image of cost of living in chicago vs. nyc

Cost of living in Chicago vs. NYC: Which is cheaper? Let’s find out.

The only people with more city pride than New Yorkers may be Chicagoans, so comparing the cost of living in Chicago vs. NYC could spark some heated debate. Besides, there are plenty of things to argue about when comparing the Big Apple to the Windy City:

  • New York’s waterways versus Chicago’s Lake Michigan
  • NYC’s subway system versus Chicago’s L
  • New York hot dogs versus Chicago-style street dogs

And do we dare venture into which city has the best pizza?

Here we’ve compiled some basic costs of living in both cities, from the cost of a 1-bedroom rental to monthly transportation costs. And if you want to weigh in on our findings or have something else to compare, let us know!

Median Rent for a 1BR: Chicago Is Cheaper

Median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in NYC is $1,142 higher per month than it is in Chicago, according to StreetEasy and Zillow data. That’s nothing to scoff at.

Median Sale Price for a Home: Chicago Wins Again

Similar to rent, Chicago has New York easily beaten here. According to StreetEasy data, the median sale price for an NYC home is a little over $700,000, while Chicago nears $300,000. Clearly, there’s a large disparity in housing costs.

Cost of Public Transportation: Chicago Is Slightly Cheaper

  • NYC: $127 per month
  • Chicago: $105 per month

The L is Chicago’s equivalent of the subway system. Although L is short for “elevated,” some of the trains run through subways or at ground level. And while NYC has lettered and numbered train lines — the A, the 4 — Chicago goes with a color-coded system: blue, red, pink, purple, brown, yellow, orange, and green. A ride on the L costs $2.50, and a 30-day pass costs $105.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers who take the subway daily will spend $127 per month for an unlimited card, or $2.75 for a one-way ride.

Commuters who use the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) will pay between $300 and $500 every month for an unlimited pass. Commuters living in the northern suburbs and Connecticut can take Metro-North, which costs between about $60 and $500 for a monthly pass, depending on the line and commute length. Eastern New Jersey commuters can take the PATH train for $2.75 a ride. An unlimited monthly SmartLink card, which allows PATH access, costs $89.

Like the LIRR or Metro-North, Chicago has the Metra, which connects the city to nearby suburbs. Commuters who take the Metra to work each day will spend between $116 and $319 per month, depending on how far they live from the city.

According to H+T Index, the average Chicagoan spends about 16% of their income on transportation costs. Meanwhile, the average New Yorker spends about 9% of their income on transportation costs.

Average Salary and Income: New Yorkers Make a Little Bit More

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income from 2013-2017 in NYC was $57,782, slightly above Chicago’s $52,497. Payscale, a site that averages salaries for jobs requiring bachelor’s degrees, shows a similar gap between states. According to the website, this demographic’s average salary is $69,981 in NYC and $63,168 in Chicago.

Average Commute Time: Chicagoans Get to Work Faster

  • NYC: 34.7 minutes
  • CHI: 30.8 minutes

According to a study by TitleMax, NYC holds the nation’s longest commute time. Chicago sits at number five, averaging about four minutes shorter than NYC. Still, both cities will have you spending a decent chunk of your day getting to and from work.

Quality of Life Index: The Windy City is Happier

The quality of life index is an average of several different indices, including purchasing power, safety, health care, cost of living, property price-to-income ratio, traffic commute time, pollution and climate. Chicago generally has New York beat, but NYC does win in a few key areas: property price-to-income ratio and safety. Climate-wise, the cities are about the same. Even though the Windy City is known for its harsh winters, New Yorkers know the struggle, too.

Wild Card: The Pizza Index. Who Wins? Depends Who You Ask

  • NYC: Thin crust crushes
  • CHI: Deep dish prevails

The debate over which city has the better pizza, New York or Chicago, is as old as time. While New York is home to great thin-crust pizza, either by the slice or by the pie, Chicago lauds deep-dish as the way to go. Some New Yorkers say pizza isn’t pizza unless you can fold it, which would be a near-impossible feat to do on a deep dish portion. Chicagoans, on the other hand, say deep-dish is ideal for holding tons of cheese and toppings.

Whatever your opinion, it seems like there’s no way to lose. While the Daily Meal and Elite Daily name New York the No. 1 pizza city, Business Insider and Travel + Leisure claim Chicago the winner. But of course, their biggest competitor is holding at number two. In New York or Chicago, there’s really no way you can go wrong.

Inspired to find your next place in New York? Whether you’re looking to rent or to buy, search NYC apartments on StreetEasy.