While the cost of living in Portland is higher than the national average, it is still cheaper than in cities such as New York and some major European capitals. The 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Index ranks Portland 72nd out of 227 major cities worldwide, compared to neighbouring Seattle's 31st and Vancouver's 116th.
Newcomers to the city will find accommodation to be their most considerable expense, but in general, most things in the city do come at a cost. Cooking at home and cycling or walking to work are just some ways that savvy savers could reduce expenses.
Cost of accommodation in Portland
Although areas outside the city centre tend to have cheaper accommodation, rent in Portland is expensive, regardless of where you live. Utilities are also costly, adding to the high living expenses. The type of home expats and newcomers choose to live in will also impact the costs. While the rent for certain homes may be expensive, the amenities and facilities available to the tenants may outweigh the costs. It is therefore advisable to familiarise oneself with all the pros and cons of a property and the neighbourhood before deciding.
Cost of transport in Portland
Public transport in Portland is much more affordable than buying and maintaining a car, which aside from the cost, is also rather unnecessary. In a city that is so well serviced by train and bus networks, it may be more cost-efficient to hire a car when necessary and using public transport to get around the city.
Newcomers may find that they could get away with cycling or walking, depending on where in the city they live relative to schools and workplaces, and saving on transport expenses altogether.
Cost of groceries in Portland
Groceries tend to be expensive in Portland. Portlanders have a penchant for organic, locally sourced, and artisanal products, which while being of high quality, come with a higher price tag compared to conventional groceries. While shopping at the many farmers' markets supports local farmers and artisans, it can be a bit more taxing on the wallet compared to shopping at traditional supermarkets, a cost well justified for those who prioritise sustainability and quality.
On the flip side, those on a tighter budget might find better value in larger chain supermarkets where promotions and discounts are more commonplace, or in stores known for their wholesale prices. Residents can make the most of their budget by finding deals online, buying in bulk and shopping for sales in big-box stores.
Cost of entertainment and eating out in Portland
Portland boasts a vibrant cultural scene, with a plethora of cinemas, theatres, live music venues and galleries to explore. However, indulging in these leisure activities can quickly add up. The cost of a cinema ticket or a night out at a concert is akin to that of other major US cities. Those with a penchant for fine arts might find the price of admission to galleries and theatres a bit steep, yet comparable to the charges in cities with a rich cultural tapestry.
Eating out in Portland is typically expensive. As long as new arrivals are willing to spend, they'll find fine dining and medium-range restaurants all over the city. While cooking home-cooked meals is always the cheaper option, there are also plenty of budget-friendly restaurants and food trucks in the city to satisfy every craving.
Cost of education in Portland
Public schools in Portland are funded by the state and are therefore free of charge for all students. The city is home to some of the top public schools in the state of Oregon, and newcomers can be assured that their children will receive a good education if they choose this schooling option.
Private or international schools, on the other hand, are incredibly costly. Although these schools are excellent and offer first-class facilities and international curricula and languages, the fees involved are high and don't cover the costs of school uniforms and other extras. Newcomers must consider this when selecting a school.
Cost of healthcare in Portland
The healthcare system in Portland is robust and well-structured, providing a range of services through various hospitals, clinics, and private practices. However, the cost of healthcare can be rather high, particularly for those without insurance. It's not uncommon for individuals to compare the costs of medical procedures and consultations to those of a high-end vehicle repair. Insurance premiums too, are a significant expenditure, and the cost is comparable to other major US cities.
It's advisable for newcomers to secure a comprehensive health insurance plan to mitigate the high healthcare costs. The silver lining is that the quality of healthcare in Portland is exceptional, making the city a safe and reliable place for medical treatments and procedures. The numerous healthcare facilities and a large pool of highly skilled medical professionals ensure that residents have access to top-notch healthcare services, albeit at a price.
Cost of living in Portland Chart
Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Portland in October 2023.
|Accommodation (monthly rent)
|Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|Food and drink
|Milk (1 litre)
|Loaf of white bread
|Chicken breasts (1kg)
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant
|Big Mac Meal
|Bottle of beer (local)
|Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
|Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)
|City-centre public transport fare
|Gasoline (per litre)
Are you an expat living in Portland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Portland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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