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Cost of Living in Washington, 2021

By: Davina Ward
August 16, 2021

With mountains, volcanoes, beaches, and deserts, Washington state offers enough variety to draw in new residents from across the world.

Not only do locals enjoy the gorgeous views and outdoor recreation opportunities, but Washington residents also benefit from the state’s plethora of apple orchards, proximity to the ocean, and lots more, making the Evergreen State a special place to call home.

If you’re looking to move to Washington, you’ll need to create an accurate budget to ensure that your move is headache-free.

We’ve got you covered!

Here’s everything you need to know about the cost of living in Washington state.

Washington Housing Costs

Housing should always be among the first costs you consider when moving to a new state. Not only do rent prices vary drastically by location, but they can also change drastically over time.

That said, it's essential to consider the average rent price in Washington to build your budget.

Here's a breakdown of the average rent prices for one and two-bedroom apartments in Washington's biggest cities, including Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, and Vancouver.

CityAverage 1-Bedroom RentAverage 2-Bedroom Rent
Seattle, WA$2,335$3,674
Vancouver, WA$1,569$1,793
Tacoma, WA$1,642$2,223
Spokane, WA$1,401$1,785

To determine whether Washington is an affordable state to rent in, let's start with the national average rent price for a two-bedroom unit, which sits at $1,137.

The average prices for a two-bedroom apartment in Washington's major cities are about $500 more than the national average. Rent for two-bedroom apartments in Seattle tip the scale at over 3x the average national rent.

Major cities such as Spokane and Vancouver have seen rent increases of at least 6.9% in a year-over-year comparison. However, Seattle has seen a 17.3% increase in the same period.

As rent prices continue to rise across the country following a rebound from the COVID pandemic, now might be one of the best times to make your move to save on rent while the market is still in the process of rebounding. You might consider renting with a roommate to save even more in your move to Washington.

If these cities don't seem right for you, learn about the best places to live in Washington!

Washington Transportation

Washington's public transportation in Washington is difficult to assess on a state level because Washington follows the traditional pattern of public transportation offerings.

You'll find that most who live in the suburban areas rely on personal vehicles for transportation, while those who live in the heart of the metropolitan area have greater access to public transportation options.

That said, Seattle, Washington's largest city, has a comprehensive public transportation system operated by multiple agencies. As a result, the city has some of the highest rates of commuters in the nation who rely on public transportation. Riders can get around via train, bus, or water taxi!

If you choose to rely on public transportation, you might save a pretty penny. MIT's Living Wage Calculator sets the average Washington resident's annual transportation cost at $4,900. For a family of four with two children, this expense increases to $13,317 annually.

As a monthly public transportation pass costs a low $99 per month or $1,188 per year, you can expect over 75% in savings.

Washington Food Costs

Everyone loves good eats — Washingtonians included. So if you plan to take up residence in Washington, you won't be immune to the local cuisine and premier restaurants that line the state.

Whether you plan to treat yourself once a month or more frequently, you'll need to know how much those delectable meals will affect your budget. Here's what you can expect to pay for a three-course meal in Washington, according to Numbeo.

  • Seattle: $80
  • Spokane: $60
  • Tacoma: $62.50
  • Vancouver: $55.00

Don’t forget to add the standard gratuity of 15% to your bill!

Unless your monthly food budget is formidable, you’ll need to spend some time in the kitchen making some delicious homemade meals.

If you’re someone with incredible will and discipline, you might be able to make all of your food at home. If so, you can expect to pay $3,792 annually or $316 monthly for your groceries. However, if you’re shopping for a family of four, expect to pay $11,106 annually or $925.50 monthly.

If you want to reduce this expense, try a discount grocer. Many Washington residents swear by Sprouts for low-cost groceries and great deals on produce.

Washington Healthcare Costs

Healthcare is an essential aspect of a healthy life. So whether you’re someone who makes frequent visits to the doctor or solely sticks to your annual physical, having coverage for these trips can help to minimize their impact on your bank account.

The average Washington resident spends $2,206 on medical costs each year. Families of four spend a whopping $6,520 annually. However, these numbers only account for employer-provided health insurance. If your employer does not provide health insurance, you may have substantially different costs.

If you are in the market for health insurance, you can head to Healthcare.gov for low-cost, affordable health insurance coverage. Just be sure to report your move to ensure that you don’t experience a lapse in coverage.

Head over to the Washington State Department of Health for valuable state health resources. Whether you require specialized care or are looking for specific services, the site will help you find what you need.

Washington Utilities

Electricity, water, and gas are the services that make up basic utilities. A landlord might cover basic utilities, but the renters usually cover them.

That said, it’s important to estimate your utilities when building your apartment budget. We call it an estimate because many factors influence utility costs, including personal preference, your apartment’s size, the age of your appliances, and more.

Regardless, having a general idea of what you can expect to pay for basic utilities can help you build an accurate budget.

The average American pays $240 monthly for basic utilities. Residents of Washington’s major cities may pay less than average for utilities. For example, Seattle residents pay just $197.92 on average, while Spokane residents pay $123.88.

Additional Utilities

In addition to basic utilities, many renters consider phone and internet service as a utility. Regardless of what you call it, you’ll need to consider these costs in your budget. The national average cell phone bill is $94 a month, while the average internet bill is anywhere between $30-$60.

However, you’re at an advantage if you are moving from out of state. If you switch internet or phone providers, you may be eligible for new customer discounts and promotions that can help you save big on your service.

Fitness and Entertainment

Although Washington isn’t exactly known for its fitness and entertainment options, it’s a state that offers many opportunities for anyone seeking to work up a sweat or have some fun.

However, these opportunities will undoubtedly have an impact on your budget.

The average Washington resident spends $1,811 on fitness and entertainment costs annually, while a family of four spends $4,127 annually. Here are some of the things they spend it on!

Gym Memberships

In love with the thrill of visiting the gym and working up a sweat? Here’s what you can expect to pay for a fitness club membership in Washington’s biggest cities.

  • Seattle: $59.78
  • Spokane: $34.54
  • Tacoma: $32.50
  • Vancouver: $35.62

If you prefer more economical fitness options, don’t worry! There are tons of fitness options in Washington. Many folks choose to run or bike. Better yet, walking is a low-cost way to keep fit and explore the city.

Visit a State Park

Whether you’re an avid hiker or looking for a fun way to spend a weekend, Washington offers residents close proximity to several incredible national and state parks.

These are low-cost and free entertainment options that are awesome for families or fun solo excursions.

Hiking, biking, fishing, paddling, running, walking, and more await you at a Washington national park. Here’s how much entrance to these parks costs.

  • Mount Rainier National Park: $30 (single vehicle)
  • Olympic National Park: $30 (single vehicle)
  • North Cascades National Park: Free

Visit a Famous Museum

If you love the arts or love the science of curation, head to one of Washington’s many museums. They are relatively inexpensive options, yet offer tons of entertainment and learning opportunities. Here is the cost of general admission for some of Washington’s most popular museums.

  • Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture: $12
  • Museum of Pop Culture: $30
  • The Whale Museum: $9
  • Museum of Flight: $25

Keep in mind that you may need to pay more if you want to check out some of the newer exhibits or special attractions. However, museums usually offer a discount on certain days. If you plan it right, you might be able to save big.

Head to Seattle to Catch a Game

The good news is that Washington is home to professional football, basketball, hockey, and baseball teams. If you want to catch a game, the bad news is that you’re in for a drive unless you live in Seattle. You can tack on gas prices in addition to the cost of your ticket. Here’s a breakdown of the average ticket costs for each professional sports team:

  • Seattle Seahawks: $133.00
  • Seattle Storm: $42
  • Seattle Kraken: $20-$40
  • Seattle Mariners: $45

If you want to save a bit and avoid the drive, head to your local sports bar to meet fellow fans, eat good food, and have great drinks while watching the game.

Other Expenses to Consider in Washington

Moving to a new state can be challenging to budget for, as many costs are difficult to account for, many of which people forget.

  • Sales Taxes: The current Washington state sales tax rate is 6.5%. However, city and county sales tax rates combine with this rate, which can raise it significantly. For example, Seattle’s combined sales tax rate is 10.25%.
  • No State Income Tax: Washington does not collect a state income tax. If you are moving from a state that does collect a state income tax, this could make a big difference.
  • Marijuana Excise Tax: Washington state allows for the legal use and purchase of marijuana. However, consumers must pay a 37% excise tax on each purchase of marijuana. Even for recreational consumers, this can be a steep price.

Your recommended salary is the pre-tax salary you should earn to live comfortably in a specific location. Understanding the recommended salary in Washington is the first step toward building a fail-safe budget.

To determine your recommended salary, you’ll need to use the rule of three. To live comfortably, your pre-tax income should be at least three times the price of rent.

Using Seattle as an example, we’ll use the cost of a one-bedroom apartment to determine your recommended salary.

As the average rent price of a one-bedroom apartment is $2,335, your pre-tax income should meet or exceed $7,005 monthly or $84,060 annually.

Final Thoughts

If The Evergreen State is calling your name and your budget is signaling green for the move — it’s time to start your search for the perfect Washington apartment! If affordability is a concern, check out the cheapest places to live in Washington.


Take our quiz to get started on your apartment hunt in Washington!

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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