What Is The Cost Of Living In Portland Vs. Seattle?

Ashley Sutphin
by Ashley Sutphin

Portland and Seattle are both two popular destinations for travelers and residents alike. They are similar in size, and both are home to major companies. These two cities also both have their own unique appeal. For example, there’s Mt. Rainier in Seattle and Mt. Hood in Portland. Both, compared to national averages are also expensive, but how do they stack up compared to one another?

The cost of living index in Portland is 130.8, meaning it’s about 30% more expensive to live in Portland than the national average, which is 100. Seattle has a cost of living index of 172.3, so it’s significantly more expensive than Portland and the national average.

Beyond median housing prices, how does the cost of living compare in Portland vs. Seattle?

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Housing Prices In Portland vs. Seattle

With a median home price in Portland being around $602,000, it’s significantly less expensive to buy a house here compared to Seattle. In Seattle, the median home price is around $800,000.

The Seattle real estate market is much more competitive than Portland’s, and it’s not uncommon for properties to get multiple offers. Some homes sell for as much as 3% above asking, and they’re often pending within five days of hitting the market.

In both Portland and Seattle, there are low inventories of homes. The average price per square foot for homes that sell in Portland is $283. The price per square foot in Seattle is around $511.

Comparing Home Prices In Portland vs. Seattle

CityMedian Home PricePrice Per Square Foot

Rent Prices In Portland vs. Seattle

The average rent for a 758 square foot apartment in Portland is $1,495 a month. Around 51% of households in Portland are owner-occupied, and 48% are renter-occupied.

The average rent for a 693 square foot apartment in Seattle is $1,928. Around 45% of households in Seattle are owner-occupied, and 54% are occupied by renters.

Comparing Rent In Other Cities

CityAverage Rent

Average Portland Rent By Neighborhood

NeighborhoodAverage Rent
The Pearl$1,792
Old Town Portland$1,791
Nob Hill-Northwest District$1,745
East Columbia-Heron Meadows$1,667

The most affordable neighborhood in Portland is Cully. The average rent in Cully is $864 a month. Other affordable Portland neighborhoods include Parkrose, with an average monthly rent of $1,030, and Parkrose Heights, with the same average rent.

The most expensive neighborhoods for renters in Portland are Nob Hill, Old Town Portland, and the Pearl.

Average Seattle Rent By Neighborhood

NeighborhoodAverage Rent
Pike Market$2,429
Central Waterfront$2,319
Seattle Central Business District$2,319
Lower Queen Anne$2,155

The most affordable neighborhood in Seattle is Innis Arden, with an average rent of $1,322 a month. Similarly priced are Richmond Beach and The Highlands. The most expensive neighborhoods for renters in Seattle are Central Waterfront, Belltown, and Pike Market.

Food Prices In Portland vs. Seattle

If you compare the food and grocery price indexes for Portland and Seattle, they are fairly similar, but Seattle is more expensive.

Portland’s food price index is 103.7, and Seattle’s is 108.7. Some outlets estimate the cost of food in Seattle is actually around 13% higher than in Portland.

Food ItemPortlandSeattle
Dozen eggs$2.12$1.94
Gallon of milk$1.93$1.99
12-inch pizza$13.00$12.00
McDonald’s quarter pounder$5.79$5.95
Pound of beef round$6.36$6.84
Meal (inexpensive restaurant)$18.00$17.00
Meal for two (mid-range restaurant)$60.00$80.00
Basic lunchtime meal$15.00$17.00

Taxes in Portland vs. Seattle

There are some key differences in the taxes in Oregon versus Washington state, highlighted below.

State Income Tax

Oregon has a progressive state income tax system. It has one of the highest maximum rates in the country, which is 9.90%.

If you live in the greater Portland metro area, you also have to pay a tax that funds the TriMet transportation system.

  • The Oregon income tax rate starts at 4.74%.
  • There are four state income tax brackets.

Oregon State Income Tax Brackets

Oregon Taxable IncomeRate

Washington on the other hand, doesn’t have a personal state income tax.

Sales Tax

There is currently no sales tax in Portland, and that’s why the income tax rates are relatively high. The Oregon state government is primarily funded by personal income and corporate excise taxes. Oregon is one of only five states in the country without a sales tax.

In Washington, while there isn’t an income tax, there is a sales tax of 7% to 10.50%, with the base state rate being 6.50%.

In King County, in addition to the state rate of 6.50%, there is a county rate of 3.50%, for a total sales tax of 10%.

Property Tax

Oregon’s property tax rates are generally similar to national averages. The average effect property rate in Oregon is 0.90%. The U.S. average is 1.07%.

In Multnomah County, where Portland is located, the average county tax rate is 1.040%. If you had a home with an assessed value of $250,000, you would pay $2,600 in property taxes annually.

In King County, where Seattle is located, the effective property tax rate is 0.93%. King County has the highest median annual property tax in the state, which is $4,611. If you had a home with an assessed value of $250,000 in King County, you would pay $2,325 annually in property taxes.

Taxes In Portland vs. Seattle

CityState Income TaxSales TaxProperty Tax

Transportation Costs In Portland vs. Seattle

Both Portland and Seattle are considered walkable cities, but Seattle more so. Both also offer extensive public transportation options.

For example, in Seattle, the easiest option for public transportation is the Metro bus system. There’s also a monorail that runs between downtown Seattle and SeaTac International Airport and from Westlake to Seattle Center.

Portland has the TriMet system, which uses buses and the MAX Light Rail, as well as streetcars. Most people don’t drive much in either city, because there’s a lot of congestion and traffic, and many of the streets are one-way.

Using The Transporation System

To use the Seattle Metro System, an adult pays $2.75 per ride. You can get an Access Pass for $63 per month, which gives access to King County Metro Buses and Water Taxis, as well as the Light Link Rail and Regional Express buses.

For the TriMet system in Portland, it’s $2.50 for adults to ride for 2 ½ hours. Currently, monthly passes aren’t available for the TriMet system.

Income In Portland vs. Seattle

The household income in Portland is around 23% less than in Seattle but is still 6% above the national average. The unemployment rate in Seattle is only 2.90%, while Portland’s unemployment rate is 3.60%.

The average salary in Portland is $69,000, with some of the most popular and high-paying occupations, including software engineer, operations manager, and project manager. Top employers in Portland include Nike, Intel, and Daimler Trucks North America.

In Seattle, the average salary is $81,000, with many people working in software. Top employers in Seattle include Amazon, the Microsoft Corporation, the University of Washington, and Boeing.

Entertainment Costs In Portland vs. Seattle

ActivityPrice in PortlandPrice in Seattle
Monthly fitness club membership$36$63
Movie ticket$12$13.50
Hourly rate for cleaning help$20$28
Visit to a doctor$164$130
Standard men’s haircut$26$28
Two theater tickets (best seats)$190$207
Cocktail drink in a club$11$14

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Portland vs. Seattle: Which Is More Expensive?

In almost every area, Seattle is a more expensive city than Portland from housing to entertainment expenses. Seattle does also have a higher average salary, however, and is home to a lot of major international companies, including Amazon.

If you currently lived in Portland, with a pre-tax household income of $50,000 and you wanted to move to Seattle, you would need to earn at least $58,175 to maintain a similar lifestyle.

Overall, both Portland and Seattle, however, are expensive cities compared to national averages across all measures.

Popular Neighborhoods In Seattle And Portland

Despite the cost of living, there are certain cities or neighborhoods that most people prefer to live in. We have included these for you to further your research.

Popular Portland Neighborhoods

Some of the most popular Portland neighborhoods to live in are included in the list below:

Pearl District

This is a place that attracts a lot of young professionals, and it’s in the heart of downtown Portland. There are numerous restaurants, art galleries and there’s an active nightlife scene.

When you live in the Pearl District, it’s highly walkable, so you may be able to avoid having a car, which can reduce your expenses.

Nob Hill

This is also known as the Northwest District. It’s full of shopping and dining options, as well as coffee shops.

Homes are primarily condos and townhomes, and there’s a big range in prices. You might be able to find an apartment in the low 100s, and then prices go up to more than $1 million.

West End

This is also in downtown Portland, and it has quirky shops and is also known as a center of design in the city.

Popular Seattle Neighborhoods

Popular Seattle neighborhoods are included in the list below.

West Seattle

This part of the city has a median home sales price of around $600,000. It’s a waterfront community, and it attracts a lot of young families.

Beacon Hill

There’s an average rent price in Beacon Hill of $1,634 a month and a median sale price of $585,750. It’s close to the central neighborhoods of Seattle, and there are extensive public transportation options.


This Seattle neighborhood has a lot of craftsman architecture and more single-family homes than some of the other central neighborhoods in the city. There’s a median sale price of nearly $840,000 here and an average rent of $1,598.

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Ashley Sutphin
Ashley Sutphin

Ashley Sutphin Watkins studied journalism at the University of North Carolina. She now works as a full-time writer with an interest in all things real estate and interior design. She lives in East Tennessee and enjoys the nearby Smoky Mountains with her family.

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