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Berkeley Cost of Living [2024] 💰 | What’s the Average Cost of Living in Berkeley CA?

Last Updated on: 27th July 2023, 02:29 pm

The incredibly vibrant and historic city of Berkeley is situated in Northern California to the east of San Francisco. Berkeley CA is known for its extensive educational system as well as being home to the oldest campus of the University of California– also home to the Sather Tower, the third-tallest bell tower in the world. Nestled in the Bay Area’s center of cultural life, the diverse and family-oriented city of Berkeley further boasts beautiful nature preserves, museums, diverse restaurants, sports complexes, marinas, parks, local festivals, and coastal refuges like McLaughlin Eastshore State Seashore. With a convenient location, rich cultural heritage, and perfect balance between city and natural landscapes, Berkeley is ideal for families, young professionals, and students alike.

If you’re thinking about moving to Berkeley, it’s good to have an idea of the city’s expenses prior to beginning the process. So, is Berkeley an expensive place to live? Despite the city’s peaceful atmosphere, small-town charm, and panoramic coastal views, the cost of living in Berkeley is fairly higher than the national average and slightly higher than the California cost of living. However, the cost of living here shouldn’t be a major surprise if you’re already a state resident.

Berkeley Cost of Living Index

The town, city, and neighborhood you settle in play a huge role in the average cost of living. Another determining factor is the individual’s unique circumstances, such as their household size, the county they live in, and lifestyle choices. While it’s a great place to start, the cost of living index shouldn’t be the key factor in what you should expect for your expenses.

Exactly how much is the cost of living in Berkeley CA? Well, Berkeley is relatively affordable for someone already accustomed to California prices– and even more affordable than those from cities like Honolulu and New York City. The Cost of Living Index (COLI) is the cost of living compared to the U.S. average, which is set at 100. The Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley CA Metro Div. has a cost of living index of 153.9, which means it’s 53.9% more expensive in Berkeley than in the rest of the U.S. Likewise, the Berkeley COLI is only 3.9% higher than the state of California. The Berkeley cost of living is 40.2% lower than San Francisco, .7% higher than Boston, 4.6% higher than Los Angeles, and 30.6% higher than Chicago.

Keep in mind that Berkeley’s higher cost of living is primarily caused by its housing prices. All the other price categories are much closer to the national average. Nonetheless, there are many affordable areas within Berkeley’s borders.

Berkeley consumer price index

Below is the most recent Consumer Price Index for Berkeley, California. The data covers the entire area of San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley CA. The area saw a 0.4% increase in two months and a 4.2% increase year-over-year. The CPI for energy over the last recorded year decreased by 7.9%, whereas food saw a 6.1% increase since last year.

Based on the survey, Berkeley and the surrounding areas experienced a jump between 2021 and 2023. Higher home and gasoline prices were the reported cause for this spike. Many U.S. cities are experiencing similar consequences as a result of global events such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

BLS consumer expenditure survey in Berkeley

Data based on expenses, income, and the consumer’s characteristics are provided via the Consumer Expenditure Survey. Based on the most recent analytics from 2020-2021, the average household spent $91,290 per year in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley CA area. This is 26.7% more than the national average. Expenditures for housing in Berkeley were 7.6% higher than the U.S. average.

Here’s a percentage breakdown of where and how much income the average household spends:

  • Housing: 41.9%
  • Transportation: 12.1%
  • Food: 11.9%
  • Personal insurance and pensions: 13.3%
  • Healthcare: 6.4%
  • Entertainment: 3.9%
  • Cash contributions: 3.5%
  • Apparel and services: 2.1%

Family budget calculator for Berkeley California – Is Berkeley affordable?

Curious how much you need to earn to live the most comfortably in Berkeley? According to the Economic Policy Institute, a family of four living in Berkeley needs to make $159,013 a year to live comfortably.

Below is what you can expect to spend in a month for a household with two adults and two children:

  • Housing: $3,553
  • Food: $1,109
  • Child Care: $1,798
  • Transportation: $1,152
  • Health Care: $1,481
  • Other Necessities: $1,689
  • Taxes: $2,470

Cost of Household Items, Utilities, Gas, & Groceries in Berkeley

Before you begin your journey to Berkeley, let’s take a look at the city’s everyday items and expenses. Here’s a list of median prices you can expect to pay:

  • Steak (ribeye, 1 pound): $16.43
  • Milk (whole, ½ gallon): $2.78
  • Eggs (1 dozen, grade A): $2.92
  • Potatoes (5 lb bag): $2.98
  • Bread (wheat, 1 loaf): $4.76
  • Beer (Heineken 6-pack): $10.32
  • Bottle of wine: $8.17
  • McDonald’s burger (¼ pounder): $5.79

A few additional common expenses include:

  • Movie ticket (1st run): $14.19
  • Doctor’s visit: $139.84

Average cost of monthly bills in Berkeley California

According to COLI and Numbeo, here’s what you can expect regarding the monthly bills in Berkeley:

  • Average cell phone bill: $185.39
  • Cable/satellite TV, high-speed internet, and home phone: $69.13
  • Average monthly cost of Berkeley utilities: $168.54

The fastest and most convenient ways for getting around Berkeley are by foot, car, bus, or train. Regarding public transportation, Berkeley’s trains and buses are operated by AC Transit and BART.

AC Transit has a monthly fare of $84.60 ($34.00 for seniors and disabled). The cost of a regular cash fare costs $2.25. While BART does not offer monthly passes, it offers high-value discount tickets if applicable. For instance, seniors can get 62.5% of the purchase price, which is based on the distance traveled. If you have a car of your own, the average price of gasoline in Berkeley and other Bay Area cities is $4.497, according to the US Energy Information Administration (the national average is $3.643).

Berkeley Real Estate Market


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Berkeley is home to a very competitive real estate market. According to the Census Reporter, 43.2% of residents in Berkeley own their own homes. Based on Redfin’s data, homes here sell in an average of 15 days once released on the market. If you’re thinking about buying a home in Berkeley, the median home price in Berkeley is a staggering $1,515,000, whereas the state median sits at $785,900. The price per square foot is $893, and 68.6% of the homes in Berkeley sell above the list price.

You can use ATTOMS’s Rental Affordability Report to gain more information about the area’s current real estate market trends.

The Price-to-Rent ratio is useful if you’re unsure whether or not you should buy or rent. Here’s how it works:

  • You are purchasing a home for $750,000
  • The median annual rent costs $43,899
  • Divide 650,000 by 43,899. This leaves a rounded ratio of 1:17

If the ratio falls between 1 to 15, buying is the best option. If it sits between 16 to 20, renting is probably the way to go. Anything over 21 makes renting mandatory.

Berkeley is home to several safe and low-cost areas and neighborhoods. A few of the most affordable neighborhoods in Berkeley include West Berkeley, South Berkeley, and El Cerrito.

Berkeley Rental Market – Average Rent in Berkeley California

The average apartment rent in Berkeley is $3,358 for a 696-square-foot apartment, which is 605$ above the U.S. average. When compared to the nearest large city, the average Berkeley monthly rent price is roughly the same as in San Francisco, CA.

One of the most popular and top-rated apartment complexes in Berkeley is Avalon Berkeley. This luxury and pet-friendly community boasts a fitness center, barbeques, high-speed wifi, and beautiful courtyard and bay views.

The most affordable neighborhoods to rent an apartment in Berkeley are Central Berkeley, Berkeley Marina, and Golden Gate Fields. On the flip side, the most expensive rent in the city is found in Elmwood, Panoramic Hill, University of California.

With the zip codes between 94701 to 94720 and without exceeding 30% of your income on housing, here’s what you should be making to afford rent in Berkeley:

  • Hourly Wage For A Two-Bedroom: $49.04
  • Hourly Wage For A One-Bedroom: $40.19
  • Median Household Income: $97,834

Average Salary & Household Income in Berkeley CA

The average salary in Berkeley is $86,000 per year or $25.49 per hour. Here are a few jobs in Berkeley and their average hourly rate:

  • Registered nurse: $50
  • Customer Service Representative: $21
  • Program Coordinator, Non-Profit Organization: $28
  • Paralegal: $24
  • Administrative assistant: $22
  • Office manager: $27

A mean wage is calculated by taking the average of all the population’s wages. On the other hand, a median wage only considers the middle point of the incomes. According to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, here are the most popular industries for occupations in Berkeley and their median hourly wages:

  • Office and Administrative Support Occupations: $27.04
  • Management Occupations: $$79.25
  • Business and Financial Operations Occupations: $47.58
  • Sales and Related Occupations: $22.99

These are all close to or above the California median wage of $22.21.

Income, Sales & Property Taxes in Berkeley

There are many reasons why people choose to live in the state of California. This includes the state’s thriving economy, beautiful coastlines, outstanding weather, world-famous attractions, and countless outdoor recreational opportunities. While the income taxes are on the upper scale of things, the perks of living here make it well worth it.

Another aspect of the Berkeley California cost of living is the taxes. The income tax in Berkeley is 9.3%. Berkeley’s sales tax rate is 10.25%. This takes into account the state, county, and city sales tax rates.

  • Sales Tax for California State: 6%
  • Sales Tax for Berkeley: 0.5%
  • Sales Tax for Alameda County: .25%

Based on the State Business Tax Climate Index, California ranks #48 out of the 50 states in the nation. This means that California has the 4th highest taxes in the U.S., proceeding the District of Columbia, New York, and New Jersey.

The base tax rate in Berkeley is 1% of your assessed value which is equal to the purchase price. This is then adjusted up to 2% per year for inflation. The Alameda County and Berkeley property rate is 1.2508. Your library, school district, sewer district, and the city of Berkeley are political subdivisions that make up these taxes. On average, Berkeley and the rest of Alameda County have one of the highest property tax rates compared to other counties in California.

Your Berkeley property taxes are calculated by multiplying the property tax rate by the assessed value of your home. For example, if your home’s taxable value is $250,000, you multiply this by the assessment rate (.012508), which leaves your estimated bill of $3,127.

Berkeley vs San Francisco Cost of Living


San Francisco CA

Median sale price



Average rent



Price-to-rent ratio



Average salary



Property Tax (assessed at true value)




While Berkeley’s home and rent prices are slightly higher than in San Francisco, the total cost of living in San Francisco is around 2% higher than the Berkeley cost of living. Nonetheless, Berkeley has a lower salary which means the two cities even out. With that said, you probably won’t notice much of a difference between the San Francisco and Berkeley CA cost of living.

Thinking about moving to Berkeley, California? As one of the best San Francisco suburbs, Berkeley offers several California-affordable areas within its city lines! For a smooth transfer to your new home, get in touch with our Berkeley movers at AMS Relocation by calling 650-284-2931.


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