How High Is the Cost of Living in Iowa?

Iowa’s cost of living is one of the lowest in the country—but it can vary depending on what area of the state you’re looking at.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Iowa has one of the lowest costs of living in the country. A single adult would need to earn at least $33,654 to cover living expenses—and likely more to live comfortably.
Iowa’s known for being covered in corn and soybeans, having
more pigs than people
, and having an overall lower cost of living than the national average. Among its largest cities, you’ll also find that business is booming across a variety of sectors. 
Courtesy of
, the
trustworthy super app
that saves drivers money on
and home insurance, here’s a closer look at living expenses across Iowa.
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How high is the cost of living in Iowa? 

Topping the list of some of the most expensive states to live in are
New York
, and
—but you’ll find Iowa at the opposite end of the spectrum. 
Iowa has a cost of living index score of 88.1 from the
Council for Community & Economic Research (C2ER)
, making it the state with the fifth-lowest cost of living in 2022. The state trails just ahead of
Just what does that number mean? The baseline for the national average cost of living is 100—higher scores equate to above-average costs, and lower scores fall below the national average. That means Iowa’s cost of living is about 12% less expensive than the national average.
That said, living costs within a state can vary depending on the types of expenses you’re looking at. Here’s a further breakdown of what essential expenses, including food, housing, and healthcare, look like in Iowa.

Food: $285 to $1,021 per month

While the overall cost of living tends to be lower in Iowa than in most other states, you probably won’t see as steep of a discount at the grocery store when compared to the national average. Iowa’s index score for grocery expenses is 99.4.
Of course, how much you could expect to spend on groceries each month depends on your taste and your household makeup. MIT’s
Living Wage Calculator
shows that monthly grocery costs in Iowa could range somewhere between about $285 per month for a single adult to over $1,000 per month for a household of two adults and three children.
And the grocery expenses we’re talking about here are explicitly that: groceries. You’ll have to factor in additional expenses for a weekend out at your favorite restaurant or a night in with your go-to takeout.

Healthcare: $231 to $688 per month

Healthcare costs in Iowa also hover right around the national average with an index score of 99.1. On average, it’s possible you could expect to spend between $231 and $688 per month on medical care. 
Of course, depending on the medical needs of you and anyone else in your household, there’s plenty of room for variation here, so you’ll want to account for your medical needs when establishing a monthly budget.

Housing: $617 to $1,193 per month

Depending on where you choose to live, housing costs are one area where you could see some savings in Iowa. The cost of living index score for housing in Iowa is 69.5.
According to Zillow’s
Home Value Index
, the average value of a home in Iowa, as of July 2022, was about $194,000, up 11% from the previous year.
Whether you’re planning to buy or rent your home, here’s what average monthly housing costs look like in Iowa:
  • Median monthly mortgage payment: $1,300
  • Average studio rent: $650
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $700
  • Average two-bedroom rent: $875
  • Average three-bedroom rent: $1,200
  • Average four-bedroom rent: $1,500
That said, housing costs can vary considerably depending on the county and city. Polk County, found in the central portion of the state and home to the capital of Des Moines, has a median home sale price of about $265,000, according to
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Transportation: $442 to $1,205 per month

With an index score of 93.4, Iowa’s average transportation costs are somewhat lower than the national average.
However, this is yet another living expense that has plenty of room for variation depending on what kind of car you drive—and what kind of
car insurance policy
it has. Here’s a closer look at some of the factors that will have an impact on your transportation costs:
  • Average annual cost of car insurance in Iowa: $1,960 to $2,551 (depending on whether you opt for
    only or
    full coverage
  • Monthly
    DART pass
    in Des Moines: $48
  • Average
    commute length
    in Iowa: 19.5 minutes
  • Average cost of a gallon of gas, August 2022: $3.58
To put these costs into context, the average national cost of car ownership for a new vehicle in 2022 rose to $894 per month, according to

How much you need to live comfortably in Iowa: $33,654 to $116,480 per year

MIT’s Living Calculator shows that a single adult without children living in Iowa would need to earn at least $16.18 per hour or about $33,654 per year. On the other hand, a family of two adults and three children would need to bring in a total of at least $56 per hour or $116,480 per year!
Meanwhile, the minimum wage in Iowa remains at $7.25 per hour, which makes covering essential living costs an obvious challenge. And the costs we’ve been discussing here only count for survival costs—depending on your lifestyle, you’ll need to factor in additional expenses to cover the costs of the things you enjoy the most. 
Here’s a look at how much various “non-essential” expenses can cost in Iowa:
  • Average cost of a date: $50 (US average: $98) 
  • Average cost of a night at the movies: $10.13 (US average: $10.61) 
  • Average cost of a
    Big Mac
    : $4.29 (US average: $6.05) 
  • Adventureland
    tickets: $40 to $70
  • Average
    sales tax
    : 6 to 7%(US average: 6.57%)
Whatever you’ll need to spend to live comfortably, you’ll want to factor those costs into your budget when deciding whether to make a move to Iowa.

The Iowa cities with the lowest cost of living

As we know already, Iowa’s cost of living is generally low, but how do living costs compare among some of its largest cities? Take a look for yourself:
  1. Cedar Rapids
    (COLI: 79.2): As one of Iowa’s largest cities, it’s also one of the most affordable. Nicknamed the “City of Five Seasons,” this riverside city is one to consider for arts enthusiasts.
  2. Davenport
    (COLI: 78.5): Just off the bank of the Mississippi River is the Davenport, the largest of four collectively-named “Quad Cities.” The drive to Des Moines or Chicago from Davenport is essentially identical at just under three hours.
  3. Des Moines
    (COLI: 78.7): Iowa’s capital and the largest city made number 14 on the U.S. News and World Report Best Places to live for 2022-2023.
  4. Sioux City
    (COLI: 74.8): Nestled in the Loess Hills, Sioux City also has a thriving local arts and entertainment scene. It’s also a great place to consider if you’re a foodie.
  5. Waterloo
    (COLI: 72): In the Cedar Valley of northeast Iowa, you’ll find
    , which is a hub for jobs across various sectors, from government to manufacturing to healthcare and more.
Each of these affordable Iowa cities offers a little something for everyone—so keep them on your list!

How to easily find home and car insurance in Iowa

Iowa’s cost of living might already fall below the national average, but still—why would you pay any more for your insurance than you have to? When it comes to shopping for
Iowa car insurance
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According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, a single adult without children would need to earn at least $16.18 per hour or $33,654 to make a living wage in Iowa.
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