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The Peach State appeals to many people, and it’s easy to see why. The climate is moderate and the cost of living one of the lowest in the United States (about 11 percent lower than the national average). There’s plenty of history and old-fashioned Southern charm, coupled with New South innovation and cosmopolitan sophistication. Small wonder that Georgia was the 7th most popular state for people to move to in the United States in 2021, according to a study by Move.org.
Georgia’s major cities — Atlanta, Columbus, Savannah and Augusta — are growing but at a reasonable pace, which helps keep housing costs reasonable while offering exciting neighborhoods, facilities and amenities.
If you’re thinking about relocating, we’ll break down the expenses you’d be expected to face, and the general cost of living in Georgia overall.
What’s the average cost of living in Georgia?
One of the most important factors in determining the cost of living in an area is housing. Whether you’re hoping to rent or buy, you need a place to live.
Georgia is a popular destination for movers, but not a hyper-trendy one: You won’t face the droves of competition for housing you might face in other more populous or popular states.
The typical home in Georgia is valued at $323,935 according to Zillow data — more than $100,000 below the national median sales price of $454,900 as of Q3 2002. Many locales have cheaper homes, with some towns like Dry Branch and Danville, with averages under $100,000.
Of course, there are plenty of pricey burgs, too — particularly Atlanta and Duluth, where luxury-level homes list for $1.5 million and above. But in general, the state’s housing costs run 26 percent lower than the national average.
With mortgage rates averaging 6.75 percent (as of December 2022) for a 30-year loan in the state, that means the typical mortgage monthly payment on a median-priced home will be $2,090 before taxes and other costs.
Rent.com reports that the average rent in Atlanta, the state capital, is between $1,790 and $2,473 depending on the size of apartment you’re looking for. Studios saw rents rise the most, by 8 percent, over the past year. Larger apartments actually saw shrinking rents during that time.
Georgia falls roughly in the middle of the pack when it comes to food costs, which are slightly (4 percent) lower than the national average. In 2022, a family of four spends an average of $9,507 on food each year assuming all food is purchased at grocery stores and prepared at home. This places Georgia as the 29th most expensive state (making it the 21st least expensive state) when it comes to food prices.
Georgians are also middle of the pack when it comes to receiving food assistance. Nationally, about 11.8 percent of households get SNAP assistance. Georgia is slightly above that number at 12.8 percent.
The vast majority of people in Georgia rely on cars to get around, with public transit options limited to major cities like Atlanta. 87.6 percent of the state’s residents use a car to commute and there are 0.87 vehicles per person in the state, more than the national average of 0.85. But then, transportation costs run 8-10 percent lower than the national average.
However, Georgians pay more than average for car insurance, paying $2,009 for a full year’s coverage and $642 for the minimum coverage. Compare that to $1,771 and $545 for the respective national averages.
Taxes: income, sales and property
Taxes also play a huge role in the cost of living in a state. Some states can have inexpensive goods but high taxes while others might seem expensive but have low tax burdens.
Georgia ranks 32nd when it comes to the state’s tax burden, according to the Tax Foundation. It has a top state income tax rate of 5.75 percent. There’s also a sales tax of 4 percent and local sales taxes that can reach as high as 4.9 percent. The average combined sales tax is 7.35 percent.
Despite high combined sales taxes — the 8th highest in the nation — other taxes are relatively low. The state is ranked 25th in terms of property taxes, with an average rate of 0.92 percent. Ultimately, Georgians pay the fifth least in taxes per capita in the country.
Georgia job market and unemployment rate
The job market in Georgia is quite strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s unemployment rate is 2.9 percent, well below the national average of 3.7 percent. The state’s largest employers are The Home Depot, UPS, Randstad North America and Delta Airlines.
However, median income in the state is slightly lower than average. Georgian households earned $61,224 compared to $64,994 nationally in 2016-2020. Poverty is also slightly higher with 14 percent of Georgian households facing poverty compared to the national average of 11.6 percent.
Ready to move to Georgia?
Georgia offers a relatively low cost of living combined with household incomes near the national average. That makes it an intriguing option for many who are looking to move to greener pastures.
Before you move anywhere, it’s a good idea to visit for an extended period to make sure you enjoy the area, its culture, and day-to-day life. Consider how your costs could vary within the same state and use Bankrate’s cost of living calculator to compare prices across Georgia.
If you decide to move and buy a home in Georgia, work with a trusted real estate agent who knows the unique ins and outs of the local market and is geared to out-of-towners or out-of-staters. You can talk to anyone you know who has recently bought or sold a home in the area or call around and interview multiple agents to find one that works well with you.
According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, a single adult needs to earn $17.64 an hour ($36,691.20 per year) to live comfortably in Georgia. A childless couple would need to earn $13.16 per hour apiece ( ($54,745 annually), and two adults with one child, $17.73 an hour apiece ($73,756.80).
No, Georgia is not an expensive state to live in. It has the sixth lowest cost of living in the United States, according to the Composite Cost of Living Index published by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. Of course, that’s a state-wide average. Some areas are more expensive — primarily Atlanta, where the cost of living is 18% higher than the state average and 5% higher than in the rest of the U.S.
The most expensive metro areas in Georgia are: