Why New York City Food Is So Expensive

Food Carts in NYC

New York is such an expensive city that people the world over always have impressions that to live in this city means you must earn at least five times more than the annual average wage of those in other states. Food is no exception with rent, transportation, and all other living costs being more expensive than the national average.

The reasons will be highlighted below, but first off, let us start with giving you an idea of living costs in New York:


A report by the US Census Bureau says that rent in some areas in New York, for example, Manhattan, can go up to $3,895 a month which is comparable to the average wage in some states. When you move to the suburbs, it is not as exorbitant but still expensive.

Buying a house

As for the purchase of a house, here are the average home values in major New York boroughs also reported by the US Census Bureau: Manhattan ($848,600), Brooklyn ($557,000), Queens ($439,500), Staten Island ($432,600), and The Bronx ($369,400).


Costs of utilities are not as bad, with the average cost of basic utilities at $147.30 a month. This amount covers electricity, water, heating, and garbage fees. For the internet, the average monthly cost is at $53.37, a bit higher than the price in other states.


Buying a car, car insurance, and taking public transit are all more expensive in New York than in other states. For example, car insurance in Manhattan costs $4,000 a year, a whopping price to pay for keeping your vehicle.

And insurance is not the only thing you must save up for. Parking is another costly expense in New York, which can tip to as much as $533 a month for one car. This price is for Manhattan, and while it is the most expensive compared to other boroughs, you can still expect high parking fees that will not be lower than $250 a month.

If you choose to say no to buying and maintaining a car, then you can go with public transportation instead. Thankfully, New York has the most efficient public transportation system in the whole of U.S., so you get value for your money. Monthly transportation passes may cost higher at $116.50 compared to other cities, but you get to enjoy a well-connected system within the metro.


If you live in New York, you may want to do your retail therapy online. Even shopping for clothes, furniture, and other consumer items is expensive in New York.

To give you an idea, here is Numbeo’s breakdown of price differences in some retail items in New York compared to the national average:

Denim jeans: $59 when sold in New York, $41 in other states

Summer dress: $53 in New York, $36 in other states

Regular Nike shoes: $96 in New York, $77 in other states

Regular men’s leather shoes: $143 in New York, $85 in other states

As you can see from the list above, there is a significant markup of consumer goods when sold in New York. Reasons for this increase include higher rental prices and higher taxes.


If shopping, rent, transportation, and utilities are already expensive in New York, entertainment is also not spared. If you are on a budget, you must plan your night-outs well. Watching a movie costs $14 in New York, which is 4% more than the national average.

And when you decide to go, say, bowling, it is twice the price of what you have to pay for in other cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles. It goes the same way with other activities such as gym membership, billiards, and cooking and baking classes, among others.


And if having higher prices for rent, buying a house, utilities, transportation, shopping, and entertainment are not enough, New Yorkers also have to spend more for groceries and eating out. The price difference is staggering with groceries as much as 40% more expensive in New York compared to other states. So, for example, if you are living in New Jersey and your typical monthly grocery bill is $250, expect to pay $350 once you move to New York.

Eating out can be expensive, too. One average meal at an inexpensive food joint costs $15, and it can up go to as much as $38 if you go to an average-priced restaurant. Eating out is very costly in New York, and you must expect to pay at least 50% more for the same meal that you can buy in other states.

There are many reasons as to why it is expensive to live in New York. Higher prices for rent, transportation, utilities, and retail items are to blame, as well as the higher tax percentage that you must pay for when living in New York.

As for the high cost of food, since New York is a big city and all ingredients have to be sourced outside New York, there are the additional costs of transportation and taxes that must be added to cover these expenses. Wage is also higher in New York compared to other cities, so businesses and consumers have to cover for this difference, too.

These are the many reasons why food is more expensive in New York, and when you see these reasons, you will realize that the high costs are not unfounded.