10 Best Cities For Renters: Where To Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

Sunnyvale, CA, takes the #1 spot on the list of 10 best cities for renters; overall, the Southeast has the most cities in the top 30 of the RentCafe survey.

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With the average rent of $1,468 for an apartment in the U.S., it’s little wonder you’re struggling to make ends meet. The most expensive apartments are in Manhattan, NY, at a crushing $4,208 per month, while the lowest rents are in Wichita, KS, at just $665 per month. 

But there are a number of cities where the income and the cost of living align. These cities, what RentCafe calls the "sweet spots" for renting, are the places where you can afford the rent based on your income. 

The #1 spot? Sunnyvale, CA, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Here's the breakdown:

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  • The highest median wages in the nation make it easier to cover living expenses in Sunnyvale, CA. 
  • Surprise, AZ, came in at #2, followed by Arlington, VA, #3; Bethesda, MD, #4; and Alexandria, VA, #5. 
  • Texas has the most cities where salary and rent align, with Round Rock as the highest-ranking Texas city at #8.
  • Renters spent a smaller portion of their pay for rent and basic necessities in suburban locations in the Southwest.  
  • The Mountain region was the second-best area for renters looking to hit that perfect balance between salary and living expenses.
  • In the Northeast, Pittsburgh took the lead as the top city where renters could stretch their dollars furthest. 
  • The Southeast has the most cities in the top 30.
  • Jacksonville, NC, came in at #30. 

The cities that strike that perfect balance between income, rent and expenses, such as utilities, groceries, healthcare, transportation and entertainment, include (in order, 1 - 10):

1. Sunnyvale, CA

California can be an expensive place to live. But when you consider that in Sunnyvale, CA, the average salary is about $146,000 per year, or triple the median wage in the U.S., paying an average rent of $3,000 per month is affordable. This is especially true when you factor in the total price for basic necessities is roughly 28% above the national benchmark.

2. Surprise, AZ

The first of two Arizona cities at the top of our list, Surprise, AZ ranked second. With a current population of 149,191, this Phoenix metro area is home to several tech and healthcare giants where renters can enjoy the seventh-highest annual median income in the country — about $86,000 per year — and pay an average rent of $1,781. Even monthly costs come in below the national average.

3. Arlington, VA

Located right across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, Arlington, VA, is ranked third among the U.S. cities where renters can get the most out of their paychecks. The city boasts an average yearly wage of $102,710 (the third-highest annual income out of the 189 cities that were analyzed) and an average monthly rent of just under $2,500. Monthly expenses are close to the national average. Arlington is also one of the top cities to watch in 2024 due to increased rental demand last year.

4. Bethesda, MD

Bethesda, MD, another Washington, D.C., suburb, comes in at number four. With a yearly income of $99,315, renters pay an average monthly rent of $2,684 and basic living expenses of $1,093, which is on par with the national average. However, utilities are high and make up nearly half of the $404 price calculated for basic needs.

5. Alexandria, VA

Another D.C suburb, Alexandria, VA, is a mix of federal agencies, corporate offices and tourism. Alexandria ranked fifth among the cities where renters could easily hit a balance between income and expenses, with the sixth-highest annual income out of all the cities at $89,845, enough to cover the $2,068 monthly rent and the $1,174 total price for basic necessities.

6. Westminster, CO

With an elevation of 5,381 feet above sea level, the Denver suburb of Westminster, CO, came in sixth, where renters could make the most out of their salaries. Renters can expect a median annual wage of $75,841, an average rent of $1,864, and a monthly cost of basic necessities of just under $1,000, which are some of the lowest living expenses in the country.

7. Scottsdale, AZ

The “West’s Most Western Town,” Scottsdale, AZ, ranks seventh out of the top 30. Renters benefit from a median annual income of $82,865 — the eighth-highest in the U.S. — an average monthly rent of just above $2,000 and a monthly cost of essential items and services at $1,087. And, with an average of 314 sunny days per year, low crime rates and endless outdoor activities, Scottsdale makes living and working a breeze.

8. Round Rock, TX

Round Rock, TX, is a short 20-minute drive to Austin, TX, one of the nation’s hottest tech hubs. With an average rent of $1,574 and an average annual income of around $68,517 (39% higher than the norm), Round Rock offers renters more bang for their buck. This is especially true when considering that expenses for basic necessities such as utilities, food, healthcare, transportation, and common goods and services are slightly below average at $1,058.

9. Plano, TX

Known for low crime rates and great schools, Plano, TX, managed to rank ninth by hitting a favorable balance between renters’ income and the price of everyday necessities. The monthly rent was close to the national benchmark at $1,786, while basic living expenses were slightly above the average at $1,204. Factoring in an annual income of $76,824 (the 11th-highest in the country) makes Plano an affordable place for renters to maintain financial health.

10. Broken Arrow, OK

Part of the Tulsa Metropolitan area, Broken Arrow boasts a $54,594 annual income that can easily cover the below-average monthly rent of $1,165 and the price of basic living expenses. The city's population continues to grow and now stands at 116,330, according to the latest census. It is Oklahoma’s fourth-largest city.

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Kathryn Pomroy

For the past 18+ years, Kathryn has highlighted the humanity in personal finance by shaping stories that identify the opportunities and obstacles in managing a person's finances. All the same, she’ll jump on other equally important topics if needed. Kathryn graduated with a degree in Journalism and lives in Duluth, Minnesota. She joined Kiplinger in 2023 as a contributor.