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Cost of Living in Pittsburgh, PA 2021

By: Emily Kho
July 26, 2021

Pittsburgh has multiple nicknames, but the two most popular are “the Steel City” and the “City of Bridges.” First nicknamed the Steel City, Pittsburgh earned this recognition as home to over 300 steel-related businesses. Similarly, the city of Bridges nickname has been appropriately given to Pittsburgh, which has 446 bridges, a number bigger than any other city in the world, including Venice, Italy.

Located in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh is one of the best cities to live in in Pennsylvania. In this booming city, residents can enjoy a mix of urban and suburban living, with an extensive offering of coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and parks. Pittsburgh is home to young professionals and families alike, with public school ratings above average.

Those who choose to call Pittsburgh home enjoy plenty of entertainment options, including three teams competing at the highest professional level in their respective sports. If you find yourself interested in moving to Pittsburgh, you’ll want to get a better idea of your potential costs. Let’s take a closer look at the cost of living in Pittsburgh to understand better how much you’ll need to live there comfortably.

Pittsburgh Housing Costs

Many cities across the country experienced significant drops in rent prices during the peak of the pandemic. As things begin to reopen once again, however, we’re seeing rent prices return to more normal trends. There was a significant drop-off with Pittsburgh prices again starting in August of 2020, which began taking a turn at the start of the new year.

According to the latest Rent Report on Pittsburgh, the median rent index is $949 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,173 for a two-bedroom. Despite the drop in rent prices in the latter half of last year, rates have started growing again and continued trending upward over the previous five months.

Overall, the city's year-over-year rent growth falls below the national average of 8.4% and the state average of 7.8%. So, while rent prices are trending up in Pittsburgh, the growth rate is still minimal compared to other cities in the state and other states in the country.

Rent increases in Pittsburgh are unique, as other major cities across the nation saw significant decreases year-over-year. Major cities like San Francisco saw a -10.2% decrease in rent prices year over year, much like the -3.9% decrease in Seattle, and the -3.0% decrease in New York. Despite these decreases, Pittsburgh rent prices are still more affordable than in these major cities.

The Pittsburgh housing market is also seeing steady growth, with median home prices currently at $219,571. These prices fall well below the other major cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and New York, with median home prices of $1,477,442, $863,058, and $371,880, respectively.

Pittsburgh Transportation

The downtown area of Pittsburgh is compact, making the well-integrated transportation system easy to navigate via public transit. The city offers traditional modes of public transportation like buses and trains, as well as a more modern approach via light rail and Zipcars.

The public transit agency for the greater Pittsburgh area is the Port Authority of Allegheny County, serving over 230,000 riders daily. You can catch a one-way ride for $2.50 utilizing the reusable plastic transit card known as ConnectCard. Frequent riders can pick up passes, offered daily, weekly, monthly, and annually.

The Port Authority also offers ConnecTix, which are limited-use smart cards purchased at ConnectCard machines. Single trips cost $2.50, and riders can purchase up to a 10-trip pass for $25.

If you're a single adult without children, you'll spend about $4,332 for transportation in Pittsburgh over a year. A family of four, including two working adults and two children, will pay $9,889 for transportation in one year. Thankfully, gasoline prices are around $2.76 per gallon, lower than the national average of $3.04.

Pittsburgh Food Costs

Pittsburgh has a diverse culinary scene as well, with many well-known dishes that have become famous. While living in the city, it’s worth checking out some famous dishes like the Pittsburgh Salad, the Primanti Brothers, or pierogies.

Thankfully, dining out in Pittsburgh is relatively cheap, costing an average of $12.00 for a meal at an inexpensive restaurant. A three-course dinner for two people at a mid-range restaurant will run $55.00 without alcohol or dessert.

In Pittsburgh, single adults without children can expect to spend at least $3,690 on food per year. However, if you're a family of four with two working adults and two children, you can expect to pay $8,406 per year for food.

You can anticipate costs similar or slightly above the national average for food items purchased from the local East End Food Co-Op, the Market District Supermarket, or Reyna Foods. For example, one gallon of regular milk will run you $4.05 in the grocery store, with the national average being $3.58.

Pittsburgh Healthcare Costs

Regardless of where you decide to call home, your health should always be a top priority. As such, healthcare is an additional cost worth noting when looking at the cost of living. Whether you plan to visit your doctor minimally or have a medical condition requiring you to see them more regularly, having medical insurance in Pittsburgh will help keep your costs more manageable.

Additionally, health insurance can help ensure you can afford the care you need should any emergencies arise in your new hometown.

You will want to account for proper medical care when planning your budget in Pittsburgh, as healthcare should always be considered an essential cost. A single adult without children will pay around $2,729 for medical care over the year. Two working adults with two children will pay $7,008.

Pittsburgh Utilities

The climate in Pittsburgh varies drastically throughout the year. The summers are known for being warm and partly cloudy, while the winters are frigid and bring a lot of snow. The coldest month in Pittsburgh is January, with an average overnight low temperature of 19.9°. The hottest month of summer is July, where the average daytime high is typically 82.7°.

Because the summers are humid and muggy and the winters are often below freezing, you'll need to account for higher utilities to keep comfortable year-round. Pittsburgh’s basic utilities include electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage, running $188.28 for a 915-sq. ft. apartment. Adding on the Internet with 60 Mbps or more with unlimited data, cable/ADSL will cost you an extra $77.50 for a total of $265.78 each month.

These costs can add up quickly over time, which is why it’s a good idea to understand how much utilities will cost in an apartment before making your move. Having this information allows you to budget accordingly for this often overlooked expense.

Pittsburgh Fitness and Entertainment

The city of Pittsburgh has fitness and entertainment opportunities for everyone. However, considering the harsh winter, you will likely need to spend your winters in a local gym for workouts. You’ll want to consider club membership costs at Fitness Factory, Celli’s Fitness Center, Union Fitness, or others in the area. Thankfully, these costs are relatively low, with a fitness club membership fee for one adult costing $38.50 monthly.

If you’re looking for some entertainment, you can purchase a seat at the local cinema for $11 without snacks or drinks. Otherwise, check out a professional sports game, watching the NFL Steelers, the NHL Penguins, or the MLB Pirates.

Pittsburgh also has tons of other, more affordable entertainment options. You can visit museums, including some of the most popular like the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, or the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. The city also has several parks to enjoy for those who prefer to stay outdoors as weather permits, including Frick Park, Emerald View Park, and Riverview Park.

Other Expenses to Consider in Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania has a flat state income tax rate of 3.07%. This is the lowest in the country! Pennsylvania has a 6.00% sales tax, and Allegheny County adds another 1.00% on top of that, making Pittsburgh’s sales tax rate 7.00%.

If you are going to move from out of state, make sure to pay attention to additional costs that can add up, like cross-country movers, storage, hotels, and transportation. Cross country moves may also require even more fees, such as apartment application fees, security deposits, pet deposits, and other add-ons. Be aware of these extra costs so you can add them to your budget as needed.

Another overlooked expense to consider is furnishing your new apartment. You can find tips on how to decorate your apartment on a budget to help keep you in line and avoid spending too much.

If you know what type of lifestyle you plan to lead in Pittsburgh, you can begin figuring out your recommended salary. The living wage in Pittsburgh is $13.08 per hour, which is the basic wage required to pay for essentials such as housing, food, and other necessities. Keep in mind that the living wage is based on a frugal life and does not account for any extra costs like dining out or entertainment.

You can also look at the average salary index in Pittsburgh, which is $66,000 per year, roughly $18.55 per hour. Remember that the living wage, average salary, and recommended salary are three very different figures. You can use the 30% rule for rent to determine your recommended salary in Pittsburgh.

You should not be spending more than one-third, or 30%, of your gross income on rent to live comfortably, according to the 30% rule. For example, if your rent is close to the median for a one-bedroom apartment in Pittsburgh and costs $949, your monthly wages should be at least $2,847 per month or $34,164 annually.

This salary might sound reasonable to you, but much like the living wage, this is recommended for a very basic lifestyle. You’ll need to pursue a higher salary, a less expensive apartment, or both if you anticipate having additional living costs, including the occasional NFL, NHL, or MLB game.

Thankfully, the typical annual salaries for common professions in Pittsburgh are highly competitive. The three highest typical annual salaries belong to Management, Legal, and Computer and Mathematical positions, respectively.

Job Market in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has a slightly less healthy job market compared to metro areas of similar sizes. Some of the city’s largest employers include hospitals and healthcare systems, including Allegheny Health Network, St. Clair Hospital, Highmark, and UPMC. Other major employers in the greater Pittsburgh area include Google, Pittsburgh Public Schools, and Carnegie Mellon University.

The unemployment rate in Pittsburgh is 9.2%, 1.1% above the current national average. Not surprisingly, this rate took a significant hit as a direct result of the pandemic. Thankfully, Pittsburgh sees a steady recovery as businesses begin opening once again.

Final Thoughts

Pittsburgh might be the place for you if you are looking to move to an area with the perfect blend of urban and suburban vibes. Register with Apartment List today and start checking out the thousands of available apartments to rent in Pittsburgh!

If Pittsburgh doesn't seem like the best Pennsylvania city for you, check out the best places to live in Pennsylvania!

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Emily is a professionally trained 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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