One thing on almost everyone's mind when they move to Florida is what the cost of living is like here.
While the cost of living should not be the only thing you think about when deciding where to live, it can play an important role in that decision.
For this article, I've examined the cost of living in 25 of Florida's most popular cities, closely mirroring my list of the 25 Best Places to Retire in Florida.
Read on to see what I discovered, or you can jump to a specific section:
- Ocala – 83.8 (Cost of Living Index)
- Daytona Beach – 85.7
- Melbourne – 90.9
- Jacksonville – 93.5
- Fort Myers – 96.2
Most sources express the cost of living for different cities as an index (cost of living index they call it) with the average cost of living in the United States being expressed as a baseline of 100.
So, if for example a place has a cost of living index of 105, its cost of living is considered to be 5% more expensive than the national average.
If a place has a cost of living index of 95, its cost of living is considered to be 5% less expensive than the national average.
Florida as a state comes in with a cost of living index of 102.8.
The data below comes from BestPlaces.net. They get their data from a long list of government and private organizations.
Costs included in the index include housing prices for renters or homeowners, utilities (electric, natural gas, oil), healthcare costs (premiums and common surgeries), entertainment costs, transportation expenses (vehicle insurance and registration fees, gas prices and commuting costs, vehicle depreciation), food prices (meat, dairy, ready-to-eat, and more), child care (for both infants and toddlers, at home and away from home), and taxes (income, property, sales, motor vehicle).
Obviously some of those costs may not apply to you, so at the end of the day, you'll want to crunch your own numbers. But this should serve as a great starting point for you.
On to the results!
Least Expensive Places to Live in Florida
Here are the 5 least expensive places I found. Keep in mind that I'm using cities and places that appear on my best places to retire list. There might be cheaper places in Florida in which to live, but they might not necessarily be that appealing for retirement.
Ocala – 83.8 (Cost of Living Index)
The home of ever popular On Top of the World and several other 55+ communities comes in as the least expensive place to retire on our list.
Daytona Beach – 85.7
Residents of Latitude Margaritaville Daytona rejoice! You're living in one of the least expensive places to live in the state. That means more money left over for Landshark Lager and Jimmy Buffett concert tickets.
Melbourne – 90.9
Melbourne is a popular spot along Florida's Space (East) Coast, and is home to the master-planned community of Viera, which year after year is always one of the best selling communities in Florida.
Jacksonville – 93.5
Jacksonville is Florida's biggest city in terms of population, and the largest city in the contiguous United States by area. You typically think of bigger cities being more expensive, but Jacksonville seems to break out of that mold.
Fort Myers – 96.2
I must say I'm quite surprised to see how reasonable the cost of living in Fort Myers is. Mentally I've always lumped it in with Naples (which you'll see below falls into the “Most Expensive” category) since they're only about 35 miles apart.
Most Expensive Places to Live in Florida
By contrast, here are the 5 most expensive places I found. With the exception of the first one, I don't feel like the other ones are too terribly cost prohibitive.
Key West – 154.8
If you're thinking about retirement in the Florida Keys, I hope you don't think you're going to do it on a tight budget. In addition to Key West, I tried but could not find much cost of living relief in other popular places like Marathon (137.2), Islamorada (152.4), and Key Largo (160.2).
Ponte Vedra – 117.4
I could not find exact cost of living numbers for Ponte Vedra (too small maybe?) so in this case I had to go with figures from the next closest city, Jacksonville Beach.
Winter Garden – 114.2
I live pretty close to Winter Garden, and I must say I'm kind of surprised to see that its cost of living is as high as it is. Since I live in one of the most expensive cities in the state, I guess places around it like Winter Garden can't escape some of the runoff.
30A – 112
30A is a stretch of road in the Florida Panhandle between Destin and Panama City Beach. While there are several towns along 30A, when mentioning it on my 25 best places list the town of Watersound is the one I focused on because it is the location of Florida's 2nd Latitude Margaritaville 55+ community, Latitude Margaritaville Watersound.
But, as was the case with Ponte Vedra above where I had to make a substitution due to a lack of data, in the case of Watersound and 30A I've taken the average of Destin (118.6) and Panama City Beach (105.4) to come up with an index of 112 for 30A. Definitely not scientific, but I feel like its a pretty good approximation.
Naples – 111.9
Based on reputation, I honestly thought Naples would be more expensive than it is. It still makes the “most expensive” part of our list, but it doesn't seem too terrible to me.
All Places (Lowest to Highest)
Here's a look at how all 25 cities on our best places list stack up with one another:
|City||Cost of Living Index|
|Port St. Lucie||100|
|Citrus Hills (Nature Coast)||103.1|
|New Smyrna Beach||106.6|
|Destin/Panama City Beach (Avg.)||112|
As I examined the data, it didn't take long to figure out that the main factor in whether a particular place had a low, moderate, or high cost of living was housing costs – what is costs to buy or rent in each location.
The cost of a gallon of milk or a kilowatt of electricity simply doesn't vary that much across the state and doesn't tip the scales much in either direction.
Also, here's a complete breakdown of what it costs to live in The Villages, Florida's most popular retirement location.
With the exception of the Florida Keys, I feel like overall the majority of the places I looked at had a reasonable cost of living. Which makes sense really, remembering that Florida overall comes in at just 2.8% higher than the national average.
While no cost of living analysis will ever be perfect, in part because everyone's spending levels and thoughts on what qualifies as cheap or expensive will vary, I hope this article provides a great starting place for your own thinking and research.
Feel free to drop any questions you have in the comments section down below.
Marie Brandon says
This is very helpful as we are considering relocating soon. I was surprised at Ormond Beach though. I’ll continue to follow, this move is this fall hopefully.
Lee Elwell says
Ryan, an excellent article with a lot of valuable information, however, it seemed a lot of the retirement areas mentioned are some of the most expensive in the state. Although most are expensive, and to each their own, I would suggest checking out Punta Gorda. From high to low, a beautiful small town full of recreational activities, a beautiful downtown area, a very active community, not to mention the 2nd largest water harbor area and water activities in the state. Located on Charlotte Harbor, easily accessible to Orlando, Tampa, St Pete, Sarasota, Ft Myers, Naples, Stuart, WPalm, Ft Lauderdale, Miami, Fl keys Etc.
A hidden Gem with the beautiful weather, and a beautiful community with every conceivable convenience needed or wanted! And we’ve not only lived in a number of your suggestions and visited all of the others, this one is difficult to beat in every category!
Love Punta Gorda but Hurricane Charley was enough to make me not choose it. Hurricane blew right up through that harbor. The devastation was bad.
Just a comment of what a great writer you are!
It’s like you’re speaking directly to the reader.
Thank you for all you do! You’ll never realize how you effect so many lives.
Ryan Erisman says
Thank you for your kind words!
Bill Romano says
Curious why Palm Coast is never mentioned in reviews like yours? We have friends who live there. Seems quiet and less touristy than many of the locations on your list. Thanks.
Ryan Erisman says
Palm Coast has been on my list in prior years and I’m sure it will return in future years. Just as you described it…quiet and less touristy. Here’s a guide: https://www.floridaforboomers.com/retirement-spotlight-palm-coast/
How much have these prices gone up for housing in the last year? I’ve been “eying” Citrus Hills and the prices have jumped way up in the last 8 months!
Ryan Erisman says
Not just in Florida, but nationwide new home prices have risen 20% between July 2020 and July 2021.