Cost of Living Seattle vs Chicago: A Comparison

Cost of Living Seattle vs Chicago: A Comparison

Chicago and Seattle are both popular cities to buy a home and create a life in.

Which one you choose will ultimately depend on what you’re looking for and the price of living there. 

We compare the cost of living Seattle vs Chicago, so you can find out which city you get more for your money in.

The average salary in Seattle and Chicago

Before we look at the cost of living in each city, we need to know how much you can expect to earn in each one.

In Seattle, people earn an average of $87k a year. It has a huge amount of career opportunities, especially in the technology industry. Popular occupations include:

·       Software Engineer

·       Project Manager

·       Marketing Manager

·       Operations Manager

·       Executive Assistant

Chicago has an average-sized job market. The median earnings are slightly lower than in Seattle at $76k per year. Typical jobs include:

·       Account Manager

·       Project Manager

·       Data analyst

·       Marketing Manager

·       Software Engineer

It’s important to consider that higher wages are directly linked to a higher cost of living, so you might not get a better standard of living by choosing the city with higher prices.

The unemployment rate for Seattle is 4.8% whereas Chicago’s is 9% versus a United States average of 6%. Future job growth for Seattle is shown as 43.8% and 25.7% for Chicago. The average for the United States to compare is 33.5%.

Cost of living Seattle vs Chicago

Overall, Chicago has a lower cost of living than Seattle. But prices can vary greatly depending on the area and what you’re buying.

The monthly cost of living for one person in Chicago is approximately $2,384 and $2,734 in Seattle.

For a family of four, monthly living expenses average $5,451 in Chicago and $6,193 in Seattle.

Here’s a breakdown of the average items that you’ll need to live comfortably in these two major cities.


Seattle is known for its coffee culture scene and popular seafood dishes.

Chicago is known for its delicious deep pan pizzas and other Italian-style dishes that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.  

So how different are food prices between the two cities?

Restaurants will vary in price, however you can expect to pay approximately $10 for a meal at a budget restaurant in Chicago. A mid-range restaurant will charge around $80 for a three course meal for two people.

In comparison, you can expect to pay an average of $87 for a three course meal at a mid-range restaurant in Seattle.

A typical fast food meal at McDonald’s is $5,99 in Chicago, which is slightly cheaper than the price that you’d pay for the same meal in Seattle.

Here is a comparison of the approximate price of everyday food items in the two cities.

Milk (0.25 liter):

Chicago – $0.22

Seattle – $0.29

Loaf of fresh white bread

Chicago – $0.81

Seattle – $1.05


Chicago – $1.27

Seattle – $1.75


Chicago – $0.60

Seattle – $0.72

Chicken fillets:

Chicago – $1.78

Seattle – $2.23


Public transportation is a huge factor that affects your monthly living budget, especially when you have commuting costs to consider.

Buses are the most popular mode of transport in Chicago. There are almost 12,000 bus stops across the city, so you’ll never be too far from one. A standard bus fare costs around $2.25, making it an affordable way to travel.

Chicago’s train system is called the “L”. Trains are located across the city and in suburbs to connect you to neighboring cities. An “L” train fare costs around $2.50.

Seattle has great transport links and a range of smart transport options including streetcars, light rail and buses. You can purchase an ORCA card for $3 and save money on fares with exclusive cardholder discounts. Adult bus fares with an ORCA card cost between $2.75 and $3.25.


Home prices vary greatly between the two cities.

On average, an average-sized house in wa Chicago is $340,000. The cost to rent an apartment in Chicago is approximately $2,206 per month. The exact cost will depend on the size, location and quality of the property.

So let’s compare this to the cost of housing in Seattle.

The median value of homes in Seattle is $814k, which works out as $576 per square footage. Renters can expect to pay slightly more on rent than in Chicago at $2,334 per month.

Therefore, if you’re saving for a down payment on a house, Chicago is a cheaper option than purchasing property in Seattle.


Day care is an expense that most parents face unless you are lucky enough to have help from parents or in-laws.

The truth is that the price you pay will depend on your child’s age and whether you require full-time or part-time care. Location and the type of child care center you choose can also affect your monthly bill.

On average, for babies and toddlers that are under two years old, $1,150 is the average cost of full-time care in Chicago. You will pay slightly less for children that are three and over as their needs are less than younger children. This works out at just over $39 per day and matches the state-wide average for child care.

In Seattle, the cost of child care is higher, matching the higher cost of living in general. Your average bill for a weekly child care provider in Seattle is $723.80, which is approximately $20.68 per hour and significantly higher than day care in Chicago.


As a comparison between Chicago and Seattle, the Sales rate of tax is almost identical with 10.3% for Chicago and 10.1% for Seattle. Admittedly both are higher than the United States average of 6.2%.

Where things differ is on income tax. Chicago has a rate of 5% whereas Seattle is currently 0%.

Other differences between Chicago and Seattle

Aside from the cost of living, these two American cities have some other differences that you should be aware of.

Weather – Chicago is much colder than Seattle, which means there’s more chance of snow. Seattle is milder and has more rainfall.

Size – Seattle is a small but rapidly growing city that is home to 3,489,000 people. In comparison, Chicago is the third largest city in the U.S., with a population of 8,901,000.

Culture –  the culture in Chicago is bustling and vibrant, whereas Seattle is known for being a quieter city.

Visual appeal – if you’re looking for a built-up city with a skyline packed full of skyscrapers, Chicago fits the bill. Alternatively, if you’d rather live somewhere that is more modern and open, Seattle is a better choice.

Top 3 places to live in Chicago and Seattle


1.       Clarendon Hills – This suburb is home to just under 9,000 residents located in DuPage County. It has a dense suburban vibe and plenty of parks and restaurants to sample and enjoy. This is a top choice for families and has an average property price of $456,300 with an average rental of $970.

2.       Long Grove – This suburb is home to just under 8,000 residents and is located in Lake County. Long Grove gives residents plenty of parks for families to enjoy themselves in and has a great number of restaurants to try out. The average property price is $652,600 and the median rent is $3,501. The schools in Long Grove are highly rated as well.

3.       Buffalo Grove – This suburb of Chicago is home to nearly 41,000 residents and is located in Lake County. Buffalo Grove offers a mix of urban and suburban life. Schools are highly regarded and there are plenty of restaurants to sample and open parks to explore. The average property price is $338,400 and the average rental is $1,700


1.       Clyde Hill – This suburb of Seattle is home to just under 3,400 residents and is located in King County. The area offers a rural feel with many retirees living here. The schools in Clyde Hill are very highly regarded. The average property price is $2,000,001 with the average rental being $2,772 a month.

2.       Sammamish – This suburb of Seattle is home to over 65,000 people and is located in King County. The suburb is rated very highly for families and the schools of the area are very highly rated. Sammamish has a sparse suburban feel to it. The average property price is $878,000 and the average rental is $2,395.

3.       Bainbridge Island – This suburb is located in Kitsap County and has a population of just under 25,000. The suburb offers a sparse suburban feel and has plenty of restaurants to offer. Bainbridge Island is very highly rated for its schools and also is a great choice for families. The average property price is $783,600 and the average rental is $1,612.

 Chicago vs. Seattle: which city is better to live in financially?

Ultimately this depends on the type of lifestyle that you want to live and your monthly earnings. Figuring this out will help you choose between a life in Chicago or Seattle.

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