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Cost of Living in Virginia, 2021

By: Emily Kho
June 21, 2021

“The birthplace of a nation” is the nickname for Virginia, as it is home to Jamestown, the first English settlement in the United States. Of the first original 13 Colonies, Jamestown was founded for cultivating silk. Another less commonly known nickname for this east coast state is the “Mother of Presidents.” Eight presidents of the United States were born in Virginia, including four of the first five.

Today, the state boasts rural, mountainous lands thanks to the Blue Ridge Mountains and valleys throughout the southwest. According to U.S. News, Virginia has been named #7 in Overall Rankings as the Best States to live in.

If you’re considering moving to Virginia, you’ll first want to check out this apartment guide. Then, do some research to determine Virginia’s cost of living. Thankfully, here at Apartment List, you can take a closer look at the cost of living in Virginia and gain a better understanding of what type of budget you’ll need to live comfortably.

Virginia Housing Costs

Before making your big move, you’ll want to build a budget. Your housing costs should always be top of mind when it comes to your budget, as they tend to be some of your highest living expenses. Whether you plan on making mortgage payments or paying rent each month, you can safely assume that housing costs will take up the most significant chunk of your monthly expenses.

Due to its proximity to the nation’s capital, the Virginia rental market ranges on the more expensive end. Thankfully, the market is diverse, offering everything from small mountain towns to beach cities. Here is a list of average rent prices in five of the most popular Virginia cities, including Arlington, Alexandria, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake.

CityAverage 1-Bedroom RentAverage 2-Bedroom Rent
Arlington, VA$2,166$2,849
Alexandria, VA$1,783$2,266
Virginia Beach, VA$1,499$1,832
Norfolk, VA$1,286$1,491
Chesapeake, VA$1,012$1,555

Year over year, the rental prices in Virginia have significantly increased, averaging around 7%, which is still below the national average of 9%. Thankfully, you can find less expensive regions of Virginia and cheaper rentals to live in, depending on your taste.

If you’re concerned about housing costs, you can always consider renting with a roommate for additional savings. For example, if you rent in Arlington and split the costs of renting a two-bedroom apartment, you can save $741.50 per month compared to renting a one-bedroom apartment on your own.

Virginia Transportation

Virginia’s public transportation governing agency is the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).

Throughout the state of Virginia, public transportation is readily available in the most densely populated cities. Some transit bus and paratransit services include Arlington Transit (ART), Bay Transit, OmniRide, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

However, it is still recommended that you have a vehicle of your own, despite the many public transport options. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, average annual transportation costs come out to about $5,113 for a single individual. Larger families, such as a family of four with two working parents and two children, can anticipate paying around $13,896 in annual transportation costs.

Having a vehicle in Virginia is typically the best way to get around and enjoy all the state has to offer, considering the limited access to public transportation. Since you will likely rely on your vehicle, it’s good to know that gas prices in the state are on the lower end compared to the rest of the country, and range from approximately $2.19 to $2.45 per gallon, depending on the city.

Virginia Food Costs

The average single Virginia resident spends around $3,177 on food or roughly $264.75 per month. For a four-person family with two working adults and two children, these costs nearly triple to $9,305 annually or approximately $775.42 per month. Still, this figure is considerably lower than other states across the country.

Remember that these figures are associated with food that has been picked up at the local Food Lion, Wal-Mart Supercenter, or Kroger, and prepared in the home. So, if you aren’t the best cook, it’s worth trying. Otherwise, you’ll need to add a considerable amount to properly budget for additional food costs associated with dining out.

Virginia offers some must-eats, including southern-style fares such as peanuts, BBQ, country ham, oysters, apples, trout, Brunswick stew, and blue crabs. The state is known for its cured country ham, served best with breakfast next to eggs, biscuits, gravy, and grits. When you move to Virginia, you have to make sure to try this breakfast staple out for yourself.

Here is a breakdown of the average cost for a three-course meal for two people in a mid-range restaurant by city:

Virginia Healthcare Costs

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle should always be a high priority, regardless of where you choose to live. Having proper healthcare is a crucial element of that, which is why you’ll want to ensure you have adequate health insurance. In addition, having health insurance can ensure you get the proper treatment should unexpected emergencies arise.

A single adult without children can anticipate paying around $2,866 for medical care in a single year. A family of four with two working adults and two children can expect to pay $8,394.

If you’re interested in checking out what coverage options will be available to you in Virginia, you can take a look at the federal healthcare marketplace. As relocating outside of an enrollment period can cause complications in your coverage, don’t forget to report your move to qualify for out-of-state coverage.

For anyone still on their parent’s plan under the age of 26, you might be able to maintain your coverage even when moving to a new state. To double-check your coverage, contact your parent’s provider to see if your new Virginia hometown has doctors that fall within their network.

Virginia Utilities

Virginia is known for having a sub-tropical climate, meaning summers can be hot and humid but mostly mild. Winters typically bring snowfall throughout the state. Because of the wide temperature range, the average utility bills in Virginia vary depending on your region.

Also, since you will likely need heat during the winters at a minimum, you can anticipate added costs to your average utilities. The average cost of monthly utilities, including electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage for a 915 square foot apartment, is broken down by the major cities in Virginia:

  • Arlington: $115.75
  • Alexandria: $164.94
  • Chesapeake: $204.96
  • Norfolk: $137.99
  • Virginia Beach: $184.79

These costs cover basic utilities, but they do not cover additional items such as the internet. The average monthly costs of internet of 60 Mbps or more, unlimited data, or cable/ADSL in these major cities are:

  • Arlington: $66.34
  • Alexandria: $73.30
  • Chesapeake: $77.50
  • Norfolk: $74.25
  • Virginia Beach: $74.25

In addition to your basic utilities and internet, you will also have to keep in mind other monthly costs such as your cell phone. The average monthly payment for Americans is currently $94. You can try bundling your cell phone with your internet provider or ask about new customer discounts.

Virginia Fitness and Entertainment

Regardless of your personal preferences, there are fitness and entertainment opportunities for everyone in Virginia so don’t forget to account for these expenses when calculating your budget.


With an average of 52 inches of snow each year, it’s safe to say that winters might impact some of your outdoor activity. A gym membership might be necessary to maintain your fitness during the colder months. Thankfully, the average cost of a fitness club in major cities throughout Virginia is affordable:

  • Arlington: $65.00
  • Alexandria: $63.12
  • Chesapeake: $42.00
  • Norfolk: $66.67
  • Virginia Beach: $29.00

You might be able to save on some of your gym membership fees by taking up other outdoor activities in the warmer months. Thankfully, there are countless scenic routes, hikes, and trails for you to explore throughout the state in both national and state parks.

National and State Parks

Despite its smaller size, Virginia is home to 22 national parks, with tons of Civil War sites. Entrance fees vary, but you can also purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass annual pass for $80, which allows access to all of the parks, the most popular being:

  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  • Appomattox National Court House National Historic Park
  • Great Falls National Park
  • Historic Jamestowne National Park
  • Shenandoah National Park

In addition to national parks, Virginia also has 40 state parks. Entrance fees range from $3 to $5, or locals can purchase a Naturally Yours Passport Plus for $85, granting unlimited access to all of the state parks for the year. Some of the most popular state parks include:

  • First Landing State Park
  • Grayson Highlands State Park
  • Natural Bridge State Park
  • Pocahontas State Park
  • Sky Meadows State Park

Other Expenses to Consider in Virginia

One major downside to living in Virginia is its progressive income tax rate, but thankfully the top rate is still below the national average. Additionally, the average sales tax throughout the state is the 10th-lowest in the country, even when combining state and local rates. The good news continues as Virginia has property taxes that also fall below national averages for anyone looking to purchase a home.

Before you get too excited, make sure to consider that if you plan to move from out of state, it might come with additional expenses. Some extra costs to budget for might include movers, storage, hotels, and transportation. Other things to consider would be additional fees like apartment application fees, security deposits, pet deposits, and other additions that can add up, so you’ll want to be sure to budget accordingly.

Once you get to Virginia, you also want to decorate your new apartment to make it feel like home. It is possible to decorate your apartment on a budget, just be careful to monitor your expenses and account for them as soon as possible.

To find a recommended salary for your new life in Virginia will mostly depend on the lifestyle you plan to have there. The living wage in Virginia is $16.61 per hour, which is the basic wage needed to pay for essentials such as housing, food, and necessities for an individual adult.

The average salary index in Virginia is $68,000 per year, roughly $17.31 per hour.

Using the 30% rule, which says you should not be spending more than one-third of your gross income on rent, you can begin calculating your recommended salary. For example, assuming you’re planning to rent in Arlington, where the median rent for a one-bedroom will cost $2,166, according to the 30% rule, your monthly wages should be at least three times this amount. Therefore, your income should equal at least $6,498 per month or $77,976 annually.

Final Thoughts

Virginia offers rental opportunities for all, with everything from small mountain cabins to highrises in beach cities. With vast mountain ranges and equally breathtaking valleys, there are sights in store for everyone, no matter where you reside in Virginia.

If you are looking to move somewhere where you can fully enjoy the seasons and have anything you might need at your fingertips, Virginia might be the place for you. Register with Apartment List today and start browsing hundreds of available apartments available for rent in Virginia!

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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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