Back to top

Cost of living in Chicago 2016

View on Chicago from Adler Planetarium

Chicago is huge, diverse, and attractive city whether to move there or just come to visit. Despite the fact that it is not the most expensive city to live in, the cost of living is comparatively less to other giant cities like Los Angeles and New York, but Windy City is not cheap either. What to expect?


To lease an apartment vary greatly and depend on the location and landlords. In downtown of Chicago the rent might be over couple thousands of dollars for two bedroom apartment, while on the North Side of the city you might find about the same apartment for more than twice cheaper somewhere close to $950 - $1050. There are some places on south side where monthly rent is $600 per month, but not many are willing to live there.


Apartments usually are unfurnished, but not always. So, you should be prepared to buy at least some first necessary things like a bed, kitchen table, and chairs. Depending on your budget, there are many places to shop while furnishing your new dwelling from expensive stores to getting the stuff from garage sales or Salvation Army.


Typically apartments have a refrigerator and gas/electrical stove, but a microwave and dishwasher might be present or may not.


Many apartments do not have washers and dryers in the unit. Even thought coin operated laundry machines might be present in the building they are not free. You can also use public laundries in the city. To do one load of laundry cost about $4 – $5 or more depending on the capacity of the washer and the laundromat.

House cleaning

To hire maids to do the regular cleaning in your home will cost about $100 - $150. The cleaning ladies will work about 5 - 7 hours to wash bathrooms, a kitchen, bedrooms, and a living room. If they will need more time to finish up with your house, the extra fees may apply.

Air conditioners

During hot period of the year, it might be necessary to purchase an air conditioner if the building does not have central heating and cooling system. One basic air conditioner cost about $160 -$290.


The utility bill for gas, electricity, and water vary greatly depending on your usage and type of appliances. Many rented apartments include water, gas and electricity in your monthly rent payments. In some cases, landlords might make you pay for the electricity and get the utility on your name. The cost of transferring the utility account is over $100.


Despite the fact that there are lots of places in Chicago which have free WI-FI, but that internet connection is unsecured. It is not a good idea to enter your passwords or credit card numbers using such internet due to possible identity thefts. Your monthly payment for the internet depends on the provider and whether you can share the cost with someone else. Some landlords will offer the internet for free, but your monthly rent might be higher.


Chicago is so diverse and has many ethnic neighborhoods that you definitely won’t get tired of eating the same type of fare. In addition, everyone can find the food he loves or get used to for any budget. Usually big stores like Walmart and Jewel Osco offer really cheap prices for groceries that do not spoil fast.

Rent a car

To lease a car cost about the same as everywhere nationwide. It might be costly if you plan to use the vehicle for few days and get a better deal for long-term renting.

Private car expenses (gas, insurance, maintenance)

The gas prices vary every day, but still remain close to $3.20 per gallon for regular gas. So, to fill 15 gallon car tank up one time may cost you about $54. Car insurances are also unlike. The cheapest insurance might not cost you much, but it won’t cover much either. To wash a vehicle cost just few dollars plus you will get a better deal on your gas prices. Prepare to spend $25 – $30 to change oil if you own a midsize vehicle.

Public transportation

Since 2014 CTA start using Ventra card to pay for a fare in buses and trains. One bus ride cost $3 if you will pay with cash. Good thing is that if you need to take a train or another bus to get to your choice of destination, two transfers within first 2 hours after the first ride will be free of charge with a card. The full fare of $3 for each ride will apply in case the rider does not have the card. There are multiple passes available if you use bus/train as a major type of transportation.


On many streets outside downtown you can park a car for free, but always look for signs. In some places you have to obtain a special permit while on other streets parking hours might be restricted to certain time. In the Loop the parking might be extremely expensive. It is especially pricy during business hours from 8 am – 5 pm. In some cases, it is cheaper to rent a bike or take taxi than to pay for parking in multiple places.


To take a taxi ride in Chicago might cost you as little as few dollars on short distances in downtown. This option is much better than to try to find cheap parking or pay its regular price. Long distance ride like from O’Hare to the Loop will cost you about $40.

Hair cut

No matter what, people want or need to look their best and hair cut is one of important things to do. Simple and basic hair cut you might find in Chicago for as low as $5 plus a tip. However, do not expect much from that hair salon.


Manicure in Chicago cost about $10 – 15 usually depending on the location of the salon. Pedicure starts from $25.


If you are planning to go outside of the city, keep in an easy reachable place many small dollar bills and coins because most of highways have tolls and on some exits you can pay with coins or I-Pass only. The cost of tolls varies from about $1 to $4. Purchasing I-Pass will save you 40% – 50% of toll expenses.

Tips for drivers

There are countless number of red light and speeding cameras on the streets in Chicago. If you do not pay attention to speed limits or try to go on a red light you might receive tickets by mail which have to be paid off.


There is no certain dollar amount of your monthly expenses in Chicago can be defined because it depends on multiple factors and your lifestyle at a first place. Many people live in Chicago working at minimum or close to minimum wage jobs. At the same time, some might feel uncomfortable making over $170,000 a year.