Have you been dreaming of moving to Florida? Chances are you love beaches, theme parks, snorkeling, airboats…and of course the warm weather! Florida is one of the top vacation destinations in all the US. And with so much to offer, many people decide to take the plunge and relocate to the sunshine state.
However, it’s important to think about the cost of living in Florida before you pack up your belongings and put your home on the market. At first glance, Florida seems like an affordable place to live. After all, the average cost of living in Florida is slightly lower than the national US cost of living average. But this is simply an average.
The cost of living in Florida not only depends on where in Florida you want to relocate, but where you are coming from! Further, there are different factors to consider within the general cost of living in Florida average that may apply more to some people than others. For example, things like groceries, transportation, healthcare and housing should all be considered.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our complete checklist for moving to Florida which takes you through a lot of the decisions you will need to make — especially related to the cost of living. It’s an excellent guide to walk you through all the research and information needed to help you make the best decision about moving to Florida and stay organized!
So let’s get into it!
Average Housing Costs in Florida
One of the things you have likely thought about if you want to move to Florida is the cost of real estate in Florida. While some of us might think of big expensive beach houses or mansions in Florida, that’s not all there is. You will be glad to know that Florida’s median home price is $355,000 (as of July 2021 according to the Florida Realtors association) while the national median is $363,300 (as of June 2021 according to the WSJ). This means that the median home prices in Florida are actually about 2% LESS than the national median!
So technically, the cost of buying an existing home in Florida is slightly lower than the US average. But again, you should really compare this to where you are moving from. If you are moving from a high-cost city such as San Francisco, the prices in Florida may seem like a steal, but if you are moving from somewhere such as Ohio or Oklahoma then you could be paying more in Florida for a home.
When considering moving to Florida and buying a home here, you should also keep in mind that the prices can vary drastically from one Florida city to another. For instance, the median home price in North Port, Florida (Sarasota County) is $328,000 which is about 10% lower than the national average and 28% higher in Fort Lauderdale. In Miami you might need to pay $454,500 for an average home while Tampa might offer similar homes for only $349,900. The average home price in Jacksonville is about $263,000, so it’s actually less than cities such as North Port or Tampa. And Orlando is only slightly less with an average home price around $325,000.*
* Note: Median listing price data is sourced from Realtor.com and updated October 2021. Keep in mind that home prices across the country, including Florida have risen dramatically this year, and we have done our best to update our content but cannot guarantee accuracy due to the fluctuations of the market.
** READ MORE => Cheapest Places to Live in Florida (that are NOT in the Middle of Nowhere!)
Rental Prices in Florida
For those of you who are not looking to buy a home but rent instead (even if just at the beginning), then you should also be aware of some of the average rental housing prices. In an expensive city such as Miami, the median apartment rental is around $1,915. However, in Tampa the average apartment rent is $1,647 and Jacksonville’s rental prices are quite similar. Orlando’s average apartment rental prices are slightly higher, around $1,611.
If you are considering relocating to Florida, it’s very important for you to do some research and be opening-minded about possible areas to move that will suit your budget and lifestyle. For example, if you are considering moving to Sarasota but feel the prices might be a little high for your budget then you can always look to suburbs or nearby towns (such as Venice or North Port) which would give you a similar lifestyle and convenient access to Sarasota with a lower price point. Although commuting for work could be a concern – in the end, it’s always about finding the right balance.
Keep in mind that financial experts recommend spending no more than 30% of your income on housing costs (whether you buy or rent). And even some rental applications and loan companies will use this as a calculation for approval as well.
Cost of Food and Groceries in Florida
Whether you love key lime pie, tropical fruits, ethnic cuisine, or seafood, then you may really love living in Florida with all the great food options! However, food and grocery costs can really contribute to the cost of living expenses in Florida. While food and grocery prices in Florida vary from one city to another, the average cost for food and groceries across the entire state of Florida is actually higher than the US average by a few percentage points.
In general, groceries will cost more in Sarasota than they do in Orlando. Groceries in Jacksonville cost nearly the same as Orlando while Miami will a trip to the supermarket may be quite a bit more expensive!
Again, always keep in mind that these prices will vary quite a bit across Florida and it really depends on where you are moving from. So once you get an idea of where you would like to move, then you might want to dig in a little deeper and do some analysis to budget how much you may be spending on groceries and food in Florida.
Utility Costs in Florida
The price of utilities are on the high side in Florida. According to the Energy Information Administration, Florida residents incur an average monthly electricity bill of around $126.44. Electricity costs in Florida are 13% higher than the national average of $111.67. Recent data from the Energy Information Administration shows that Florida consumes 1,089 kWh per month.
As you can imagine, electricity consumption is high in Florida since residents have to keep their air conditioning units running year-round due to the hot and humid climate. Tampa is the cheapest Florida city when it comes to utility cost, while Palm Cost is 18% higher than the national average.
Keep in mind that this is just an average. Depending on the time of year you will see big fluctuations due to the outside temperature. In the winter you may have a bill or only around $80 but in the peak of summer it could be near $200. Also, if you live in the far south of Florida or inland where it can be quite humid, then your bills will likely be a lot more expensive than in Jacksonville or somewhere else in the north. It will also depend on personal preferences on home temperature and how large your house is. It can be tempting to buy a large house in Florida, but the electricity price can really skyrocket with the extra square footage.
Lastly, many people in Florida have backyard swimming pools or hot tubs. So this will drive up your monthly utility bills as well and it’s important to factor that all of these things into your budget before diving in and buying that large house with a pool!
Transportation Costs in Florida
Currently, AAA says the average price of gas is $3.31 per gallon in Florida compared to the US national average of $3.38. But if you are coming from a higher cost state such as California, then you could save quite a bit on gas in Florida! Another major factor to consider when it comes to transportation costs in Florida is car insurance. When it comes to auto insurance, Florida is usually more expensive than other parts of the country. Think about it, all the tourists (including international visitors), a high density of older people and a variety of other factors mean you will probably be paying a higher price for car insurance in Florida.
Public Transportation in Florida
In general, Florida is not known for amazing public transportation options. Some of the larger cities like Miami will have more transportation options than smaller towns. However, even though some cities such as Orlando have public transportation, most residents are car-dependent to get where they need to go because public transportation is less efficient and less convenient than just using a car.
Toll Roads in Florida – Another Consideration!
You may or may not know this, but Florida has the most toll roads of any state in the US! So it’s really important to consider where you are moving to in Florida and where you will be driving frequently because the cost of tolls can really add up! If you have ever traveled to places such as Orlando, then you may already be familiar with the toll roads. The Florida Turnpike is one of the most popular for getting north to south in the State, but there are a ton of other regional toll roads all around Florida.
Speaking from experience, I used to live in Orlando. Toll roads in almost every direction, especially if you were going to and from some of the suburbs. It was possible to avoid the tolls by taking normal roads…however, traffic could increase my drive time by nearly an hour in some cases! So I often ended up taking toll roads. Every single day. And it was not cheap. I usually ended up paying anywhere from $20 – 50+ per month in tolls – easily. However, moving to a place such as Sarasota County there are basically zero toll roads. Only if driving up north toward St. Pete, over to Orlando or southeast toward Miami would a toll road even pop up.
Also keep in mind that in Florida, some Interstates have tolls too! Such as I-75 through Alligator Alley in South Florida, and even some of the bridges like the Sunshine Skyway Bridge that goes into St. Petersburg.
READ MORE: Best Places to Live in Florida – Our Picks!
Healthcare Costs in Florida
In Florida, the average cost of healthcare is about 3% lower than the US national average. But again, this can vary widely across the state of Florida. For example, the average cost of healthcare is 16% lower than the national average in Jacksonville and 11% higher in Vero Beach.
Your cost of healthcare in Florida is going to vary depending on where you choose to live, the health insurance provided by your employer (if you have it) as well as your personal health situation. Every person is different when it comes to healthcare, so it’s difficult to come up with an accurate figure.
When you are considering moving to Florida, if you already have a job it would be great to get their health insurance details so you can shop around and compare. Florida does not have its own health care exchange, but you can use the federal exchange to buy insurance on the marketplace at healthcare.gov. This is a good option for people who don’t receive health insurance through their employer or who are self-employed. You can easily search the marketplace and see what types of plans are available and if you will qualify for any type of subsidy to offset the cost.
Taxes in Florida
A lot of people online tout about moving to Florida because there is no state income tax. And while it is true that there is not state income tax in Florida, it’s important to understand how this will affect you individually. You see, for most average Americans not having to pay income tax in Florida isn’t going to result in significant savings. The people who will benefit quite a lot are those who have extremely high incomes. In this way, Florida is a tax haven for the wealthy – which is why many choose to move here or have second homes here.
One of the reasons that Florida doesn’t have state income tax is that the state generates a ton of money from tourism. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be paying any taxes here. In fact, while there is overall low taxation at the state level there is considerable taxation at the local levels in Florida. One of the first ways you will discover this when moving to Florida is the cost to register your cars, it can be shocking if you are not prepared for the fees and taxes!
While property taxes in Florida may be slightly lower than the rest of the US, gasoline taxes are about $0.34 centers per gallon in Florida compared to about $0.28 cents per gallon in Georgia. The sales tax rate in Florida is currently at 7.05%, which is higher than states like Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, and Maine but lower than states like New York, California, Arizona and Tennessee. Check out this site to see the sales comparisons between all states.
The important thing to know is that while some people will tell you “move to Florida because you will save money on income tax” you should keep in mind that there are plenty of other taxes you will be paying which could be more than where you are moving from.
Costs of Misc. Goods & Services in Florida
When living in Florida, you will surely be out and about spending money on all types of things that don’t fall into the categories above. These costs include various goods and services like entertainment, clothing, restaurant foods, activities, and personal care expenses. As you can imagine, the cost of miscellaneous goods and services in Florida varies from city to city but also by your personal preference and lifestyle.
In Palm Coast, these expenses are 9% lower than the national average and 7% higher in Fort Myers. On average, Floridians pay $11 for a pizza, $31 for a new shirt, and $16 for a haircut.
Cost of Dining Out in Florida
Many of you will be dining out and wanting to enjoy some of the amazing restaurants that Florida has to offer. The thing to keep in mind here is that there is a very wide spectrum of restaurants in Florida. You will find many of the same national fast-food chains as well as standard restaurant chains, such as Applebees. But there are also a number of local restaurants and high-end restaurants to choose from as well, especially in the more affluent areas. Then there are the touristy areas that offer a ton of unique dining options! Keep in mind that dining in tourist areas tend to be a lot more expensive. So if you love vacationing in Orlando and want to go to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville every week, then your costs may be higher since it’s a pretty tourist-centric establishment.
It’s important to note that if you live in a touristy area, such as Orlando, and tend to visit tourist establishments then you will be paying tourist prices…which are often higher!
A fun source to do a simple comparison is https://www.fastfoodmenuprices.com/ where you can choose a fast food restaurant and a state to see the average prices. When I looked up McDonalds in Iowa, the cost of a Big Mac was $4.07 while in Florida it is $4.47. But it’s not only fast food restaurants. I also looked up Applebee’s and in Illinois you can get a steak dinner with 2 sides for $14.99 which seemed to be the same price as the menu in Florida! And a trip to Starbucks for a tall latte in Florida will run you about $3.30 while in New York it will cost about $3.86.
READ MORE: Pros and Cons to Living in Florida
Can You Afford the Cost of Living in Florida?
There are many factors when deciding to move to Florida. Cost of living is only one of them. However, when you are looking into the cost of living in Florida make sure that you are comparing it to where you are coming from.
Use Online Calculators & Input Actual Cities to Compare!
I highly recommend that you use some online calculators and other tools to compare the cost of living in your current state compared to Florida. But it’s even BETTER if you can drill down deeper and compare your current city with the city in Florida you are considering. That will give you a much better apples-to-apples comparison.
For example, when researching the details about the cost of living in Venice, Florida I can dig into the details and see that overall it’s slightly lower than the average cost of living in Florida overall. Let’s say I was moving from Columbus, Ohio — then I could input that city into the calculator and have a straight comparison of every line item between Venice and Columbus. This would include things like housing, transportation, healthcare, groceries, etc.
And you can also compare different towns in Florida to see how they stack up to each other. For example, when comparing Venice to the nearby town of Sarasota, I can see that the cost of living in Sarasota is slightly more than Venice, yet Sarasota really is pretty much on par with the Florida average overall.
Honestly, doing this exercise is one of the BEST ways for you to truly identify how the cost of living in Florida truly stacks up given where you are coming from and whether or not it will be less or more expensive for you.
Here are links to a few different online cost of living calculators that I recommend playing around with.
Jobs & Salaries Are Typically Lower in Florida
Lastly, while it’s not the point of this blog post I do want to make a quick point about jobs and salaries in Florida. In general, Florida tends to have lower wages and salaries than many other US states! A lot of people don’t realize that. So I also recommend that you do some research into jobs in Florida and what the average pay is. Also, if you have a specific job you are looking for then you definitely want to check out the salaries for those positions as well. You will need to factor this into your overall cost of living calculations, because if you are earning less overall then you absolutely need to be spending less across the board!
It’s Totally Worth It to Live in Paradise!
There are so many reasons people for people to move to Florida. Doing your research and analyzing the cost of living between where you are coming from and where you are moving to in Florida will go a long way into helping you make the right decision for you and your family. At the end of the day, we want to move to paradise so we can have a great lifestyle! So setting your expectations and being prepared will help you achieve happiness and #ThatFloridaLife of your dreams!