author Details

Kate Puentes Kate Puentes is a writer and editor residing in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. She is the senior lead editor of a home and garden website.