Arlington VA Cost of Living
Arlington, Virginia lies adjacent to Washington DC just across the Potomac River. Included in the same metropolitan area as DC, Arlington’s cost of living is very similar to DC. The true difference in prices can be found in real estate as well as taxes – both income and property. Let’s dive in to find out where the money goes when you cross that bridge from DC.
What is the Arlington, VA Cost of Living?
Arlington real estate varies in terms of type and price across its many neighborhoods. Arlington has two areas – North and South. For many years, South Arlington was much more affordable with smaller homes and smaller lots compared to North Arlington where there are large homes, large lots and large price tags. Redevelopment has spanned many areas of South Arlington thanks to the Amazon HQ2 arrival to Crystal City and prices are catching up to fancier North Arlington.
Nerd Wallet reports a salary of $100,000 in Arlington would need to be adjusted to $107,190 to live the same lifestyle in DC. The fallacy with Nerd Wallet, as well as many of the other online cost of living indexes is that the Arlington, VA cost of living is not isolated from DC. The DC cost of living numbers are inclusive of the whole metro area which includes Arlington and Alexandria.
For the real estate information, I separated out true numbers by utilizing our local Bright MLS for information.
Here’s the cost comparison for Arlington to DC on various categories.
Is it Expensive to Live in Arlington VA?
This is one of the most expensive places to live in the country due to the thriving local economy. The Federal Government and associated industries of lobbyists and government contractors comprise a huge portion of the employers in the DC Area. And it’s not all government either – tech and medical industries also have a heavy presence here. With Amazon’s HQ2 poised to become a major metro area employer, the cost of living in Arlington is only going to rise.
The Cost of Living in Arlington VA in Detail
The Arlington cost of living is very similar to DC with a few exceptions. Home prices are higher in Arlington for reasons we’ll examine in more detail. But things like utilities or healthcare that have state laws governing them will differ in price from DC because of governmental regulation. When people relocate to the DC area, choosing where to live causes a lot of stress. Assessing the pros and cons of DC, Maryland and Virginia often boils down to cost.
Average Arlington VA House Prices
In 2021, the average price for houses sold in all neighborhoods in Arlington County was $1,119,432. For DC, the average price was $1,095,465. While the fact that DC prices are 2% lower may be a surprise, this is due to the type of home available in each area. This is not an apples to apples comparison. Arlington has more space for single family detached homes with larger plots of land than the average DC rowhome can offer, thus, prices are 2% lower in DC than Arlington.
Arlington’s median price was $975,000 and DC’s was $925,000.
While houses may be more expensive in Arlington overall, the premium over DC does not convey to condos. One bedroom condos average $491 per square foot in Arlington and $612 per square foot in DC. Cost of living in Arlington definitely trends down when it comes to condos as city dwellers are willing to pay a premium to be closer to work avoid longer commuting times.
Average Rent in Arlington VA
Rents on 1 bedrooms in Arlington average $1765. A 2 bedroom jumps to $2498 and then $3397 for a 3 bedroom. Pricey, though still less expensive than DC where corresponding prices are 28% higher across the board.
Arlington has lots of green space and has a couple serious claims to health fame. Named the #1 Fittest City in 2020 by American College of Sports Medicine, Arlington boasts that 99% of residents can walk to a park in 10 minutes or less. Despite these facts, healthcare costs are 10% higher than DC, which already has some of the highest healthcare costs in the country.
Arlington VA Utilities
Numbeo reports that average utilities in Arlington cost $123.93. DC Utility prices are $155.78, however, note that DC’s prices may actually include Arlington. It doesn’t change the answer regarding the average cost for Arlington, just puts the comparable DC price into perspective if Arlington’s numbers are bringing it down. Let’s dig further.
What is the Average Electric Bill in Arlington VA?
Here’s where we can isolate the utility numbers since Arlington is served by Dominion Energy and DC has Pepco for electric service. Arlington is about 20% cheaper for electric service when compared to DC. The price per kwh in Arlington is 11.66, compared to DC at $13.18. For 700 kWh, an average electric bill in DC would be $101.85. The average electric bill in Arlington, VA for the same 700 kWh will cost $81.62.
Grocery Costs in Arlington
A bag of groceries that costs $100 in New York City will cost $81.67 in the DC area to include Arlington. Compare this to the national average which is $69.87 to get an idea of the cost of living in Arlington
Restaurants in the DC metro area are pricey. Not as pricey as New York or San Francisco, but the bill adds up quickly. A $100 meal in New York City will set you back $82 in Arlington, VA. The national average is $70.79.
Due to state taxes, gas is typically cheaper in Northern Virginia. But, prices depend on where in Northern Virginia or DC. Where Gas Buddy has a gallon of regular unleaded at $3.19 in Arlington, it also shows you can pay as little as $3.05 on the eastern side of DC and close to $4.00 in NW DC.
Public school in Arlington is free and highly rated. If you choose private school, expect to find tuition nearing $40,000 for most schools in the DC area.
Childcare costs are significantly lower in Arlington than in DC. Daycare generally gets more expensive as you get closer to downtown DC. Most parents prefer to have their child close in case of emergency and to also maximize time at work before pick up.
Arlington daycare averages $1550 per month, and DC is $1846.08.
Average Salary in Arlington VA
The median salary in Arlington is $120,071. Over 61% of Arlington residents make $100,000 or more in the North Arlington business corridor of Rosslyn to Ballston. The two South Arlington business corridors – Columbia Pike and Route 1, have lower average salaries, with just 41% of the Columbia Pike area and 53% of those in the Route 1 Corridor making at least $100,000. With Amazon coming to the Route 1 area in Crystal City, it’s generally expected to raise the salary averages in the immediate area. This information is shared courtesy of Arlington County which provides a lot of data on their website
Arlington Virginia Cost of Living: Final Points
Affordability is a huge concern for those moving to Arlington, DC and the metro area. Most cost of living calculators only tell part of the story. Housing costs are one of the hardest things for people new to Arlington or DC to comprehend. Often, if people are relocated to the area and will be taking an in-house promotion, their salary is not adjusted accordingly. People find themselves moving to a new “high-paying” job but barely able to maintain the same standard of living they had in the town from where they moved. Make sure to understand the whole picture and don’t just rely on the online cost of living calculators.