The Cost of Living in Pittsburgh 2022
By Michael Hochman, RENT.
Pittsburgh is a vibrant, livable city with one foot in the Northeast and the other in the Midwest. But, when it comes to affordability, the cost of living in Pittsburgh shows it's a little of both.
The excitement and bustle of the Northeast. The friendliness and livability of the Midwest. Pittsburgh is a city with a foot in each. It's no longer the smoggy, industrial steel and coal city of the past. Today's Pittsburgh is a gleaming city of high-tech jobs, beautiful parks and plentiful entertainment. It's a modern city full of families and young professionals. But, is it pricey like the Northeast or affordable like the Midwest?
We dissected the Council for Community and Economic Research's data for the cost of living in Pittsburgh for 2022. Also, we compared the overall cost of living for the city to the national average, as well as to similar Pennsylvania cities. Then, we analyzed the differences in prices from this time last year. And, broke down the numbers for several important economic and consumer categories. We also studied the costs for rent and real estate in Pittsburgh. The overall cost of living for Pittsburgh is 99.8, with a score of 100 reflecting the national average. That means that the cost of living is just 0.2 percent below, making Pittsburgh an affordable large city. And it's only getting cheaper. That's a decrease in the cost of living of 4.41 percent a year ago.
Goods and service costs
How much do you need to earn to live in Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh housing prices
Geographically Northeast but culturally Midwest, Pittsburgh rent prices straddle the line in cost. Prices remain relatively Midwestern low but have seen some Northeast-type increases.
A studio in Pittsburgh averages $1,420 a month. While the cheapest apartment type, it's seen the steepest year-to-year increase, up 17 percent. A one-bedroom rents for $1,650 on average monthly, up 15 percent from last year. A two-bedroom leases for $1,986, up 7 percent from this time last year. With an increase of just 5 percent, three-bedroom units now average only $1,965, less than a two-bedroom. Many of Pittsburgh's most popular neighborhoods, of course, also carry the highest rent. South Oakland, on the Monongahela's north shore, leases the highest rents of any neighborhood for studios and one-bedrooms. A studio will average $2,175 a month, with $2,375 for a single. The Strip District, along the Allegheny, offers studios at $1,800, one-bedrooms at $1,871 and two-bedrooms at $2,520, making it the second-most expensive neighborhood.
Downtown is the priciest area of Central Pittsburgh. Studios run $1,505, one-bedrooms average $1,800 and two-bedrooms $2,117. Studio units rent for $1,572 on the North Side overall, with singles at $1,960 and doubles at $2,303. On the South Side, studios come in at $1,560, one-bedrooms $1,810 and two-bedrooms $2,327.
The cost to buy a home in Pittsburgh is also up from last year. The median sale price of all homes in the city is $259,900. That's a 4 percent year-to-year increase. Single-family homes are the most expensive, with a median of $260,000, up 4 percent. Townhomes are up the most of any type, an increase of 9.7 percent to $252,250.
Think outside the city
Those looking to save some money may consider other cities in the Pittsburgh region. These smaller cities and bedroom communities tend to offer lower rent prices. But, that comes with the cost of fewer amenities and a further drive into Pittsburgh. These are a few examples, based on two-bedroom unit rent:
Washington, PA: $950
Johnstown, PA: $660
Youngstown, OH: $762
Morgantown, WV: $741
Pittsburgh food prices
Pittsburgh is an eater's paradise. It's home to Heinz ketchup, the Big Mac and Klondike Bars. Homes have chipped chopped ham, fried zucchini and smiley cookies. But, are groceries here more expensive than elsewhere?
Yes, a bit. The cost of living for groceries in Pittsburgh is 5 percent above the national average. But the good news is that costs are down nearly 3.25 percent from last year.
Those figures, by comparison, are close to on par with other cities around the state. Scranton matches with an equal 5 percent above. Its sister city, Wilkes-Barre, is a bit higher at 8.9 percent over. Philadelphia, the priciest in the state, exceeds the national average by 18.4 percent. On the flip side, several other cities rank lower. Erie, to the northwest, is just one percent higher, while Allentown is 2.7 percent below the national average. Just across the border in Morgantown, WV, the index is a low 4.5 percent under.
Going grocery shopping
What do costs for individual grocery items in Steeltown look like? Pittsburghers love potatoes. Pierogis and fries on sandwiches and salads are staples. But there's a cost. A five-pound bag of potatoes averages $4.64, over $1.30 more than the national average. Put that on your Primanti's. It's also a meat-eaters town. Ribeye steak runs $16, and ground beef is $4.59. Sausage costs $4.93 and frying chicken $1.73. All those are per pound, and all are higher than the national average, as well. Put it all on some whole wheat bread, which sells for $4.19 a loaf, about 60 cents above the average.
On the other hand, a half-gallon of milk sells for $2.09, a dozen eggs at $1.41 and a five-pound bag of sugar runs $1.98. Those are all lower than the national average. But a two-liter Coke will set you back $2.32, 38 cents higher than the rest of the nation.
But maybe dining out or grabbing take-out is on the menu. The average meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs $15, on par with the national average. However, a three-course meal at a mid-range spot runs $57.50, $7.50 less than nationally. If quick and cheap is more your style, a combo meal at McDonald's averages $9, a buck more than the rest of the country.
Pittsburgh utility prices
Pittsburgh doesn't just have a deep history in the steel industry. Western Pennsylvania is also a historically-important fossil fuel region, for both coal and oil. It has always been a key energy region. But it's also become pricey over the years.
Utility prices, in total, have a cost of living of 26 percent over the national average. And that marks a significant increase of 6.15 percent in the last year. While all are above the national average, Pennsylvania cities like Erie, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Allentown are all cheaper than Pittsburgh and have all decreased in the last 12 months. Even expensive Philly only exceeds it by 12.2 percent.
Total monthly energy costs in Pittsburgh run $238. That's significantly higher than the $171 average nationwide. Monthly charges for an average phone bill are $194. That's six bucks more than nationally.
Pittsburgh transportation prices
Pittsburgh is a transportation hub. Known as the city of bridges, there are nearly 450, with 40 near downtown alone. Four vehicle tunnels pass through hills and under rivers, as well. And, up those hills, climb two of the world's most famous funicular inclines.
The cost of living for transportation in Pittsburgh is 8.7 percent higher than the national average. On a positive note, that's down nearly 3 percent from a year ago. Erie, Allentown and Wilkes-Barre all exceed the national average, but sit lower than Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Philadelphia over-indexes by 13 percent and Scranton under-indexes by 1.4 percent. Erie and Allentown are both down over 8 percent from last year, with Scranton down over 12 percent.
Pittsburgh Regional Transit operates a light-rail system known as the “T," split into three lines. It also runs four bus route lines, and the two funicular inclines. In 2017, PRT eliminated zone-based rates. All rides now cost $2.75 per trip. Those using the ConnectCard transit pass then have an additional three-hour free transfer period. Seniors, people with disabilities, law enforcement, municipal employees and children under 5 rides free. Children 6 to 11 ride half-price. A day pass costs $7, a week pass $25, a monthly pass $97.50 and an annual pass $1,072.50. The Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76), the only toll road in Western Pennsylvania, runs from east of the city to north of the city. It does not pass through Pittsburgh. No Pittsburgh bridge carries a vehicle toll. Pittsburgh has some of the highest parking rates in the nation for a city its size. The median hourly parking lot and garage rate Downtown are $7, the 16th-highest in the country. Median daily rates are $18 and $225 monthly. Meters run from 50 cents to $4.00 hourly depending on location. Street parking is free after 6:00 pm and on Sundays. The city achieves above-average but not great transportation scores. Pittsburgh carries a 69 (out of 100) walk score, 58 bike score and 61 transit score. And to put the driving costs in perspective, an average tire balance costs $59.99. That's almost $7 above the national average.
Pittsburgh healthcare prices
Unlike many other categories, Pittsburgh under-indexes the national average for healthcare. Despite a negligible 1 percent rise year to year, the cost of healthcare in the 'Burgh is 4.3 percent below the country as a whole. That falls relatively in line with other primary cities around Pennsylvania, if not slightly more affordable. Compare that to Morgantown. The city just 90 minutes to the south now sits at 2.5 higher than the national average, a staggering increase of nearly 16 percent from last year. You can see affordability in individual services. The average cost for a doctor visit is $101.50, $17 below the national average. Same for an optometrist, nearly $15 below nationally at $95.80. A trip to the dentist runs $103.50, about a buck more than the national figure. An average over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen is just a few cents above the national average, and prescription drugs like insulin can index around $20 over. Please note prices for healthcare will vary by individual depending on specific healthcare situations.
Pittsburgh goods and services prices
Miscellaneous goods and services in Pittsburgh also index below the rest of the country. That includes everything from haircuts and dry cleaning to new clothing and toiletries. The cost of these items in Pittsburgh is 4.5 percent below the national average. That s a similar figure to most other larger cities statewide. Other Keystone State cities also saw a decrease of around 4 percent. Some varied items fall well below the national figure. A trip to the beauty salon averages $37, three dollars less. A man's dress shirt is a full $10 below, at $21.09. And a typical washer repair will run $75, $6 under the national average. The cost of going to a movie, taking your pet to the vet or digitally subscribing to a local news outlet run very close to the national average. The cost to enroll a child in a full-day private preschool or kindergarten in Pittsburgh is $1,091.67. A year in an international primary school runs $11,800.
Taxes in Pittsburgh
The sales tax rate in Pittsburgh is 7 percent. The city itself collects no taxes, which is good news for the cost of living in Pittsburgh. But the Pennsylvania sales tax rate is 6 percent, plus a 1 percent addition by Allegheny County. There's no sales tax on items like groceries, candy, clothing, prescriptions and heating fuel. If you spend $1,000, expect to pay $70 in sales tax. Pittsburgh city residents pay 3 percent in earned income tax. That's 1 percent in city tax and 2 percent in school tax. That's in addition to a 3.07 percent income tax from the state.
How much do I need to earn to live in Pittsburgh?
Many experts say Americans should spend no more than 30 percent of pre-tax income on housing. That's good news for Pittsburghers. Rents for an average one-bedroom fall well within recommended prices based on the local average wage. The average monthly lease for a Pittsburgh one-bedroom is a reasonable $1,597. Extrapolated to a full year, that's $19,164. At 30 percent of total income, that's an affordable rate for someone earning $63,880 a year.
According to Payscale.com, the average yearly salary in Pittsburgh is $68,000, over $4,000 more than needed to rent an average one-bedroom unit. In fact, a Pittsburgh resident making the average salary could afford an apartment leasing for $1,700 at 30 percent expenditure.
Hochman, Michael. RENT. "The Cost of Living in Pittsburgh 2022".
August 6, 2022. https://www.rent.com/blog/cost-of-living-in-pittsburgh/?utm_content=buffer7c879&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin.com&utm_campaign=buffer