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Cheapest Places to Live in Washington, 2021

By: Emily Kho
July 8, 2021

There are a few things to know before moving to Washington. For starters, it’s essential to get a good idea of what the cost of living in Washington will be and get an idea of what city you’d like to settle down in.

When you combine the ruggedness of the mountain backdrops with its stunning beauty, it’s no wonder this state consistently ranks at the top for best life expectancy. Who wouldn’t want to live in a place like that?

Thankfully, despite its increasing popularity, there are regions within Washington that remain relatively affordable. So if you’re looking for the best deal, here’s a look at ten of the cheapest places to live in Washington.

Note: The data provided below comes from our rent estimates. These numbers expand beyond what’s listed on our platform. For further information, learn about our methodology.

Spokane

  • Population: 222,081
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,164
  • Median Household Income: $50,306
  • Walk Score: 49
  • Transit Score: 36
  • Bike Score: 52

Known as the gateway to the American West for what was once a central rail hub, Spokane is now a vibrant, thriving city. Get an authentic taste of the Inland Northwest culture with various shopping, entertainment, and outdoor opportunities alike.

For anyone looking to soak up the sheer beauty Spokane has to offer, they can enjoy a day at the Riverfront Park, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. This impressive park covers over 100 acres of land and water and is a favorite spot for locals and tourists. Beyond gondola rides, walks along the suspension bridges, and admiring the countless water fountains the park holds, enjoy regular community events throughout the year.

The history of Spokane is rich and spread across the city. The historic Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox might have originally opened its doors back in 1931 but since received a complete renovation at the turn of the millennium. Located in the heart of the Davenport Arts District downtown, a stop at the theater is sure to make for an exciting night on the town.

Residents of Spokane love the familiarity of the small-town atmosphere it provides without any limitations to big-city amenities. The city’s motto is “Near Nature, Near Perfect,” which sums up all Spokane offers, including the Columbia River, which runs through downtown.

Learn about the average rent in Spokane.

Spokane Valley

  • Population: 101,060
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,164
  • Median Household Income: $51,961
  • Walk Score: 30
  • Transit Score: 28
  • Bike Score: 47

Spokane Valley is a mid-sized city that lies just 20 miles west of the Idaho border. With a thriving arts and culture vibe, an educated population, and attractive downtown, not only is Spokane Valley one of the cheapest places to live in Washington, but it is also one of the most popular.

The largest suburb of Spokane, Spokane Valley, is located just east of Spokane and west of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The shape of the region surrounds Millwood on three sides.

The climate in Spokane Valley is a bit different from what you might expect in this Pacific Northwest state. In Spokane Valley, you’ll find a relatively dry environment and simple infrastructure, but the city is on the rise. However, you can still easily find outdoor entertainment by visiting Mirabeau Meadows Park, Terrace View Park, or Valley Mission Park.

If you are looking to mix things up, you can check out the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, the Splash Down Waterpark, or the Nut Factory. With indoor and outdoor activities readily available for all ages, Spokane Valley makes for a beautiful place to live. In addition, a handful of highly-rated public schools serve Spokane Valley, including Libby Center, Central Valley High School, Greenacres Middle School, and Sunrise Elementary School.

Spokane Valley has become a popular suburb location for young professionals who want to settle down and begin their careers. The top five employers of these individuals include Spokane Public Schools, the county, the State of Washington, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital, and the 92nd Air Refueling Wing.

Learn about the average rent in Spokane Valley.

Bellingham

  • Population: 92,314
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,267
  • Median Household Income: $53,396
  • Walk Score: 49
  • Transit Score: 37
  • Bike Score: 58

The small city of Bellingham sits on the east shore of Puget Sound in the far northwest of Washington. Found along the I-5 and just 25 miles south of the Canadian border, Bellingham boasts an attractive setting, pleasant summers, and nearby recreation for all to enjoy. Located halfway between Vancouver and Seattle, Bellingham is an increasingly popular city with the green and lush landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.

Bellingham grew as a city known for its paper-mills and lumber, with a seaport known for exporting the forest products. Today, as the city continues to grow, the industrial aspect of the economy is not as prominent as it once was in the past. Residents of Bellingham either work locally in town or commute out to Seattle or other, larger surrounding cities.

You can catch some breathtaking views from the Chuckanut Drive, a 24-mile scenic drive connecting Skagit County to Bellingham. You can catch glimpses of the San Juan Islands and families of oysters amongst the Samish flats along this drive. If you’re looking to get on the water, you can hop in a kayak at Larrabee State Park, with over 100 miles of freshwater lakes and saltwater shoreline.

Otherwise, check out art collections like the Big Rock Sculpture Garden or any of the Western Washington University’s outdoor sculptures, known as one of the top ten collections in the country.

Lakewood

  • Population: 61,037
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,435
  • Median Household Income: $51,972
  • Walk Score: 38
  • Bike Score: 45

The small city of Lakewood was only incorporated in early 1996 but is rapidly establishing itself as one of the most enjoyable and beautiful places to reside near Puget Sound. It’s not surprising that Lakewood is quickly becoming so popular, considering its astonishing views and easy access to the bigger city. Although Lakewood is a relatively new city, it has already grown to be the second-largest city in Pierce County, falling behind Tacoma.

Despite the city covering a mere 20 square miles, Lakewood is home to ten different lakes. These lakes each offer a wide variety of outdoor activities, some including fishing, hiking, kayaking, and more. The most famous Lakewood lakes include the American Lake, the Steilacoom Lake, and Lake Tapps.

Between the lakes and local parks that make up Lakewood, you will find various Lakewood neighborhoods. Some of the more popular areas of Lakewood include Oakbrook, Idlewild, and Carter Lake.

A couple of the primary employers of Lakewood include the McChord Air Force Base and the Clover Park School District. McChord has over 50,000 military employees from residents of Lakewood and surrounding cities. The school district employs around 1,000 staff, most of which are Lakewood residents. Healthcare is another big industry in the town, with the MultiCare Lakewood Clinic and Urgent Care employing many residents.

Learn more about the average rent in Lakewood.

Vancouver

  • Population: 184,463
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,436
  • Median Household Income: $61,714
  • Walk Score: 40
  • Transit Score: 34
  • Bike Score: 61

Vancouver, Washington, not to be mistaken for its namesake located 300 miles north in Canada, is another popular and affordable city to live in. Located just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, Vancouver boasts a much cheaper cost of living. Regardless, Portland is a quick 12-minute drive away, making Vancouver an excellent option for commuters looking to save.

Many young professionals and retirees move to Vancouver, as the city does not have income tax. Additionally, unlike the more densely populated Portland, Vancouver has a charming, old downtown, and the city itself is filled with mountains, trees, rivers, and lakes. There is absolutely no shortage of nature in the city of Vancouver.

Vancouver’s famous historic sites include Fort Vancouver, Pearson Field, and Museum, Officers Row, and Clark County Historical Museum. Equally impressive is the art-filled entertainment, including public art and galleries, Esther Short Park, Kiggins Theatre, and Sunlight Supply Amphitheater.

Best of all, the city has a wide range of free activities. You can grab a bike across the Columbia River on your choice of one of two bridges, check out the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, or take a stroll amongst all of the quaint shops in Uptown Village. With something to offer everyone, Vancouver is a beautiful little city expected to continue growing.

Learn more about average rent in Vancouver.

Tacoma

  • Population: 217,827
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,490
  • Median Household Income: $62,358
  • Walk Score: 53
  • Bike Score: 49

Located just 45 minutes outside of Seattle, Tacoma has become a booming city for young artists, creatives, musicians, writers, and entrepreneurs. With a shockingly more affordable cost of living and a much less congested environment, it’s no wonder so many have flocked to this city with beautiful backdrops of Mount Rainier.

Tacoma does not disappoint when it comes to entertainment, offering everything from top-notch restaurants to art galleries to museums. The city got its nickname as the Wired City after 1998 when Tacoma Power installed a high-speed fiber-optic network throughout the community.

For anyone moving to Tacoma on a tight budget, the city has countless free forms of entertainment. A popular option amongst locals is the Tacoma Museum District which hosts a Third Thursday Art Walk each month. During this event, you can gain free admission to the Tacoma Art Museum, the Museum of Glass, the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, and the Washington State History Museum.

Tacoma is equally as fun and exciting as its neighboring cities, Portland and Seattle, but with much better pricing. And while you might be problematic about the climate, you don’t have to worry because Tacoma sees an average of fewer than 40 inches of rainfall per year.

Learn more about average rent in Tacoma.

Lynnwood

  • Population: 39,141
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,500
  • Median Household Income: $63,748
  • Walk Score: 53
  • Bike Score: 50

Lynnwood is a part of the Seattle metropolitan area within Snohomish County, Washington, commonly known as a commuter town for neighboring cities Bellevue, Everett, and Seattle. The town was only incorporated in 1959 but has since grown into a suburban hub. Plus, the I-5 and I-405 projects were completed connecting this smaller town to the larger surrounding cities.

Although a relatively smaller city, Lynnwood is known for having one of the highest concentrations of retailers in the area, attributed to the famous Alderwood Mall. Other forms of entertainment in the city from the Lynnwood Recreation Center, the Lynnwood Public Library, and the Lynnwood Ice Center.

If you’re looking to get outdoors and enjoy some Pacific Northwest beauty, you can check out Scriber Lake Park, Heritage Park, or Meadowdale Neighborhood Park.

The economy of Lynnwood is primarily backed by the services sector, which makes up 45% of the workforce. Next is retail at 28% and education at 8%. All in all, only 7% of Lynnwood workers live in the city.

Learn more about average rent in Lynnwood.

Everett

Another popular and relatively affordable city located in Snohomish County, Washington, is Everett. Everett is an excellent location for both young professionals and families with a perfect blend of urban and suburban. Most residents within the city rent, rather than own, their homes. Everett is a regional center offering nearby recreation, thriving arts, and culture, all with an attractive setting.

Residents and tourists can check out the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum, the Imagine Children’s Museum, or the Schack Art Center for indoor fun. If you’d rather stay outdoors, you can go to Howarth Park, Legion Park, or Jetty Island.

The city is split into two regions: North Everett and South Everett. North Everett is a better location for those looking for the suburban lifestyle, with rich history, beautiful scenic views, and great walkability. Alternatively, South Everett is more sprawling and low-income. Some of the more popular neighborhoods in Everett are Bayside, Boulevard Bluffs, Harborview-Seahurst-Glenhaven, and Port Gardner.

Learn more about average rent in Everett.

Federal Way

  • Population: 96,289
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,622
  • Median Household Income: $67,347
  • Walk Score: 36
  • Transit Score: 32
  • Bike Score: 39

Within the Seattle metropolitan area, located in King County, Washington, is Federal Way. Despite its population, which is just shy of 100,000, Federal Way is the fifth-largest city in Washington state.

The city’s name comes from the Federal Highway U.S. 99, now named State Route 99 or the Pacific Highway South, which connected Everett, Seattle, and Tacoma. While the city was once a logging settlement, it was eventually incorporated in the early 1990.

Federal Way has several major cities and state parks, including Celebration Park, Steel Lake Park, Dash Point State Park, and Dumas Bay Centre Park. The BPA Trail is a 3.6-mile-long trail within the city that connects important city areas, including the wetlands of Panther Lake Park, Madrona Park, the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Centre, and The Commons at Federal Way Mall.

Learn more about average rent in Federal Way.

Kent

  • Population: 132,319
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,664
  • Median Household Income: $72,062
  • Walk Score: 39
  • Transit Score: 35
  • Bike Score: 46

Kent is known for being located almost perfectly in the center of the Tacoma-Bellevue-Seattle urban metropolitan area. It is among the oldest cities in the state, with origins rooting back to the 1850s. Historically, Kent was built on its farming which helped support the build of the first rail station in this area of Washington.

Although Kent was once nicknamed the Lettuce Capital of the World during the Great Depression, it has moved far from its original farming roots. The demographic of Kent today is mostly tech-centric and modern, boasting fun and exciting nightlife with money to be made from sources well outside of the farm.

Kent is made up of several different neighborhoods, with some of the more popular being Star Lake, Midway, Scenic Hill, and East Hill; the latter is more known for having an older crowd than the others.

Entertainment-wise, there is plenty that Kent has to offer, including the ShoWare Center, the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum, and the Pacific Raceways.

Learn more about average rent in Kent.

Final Thoughts - Where Should I Move to in Washington?

Regardless of what you are looking for in Washington, whether lakes and rivers in Vancouver or the hustle of a metropolitan area like Tacoma, there’s something there for everyone. Thankfully, some of the best places to live in Washington are also the cheapest places.

So, if you are interested in moving to Washington, now might be a good time to start your research. First, find out more information about the cost of living in Washington. Next, register with Apartment List today and start checking out the thousands of available apartments to rent in Washington!

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EMILY KHO
Emily is a professionally trained SEO writer who covers a wide range of topics but specializes in business and hospitality content. With over a decade of professional writing experience in the hospitality industry, Emily comes from a strong background in the field backed with a BS from the world-renowned William F. Read More
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