What Is The Cost Of Living In Seattle Vs. Los Angeles?

Jessica Stone
by Jessica Stone

With the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, year-round sunshine, and palm tree-lined streets, Los Angeles has long been considered a dream city to live for many. In fact, people travel here from all over the world with dreams and desires of becoming rich and famous.

However, life in Los Angeles also comes with steep housing costs, taxes, traffic, and an overall expensive cost of living. For this reason, Seattle is highly desired for its lush green landscapes, snow-capped horizons, four beautiful seasons, and expanding job market. But, how do these two cities stack up when it comes to cost of living?

The overall cost of living index in Seattle, Washington is 167.8, meaning it is nearly 68% more expensive to live in Seattle than the national average (100). Los Angeles, California, on the other hand, has a cost of living index of 176.2, so it is quite a bit more expensive than both Seattle and the national average. Seattle’s median home price is $851,400, which is about 192% higher than the national average of $291,700. Meanwhile, the median home price in Los Angeles is $883,400 – 3.8% more than Seattle.

Aside from median housing prices, let’s take a look at how the cost of living compares in Seattle vs. Los Angeles.

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Home Prices in Seattle vs. Los Angeles

The cost of owning a home in both Seattle and Los Angeles is substantially higher than the rest of the country. The median cost of a home in Los Angeles is $883,400, compared to Seattle’s median home cost of $851,400. While the median home price is higher in Los Angeles, the housing index tells a different story.

Based on an overall US average of 100, Seattle’s housing index is 309 and Los Angeles’ is 298.2. This means that housing in Los Angeles, California is roughly 3.5% cheaper than Seattle, Washington. While slightly more affordable housing can be seen as an advantage to living in Los Angeles over Seattle, prices can vary based on where you settle in either city.

Rent Prices in Seattle vs. Los Angeles

Like home prices, rental prices vary depending on a number of factors, including size, specific location, and quality. The average rent for an apartment in Seattle, Washington is $2,169 per month and the average apartment size is 692 square feet. Though, the rent you will pay in Seattle ultimately comes down to the neighborhood that you live in.

For example, Innis Arden is the most affordable neighborhood in the city with an average rent of $1,333 per month. Whereas, Pike Market and Belltown are the most expensive neighborhoods, with monthly average rents of $2,294.

With that said, refer to the following table for a breakdown of the average rents in some of the many Seattle neighborhoods:

NeighborhoodAverage Monthly Rent
Pike Market$2,294
Central Waterfront$2,177
Seattle Central Business District$2,155
East Queen Anne$2,064
South Lake Union$2,064
Lower Queen Anne$2,003
North Queen Anne$2,003

The average rent for an apartment in Los Angeles is $2,518 per month and the average apartment size is 791 square feet. While the average rent is higher in Los Angeles than Seattle, rental prices in Los Angeles vary depending on the specific neighborhood you live in. For example, North of Montana is the neighborhood with the most expensive rental rates, at $4,211 a month. Whereas, Jefferson Park is the most affordable neighborhood in the city, where average monthly rent goes for around $1,423.

The following table outlines a more comprehensive look at the average monthly rent in some of the many Los Angeles neighborhoods:

NeighborhoodAverage Monthly Rent
North of Montana$4,211
University Park$4,123
Beverly Grove$3,642
Pacific Palisades$3,481
Century City$2,694
Echo Park$2,222

Taxes in Seattle vs. Los Angeles

Taxes are another important consideration when comparing the cost of living in two different cities. There are some distinct differences between the taxes in Seattle versus the taxes in Los Angeles, outlined in further detail below. However, overall, the taxes in Los Angeles are about 32.2% more expensive than Seattle.

State Income Tax

Taxpayers in Washington enjoy one of the most tax-friendly situations in the country, as there is no state income tax. Regardless of your occupation or income level, you won’t have to pay any sort of tax on your earnings in Seattle. You do, however, still have to file your federal income tax return and pay your federal income taxes.

California, on the other hand, has a progressive income tax. This means that the income tax that you pay in Los Angeles is based on your earnings. There are ten income tax brackets in total, with rates ranging from as little as 1% go as much as 13.3%. Although this top marginal rate is the highest in the country, it only applies to those that make over $1 million in taxable income.

Sales Tax

Both Seattle and Los Angeles have high sales taxes. While the base rate in Washington is 6.5%, there are additional city and county sales taxes on top of this rate. With this in mind, the total sales tax in Seattle is a staggering 10.10%. The situation is very similar in California. The state has a base sales tax of 7.25%, the highest in the country. However, with the additional city and county rates, the total sales tax in Los Angeles is 9.50%.

While sales taxes may be higher in Seattle than Los Angeles, the Seattle rate may be easier to swallow considering the lack of state income tax.

Property Tax

Both Seattle and Los Angeles have effective property tax rates that are below the national average. Effective property tax rates are property taxes as a percentage of the home’s assessed value. Property taxes in Seattle average about 0.99% and Los Angeles is slightly lower at about 0.793%. Again, both rates are lower than the US average of 1.07%.

Taxes in Seattle vs. Los Angeles Comparison

CityIncome TaxSales TaxProperty Tax
Seattle, WANone10.10%0.99% (average effective rate)
Los Angeles, CA1% – 13.3%9.50%0.793% (average effective rate)

Income & Economy in Seattle vs. Los Angeles

The median household income in Seattle is $79,565 which is around 38% higher than the national median income of $57,652. When compared to Los Angeles, however, Los Angeles residents earn only almost 32% less than Seattle residents – with a Los Angeles’ median household income of $54,501. Overall, there’s a good chance that you can earn more money in Seattle than Los Angeles.

The two cities also differ when it comes to unemployment rates. Seattle’s unemployment rate of 4.8% is considerably lower than Los Angeles’ unemployment rate of 10.6%. Not to mention, Seattle’s unemployment rate is far below the national average of 6.0%, while Los Angeles’ is substantially higher.

Grocery Expenses in Seattle vs. Los Angeles

Grocery and food index are another factor that can impact the cost of living in a particular city. If you lived in Los Angeles instead of Seattle, you’d be looking at about a 4.2% savings on food and groceries

The overall grocery cost index in Los Angeles is more than the national average of 100, coming in at approximately 104.1. Whereas, Seattle’s grocery index is slightly higher than that at, 108.7. Examine the following table for a more comprehensive look at the average prices on groceries in Seattle vs. Los Angeles:

Food ItemSeattleLos Angeles
Bread (one loaf)$3.39$3.50
Gallon of milk$3.56$3.53
Dozen eggs$2.95$3.38
Local cheese (8 oz)$8.15$6.19
Boneless chicken breast (1 lb.)$5.23$5.12
Apples (1 lb.)$2.24$1.80
Tomatoes (1 lb.)$2.63$1.88
Bananas (1 lb.)$0.78$0.74

Transportation Costs in Seattle vs. Los Angeles

Whether you choose to settle down in Seattle or Los Angeles, transportation costs are an important factor to consider when calculating the cost of living in both cities. These costs include expenses like transit passes, bus fares, gas prices, vehicle purchase prices, and more.

Los Angeles is known for having the fifth-worst traffic in the country and without a quality public transportation system, most are dependent on a personal vehicle to get them around. This, of course, adds to higher transportation costs overall. Seattle, on the other hand, has the ninth-worst traffic in the nation but the country’s best public transportation system. With this in mind, living in Seattle instead of Los Angeles would save you approximately 16.8% on transportation costs.

Cost FactorSeattle Los Angeles
Gallon of gas$3.19$3.59
Monthly public transit pass$99.00$100.00
Taxi trip in downtown (approx. five miles)$16.92$16.27
New Volkswagen Golf$25,000$25,000

Entertainment & Miscellaneous Costs in Seattle vs. Los Angeles

Cost FactorAverage Price in SeattleAverage Price in Los Angeles
Monthly local gym membership$57.46$41.62
Movie ticket$14.00$15.00
Pack of cigarettes$10.00$10.00
Domestic beer (1 pint)$6.50$7.00
Cappuccino (mid-range area)$4.83$4.68
Pair of running shoes$95.94$79.16
Fast food combo meal$10.00$9.00

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Seattle vs. Los Angeles: Which is More Expensive?

When you consider the overall cost of living index, both Seattle and Los Angeles are significantly more expensive than the national average. However, when you compare these two cities together, it is about 5% more expensive to live in Los Angeles than Seattle. The cost savings in Seattle is mostly contributed to the more affordable healthcare, utilities, taxes, and transportation costs.

Although housing costs tend to be slightly more expensive in Seattle than Los Angeles, Seattle residents have a better chance of earning more money, with a higher median household income. Not to mention, with an unemployment rate quite a bit lower than the national average, this is a positive sign for the economy in Seattle.

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Jessica Stone
Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

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