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What Is the True Cost of Living in Denver?


Nestled in the Rocky Mountains in the American West, Denver has a lot to offer. For skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts, Denver is a dream destination. And if you enjoy physical training and sports, working out at Denver’s mile-high elevation can give you an edge. Rent prices in Denver are also lower than in most other major cities in the U.S., but is living in this wintry paradise an affordable venture? Prices have risen steadily over the past several years so we analyze where the cost of living is at today. If you’re considering a big move you may want to first work with a financial advisor who can help get your finances in order. 

Denver Home Prices

Between 2000 and 2018, Denver homes appreciated by 127.67%, according to NeighborhoodScout. That makes it one of the most positive-trending housing markets in the country. In fact, the average home price increased by 17.2% in 2021 but 2022 has shown signs of a little bit of a slowdown as the economy as a whole struggles.

Because of this stark growth, the values of homes in Denver have become somewhat out of reach of the typical homebuyer. In September of 2022, the median sales price of a single-family home in the Denver metro area is $585,000. As a reference, this is more affordable than New York City ($749,000) and Washington, D.C. ($630,000).

If you have your sights set on buying a home in Denver, you may want to look into what kind of house you can afford. Once you do this, try evaluating what your mortgage payments could look like via our Colorado mortgage calculator.

Rent a Home in the Denver Area

Despite a local TV report in Denver indicating that 47% of Denver residents are renters, rental prices in the city are a bit high, with an average rent of $1,994. The average rent for a one-bedroom home is $1,715 while the cost of a two-bedroom place is $2,295. This is becoming quite expensive even when compared to some of the most recognizable cities in the world, such as Miami ($2,307) and New York City ($2,174).

Denver Utility Costs

Utility costs in Denver are well below the national average, according to The data shows that a basic utility package of electricity, heating, water and garbage for a 915-square-foot apartment costs an average of $124.01 in Denver. That’s almost $30 cheaper than the national average of $152.06. Denver’s internet prices are also slightly below the national average. At $57.35 they’re just under the $62.51 U.S. average.

Food Costs in Denver

Now that you’ve got an idea of how much housing and utilities will run you in Denver, let’s talk food. A three-course meal for you and a date at a mid-range restaurant in Denver will cost you about $60, according to That’s $10 higher than the U.S. average of $50. Want to grab a domestic beer after dinner? That will cost you $4.99 in Denver, which is a full dollar pricier than the national mark.

Transportation Costs

Denver residents famously love to run, hike and bike their way around the city. But even the most active among us have other transportation needs. Denver’s monthly public transit passes are priced at different levels depending on whether you want local, regional or airport service. For local service only, you’ll pay $114 for a monthly pass. Upgrade to regional service and it will cost you $200. If you find yourself traveling to the airport often, your rides are included with a regional pass.

For some Americans, driving everywhere is a way of life. According to GasBuddy, Denver residents who drive will pay a per gallon gas price of $3.49, slightly less than the national average of $3.76. The good news is that Denver gas prices are below the average for Colorado ($3.58).

Cost of Healthcare

Residents of Denver are known for being health-conscious exercise lovers, but everyone needs a doctor sometimes. According to a study by the Health Care Cost Institute, a resident of the Denver metro area pays 13% more for healthcare than the U.S. median. As a consolation, the entire state of Colorado appears to experience high healthcare costs.

What You Need to Earn in Denver

If you’re moving to Denver, you want to be sure that your salary will enable you to maintain a decent standard of living. According to MIT’s living wage calculator, a living hourly wage for one adult with no children in Denver County is $13.87. Unfortunately, the minimum wage in Colorado (effective January 1, 2020) is just $12.00.

As you might expect, living wages rise as your family gets larger. Data from MIT shows that one adult with one child will require $29.02, while one adult with two children calls for $33.54. Two adults who are both working need only earn $10.94. That rises to $15.74 if they have one child and $18.19 if they have two children.

Miscellaneous Cost of Living Facts

Cost of Living in Denver

Denver residents recently approved an increase in sales and use taxes to fund city preschools. The city sales tax now stands at 4.75%. That may sound low, but it’s not the only component of the sales tax you’ll pay on purchases in Denver. Add in the state sales tax of 2.9%, a Regional Transportation District (RTD) tax of 1% to fund transit and a 0.1% Cultural Facilities District tax and you’ve got a sales tax rate of 7.65% in Denver.

And if you’re wondering about one of Colorado’s more famous products, the sales tax on recreational marijuana is 15%. There’s also a 15% excise tax on top of the state rate. When all is said and done, the marijuana tax in Denver is 32.9%.

The Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about making a big move and you’re ready to call the mile-high city your home, then the cost of living facts above should help you determine what your budget will be. You can also visit the city and work with a financial advisor to figure out what you can afford and what part of the city you think you should move to.

Tips for Moving to Denver

  • Moving to a new city means big changes to your finances, especially if you’re buying a home. A financial advisor can be extremely helpful during this process. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • SmartAsset also has an in-depth review of the top 10 financial advisor firms in Denver.
  • The bank you choose to deposit your money with can have a significant bearing on the future of your finances. If you’re unfamiliar with banks in the Colorado area, here area a few to pick from: BOK FinancialGlacier Bank, Crescent Bank & Trust, Liberty Savings Bank and Grand Valley Bank.

Photo credit: © iStock/Planet Unicorn, © iStock/Jeremy Janus