Moving to Chicago | 2021 Cost of Living and Relocation Tips
If you’re interested in moving to Chicago, you’re in the right place. This relocation guide will take you through all the factors you need to consider before moving to the Windy City. FYI, Chicago got this nickname not from the frigid weather that sweeps in from the Dakotas but from the hot air bellowing from its politicians!
Chicago at a Glance
First things first is the weather. We’ll admit it: Chicago doesn’t have the greatest reputation in this department. Still, there’s a lot to love.
For one, all four seasons are distinctly represented in the city. The winters are cold, sometimes at or below 0 F, and it snows frequently. Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures usually peaking for several days in the upper 90s F. Thankfully Chicago is home to numerous festive winter activities, from the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k/5k to the Christkindlmarket, and 29 beaches you can cool off at during the summer.
Often referred to as a “city of neighborhoods,” Chicago has 77 community areas and 100 unique neighborhoods that trace their roots to the city’s history as one of the largest melting pots in the country.
Chicago’s motto, “Urbs in horto,” which is Latin for “City in a Garden” is well-earned thanks to the city’s vast green spaces. Chicago is home to nearly 600 parks and 8,300 acres of green space. It has 26 miles of lakefront, 29 beaches and the 18.5-mile-long Lakefront Trail which is shared by cyclists, joggers, and sightseers.
Chicago is a sports city through and through. There are eight major league sports teams, including two MLB teams, the Chicago Cubs of the North Side and the Chicago White Sox of the South Side.
Chicago is one of the most bikeable cities in the country. With its 303 miles of bike lanes and the second-highest percentage of commuters cycling to work in the country, it’s no surprise that Chicago was named America’s Best Bike City by Bicycling Magazine in 2016.
Even before the construction of the famous Sears Tower, which is the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere (it’s the tallest if you don’t count the antenna or “spire” on top of One World Trade Center!), Chicago was one of the most celebrated architectural cities in the world. It is home to two “Chicago Schools,” or styles, of architecture as well as the world’s first skyscraper.
Top-Rated Chicago Colleges
- University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
- Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL
- Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL
- Wheaton College, Chicago, IL
- University of Illinois, Chicago, IL
- Lewis University, Romeoville, IL
- Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, IL
- Elmhurst College, Elmgurst, IL
- Saint Xavier University, Chicago, IL
- University of St Francis, Joliet, IL
Top-Rated Chicago Schools
- Payton College Preparatory High School, Chicago, IL
- Northside College Preparatory High School, Chicago, IL
- Jones College Prep High School, Chicago, IL
- Young Magnet High School, Chicago, IL
- Lane Technical High School, Chicago, IL
- Lindblom Math and Science Academy, Chicago, IL
- Brooks College Prep Academy High School, Chicago, IL
- Lincoln Park High School, Chicago, IL
- Phoenix Military Academy High School, Chicago, IL
- Noble St Chtr-Noble Campus, Chicago, IL
Tips on Relocating to Chicago IL
If you’re not familiar with Chicago IL before moving there, you might overlook two key considerations: distance to public transportation and distance to the lake.
The first thing you want to consider is how long are you willing to commute to work. Lucky for you, Chicago has the second-largest public transportation system in the United States. It has eight train lines and 140 bus routes, and they run on schedule, unlike in NYC and LA.
If you want to live by the lake, you can expect to pay more. You can get around increased prices by the lake by living close to the L (the name of the elevated train line). Some people can’t handle the noise. If you can, you can live in a prime lakeside neighborhood for a fraction of what your neighbors are paying. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, look for places along the Red Line L.
Based on the cost of a 2-3 bedroom move with approximately 7,500 pounds of belongings, the average cost of a local move is $1,250. The average cost of a long-distance move of around 1,000 miles is $4,890.
A 2-3 bedroom move from Los Angeles to Chicago will cost between $5,530 – $7,797 depending on weight. A 2-3 bedroom move from New York City to Chicago will cost between $3,992 to $5,580.
These prices take into account:
To determine the price of a move to Chicago, you need to take into account fuel costs and labor costs. These travel fees can add up if you’re moving to Chicago from across the country.
Size of the Move
The size of the move (how much stuff you have) is one of the biggest factors determining how much you’ll pay. A good rule of thumb for a long-distance move is that you’ll pay between $.50 and $.70 per pound of goods moved, though the price per pound may be elevated if you’re moving over 1,000 miles.
Add-ons and extras in your move to Chicago can increase the cost considerably. Common extras include packing services, which could add $300 or more, disassembling and reassembling furniture, and moving supplies like felt pads, mattress pads, and stretch wrap.
One of the biggest challenges of moving is lining up moving out of your old place and into your new one. When there’s a gap between your move-in and move-out dates, you’ll need to pay to store your things. Average rates for a 5×5-foot unit range from $40 to $50 per month. Rates for a 10×15-foot unit range from $75 to $140 per month. A 10×15-foot climate-controlled unit $115 to $150 per month.
The last thing to consider when figuring out how much it will cost to move to Chicago is when you move. Weekend moves during the early and late summer will tend to cost you the most, while a move during the week in the dead of winter will tend to cost you the least.
Here’s the list of top-rated moving companies in Chicago IL.
Cost of Living in Chicago
Chicago may be the third most populous city in the United States, but you wouldn’t think so if you looked at its average cost of living. Chicago isn’t even one of the top ten costliest cities to live in, according to a recent analysis that put Chicago at Number 15 on the list of most expensive cities.
The average monthly expenses in Chicago are $2,495, which is a bit less than Miami and a bit more than Santa Ana, California and Portland, Oregon.
If you are planning on renting when you move to Chicago, you may be in luck because rent prices are projected to drop as the homeownership levels increase. According to March 2020 data from Apartment List, the median rent for a Chicago apartment stands at $942 for a studio, $1,094 for a one-bedroom, $1,287 for a two-bedroom, and $1,646 for a three-bedroom.
Of course, prices vary considerably depending on what neighborhood you live in. A one-bedroom apartment averages around $550 in Austin on the West Side and $2,600 in River North downtown. Use this neighborhood rent guide from RentCafe to get a picture of what you’ll pay where.
Keep in mind that wherever you decide to rent, the price you pay is likely to be well below what you would pay for comparable space in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., or San Francisco.
As of March 2020, the median sale price for a home in Chicago is $288,200, which is far less than other major cities.
Prices vary depending on what neighborhood you’re in. There’s a good amount of variance even between the neighborhoods directly surrounding downtown:
- Near West Side – $325,700
- Bridgeport – $294,300
- Pilsen – $276,600
- University Village – Little Italy $269,900
- Chinatown – $240,700
- Heart of Chicago – $222,200
- McKinley Park – $197,500
- Back of the Yards – $107,900
McKinley Park on the Southwest side deserves special attention here. It was named Redfin’s hottest affordable neighborhood in the country in 2019 thanks to its proximity to the trendy (and increasingly expensive) Pilsen neighborhood and its excellent public transportation lines. A trip to the Loop is just a 15-minute ride on the CTA’s Orange Line.
Added to the cost of owning a home in Chicago are some of the highest property taxes in the country. Property taxes on a $400,000 home average around $10,000 a year.
According to data from Numbeo, utilities for a 915 sq ft apartment average $136.90 a month. That includes electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage.
If You’re Moving to Chicago Alone
If you’re moving to Chicago by yourself, don’t worry! There are lots of resources you can put to use to make the transition easier. Meetup groups, which provide a range of group activities, are one great option. If you’re into sports, you can sign up as a “free agent” with Chicago Sport and Social Club to be assigned to a team in a sport of your choice.
To find events where you can meet like-minded people, don’t miss Timeout and the Chicago Reader Events Calendar.
If You’re Moving to Chicago with Family
Chicago is a family-friendly city—so friendly that it committed to making sure that every child was within a 10-minute walk of a park or playground. Some of the most family-oriented areas in the city include Andersonville, Beverly, Rogers Park, and Lincoln Square.
If you need some guidance on fun things to do with your kids in the city, check out Parents, Chicago Kids, and Chicago Traveler.
One of the most important considerations for parents is the quality of schools. One of the best resources we can recommend to parents with school-age children is the Neighborhood Parents Network, a non-profit that provides expectant, new and seasoned parents with the resources they need to navigate parenting in the city.
FAQs about Moving to Chicago
Is it worth moving to Chicago?
If you’re someone looking for the diversity and the hustle and bustle of a city, Chicago might be the place for you. What’s best is that it’s cleaner than New York and not as expensive as Los Angeles! Chicago is also known for its vast green spaces, and the bordering Lake Michigan is just another enticing factor for those who love to be amidst nature. If you’re someone who loves art, the many museums and architecture would make it worth moving here. Also, considering how Chicago has one of the most stable economies in the country, the city is definitely worth moving to if you can afford the cost of living.
What salary do I need to live in Chicago?
To live comfortably in Chicago, you’ll need to earn around $53,000 as a single adult and around $75,000 for a family of four.
Is it expensive to live in Chicago?
Yes, living in Chicago might not be the most expensive in the country, but it will take a good chuck out of your monthly income. Chicago’s sales taxes are also staggeringly high at 10.25% and their property tax rates stand second highest in the country! According to PayScale, Housing Costs alone are 56% more than the US national average. Even groceries here are 8% higher than the national average as shared by PayScale.
What you should know before moving to Chicago?
Even though Chicago is a family friendly city with a large number of parks, know that crime rates in some neighborhoods are high. However, it has a thriving job market, an extensive transportation system and some of the best kinds of recreational activities all year round. Arts, entertainment and the culinary scene in Chicago are known to be quite interesting and appealing too.
Is 60k a good salary in Chicago?
As a single adult living in Chicago, a 60k salary is more than enough for you to live comfortably. However, if you’re a family of four, a combined salary of 60k will not suffice, especially if you want a better quality of life.
Where should I not live in Chicago?
The areas of Washington Park, West Garfield Park, Gresham and Englewood have the highest crime rates in the city, so it’s best if you avoid these areas.
Is 80,000 a good salary in Chicago?
Yes, $80,000 annually is a good salary in Chicago and will allow you to live comfortably depending on your debt amount, your lifestyle and your contribution towards down payments if any. In fact, $80,000 annually for an individual would mean that person can live a luxurious lifestyle. For a family of 4, it should be enough to have a comfortable living.
Is 70,000 a good salary in Chicago?
$70,000 will allow you to live comfortably, while also letting you save a significant sum annually, but that’s only if you’re a single adult. For a family of four, $70,000 as a combined salary might prove to be a little tight on those purse strings, unless you lead a modest lifestyle.
Is 50k a good salary in Chicago?
Yes, if you’re a single adult and keep your rent bracket between $800 to $1000 per month, you can have a comfortable time in the city.
Is rent in Chicago Expensive?
It is surely expensive, but not quite as much if you compare it to the likes of New York, Boston and San Francisco. Renting in Chicago is still higher than the US national average. Statista recorded that $1,124 was the average rent of an apartment in the country during February 2021. To give you some more perspective, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago currently stands at approximately $1,550 monthly.
Is Atlanta cheaper than Chicago?
Yes, living in Chicago is 15% to 20% more expensive than living in Atlanta. Even though employers in Chicago pay a higher net salary, the cost of living in Chicago is high as compared to Atlanta, and it’ll take a huge chunk out of your savings.
Why is Chicago so cheap?
Make no mistake, Chicago is not really cheap, considering how the cost of living is believed to be around 23% higher than the national average, as shared by PayScale. Transportation and Housing costs in particular are expensive here.
However, one of the biggest reasons why living in Chicago is not as expensive as some other heavyweights of the country is because the city has an expanse of land and isn’t landlocked by water bodies, which means that the city has room to grow. This reduces a bit of pressure on housing, making the cost of living a tad bit more affordable compared to some of the bigger cities of the country, even if the density of the population increases.
How bad is Chicago?
Chicago has quite a reputation for shootings, theft and homicides. But, aside from that, the city is also known for heavy congestion in urban neighborhoods and unbearably brutal winters. These can be considered as some of the cons of living in Chicago.
Is Chicago a bad place to live?
It depends on the area you choose to move to. Even though Chicago has had a reputation as a city with a large number of violent crimes, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s not all that bad. A report by the Chicago Police Department showed that crime rates in the city have dropped significantly since 2020.
What is Chicago known for?
Chicago is known for its deep-dish pizza, its many beaches (Lake Michigan, we’re looking at you), parks and jazz music. There’s an abundance of green spaces here, which is also a big part of the city’s identity. But that’s not all, the art scene here is also really famous, alongside the passionate sports fans that Chicago is known for.
See also: Best Suburbs of Chicago IL