The 15 U.S. cities with the highest cost of living—San Francisco isn't No. 1

Westend61 | Getty

New York's Manhattan borough is the most expensive place to live in the U.S. by a wide margin — the cost of living there is more than double the national average.

Living costs in Manhattan are 122% higher than average, according to data from The Council for Community and Economic Research's Cost of Living Index, which measures regional price differences for everyday goods and services in 271 urban areas.

Manhattan isn't just expensive, it's considerably more costly than other highly ranked places in the index.

The New York borough's cost of living is 24% more than Honolulu's, the second-most expensive urban area in the U.S. And it's 31% higher than San Francisco's, the third-most expensive city, according to C2ER's data.

The cost of living is expressed as a composite index score, based on six weighted categories: housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods or services. A composite score of 100 is the national average, and any score higher than 100 is above average.

Here's a look at the 15 most expensive urban areas, based on composite index scores. 

  1. New York (Manhattan): 222
  2. Honolulu: 179
  3. San Francisco: 169.9
  4. New York (Brooklyn): 159.1
  5. Orange County, California: 150.3
  6. Los Angeles (Long Beach): 149.1
  7. Washington, D.C.: 148.7
  8. Boston: 148.4
  9. Seattle: 144.5
  10. San Diego: 142.5
  11. Arlington, Virginia: 140.1
  12. Oakland, California: 140
  13. New York (Queens): 136.3
  14. Bethesda-Gaithersburg-Frederick, Maryland.: 135.8
  15. Nassau County, New York: 135.2

A big driver of Manhattan's high cost of living is housing expenses, which are 4.8 times the national average. In Honolulu and San Francisco, other cities known for extreme housing costs, they're about three times the national average.

There are a couple of reasons why housing is so expensive in Manhattan. For one, New York is home to 340,000 millionaires and 58 billionaires, making it the wealthiest city in the world in terms of net worth. Many of these affluent families reside in Manhattan and are able to afford opulent homes, pushing up average housing costs.

On top of that, land on the island is scarce yet highly desired, leading to elevated housing prices overall.

In addition to housing, Manhattan has the highest miscellaneous living costs, including expenses like entertainment, alcohol and apparel.

Two of New York City's other boroughs — Brooklyn and Queens — also rank among the most expensive places to live in the U.S., with living costs 59% and 36% higher than the national average, respectively.

Meanwhile, the city with the cheapest cost of living is Harlingen, Texas, where residents pay about 25% less than the average American for living expenses. The city has low taxes, cheap housing and proximity to cheap gas, but those advantages are undercut by a relatively high rate of poverty.

Data for the Cost of Living Index was collected from Jan. 1 through March 31, 2023. Each category is weighted based on how households typically spend their money, according to government survey data.

DON'T MISS: Want to be smarter and more successful with your money, work & life? Sign up for our new newsletter!

Get CNBC's free Warren Buffett Guide to Investing, which distills the billionaire's No. 1 best piece of advice for regular investors, do's and don'ts, and three key investing principles into a clear and simple guidebook.

I turned my property manager side hustle into a $3 million business in just 4 years
I turned my property manager side hustle into a $3 million business