Priciest U.S. cities
These are the most expensive places to live in the United States
By Les Christie, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Ta dah! To nobody's surprise who has ever lived -- or even visited -- there, Manhattan is the most expensive place in the United States.

That's according to a new survey by Runzheimer International, a Wisconsin-based management consultant. The study considered what a typical family of four earning $60,000 annually spends and compared the costs of maintaining that lifestyle in more than 300 U.S. locations of comparable quality.

Priciest U.S. towns
The five most expensive places to live in the United States
CityAnnual costPercent above mean
San Francisco$122,00798.7%
Los Angeles$117,72691.8%
San Jose$108,50676.8%
Washington, D.C.$102,58967.1%
Source:Runzheimer International

In Manhattan, that family would need to spend $146,060, 137.9 percent more than in the average American town. This slice of the Big Apple topped runner-up San Francisco by more than $24,000 to earn the dubious distinction of being the nation's priciest place.

In the top five locations, which also included Los Angeles, San Jose, and Washington D.C., housing costs make up the lion's share of total living costs. The survey factored in local and state income taxes, costs associated with owning two cars (except in Manhattan), public transportation costs, goods and services, sales taxes, and costs to own a 2,500 square foot house (mortgage payment, insurance, real estate taxes, utilities and maintenance.

In Manhattan the survey figured those housing costs amounted to a whopping $100,532 annually and accounted for nearly 69 percent of all living costs. In San Francisco, similar housing would cost $79,156.

Getting more for the money

Runzheimer compiles information on cost of living to aid their corporate clients in making relocation decisions. In addition to calculating living costs in places like Manhattan, they also survey nearby towns to find less expensive, but still highly desirable, places to live.

Call these the affordable alternatives.

For Manhattan, a less pricey choice would be the Maplewood Scotch Plains South Orange areas of New Jersey, about 15 miles west of Manhattan. To maintain a $60,000 a year lifestyle in these cross-Hudson communities is only about 46.7 percent higher than Runzheimer's national index, a huge savings over Manhattan prices.

In the Los Angeles area, living in Corona, Redlands, or Riverside is about 35.3 percent more, $83,085.

Affordable alternatives are usually found some distance from core cities; the longer the commute, the less expensive the area. Riverside lies more than 55 miles east of Los Angeles, for example.

"People looking for more affordable locations will commute 60 miles," says Luella Dooley, spokeswoman for Runzheimer. Top of page

Affordable alternatives
Less expensive communities near pricey places
City More affordable communities Annual
living cost
above mean
Manhattan Maplewood, Scotch Plains, South Orange, NJ $90,083 46.7%
San Francisco Oakland, Danville, Fremont $112,224 82.8%
Los Angeles Corona, Redlands, Riverside $83,085 35.3%
San Jose Salinas $97,623 59.0%
Washington, D.C. Gaithersburg, North of Potomac, Rockville, MD $80,635 31.4%
Source: Runzheimer International

Manhattan is not the most expensive place to own an automobile. For that story, click here.

For a look at the BEST places to live in the United States, click here.