How much is your $100 worth? Here are the cities where your dollar stretches the most

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By

Myles Ma

Myles Ma

Senior Managing Editor

Myles Ma is a health care expert & personal finance writer for Policygenius. He edits the Easy Money newsletter.

Published May 3, 2018|2 min read

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A dollar is a dollar, no matter where you are in the U.S., right? Not quite. If you've traveled around this great land, you'll notice the price of a cup of coffee is different depending on whether you buy it in San Francisco or Cincinnati.

You can see variances in prices for other things like gas or rent as well. The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks these variances with a statistic called regional price parities. The regional price parity for, say, New York, is 121.9, which means prices there are 21.9% higher than the U.S. average. So while $100 might buy you $100 worth of stuff at U.S. average prices, in New York, $100 only buys you $82.03 of the same stuff.

With a bit of math, you can figure out exactly how much a dollar — or in the following case, $100 — is worth depending on where you are in America. The map below shows how far $100 goes in the 50 biggest metropolitan areas in the country.

The most expensive cities

The cities where prices are highest, and where $100 buys the least, are concentrated on the coasts. In fact, the top 12 priciest metro areas are all coastal cities. The most expensive city that's not on the coast is Denver, where the buying power of $100 is only about $94.34 compared to the national average.

Here are the five metro areas where $100 has the least buying power:

1. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California Prices 22% higher than U.S. average Value of $100: $81.97

2. San Francisco-Oakland-Heyward Prices 21.9% higher than U.S. average Value of $100: $82.03

2. New York-Newark-Jersey City Prices 21.9% higher than U.S. average Value of $100: $82.03

4. Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria Prices 19.1% higher than U.S. average Value of $100: $83.96

5. Los Angeles Prices 17.6% higher than U.S. average Value of $100: $85.03

The least expensive cities

In contrast, the cities with the lowest prices are sprinkled throughout the interior of the country. The cheapest coastal city is Charlotte, North Carolina, where prices are 6.5% cheaper than average and $100 has the buying power of $106.95.

Here are the five metro areas where $100 has the most buying power:

1. Cincinnati Prices 10.8% lower than U.S. average Value of $100: $112.11

1. Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama Prices 10.8% lower than U.S. average Value of $100: $112.11

3. Cleveland-Elyria Prices 10.3% lower than U.S. average Value of $100: $111.48

4. Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky-Indiana Prices 8.8% lower than U.S. average Value of $100: $109.65

5. Sherman-Denison, Texas Prices 8.7% lower than U.S. average Value of $100: $109.53

Thinking of moving to make your money go further? Remember, prices are only part of the equation. Make sure you check out what pay is like in your prospective new home. Here are the states where wages made the strongest comeback since the Great Recession.

Image: LarryKnupp