Unexpected Costs of Living in NYC

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

What everyone says is true: it is definitely expensive to move to New York City, and it is even more expensive to continue living there. Sure, you've heard this and think you understand by now that you can expect to pay more in rent, groceries, and dining out, but you feel like you have a grip on the reality of the situation. However, like most things in life, there are always hidden figures and expenses that you only find out about later. Here are some of those unexpected costs of living in New York City that you can now expect to deal with, budget for, and embrace as a city dweller.

Cost of doing laundry

Laundry in New York will cost you more than the simple fees of buying detergent and dryer sheets. Most folks don't anticipate the cost of simply doing their laundry. If you're expecting to have a washer or dryer in your unit, think again! You might not even have a laundering facility within your building (so be sure to ask your potential landlord about on-site washers and dryers when you're scouting apartments).

You might end up schlepping loads of laundry to the neighborhood laundromat (and yes, some of these still require rolls of quarters), or you might use a laundry service. Laundry services in New York City are known as the wash-‘n-folds; essentially, you're paying for someone else to wash, dry, and fold your clothing for you. Does it sound like a luxury? Yes, it sure does, so it comes with a price tag. However you slice it, it's both inconvenient and expensive to tend to your laundry when you live in New York City.

Broker's fees

What you mean, broker's fees? I'm renting!

Exactly. You weren't expecting them.

In real estate transactions that involve the buying and selling of property, it's common to pay the real estate agent a portion of the proceeds from the sale. This is how realtors make their money. In New York City, you may expect to pay the landlord a broker fee (usually 15% of the annual rent if you choose to rent in Manhattan). This is not even a security deposit, folks. You may be able to locate a no-fee apartment with lots of digging, time, and interest, but these apartments usually end up charging higher rent–the broker's fee is almost embedded in the rental price with these units. What will you choose–to pay the fee on a monthly basis with a "no-fee" rental, or to suck it up and pay it up front? Of course, that depends entirely on your finances and how badly you want said apartment. Just be prepared to pay more than you would anywhere else!


New York might not be a large geographically as other areas, so you might think this you can just walk everywhere–it's a pedestrian city, right? Well, kind of. First of all, you have to remember that New York City is more than Manhattan, and four out of five boroughs are located on some kind of island. You can't really just walk over to your friend's place in Staten Island.

In lieu of walking, you may choose to take the subway, train, or even the ferry. Of these, the ferry is the absolute cheapest option since it's free. But as they say, nothing in life is truly free–you can really only benefit from the free ferry if you end up living on Staten Island since this it the primary way to get into and out of Manhattan from Staten Island. The subway is generally cheaper and the most common way New Yorkers get around, but it still costs $2.75 a ride! An unlimited Metro card will run you $121 each month (or more than $1,400 a year just to ride the subway). Forget about hailing a cab just to get to work every day, and only use Uber when absolutely necessary–New York City has the highest Uber rates in the United States. Yep, in New York City, it costs just to get around.

Parking fees

Driving around New York City–especially Manhattan and the Bronx–is usually a complete nightmare, so you might be wondering why even bother bringing a car? Well, maybe you've paid your car loan off, or perhaps you just want to be able to get out of the city whenever you feel like it. Maybe you really just want to continue your Costco membership and don't mind driving into Jersey or Westchester to load up. Whatever the case, you can expect to pay higher insurance rates–New York City's rates are well above the national average. And gas? Let's not even go there, it's so depressingly expensive here.

Lastly, where are you going to park your prized wheels? The city is short on space, and parking comes at a premium–consider it prime real estate. We're not even talking about parking meters on the street. If you're looking for a parking space in a garage or lot, budget for $400 for your parking space. Yep. Four hundred bucks, not including insurance, gas, and maintenance. Ask yourself if it's really worth it, guys.

Car rentals

So you might have guessed by now that it probably doesn't pay to bring your car with you to New York City, but there will still be times that call for an automobile (like driving up to the Finger Lakes, for example). You'll need to rent a car every now and then, but you guessed it–car rentals are more expensive here than, oh, pretty much everywhere else. It's basically the theme of living in NYC. Aim for the best price by booking your rental as early as you can, particularly if you are looking at driving during a busy holiday season or popular weekend (e.g. Memorial Day weekend).

Untraditional grocery stores

In other parts of the country, it's common to buy your groceries at the local supermarket or a big box store like Sam's or Costco. This is simply not the case for the majority of New York City residents. Instead of heading into Kroger or Key Food, you may find yourself frequenting the bodega or the health food store just because of proximity. Beware, and ask yourself if you really want to pay two bucks for a single orange.

Higher taxes

One reason that so many people are leaving New York is because of the high cost of living and crushing debt. It doesn't help that New York City imposes its own income taxes. Yes, you read that correctly: to live in New York City, you'll pay not only your state and federal taxes, but special city income taxes, as well. The tax burden in New York is the highest of any state. Oh, and if you smoke and ever thought about quitting, you might want to do so before moving to New York City since–like your income–the city has its own special tax on cigarettes (in addition to general state tax). NYC has the highest tax on cigarettes in the country. Don't say you had no idea or that you weren't warned!

Yearly rent increases

Rent-controlled apartments that didn't turn condo or co-op teeter on the verge of extinction, so while you can try your darndest to find one, don't get your heart set on nailing one down. More bad news: while the rent price rises, your take home pay will probably stay the same unless you land a much higher-paying job and don't max out your expenses as a result of more moolah coming in. Roommates, therefore, are pretty much a requirement to sustaining your life in New York City.