Ranking 20 Major US Cities for Renters, From Worst to Best

·8 min read
gregobagel / Getty Images
gregobagel / Getty Images

One of the biggest benefits of renting is flexibility -- you don't have a home tying you down, which can make it difficult to move. That flexibility combined with the increase in fully remote jobs means renters can move almost anywhere. The problem is that having so many options can lead to a choice paralysis. To make it easier to choose, GOBankingRates put together a list of the top 20 major U.S. cities for renters.

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In order to rank the cities, GOBankingRates started with the 50 most populous cities in America. To pick the top 20, each of those cities was given a score based on average rent, livability and cost of living. Hence, the best city has the best combination of low rent, high livability and a lower overall cost of living.

In this case, the lowest combined score is best. Sources include Zillow for average rent, AreaVibes for livability, and AdvisorSmith for cost of living. 2020 population is according to the U.S. Census.

Many of the cities here are medium-sized cities in the South, with populations less than one million. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, both New York and San Francisco manage to make the top 20 despite their high rents and high overall costs of living.

Here are the top 20 U.S. cities for renters.

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

20. San Francisco, California

  • 2020 population: 873,965

  • Average rent 2022: $3,091

  • Cost of living index: 178.6

  • Livability index: 67

  • Combined score: 3.41067

San Francisco is among the most expensive places to live in the country; the average rent is over $3,000 for 2022. Still, its livability score of 67 is just enough to make the list.

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images/iStockphoto
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

19. San Jose, California

  • 2020 population: 1,013,240

  • Average rent 2022: $3,107

  • Cost of living index: 173.5

  • Livability index: 67

  • Combined score: 3.36722

San Jose is still quite expensive, with average rent upwards of $3,100 per month. But its overall cost of living is slightly lower than San Francisco's, giving it a slight edge.

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OlegAlbinsky / iStock.com
OlegAlbinsky / iStock.com

18. New York City

  • 2020 population: 8,804,190

  • Average rent 2022: $2,886

  • Cost of living index: 128.0

  • Livability index: 67

  • Combined score: 2.69722

New York, too, has eye-popping rents; the average is nearly $2,900. However, its overall cost of living is much lower than two California cities, thus putting it ahead of them. Nevertheless, with a score of 128, New York's cost of living is still nearly 30% higher than the national average.

Ron_Thomas / Getty Images
Ron_Thomas / Getty Images

17. San Diego, California

  • 2020 population: 1,386,932

  • Average rent 2022: $2,796

  • Cost of living index: 136.2

  • Livability index: 71

  • Combined score: 2.40930

San Diego is about as pricey as you'd expect for California. Still, at under $2,800, the average rent there is the lowest on this list so far. And it's only slightly pricier than New York while also being rated more livable.

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

16. Charlotte, North Carolina

  • 2020 population: 874,579

  • Average rent 2022: $1,720

  • Cost of living index: 97.9

  • Livability index: 66

  • Combined score: 1.54054

Charlotte is the first city on this list you might call affordable; its cost of living is below the national average. While its livability is a little lower than the cities mentioned earlier, the city is more friendly to renters overall.

bluejayphoto / Getty Images/iStockphoto
bluejayphoto / Getty Images/iStockphoto

15. Las Vegas, Nevada

  • 2020 population: 641,903

  • Average rent 2022: $1,823

  • Cost of living index: 100.7

  • Livability index: 70

  • Combined score: 1.34338

Those who don't live in Las Vegas might associate it with the strip, but the city is also relatively friendly to renters. That's because its cost of living is about average, and it has a decent livability score of 70. The same can be said for its rents, which are an average of $1,823 in 2022.

SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images/iStockphoto
SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images/iStockphoto

14. Jacksonville, Florida

  • 2020 population: 949,611

  • Average rent 2022: $1,718

  • Cost of living index: 99.0

  • Livability index: 69

  • Combined score: 1.32026

Jacksonville has the lowest rent on this list so far, with an average of $1,718. Its overall cost of living is a little higher than Charlotte's, but it's also slightly more livable.

AndreyKrav / Getty Images
AndreyKrav / Getty Images

13. Dallas, Texas

  • 2020 population: 1,304,379

  • Average rent 2022: $1,701

  • Cost of living index: 98.5

  • Livability index: 69

  • Combined score: 1.30135

At $1,701 on average, rents in Dallas are among the more affordable cities on this list. Its overall cost of living of 98.5 also puts its below the national average.

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

12. Colorado Springs

  • 2020 population: 478,961

  • Average rent 2022: $1,728

  • Cost of living index: 102.2

  • Livability index: 70

  • Combined score: 1.28615

When looking at the combined score, the difference between Colorado Spring and Dallas is the narrowest on this list. Colorado Springs is slightly more expensive but benefits from a higher livability score of 70.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

11. Houston, Texas

  • 2020 population: 2,304,580

  • Average rent 2022: $1,520

  • Cost of living index: 95.8

  • Livability index: 67

  • Combined score: 1.28526

The largest city in Texas fares well on this list because the city remains relatively affordable. Its average rent of $1,520 is one of the lowest on this list, and its overall cost of living is below the national average.

dszc / Getty Images
dszc / Getty Images

10. Austin, Texas

  • 2020 population: 961,855

  • Average rent 2022: $1,797

  • Cost of living index: 106.6

  • Livability index: 72

  • Combined score: 1.23374

The cost of living in Austin has risen much faster than in other parts of the country, and the city is now pricier than the national average [1]. But it's still more affordable than New York and California, and its 72 livability score is better than New York can claim.

SeanPavonePhoto / iStock.com
SeanPavonePhoto / iStock.com

9. Atlanta, Georgia

  • 2020 population: 498,715

  • Average rent 2022: $1,879

  • Cost of living index: 100.3

  • Livability index: 72

  • Combined score: 1.22858

After periods of low or even negative growth in the 1970s through the 2000s, Atlanta's population exploded between 2010 and 2020 [2]. While that has led to higher costs, the city is still about average - although rent is somewhat high.

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

8. Tampa, Florida

  • 2020 population: 384,959

  • Average rent 2022: $2,010

  • Cost of living index: 101.4

  • Livability index: 74

  • Combined score: 1.18785

Tampa's population is less than 400,000 - but you do pay a premium for all the sun and the easy access to the Gulf of Mexico. Still, its overall cost of living is only slightly above average, and it has a good livability score of 74.

Kruck20 / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Kruck20 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

7. Raleigh, North Carolina

  • 2020 population: 467,665

  • Average rent 2022: $1,677

  • Cost of living index: 99.7

  • Livability index: 74

  • Combined score: 0.91101

The capital of North Carolina has been growing at an unprecedented pace - it has seen double-digit population growth in every decade going all the way back to 1900 [4] . And yet, costs there are still about average, and the city has the highest livability score on this list so far.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

6. Oklahoma City

  • 2020 population: 681,054

  • Average rent 2022: $1,287

  • Cost of living index: 87.3

  • Livability index: 69

  • Combined score: 0.85763

Oklahoma City is a town of nearly 700,000, yet it remains remarkably affordable. In facts, its cost of living score of 87.3 is the lowest on this list, and the average rent is just $1,287.

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

5. San Antonio, Texas

  • 2020 population: 1,434,625

  • Average rent 2022: $1,409

  • Cost of living index: 92.7

  • Livability index: 71

  • Combined score: 0.85754

San Antonio is a city of nearly 1.5 million in the south of Texas. With an average rent of $1,409 and a cost of living score of 92.7, the city is quite affordable. Its 71 livability score isn't bad, either.

Randall Vermillion / Shutterstock.com
Randall Vermillion / Shutterstock.com

4. Columbus, Ohio

  • 2020 population: 905,748

  • Average rent 2022: $1,381

  • Cost of living index: 93.9

  • Livability index: 73

  • Combined score: 0.69487

Columbus has a lot going for it. Not only is its average rent less than $1,400; the city is also cheaper than the national average. Plus, it has a decent livability score of 73.

Davel5957 / iStock.com
Davel5957 / iStock.com

3. Omaha, Nebraska

  • 2020 population: 486,051

  • Average rent 2022: $1,173

  • Cost of living index: 92.9

  • Livability index: 72

  • Combined score: 0.59980

If you're looking for a place where renting is affordable, Omaha should be top of the list: the average rent is just $1,173 in the city. Plus, its overall cost of living score is a competitive 92.9.

bwancho  / iStock.com
bwancho / iStock.com

2. El Paso, Texas

  • 2020 population: 678,815

  • Average rent 2022: $1,354

  • Cost of living index: 88.6

  • Livability index: 74

  • Combined score: 0.53921

Unlike the mega-cities of Texas, El Paso has a population of under 700,000. Perhaps that helps explain its average rent, which is an affordable $1,354, and its overall cost of living of 88.6.

Imagesbybarbara / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Imagesbybarbara / Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. Virginia Beach

  • 2020 population: 459,470

  • Average rent 2022: $1,564

  • Cost of living index: 99.0

  • Livability index: 79

  • Combined score: 0.43135

Virginia Beach tops the list of the best cities for renters. While it isn't quite the cheapest city on the list, it easily has the best livability score. Overall, its cost of living is about average too.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Ranking 20 Major US Cities for Renters, From Worst to Best