Cost of Living in Washington State (Taxes, Housing & More)

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante

The pacific northwest is one of the most unique corners of America, and it boasts views you won’t find elsewhere. Washington state is one of the most expensive states, but 7.61 million residents are lucky to call it home. There are countless options of places to live in Washington state that vary in cost and opportunities.

The median home value in Washington state is $362,100, and 63.8% of the population are homeowners. Housing costs are higher than most of the nation, and residents spend an average of $1,826 in monthly ownership costs. Residents spend between $3,600 and $4,000 annually on groceries in Washington state, and dining out is an expensive alternative.

Washington is a commuter state, but there are still many drivers that spend up to $1,705 or more each year on gas. For $70-$90 or less, you can get access to monthly public transportation and save big in Washington state. Let’s take a look at exactly how much it costs to live in Washington state.

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Washington State Housing Costs

Owning a home in Washington state can be daunting, but location means everything when it comes to housing costs. The median home value in Washington state is $362,100, and the average resident spends $1,826 per month in ownership costs. Homeowners in Seattle, however, spend an average of $2,503 each month between bills and mortgage payments.

LocationMedian Home ValueHomeownership Rate
United States$231,20067.9%

Median home values vary between cities and counties in Washington, but so do monthly housing costs. For example, monthly housing costs in Tacoma average $1,696, but in Spokane, residents pay $1,333 per month. Housing costs and median home values are higher throughout the state of Washington than the United States average.

Building a home in Washington is also quite expensive, but careful planning can keep it below the national average. You can expect to pay between $200,000 and $450,000 or more for building a home in Washington state. Washington residents generally wind up paying $150 or more per square foot in construction costs.

Rental Prices in Washington State

Only 63.8% of Washington state residents are homeowners, and that leaves a lot of room for renters. The average cost of rent each month is $1,194 in Washington state, and it varies widely between cities. Washington’s rent costs are just barely above the national average of $1,023, and the state has many cheap options.

Many Washington cities, such as Seattle and Tacoma, are expensive, but places like Spokane offer affordable rentals. Just like anywhere else, location is everything in Washington state, and it determines your monthly rent cost. Whether you spend $800 per month or nearly $1,200 in Everett, rent is a big living expense in Washington.

Washington CitiesAverage Rent Cost

Rent prices may seem high in Washington state, but they are more affordable for many residents than owning a home. For example, Tacoma residents average $1,696 per month in housing costs, but renting costs almost $600 less per month. In bigger cities like Olympia and Seattle, owning a home can be unattainable, and renting is an excellent choice.

Cost of Utilities in Washington State

Renting and owning homes come with added expenses, such as utilities, that factor into the cost of living. Factors such as plumbing fixtures, home or apartment size, and energy usage play a role in utilities cost in Washington. The average American spends roughly $132 per month in basic utilities for an apartment.

LocationAverage Utilities Cost
United States$132

As you can see, there is a big difference in utilities costs between cities in Washington state. Water bills alone can total $42 per month in Tacoma, and you’ll spend another $62 in sewer bills. You will also pay a 3% tax on utilities in Washington state, and another 2% tax for gas.

Unplugging devices, installing energy-efficient lighting, and choosing low flow plumbing fixtures can save you big on utilities in Washington. Keep in mind that Washington state is cloudy, so opening the windows to save on utilities isn’t always an option. Either way, you can adjust your own energy consumption as you go and see it reflected in your utility bills.

Taxes in Washington State

Washington state’s tax rates are unavoidable, and some are higher than others. The state has some of the highest sales taxes in the country. Fortunately, however, Washington State does not have a personal income tax. Property taxes also rank in the middle when compared to other states in the U.S.

State Income Tax in Washington State

Believe it or not, there is no state income tax in Washington state, and residents are grateful each year. There are only six other states that don’t have state income tax, and it even applies to businesses. However, businesses are not entirely exempt, and they have to pay a business and occupation tax to the state.

The other states without an income tax are Florida, South Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Texas, and Nevada. No state income tax is just one of the reasons why Washington is an inviting and comfortable state. Washington state’s lack of state income tax helps make up for the high cost of living.

Property Taxes in Washington State

The average property tax rate in Washington state is 1.03%, and that is below the national average of 1.08%. Washington state’s average effective property tax rate is comprised of 39 counties throughout the state, and rates vary amongst them. Property taxes are slightly higher in Washington than they used to be, and that’s due to low housing inventory.

Washington CountiesProperty Tax RateAverage Tax Cost

Average property tax costs are determined based on median home values in conjunction with property tax rates for the county. King County, where Seattle is located, is far from the highest tax rate, but residents pay the most each year. That is due to the high median home value in Seattle and surrounding cities within King County.

Sales Taxes in Washington State

While there is no state income tax in Washington state, there are high sales taxes. The base tax rate in Washington is 6.5%. While this is not as high as other western states like California, some cities and counties levy extra taxes on top of this rate. With the additional city and county sales taxes rates are usually at least 8%. In some cases, you may encounter sales taxes higher than 10%.

The gasoline tax in Washington State is higher than most states at $0.49 per gallon, and that’s worth remembering at the pump.

Overview of Taxes in Washington State

Washington State TaxesRate & Cost
Property Taxes1.03%
State Income Tax0%
Gasoline Tax$0.49 Per Gallon
Sales Tax6.5%

Low property taxes and the lack of state income tax help soften the blow of higher tax rates in Washington. Keep in mind that cities in Washington are allowed to impose 4% sales tax, and that raises combined tax averages. Western Washington is known for high sales tax in particular, and it gets up to 8.5% or more.

Food Costs in Washington State

Washington residents spend between $3,600 and $4,000 on groceries every year. Buying groceries is significantly cheaper than dining out in Washington, but even groceries can get pricey in Washington state.

Washington State FoodAverage Price SpokaneAverage Price SeattleAverage Price Tacoma
Dozen Eggs$2.30$3.60$2.60
Gallon of Milk$3.00$3.00$2.80
Pound of Apples$1.85$2.29$1.70
Pound of Bananas$0.95$0.80$0.65
Pound of Chicken$5.30$4.90$4.00
Restaurant Meal$15.00$17.00$14.50
Dinner For two$68.00$80.00$60.00

Produce and grocery costs vary widely between cities and municipalities in Washington state. The recommended monthly food budget in Seattle is nearly $400, and that adds up to $4,800 per year fast. Nationally, Americans spend an average of $324 each month on groceries, and that is possible in Washington with careful spending.

Public Transportation in Washington State

Public transportation is available throughout Washington state, but its accessibility varies based on your location. For example, Seattle, Washington is ranked amongst the best public transportation systems in the country, and many residents utilize it. Other popular Washington cities, such as Tacoma, are also great for public transportation, and monthly bus passes average $72.

Seattle Public TransportationCost
Bus Single Ride$2.25
Bus Day Pass$4.50
Monthly Bus Pass$90
Sound Transit Train$2.25-$3.25 (Day Pass)
Sounder Train Day Pass$3.25-$5.75
Tacoma To Seattle Train Pass$4.00

Public transportation is a great way to save money and time on your daily commutes. Driving to and from work every day in Washington state can quickly add up to $1,810 per year. If you rode the bus daily in Tacoma throughout the entire year, however, it would save you $800 or more.

The fact that Seattle is considered the 7th worth city for driving explains the number of public transit commuters. Inclement weather, crowded streets, hills, and rough terrain make Seattle and similar Washington cities tough to drive. Not only will you save money by choosing public transit in Washington state, but you’ll save some peace of mind.

Transportation Costs in Washington State

The transportation cost index in Washington State is 113.6, meaning the state’s transportation costs are nearly 14% more expensive than the nationwide average. Transportation costs are another important factor that you must consider in order to determine the overall cost of living in a particular location. These include expenses such as gas prices, public transportation costs, and annual car insurance premiums.

Gas Prices in Washington State

While driving in Washington state can be expensive, it is necessary for many residents. Depending on the particular city, costs such as gasoline and car insurance can be exorbitant in Washington state. However, there is balance, and for many proud Washington natives, they would rather fare the roads than public transit.

Washington CitiesAverage Cost of Gasoline
Tacoma$2.86 Per Gallon
Seattle$2.62 Per gallon
Spokane$2.88 Per Gallon
Everett$2.85 Per Gallon
Bellevue$2.60 Per Gallon

The average American driver goes through 656 gallons of gasoline each year on the road. For Tacoma residents, they could spend $1,876 or more each year on gasoline with regular driving. Bellevue, which is near Tacoma and Seattle, may only spend $1,705 yearly on gas, but that’s still above average.

Public Transportation Costs in Washington State

The cost of public transportation varies considerably based on where you live in Washington state. Though, studies suggest that Bremerton, Washington is one of the most affordable cities in the country to ride public transit, where a monthly bus pass will cost you only $50. The average monthly public transit pass in Washington State costs about $66.05 and a five-mile taxi trip in a downtown area will run you about $18.56.

Annual Car Insurance Premiums in Washington State

The average annual cost of car insurance inn Washington State is $1,176 for full coverage and $463 for minimum coverage. Car insurance is affordable in Bellevue, Washington, and averages $884 per year. Whereas, car insurance rates average $1,453 yearly for male drivers in Seattle, and $1,639 for female drivers.

Though, your rate can vary based on your age, driving record, the insurance company that you choose, and whether you opt for full or minimum coverage. Rough driving conditions, driving history, and the number of uninsured drivers in many Washington cities make for high premiums.

To help illustrate how car insurance premiums vary based on where you live in Washington State, the following table outlines average car insurance rates in five Washington cities:

CityAverage Annual Premium for Full CoveragePercent Difference from State Average

Cost of Education in Washington State

Washington parents have to choose between sending their kids to public school and saving or spending on private education. The average Washington parent spends $11,270 each year on private tuition, and that adds up quickly. Private elementary education averages $10,472 per year, and $13,051 per year in high school.

College students that are state residents in Washington spend an average of $5,388 per year on tuition. Out of state students spend much more, and average $16,775 per year, but it all depends on the particular college. Western Washington University, for example, costs $8,343 per year for state residents, and $24,690 yearly for out of state students.

Luckily, preschool is generally inexpensive in Washington state, and the cheapest option is $1,450 per year at Newport Children’s School. Not all private preschools are inexpensive, however, and they can cost as much as $29,360 per year in Washington. Infant and daycare costs an average of $14,844 per year in Washington for working parents.

Washington EducationAverage Cost
Western Washington University$8,343-$24,690
Private Elementary School$10,472
Private High School$13,051
Private Pre School$1,450-$29,360
Infant and Daycare$14,844

Entertainment Costs in Washington State

There’s never a dull moment in Washington state, and entertainment is around nearly every corner. Whether it be a trip to the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle for $23, or free fun at the park, there’s no shortage of things to do. One cheap entertainment option is a day at the movies, and that generally costs $8-$12 per ticket.

Washington’s most well-known professional sports team is the Seattle Seahawks, and thousands of residents turn out for games. The average ticket price to a Seahawks game is $133, but ticket prices start as low as $59. Just like many of Washington state’s expenses, Seahawks tickets are higher on average than many NFL teams.

Some of the best entertainment in Washington comes from the state’s many natural beauties. Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier are ways to enjoy your one of a kind surroundings at no cost. You can always take the drive to Seattle and watch the sunset from the world-famous Seattle Waterfront.

Cheapest Place To Live In Washington State: Olympia

  • Median Home Value: $276,300
  • Average Rent Cost: $1,089
  • Average Monthly Utilities Cost: $162
  • Median Household Income: $58,606
  • Property Tax Rate: 1.09%
  • Population: 52,882

At first glance, Olympia looks like expensive, but it is among the cheapest places to live in Washington state. Olympia, Washington is part of Thurston County, and it is near cities such as Lacey, Yelm, and Tumwater. The median home value in Olympia is $276,300, and that’s closer to the national average than other Washington cities.

Buying a house is not the only ownership, and Olympia residents spend an average of $1,732 on bills and mortgage. Another reoccurring cost of owning a home in Olympia is property taxes, and residents spend an average of $2,472 yearly. There are property tax exemptions available for Olympia residents in public service as well as elderly and disabled residents.

Gasoline is quite expensive in Olympia, and right now it is priced at $2.89 per gallon. You could wind up spending $1,895 per year on gasoline in Olympia, Washington if you drive to work daily. Olympia residents spend between $1,060 and $1,480 per year on car insurance premiums.

Related Questions

Is Washington a safe state?

Unfortunately, Washington property and violent crime rates are both higher than the national average. You face a 1 in 321 chance of experiencing a violent crime, and 1 in 34 chance of property crime. The safest city that you can live in Washington state is Snoqualmie, and the most dangerous is Tukwila.

Does Washington state tax social security?

No, Washington state does not tax social security, and that makes it a great place to retire. There is also no inheritance tax on properties under $2.193 million, and the state won’t touch your pension either. The combination of low property tax and lack of retirement benefit taxes means you can comfortably retire in Washington state.

What is the weather like in Washington state year-round?

Western Washington gets quite hot during the summer and never gets too cold during the winter. Eastern Washington state, however, has mild summers and fairly cold winters. The coldest month throughout the whole state is January, and rainfall is common throughout the whole year in Washington.

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Is Washington State a Cheap Place to Live?

Washington is an expensive state, and its cost of living is higher than the national average. The median home value in the state is $362,100, but cities like Seattle average $605,200. Luckily, Washington state boasts incredibly low property tax rates that average 1.03%, and that’s lower than the national average.

Renting is the perfect option for Washington residents that don’t want to pay the high housing costs. Washington residents spend $1,194 per month on rent, on average, and utilities costs vary by city. Be sure to add between $3,600 and $4,000 to your yearly budget for groceries in Washington state.

If you drive to work every day in Washington, you will spend up to $1,705 per year on gasoline, or more. Seattle drivers spend the most on car insurance, and it averages $1,453 per year in premiums. All in all, Washington is a great place to live, and while it’s pricey, it is worth it.

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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