10 Affordable Big Cities for Renters

Homeownership isn’t for everyone.

For Rent sign in front of new house
(Image credit: Thinkstock)

Homeownership isn’t for everyone. Some, including many young adults, simply don’t have the money for a down payment on a house. Others covet the flexibility of renting, which makes it easy to move across town for a better apartment or cross-country for a better job.

Renting is an especially popular option in big cities, where career, social and educational opportunities tend to be clustered and populations tend to be more transient. In fact, renters outnumber homeowners in six of the ten most populous cities in the country, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. But not all rental markets are created equal. An apartment in Manhattan goes for an average of $3,350 a month, more than triple the typical American's mortgage payment.

That's why we went in search of the most affordable big cities for renters. To pinpoint these promising places, we started with the nation's 75 largest metropolitan areas and ranked them based on average monthly rent, median household income for renters, residential rental vacancy rate and overall cost of living. Our top ten cities exhibit an appealing combination of affordable living expenses, including rent, relative to the typical earnings of renters. Take a look.


Monthly average rent and cost-of-living data for the second quarter of 2013 provided by the Council for Community and Economic Research. Rental vacancy rates as of the second quarter of 2013 provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. Median household income for renters and renter-population data come from the 2007–2011 U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

Andrea Browne Taylor
Contributing Editor

Browne Taylor joined Kiplinger in 2011 and was a channel editor for Kiplinger.com covering living and family finance topics. She previously worked at the Washington Post as a Web producer in the Style section and prior to that covered the Jobs, Cars and Real Estate sections. She earned a BA in journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She is Director of Member Services, at the National Association of Home Builders.