Cost Of Living In Palo Alto (Taxes, Housing & More)

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante

California is home to a whopping 482 cities, and they are mostly notably expensive. One of the most expensive corners of California is the famed Silicon Valley, and Palo Alto stands out in the pack. Palo Alto holds 65,364 residents, and they pay high housing costs for the luxury of living in a beautiful and cultured city.

The median home value in Palo Alto is $2 million, and the average homeowner spends $4,000 in monthly ownership costs. Currently, 55.1% of Palo Alto residents own their homes, and the rest spend $2,471 on rent every month. Groceries are 48% more expensive in Palo Alto than the national average, and families spend $1,282 per month, on average.

Living in Palo Alto is more expensive than many other cities in California. However, the high cost of living affords you one of the most unique cities on the west coast. Let’s take a look at how much it costs to live in Palo Alto, California.

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Palo Alto Housing Prices

Palo Alto is in the top five most expensive cities in America, and that starts right with housing prices. The median home value in Palo Alto is $2 million or more, and just over 55% of residents are homeowners. Affordable housing is somewhat hard to find in Palo Alto as a homeowner, and monthly ownership costs are quite high.

The average homeowner in Palo Alto spends over $4,000 per month in ownership costs between bills and mortgage payments. Even before paying your mortgage, you’ll spend $862 per month, on average, on bills, repairs, and maintenance. Generally, total monthly ownership costs are almost double the average cost of rent in Palo Alto, California.

LocationMedian Home ValueHomeownership Rate
Palo Alto CA$2,000,00055.1%
Los Angeles CA$599,70036.8%
San Francisco CA$1,009,50037.6%
Stockton CA$248,00047.5%
United States$204,90063.8%

Building homes is an option in Palo Alto as well, and you can expect to pay $400 per square foot. You can build for $300 per square foot, but customization can bring the cost to $500 per square foot. Custom build homes cost Pal Alto builder-owners between $2 million and $3.5 million in construction costs and permits.

Property Tax Rate Palo Alto

Palo Alto is in Santa Clara County, and the city has one of their lowest tax rates at 0.47%. Due to high home values, the average Palo Alto homeowner spends $9,422 per year on property taxes. The highest property tax rate in the county is Alum Rock, where residents spend a 0.92% property tax rate.

Santa Clara County CitiesProperty Tax RateAverage Property Tax Payment
Palo Alto0.47%$9,422
Los Altos Hills0.50%$10,000
San Martin0.73%$6,133
Santa Clara0.66%$5,468
Alum Rock0.92%$4,707
Mountain View0.87%$1,580

Even cities with high property tax rates in Santa Clara County have lower average payments than Palo Alto. The reason for that is that home values are much higher in Palo Alto than even Alum Rock. Despite higher property tax rates in Alum Rock, property tax payments are rarely higher than in Palo Alto.

Cost of Rent In Palo Alto CA

Renting in Palo Alto is an affordable option to owning a home. With that said, renting is expensive in Palo Alto and costs more than other major California cities. The median gross rent in Palo Alto is $2,471 per month, and that’s before the cost of utilities.

You can still save money by renting over buying as rent costs are often lower than Palo Alto ownership costs. Even still, average rent costs are generally $1,000 more than the national average, or more, in Palo Alto. The average cost of rent in California is $1,429, and Palo Alto is one of the more expensive cities.

California CitiesMedian Gross Rent
Palo Alto$2,471 Per Month
Los Angeles$1,376 Per Month
San Francisco$1,805 Per Month
Stockton$1,059 Per Month
Modesto$1,122 Per Month

Each city in California has distinct rent costs, and the same can be said for neighborhoods within those cities. If you want to save, avoid neighborhoods in Palo Alto such as College Terrace where the rent averages $3,867 per month. Not all neighborhoods in Palo Alto have exorbitant rent, and places like Triple El offer many affordable options.

Palo Alto NeighborhoodsMedian Gross Rent
Triple El$2,838 Per Month
Barron Park$3,870 Per Month
Embarcadero Oaks$2,835 Per Month
Greater Miranda$3,485 Per Month
Professorville$3,685 Per Month

Palo Alto Utilities Cost

Utilities are expensive in Palo Alto, and they are generally 8% more expensive than the national average. Basic utilities cost $162 per month, on average, and that’s before the cost of cable and internet bills. Internet plans cost an average of $64 per month, but they can cost as little as $19.99 per month with some providers.

Garbage collection is another cost that Palo Alto residents have to take into consideration each month. Standard 20 gallon trash and recycling barrels cost an average of $27 per month for weekly pickup. Businesses and large residents may need to spend between $50 and $150 per month for 32 and 96-gallon barrels, respectively.

Palo Alto experiences beautiful weather year-round, and homeowners often pay for monthly lawn treatment and mowing. You can find lawn mowing services starting at $20 per month in Palo Alto, and full treatments cost $35. All in all, monthly costs are much higher as far as utilities go for renters as opposed to homeowners.

Palo Alto Tax Rates

California is one of the highest tax states, and it has the highest income tax rate in the United States. Income tax can cost up to 13.3% in California, and Palo Alto residents pay a maximum 9.3% income tax rate. Compared to the 4.3% American average income tax rate, residents pay a small fortune on taxes in Palo Alto.

Luckily, your typical household earns more than double the national average in Palo Alto. The median household income in Palo Alto is $126,771, and that’s necessary for the high cost of living. However, if you earn less than $57,824 each year, you won’t have to pay any more than 8% on income tax.

Income taxes are not the only tax rates you’ll be subject to as a resident of Palo Alto, California. Let’s take a look at all of the tax rates that Palo Alto residents pay throughout the year.

Sales Tax Rate Palo Alto

The most significant tax rate all Palo Alto residents have to pay is the sales tax rate. You will pay a 9% sales tax rate on purchases in Palo Alto, and that applies to most purchases. Purchases such as gasoline and tobacco have their own tax rates, at $0.47 per gallon and 59.27%, respectively.

The combination of the high cost of gasoline and nearly 50 cents per gallon gasoline tax makes paying driving expensive. County tax rates only apply 0.25% in Santa Clara County, and that goes with the 6% sales tax rate. The rest of the sales tax rate in Palo Alto comes from the 2.75% special rate bringing it up to 9%.

Palo Alto Tax RatesAverage Rate & Cost
Property Tax0.47%
Income Tax9.3%
Sales Tax Rate9%
Gasoline Tax$0.47 Per Gallon
Tobacco Tax59.27% (Excise Tax)
Liquor Tax$3.30 Per Gallon

Cost of Food Palo Alto

Dining out often is tempting in Palo Alto due to the great options for restaurants and California cooking. With that said, you can save hundreds each month if you choose to buy groceries instead of eating at restaurants. Low to mid-ranged restaurants cost between $12-$16 per person, and fancy meals cost up to $85 for two.

Groceries cost 48% more in Palo Alto than the American average, and that makes for big bills at the store. Basic essential groceries such as milk cost up to $3.80 per gallon, and the national average is $2.27. Produce such as apples and potatoes cost $2.40 and $1.40 per pound, respectively, in Palo Alto, CA.

Palo Alto FoodAverage Cost
Single Restaurant Meal$12-$16
High-End Restaurant Dinner For Two$75-$85
Gallon of Milk$3.80
Pound of Apples$2.40
Pound of Potatoes$1.40-$1.50
Chicken$4.65 Per Pound
Beef$7.45 Per Pound

You can spend up to $1,282 per month on food in Palo Alto, especially if you are not a single resident. To avoid such high costs, you can stick to groceries, but even then you will spend close to $1,000 per month. Budget yourself up to $15,384 per year, or more, if you are buying food for a family in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto Education Cost

Education is expensive in California, and Palo Alto stays true to that fact. Private tuition averages $14,703 per year in California, and elementary school alone costs $24,865 per year in Palo Alto. Luckily, there are currently 12 primary schools to choose from to send your kids to in Palo Alto, California.

Palo Alto EducationAverage Tuition Cost
California Average Private Tuition$14,703 Per Year
Private Elementary School$24,865 Per Year
Stanford University$53,529 Per Year
Foothill College$1,563 (Residents) $9,528 (Non-Residents)
Canada College$1,362 (Residents) $9,006 (Non-Residents)
Menlo College$44,305 Per Year

There may not be any colleges located within Palo Alto, but many neighboring cities have great options available. Palo Alto is near Stanford, Redwood City, Atherton, and Los Altos Hills which all have prestigious colleges. For example, Menlo College costs $44,305 per year and is only an 11-minute drive away from Palo Alto.

Palo Alto is a short drive away from Stanford, California, where the famous Stanford University is located. Tuition costs $53,529 per year across the board at Stanford University before scholarships are applied. Probably the most affordable option is the nearby Foothill College where state residents only spend $1,563 per year in tuition.

Palo Alto Transportation Cost

Both Palo Alto and the neighboring Stanford, California have access to public transportation. Public transit is not as widespread as in San Francisco or Los Angeles, but it’s a great option. The most convenient and effective method of public transit in Palo Alto is the Caltrain system.

Caltrain costs are split up into zones and stops, and discounted tickets are available. You can buy Clipper Cards that save you $0.55 per pass, and that adds up. Monthly passes provide a great value and cost between $96 and $433 per passenger.

Palo Alto Public TransportationAverage Cost
Caltrain One Way 1 Zone$3.20-$3.75
Caltrain One Way 3 Zones$7.70-$8.25
Caltrain One Way 6 Zones$14.45-$15.00
Caltrain Monthly Pass$96-$433
Single Ride Bus Pass$2.50
Bus Day Pass$7.50
Bus Yearly Pass$960

Taking the bus is also an option in Palo Alto and all of Santa Clara County, but it is an expensive one. You could spend $960 for a full year of bus passes, and that will save you. Otherwise, you can pay $2.50 for single rides, or $7.50 for day-long passes in Palo Alto.

Driving Costs In Palo Alto

Driving in Palo Alto is expensive due to the high cost of gasoline and car insurance premiums. Right now, gasoline costs up to $3.50 per gallon, and congested traffic in Palo Alto eats up gas. Your current cheapest option for gasoline is $2.89 per gallon, but gas prices change week to week.

If you drive daily in Palo Alto, you may spend between $1,895 and $2,296 each year on gasoline. Using 656 gallons of gasoline, the national average, is realistic in Palo Alto due to the amount of driving you’ll do. Palo Alto is not much of a public transportation city, and so driving may be a necessary and worthy expense.

Car insurance premiums average $1,891 per year in Palo Alto, but many factors determine your rate. Carriers such as Everest International have rates as low as $1,076 per year, and Allstate costs $4,643 per year. Right now, the most expensive full car insurance coverage in Palo Alto is Coast National at $8,639 each year.

Cost of Entertainment In Palo Alto

Luckily, you can have a fun day in Palo Alto and spend no money at all, and there are 162 acres of parks. El Palo Alto Park and Mitchell Park provide gorgeous sights and a chance to soak up the sun. If you head to the Edith Johnson Park, you can enjoy small beaches, ponds, and lush grasslands in Downtown Palo Alto.

Palo Alto EntertainmentAverage Cost
Palo Alto Walking Tour$46 Per Person
IMAG History and Science Center$12 (Students) $14 (Seniors) $15 (Adults)
Junior Museum & ZooFree ($5 Donation Requested)
Stanford Movie Theater$7 (Adults) $5 (Seniors & Children)

You may have to venture to the nearby town of Stanford for some of your entertainment as a Palo Alto resident. The Stanford Movie Theater is affordable, and adult tickets only cost $7, while kids and seniors get in for $5. Some of the entertainment in Stanford is free, and that includes the Arizona Garden and Heritage Park.

The Junior Museum & Zoo is free to attend, but they request a $5 donation if possible, and it is currently expanding. Educational fun is abundant, and the IMAG History and Science Center in Palo Alto costs between $12 and $15. A guided walking tour through Palo Alto’s significant sights costs $46 per person and is an unforgettable experience.

Related Questions

Is it expensive to live in Palo Alto?

Yes, it is expensive to live in Palo Alto, and grocery, housing, and utility costs are above the national average. Housing costs are currently 26% higher in Palo Alto than most of the rest of the United States. Groceries are almost 50% more expensive than the national average in America, and utilities are almost 10% higher.

Is Palo Alto safe?

Palo Alto is a safe place to live, but it is still more dangerous than many American cities. You risk a 1 in 42 chance of experiencing a crime as a resident of Palo Alto, California. The safest neighborhoods in Palo Alto include Middlefield Road, El Camino Real, and West Charleston Road.

Is Palo Alto in Silicon Valley?

Yes, Palo Alto is a part of the affluent Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay area. Other cities such as Santa Clara, San Jose, Los Gatos, Cupertino, and Morgan Hill are a part of Silicon Valley. The area gets its name from the influx of big technology developers, and it’s one of the most expensive parts of California.

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Summing It Up

Housing, grocery, education, and utility costs are higher in Palo Alto than the rest of the country. The median home value is over $2 million, and 55.1% of the population owns their home. California’s median home value is $475,900, and it’s hard to find homes that cheap in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto homeowners spend an average of $4,000 more each month in ownership costs such as bills and mortgage payments. Compared to the state average of $2,282 per month, owning a home in Palo Alto costs a fortune each month. Luckily, renting is a cheaper option and averages $2,471 per month, and roughly 45% of residents rent over owning.

Despite the high cost of living, Palo Alto is an incredible, comfortable, and unique city to live in. Budgeting for the high cost of gas, utilities, insurance premiums, and groceries can help you beat the high cost of living. Making the move to Palo alto is worth it, and it is a one of a kind American city.

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Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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