Living Legacy

The Shocking Truth About the Cost of Living in Baltimore: What You Need to Know


Baltimore is a historic city known for its charming neighborhoods, world-class museums, and delicious seafood. But behind the scenes, many Baltimore residents face economic challenges stemming from the city’s rising cost of living.

Over the past decade, costs for housing, transportation, utilities, and other necessities have increased faster than incomes in Charm City. This has put financial strain on many households, especially lower-income families and individuals. The high costs have even driven some long-time residents out of the city they call home.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the major expenses Baltimoreans face. We’ll break down the costs for housing, transportation, food, utilities, healthcare, taxes, childcare, and recreation. You’ll learn just how much it takes to live comfortably in Baltimore in 2022. We’ll also provide tips and resources to help you reduce expenses where possible.

Whether you currently live in Baltimore or are considering a move, understanding the true cost of living is essential. This information will allow you to budget wisely and secure your financial stability in a city with climbing prices.

Housing Costs in Baltimore

Baltimore offers a range of housing options, from affordable apartments to luxury homes. The median rent for an apartment in Baltimore is around $1,100 per month. Rents can range from $800 for a simple studio in an older building to over $3,000 per month for a luxury high-rise apartment downtown.

Popular neighborhoods for renters include Canton, Federal Hill, Fells Point, and Mount Vernon. These areas offer walkable access to restaurants, nightlife, and public transportation. More affordable options can be found in neighborhoods like Park Heights, Belair-Edison, and Brooklyn.

To buy a home in Baltimore, expect prices averaging around $300,000, but with significant variation by neighborhood. Starter homes or fixer-uppers can be found for under $200,000 in many areas. The most expensive neighborhoods like Roland Park and Homeland have homes over $1 million.

First-time homebuyers may qualify for special mortgage and down payment assistance programs offered in Baltimore. Neighborhoods like Pigtown, Highlandtown, and Hamilton are relatively affordable for buying a home while still close to downtown.

Renters and buyers should factor in additional housing costs like parking, utilities, and maintenance. However, Baltimore remains one of the more affordable East Coast cities for the cost of housing overall.


Getting around Baltimore can be expensive, especially if you own a vehicle. Public transportation is a more affordable option for many residents.

The Maryland Transit Administration operates buses, light rail, metro subway, and mobility vehicles throughout Baltimore City and County. An all-day pass costs $4.40, while a monthly pass is $74. City residents can ride for free on the Charm City Circulator buses. Commuter buses and MARC trains also connect Baltimore to Washington D.C. and other suburbs.

Driving does provide more flexibility but comes at a cost. Gas prices currently average around $3.20 per gallon in the city. Parking rates range from $1-3 per hour at meters to $100-300 per month in garages. Tolls for bridges and tunnels like the Fort McHenry Tunnel add up too.

Buying and maintaining a car also carries significant expenses. The average car insurance premium in Baltimore is over $1,800 per year. With higher collision rates in the city, premiums tend to be more expensive. In addition, the costs of car payments, registration, repairs and maintenance can easily total thousands of dollars annually. Weighing commuting options and living near public transportation can help manage the cost of getting around Baltimore.

Food Costs in Baltimore

Food costs in Baltimore, including groceries and dining out, are above the national average but not dramatically higher.

Grocery prices at major chains like Safeway and Giant are comparable to national averages, with some specific items costing slightly more. For example, a gallon of milk averages around $3.50 in Baltimore versus $3.25 nationally. Produce and meat prices are similar to national averages. Overall, a modest increase compared to nationwide grocery costs.

Dining out at restaurants in Baltimore carries a higher price tag than the national average. An inexpensive meal at a casual dining spot averages around $15-20 in Baltimore, while the national average is $10-15. More upscale restaurants easily top $50 per person in Baltimore, higher than comparable restaurants in other metro areas. The higher restaurant prices likely reflect Baltimore’s thriving food scene and tourism industry.

While groceries are moderately above average, the cost of dining out drives up overall food costs for Baltimore residents versus the national benchmark. However, it’s possible to find affordable grocery and restaurant options in the city with savvy shopping.


Baltimore residents pay some of the highest utility costs in the country. This is especially true for electricity, natural gas, and water bills.

The average monthly electric bill for a Baltimore home is around $150. This is nearly double the national average. High demand and an aging infrastructure contribute to the inflated costs.

Natural gas bills are also pricey, averaging $80-100 per month during the winter heating season. Old, inefficient heating systems are common in Baltimore’s older housing stock. Upgrading to a newer furnace or boiler could cut these costs in half.

Water and sewer rates have risen steadily over the past decade. Most households now pay $50-75 per month for water and sewer service. Rates are set to increase another 9% next year.

High-speed internet averages $60-80 per month in Baltimore. There is limited competition among providers, which keeps prices higher than other regions. Upgrading to faster fiber optic service can cost over $100 per month.

So in summary, Baltimore residents get hit hard by elevated utility costs. Electricity, gas, water, and internet bills take a big bite out of household budgets compared to other parts of the country.


Healthcare costs in Baltimore can vary greatly depending on your insurance coverage and health needs. Here’s a look at some typical costs:

Health Insurance Premiums

Health insurance premiums in Maryland are among the highest in the country, with average annual premiums around $7,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a family. Premiums can be even higher in the Baltimore area. The Affordable Care Act provides subsidies based on income to help make premiums more affordable.

Doctor Visit Copays

Copays for primary doctor visits in Baltimore tend to range from $20-$50 with insurance. Specialist visit copays are usually higher, in the range of $40-$75 per visit. Your specific copays will depend on your health plan. High deductible plans may have higher copays until you meet your deductible.

Prescription Drug Costs

The costs of prescription medications can quickly add up. Generic drugs tend to cost $5-$25 per prescription. Preferred brand name drugs are $30-$75 on average. Non-preferred brands can cost $50-$150 or more. Using mail order or generic equivalents can help reduce costs. Those without insurance will pay the full cash price, which is usually higher. There are some discount programs like GoodRx that can provide coupons to reduce costs for the uninsured.


Baltimore has a relatively high tax burden compared to other major U.S. cities. Here’s a breakdown of the main taxes residents pay:

Income Tax

Maryland has a graduated income tax with rates ranging from 2% to 5.75%. Baltimore city residents pay both state and local income taxes. The local income tax rate is 3.2% for residents, bringing the top marginal rate to 8.95%.

Property Tax

Baltimore has a property tax rate of $2.248 per $100 of assessed value. This is significantly higher than the national average effective property tax rate of 1.08%. For a $250,000 home, the annual property tax bill would be around $5,620.

Sales Tax

Maryland has a 6% statewide sales tax. Baltimore city adds an additional 2.5% local sales tax of 2.5%, bringing the total to 8.5% in the city. The sales tax applies to most goods and some services purchased in Baltimore.

So in summary, Baltimore residents pay relatively high income, property, and sales taxes compared to other cities and the national average. Taxes can take a significant bite out of take-home pay and need to be factored into the cost of living.


Childcare costs can vary widely in Baltimore depending on the age of the child and type of care. Here are some average costs:

  • Childcare centers: $200-$300 per week for infants, $150-$250 for toddlers, $100-$200 for preschoolers. Centers in Baltimore tend to be on the pricier side.
  • Nannies: Around $15-$20 per hour for one child, more for multiple children. For full-time care you’re looking at $600-$800 per week.
  • Babysitters: $15-$25 per hour depending on experience. Date night babysitters tend to be on the higher end.
  • Au pairs: $350-$500 per week for 45 hours of childcare. This includes providing room and board.
  • Drop-in centers: Around $25 per hour, minimum 2 hours. Some also charge registration fees.
  • Before/after school care: $100-$250 per month.
  • Summer camps: $200-$400 per week.

Childcare costs take a big bite out of family budgets in Baltimore. Options like nanny shares, au pairs, and utilizing family members for care can help reduce costs. But many families still end up spending 15-25% of their income on childcare.


Baltimore offers a variety of recreational activities, though costs can add up quickly. Taking in a movie at one of Baltimore’s theaters will run you $11-16 per ticket. Major concerts at venues like Royal Farms Arena can cost $50-200+ per ticket. Attending a Baltimore Orioles or Ravens game will set you back at least $30-100 per ticket. Families need to budget wisely when planning a day at the Inner Harbor or National Aquarium, with tickets running $40 per adult and $25 per child. For avid sports fans or those who enjoy the arts, the costs can really pile up. With strategic planning, packing snacks and avoiding concessions, and looking for discounts, Baltimoreans can still enjoy recreational activities on a budget. Free and low-cost options like city parks, free concerts, and neighborhood events help make entertainment somewhat more affordable. Overall, recreation is one area where costs can vary widely based on interests and budget.


Baltimore certainly has its share of expensive costs like any major city. However, with some savvy budgeting and lifestyle adjustments, living affordably is possible. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Housing tends to be the biggest expense, with average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment around $1,500 per month. Buying a home in Baltimore can be cheaper long-term but requires significant savings for a down payment.
  • Public transportation like the light rail, metro, and buses make getting around manageable without a car. Biking is also feasible in many areas.
  • Groceries and dining out are comparable to the national average, with ways to save like buying generic brands, avoiding convenience stores, and limiting restaurant meals.
  • Utility costs are reasonable compared to other major metro areas, averaging $150 monthly for an apartment. Bundle services to save more.
  • Health insurance and medical costs track closely with national trends, with copays typically $20-40 and monthly premiums around $300-500.
  • State and local taxes are moderately high, especially property taxes. However, there are no local income taxes for individuals.
  • Childcare is expensive, with daycare averaging over $1,000 per month. Seek subsidized care or nanny shares to reduce costs.
  • Free and low-cost recreation like parks, libraries, free events, and student discounts make entertainment manageable.

Compared to other East Coast cities like New York and Boston, Baltimore is more affordable for housing, food, and utilities. However, costs are still higher than Midwestern and Southern metro areas. Save money by living with roommates, choosing older apartments outside the downtown core, cooking at home, and taking advantage of free activities. With realistic expectations, Baltimore can be a reasonably priced place to enjoy city living.