Life in this New England state brings sea, laidback lifestyles and a higher-than-average cost of living.
While Rhode Island is the smallest state in the nation, it packs a lot of charm and natural beauty into its 1,214 square miles. Living in the Ocean State gives you access to its 400 miles of scenic coastline, quaint seaside towns and fresh, delicious seafood. Life is laidback and easy. But, as is the case with most New England states, the overall cost of living in Rhode Island is on the high side.
You'll find that cities like Providence and popular coastal retreats like Newport have the most expensive cost of living. But, that doesn't mean you can't find nearby towns or cities that are more affordable. No matter where you live in Rhode Island, you're never far from its vibrant cities, picturesque coast and fantastic art, culture and dining. This in-depth look at Rhode Island's cost of living will help you find the best city or town to call home.
- Housing costs
- Food prices
- Utility costs
- Transportation costs
- Healthcare costs
- Goods and services costs
- Tax rates
- How much do you need to earn to live in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island housing prices
That romantic vision of living in a seaside town or city in New England will cost you big in Rhode Island. Housing costs here are well above the national average. You can expect high rental rates and home prices throughout the state, with the highest rates in popular cities like Providence and Newport. The good news is that more reasonably-priced towns are never far away from major urban centers. So, you're likely to find lower rents and home prices in the general area you want to live in.
In Rhode Island, housing costs are 19.6 percent above the national average. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Providence climbed 34 percent from last year to $2,410. Two-bedroom units have an average monthly rent of $2,700, up 12 percent from last year.
In Newport, another major Rhode Island city, one-bedroom units are $2,000 and two-bedroom apartments are $2,500. You'll be paying around $1,550 for a one-bedroom and $1,750 in Cranston, Rhode Island's second-most-populous city.
The median sale price to buy a house in Providence has gone up 14.1 percent over the past year to $405,000. This is fairly close to the national median sale price of $428,006.
Rhode Island food prices
Seafood lovers will have a field day living in Rhode Island. This coastal state has tons of famous seafood dishes, like Rhode Island clam chowder, clam cakes and Rhode Island-style calamari. Rhode Island is also famous for its domestic chicken breed the Rhode Island Red. But, for access to all these unique local specialties, you'll be paying more than the national average.
For total grocery costs, Rhode Island is 8.7 percent above the national average. Even though food costs here are elevated, the amount of money that Rhode Island residents spend on food each month is pretty middle-of-the-road. The average Rhode Island local spends between $233 and $266 a month on food. Annually, that comes out to between $2,801 and $3,200.
Luckily, food costs in Providence are significantly cheaper than the statewide average. They actually fall 1.2 percent below the national average.
As a few examples of food prices in Providence, a dozen eggs cost $2.13. Buying a half-gallon of milk will set you back $2.19, and a loaf of bread is $4.27.
Rhode Island utility prices
When it comes to utilities like electricity and water, you'll be paying more than the national average living in Rhode Island. In the capital city, it's especially high at 22.9 percent above the national average.
As an example of how high utilities costs are in Providence, let's look at some average monthly bills. Total energy costs for the month come out to around $242.81 in Providence. For water, the average statewide bill is $28.
This New England state relies on natural gas for the majority of its electric generation, followed by hydropower and petroleum. Reservoirs and rivers supply the drinking water.
Rhode Island transportation prices
One of the benefits of living in Rhode Island is that its small size allows mass transit almost everywhere. The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority provides public transportation throughout the state with its fleet of buses and vans. Its main hub is Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence. Bigger cities like Providence and Newport have larger, extensive systems with more frequent service and stops. But rural, regional and express long-distance routes between cities are also available, as well as paratransit and vanpool commuting options.
If you don't want to use a bus, this coastal state also has ferry routes. The private Seastreak company operates a Providence to Newport ferry route between coastal cities like Providence, Bristol and Newport. One-way fares cost $12 and roundtrip is $24.
If you do plan on using a car, Rhode Island does have some toll roads and bridges. Although I-95, a major interstate highway that runs through the entire state, does have tolls, those only apply to commercial trucks and tractor trailers. The Clairborne Pell/Newport Bridge near Newport charges a $2 toll for residents with E-ZPass and $3 otherwise.
Using public transportation is a great way to save money. It's also more environmentally friendly and can reduce traffic congestion and commuting times. But the total cost of transportation in Rhode Island cities is above the national average. So, whether or not using mass transit saves you money depends on your personal situation.
As Rhode Island's capital city and most populous urban center, transportation costs are higher in Providence at 6.9 percent above the national average.
RIPTA in Providence
Providence is one of the main hubs for RIPTA service, centered around downtown's Kennedy Plaza. A range of fixed-route, rapid bus and high-frequency routes run through the city center, with some routes extending out into the metro area. A one-way ride costs $2 and a day pass is $6. Using the WAVE fare collection system, a monthly pass is available for $70. You can pay fares in cash or with the WAVE card or app.
Overall, RIPTA does a decent job of connecting Providence through mass transit. Its transit score is 56. As a compact coastal city, you can also easily get around Providence on foot or by bike, as well. It has high scores in both areas, with a walk score of 84 and a bike score of 69.
Rhode Island healthcare prices
If you're looking for a state that offers good healthcare for reasonable prices, Rhode Island fits the bill. It ranks ninth in the nation for its overall healthcare and is fourth in the nation for healthcare access. The quality of its healthcare and general public health is also high.
The costs for this high-quality level of care are also reasonable. For example, the average cost to go to a doctor's office in the state capital is $132.24.
If you want to go to the dentist in Providence, it costs around $115. Several of the top-ranked hospitals in Rhode Island are also located in Providence, giving locals near-instant access to top-tier care. The overall cost of healthcare in Providence is almost on-par with the national average at only 0.7 percent above the national average.
It's difficult to calculate average healthcare costs, though. Based on personal factors like pre-existing conditions or medication needs, healthcare costs vary widely from person to person. The above healthcare figures are rough estimates, so you may pay more or less for things like doctor's visits depending on your healthcare needs.
Rhode Island goods and services prices
Living in Rhode Island, you'll be paying more than the national average for miscellaneous goods and services. Overall, those costs are 13.8 percent above the national average.
But, compared to other big cities in the region, it's more affordable in Providence. Paying for a haircut in nearby Boston is $43.33, but in Providence, it only costs $28.67. Want to go to a movie? You'll pay $13.83 for tickets in Providence compared to $14.96 in Boston. But, some services are more expensive here than in other regional cities. In Hartford, CT, which is just over an hour from Providence, dry cleaning costs $16.99. In Providence, that dry cleaning bill will be closer to $17.50.
Taxes in Rhode Island
When calculating your monthly budget and expenses, taxes are sometimes overlooked. But whether in the form of sales tax or income tax, living in a state with high tax rates does have an impact on your bottom line. If you're living in a city with high sales tax, it can quickly whittle away at your budget. Knowing tax rates in your state will help you better understand and prepare for spending.
In Rhode Island, the statewide sales tax is 7 percent. That means that, if you spend $1,000 on clam cakes and other local goodies, you'll be paying an additional $70 in sales tax.
While 7 percent is a decent mark-up, the good news is that cities and counties in Rhode Island don't levy a local sales tax. That means that the sales tax rate in Providence is the same as the statewide rate of 7 percent.
For income tax, Rhode Island has a graduated individual income tax system. Rates range from 3.75 percent to 5.99 percent depending on your income level.
How much do I need to earn to live in Rhode Island?
As you can see, the cost of living in Rhode Island is expensive. So, how much do you need to make to afford to live there?
Usually, your biggest monthly expense is housing costs like rent or a mortgage payment. Experts recommend that you only spend 30 percent of your gross monthly income on rent. This general rule of thumb ensures that you have plenty of money left over after paying rent for other expenses like food and utilities.
In order to afford Rhode Island's average rent of $2,196, you need to make $7,320 a month or $87,840 annually. However, the median household income in Rhode Island is $70,305 and the average salary is $65,317. So, some residents may struggle to follow the 30 percent rule and will need to spend more on housing.
Our rent calculator can help you determine what you can afford to pay in rent based on your income, expenses and location.
Living in Rhode Island
As you've seen, living in Rhode Island isn't always cheap. Access to its scenic coastlines, fun cities and great cuisine requires a high income or flexibility with living outside the major cities. But, since you can find lower rents in smaller cities and towns, you can enjoy Rhode Island's charms at a variety of price points.