We all know that Virginia is for lovers — but is it for savers, too?
The site of the first permanent British colony, and thus the first state in America, Virginia is awash in historical and cultural intrigue, not to mention plain old natural beauty: From the beachy east coast to the mountainous west, Old Dominion’s got it all.
It makes sense then that so many people live here (just over 8.5 million, in fact). U.S. News ranks it seventh in terms of overall quality of life.
But what’s the cost of living like?
What’s the Average Cost of Living in Virginia?
Average Cost of Living in Virginia: $42,757 per year
Good news for those drawn to the land of America’s forefathers: All told, Virginia’s cost of living is relatively reasonable. While it’s not one of the cheapest states in the nation, it’s not one of the most expensive either.
In its third-quarter 2021 study, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) ranks Virginia 27th of 50 as far as cost of living goes — about as middling as you can get. By contrast, neighboring Maryland is one of the most expensive states, in 44th place, though North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky all rank more affordable on MERIC’s list.
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how that cost of living breaks down. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the average Virginian spends $42,757 per year keeping themselves afloat, according to 2020 data. Here’s where that money goes:
Average Annual Per-Capita Cost in Virginia
Housing and Utilities
Food and Beverage (non-restaurant)
Gas and Energy Goods
All Other Personal Expenditures
Housing Costs in Virginia
Average Housing Costs in Virginia: $1,172 to $1,799 per month
Keeping a roof over our heads is a high priority for most of us — and with 3,562,143 housing units, per 2019 U.S. Census data, housing is at somewhat of a premium in Virginia, considering its population.
That said, the value of Virginia homes seems to be on track with the U.S. market. According to Zillow, in October 2021 the typical home value in the state was $343,138 — which is about in line with the nationwide typical home value of $312,728.
Of course, the exact value of homes in Virginia varies widely depending on which area you’re considering. Here are Zillow’s typical home values in Virginia by metro area in September 2021 (except where marked by an asterisk, which indicates the value is current as of August 2021):
Typical Home Price
Big Stone Gap
And what do those housing costs look like on a monthly basis? Here are some median mortgage and rent figures in Virginia, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
• Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,799
• Median studio rent: $1,264
• Median one-bedroom rent: $1,153
• Median two-bedroom rent: $1,172
• Median three-bedroom rent: $1,328
• Median four-bedroom rent: $1,790
• Median gross rent: $1,254
Utility Costs in Virginia
Average Utility Costs in Virginia: $392 per month
For most of us, a house isn’t a home until it’s got water and electricity flowing through its pipes and wires — and internet to boot. Here’s how much it costs to get your household up and running in Virginia, on average.
Average Virginia Bill
Cable & Internet
Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Sales, Revenue, and Average Price, 2021; Inspirecleanenergy.com; DoxoInsights, U.S. Cable & Internet Market Size and Household Spending Report 2021; and Rentcafe.com, What Is the Average Water Bill?
Groceries & Food
Average Grocery & Food Costs in Virginia: $295 per person, per month
From barbecue to clue crab, Virginia is known for its good eats. But how much will you have to spend in the state to keep yourself fed?
If the average non-restaurant food and beverage bill in Virginia is $3,538 per person, per year, that’s about $295 a month, per person. (Do keep in mind that this figure is just an average. It doesn’t take into account the fact that children eat less than adults and that some adults eat more or less than others.)
Of course, as is true in most states, your exact grocery costs will depend on where you live. According to second-quarter 2021 rankings from the Council for Community and Economic Research here’s how major Virginia cities stack up in terms of the grocery bill.
Grocery Items Index
Virginia Beach area
Average Transportation Costs in Virginia: $5,113 to $13,896 per year
While major Virginia metros like Richmond do have public transportation, many people in this spread-out state rely on personal vehicles to get around — and any way you slice it, there’s a cost to getting where you’re going.
Your specific transportation expenses will, again, vary: Are you schlepping kids to school on the way to work each morning, or are you a single adult working from home? MIT’s Living Wage Calculator offers some excellent figures to help estimate your travel costs, depending on your circumstances.
Average Annual Transportation Cost
One adult, no children
Two working adults, no children
Two working adults, two children
Average Health Care Costs in Virginia: $6,361 per person, per year
If the average Virginia resident pays about $6,361 per year in health care expenses, that figures out to $530 per month.
Again, though, this average figure may not be representative of your experience. The exact amount you can expect to pay will depend on your health insurance coverage, how often you need medical attention, and other factors.
Average Child Care Costs in Virginia: $942 to $1,581 or more per child, per month
If you’ve got kids, you already know that taking care of them can be a major budget item to plan for. As worthwhile as it is, child care is expensive.
Your specific expenses will depend not only on how many children you have (obviously), but also how, exactly, you want them looked after. costofchildcare.org offers some excellent averages to look at, as well as options to see how costs might change depending on classroom size, caretaker compensation, and other factors.
Type of Child Care
Average Cost Per Month, Per Child
Home-based Child Care
Highest Marginal Tax Rate in Virginia: 5.75%
Like the majority of U.S. states, Virginia assesses a state income tax that must be paid along with federal income taxes — and the tax rate varies depending on the taxpayer’s income.
However, the highest marginal state income tax rate in Virginia is a fairly reasonable 5.75%, according to the Tax Foundation’s 2021 State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets. While it’s slightly higher than North Carolina’s 5.25%, it’s considerably lower than nearby Washington, D.C.’s highest, 8.95%.
We’ve covered all the necessities, but you’ve gotta have a little fun every now and then, too! The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that “all other personal expenditures” in Virginia total about $23,537. Here’s where some of that money might be going (prices accurate as of Nov. 9, 2021).
• Entry to Shenandoah National Park, known for its epic Skyline Drive as well as its many more outdoor recreation opportunities: $30 for a single vehicle and all passengers for seven consecutive days.
• Admission to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s historic home: $28 per person 12 and older, $15 for youth ages 6-11, and free for children 5 and under. Additional tours, events, and experiences may cost extra.
• Tickets to Colonial Williamsburg, a historic theme park with reenactments, museums, and more: $44.99 for an adult single-day ticket or $24.99 for youths 6-11. Annual passes and more limited ticket options are also available at various price points.
• Passage into Luray Caverns, a beautifully decorated cave, which also includes entry to the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Shenandoah Heritage Village, and Toy Town Junction: $32 for adults and $16 for children 6-12, though discounts are available for school groups, military members, and others.
Obviously, Virginia residents are also spending some of that money on restaurant meals, clothes, and other day-to-day purchases. But the good news is, there are tons of free ways to entertain yourself in this state. Many of Virginia’s gorgeous beaches are absolutely free to the public, as are well-manicured green spaces like Richmond’s Maymont.
Additionally, many of the Smithsonian Institution properties in nearby Washington, D.C., are entirely free to enter, too. The District has one of the highest costs of living in the nation, so take advantage of your proximity without spending the money it takes to actually live there. Win-win!
How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably in Virginia?
There are so many factors that play into your personal cost of living, and everyone has a different definition of “comfort.”
All of which is to say: While there are expensive parts of the state to live in (and expensive lifestyles to choose), Virginia is, generally speaking, pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of affordability.
What City Has the Lowest Cost of Living in Virginia?
Looking to stack the odds in your favor when it comes to finding an affordable lifestyle in Virginia? Choosing a community with a lower overall cost of living can help.
Using that same second-quarter 2021 data from the Council for Community and Economic Research, here are three of the cheapest major Virginia cities to live in, along with some insider details.
Approximately smack-dab in the middle of the east-west expanse of Virginia, but far enough south to be just minutes from the North Carolina border, Martinsville enjoys the council’s lowest cost of living index score at 84.9. Additionally, according to Zillow’s October 2021 data, the typical home there is valued at just $88,580.
Martinsville has a population of about 12,800 and is home to the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Heritage Center & Museum. Plus, bigger metro areas like Roanoke and Danville are only about an hour away.
With a cost of living index of 87.6 and a typical home value of about $198,320, Lynchburg is more expensive than Martinsville, but still more affordable than, say, Richmond or Virginia Beach.
The town enjoys James River waterfront and is home to attractions like the Maier Museum of Art and Amazement Square; its status as a college town means there’s always something to do.
Not to be confused with Roanoke Island, North Carolina, the site of the famous historical mystery wherein an entire colony disappeared, Roanoke, Virginia, is a well-populated inland Virginia city with almost 100,000 residents, and a very reasonable cost of living index score of 88.3.
Roanoke is home to the Taubman Museum of Art and is within easy reach of many of western Virginia’s most beautiful outdoor spaces. It has its own regional airport, too. Zillow’s October 2021 estimate of the typical home cost is $210,774, which is much lower than the state average.
SoFi Home Loans
The cost of living in Virginia is among the reasons to settle in Old Dominion, and some of the smaller cities offer homes at prices well under the state and national averages.
Although there are many home loans on the market to choose from, SoFi offers a range of fixed-rate home loans at competitive interest rates and with as little as 5% down.
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