Cost of Living in Portland, Oregon vs. Seattle, Washington

Dec 5, 2019 | Living in Portland, Seattle, Washington

Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, are the two largest cities in the Pacific Northwest. Just a 3-hour drive from one to the other makes it so that Portland and Seattle have many similarities. But you will find some distinct differences too.

One of the major differences between the two is that one of them has a significantly higher cost of living compared to the other. If you’re contemplating a move to Portland or Seattle, this post will help you understand how living in Portland, Oregon, compares against life in Seattle, Washington.

Overall cost of living in Portland vs. Seattle

According to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, more than half of Oregonians moved in from either Washington or California. There’s a good reason for that. The capital of Washington and the Californian capital have a median higher cost of living and lower quality of work/life balance when compared to Portland, Oregon. 

The Census Bureau assigns a base index number for cost of living in the US of 100. Portland comes in at 146, and Seattle is more than double the national index base at 207. Utilities and healthcare costs in both cities are almost the same, but it’s the housing that is the big shocker when you look at the overall median for each. When compared, Seattle homes come in at an astounding 43% more expensive than Portland homes. 

The median home price in Seattle, WA, is around $760k.

Whereas Portland has an average home cost of $435k.

That considerable price difference will determine where you get to live and how much space you’ll have in either city. $715k can get you an average house in Seattle. For that price, you can snap up one of the best homes in some of the most charming places to live in Portland, Oregon. 

The rental prices in downtown Seattle, Washington, for a three-bedroom can be almost $4,000 a month. For the same in downtown Portland, you’re looking at $2,500 to $3,000 a month. And, if you buy an apartment in downtown Portland, you’re going to get a lot more bang for your buck. The cost per square foot to buy an apartment in downtown Seattle is 45% more at $667 versus $368.

Living expenses in Portland vs. Seattle

Living expenses range from housing to healthcare, food, groceries, transportation, and anything that helps you, well, live. In Portland living expenses are inarguably far more affordable than the same in Seattle. The only monthly living cost that is higher in Portland than it is in Seattle is utilities at just 10%.

✔ Consumer prices in Portland are 10% lower than in Seattle.

✔ Consumer prices, including rent, are 17% lower in Portland than in Seattle.

✔ Groceries in Portland, OR are 11% lower than in Seattle.

✔ Median rent prices in Portland are 27% lower. 

At a difference of 33%, childcare costs quite a bit more in Seattle than in Portland. Childcare in Portland costs around $1,100 to  $1,200 a month. Seattle averages out at $1,600 to $1,700 a month for childcare–which is the average cost of renting an entire home in Portland. The average cost of renting a home in Seattle is $2,200–which is just about double the cost of childcare in PDX. When you’re talking about an annual expense, childcare in Seattle is north of $20k, whereas Portland is well south of the $15k mark. That’s quite a large gap.

Working in Portland vs. Seattle

According to Data USA, the largest employment sectors for those who live in Portland, OR, are

  • health care & social assistance (56,086 people)
  • Professional
  • scientific & technical services (41,221 people)
  • and Retail Trade (37,805 people).

While Seattle’s big industries in order from most to least robust are

  • Professional
  • scientific & technical services (79,268 people)
  • health care & social assistance (56,820 people)
  • and retail trade (54,629 people).

Year over year, Portland’s job market has been growing by 3.49%, whereas the job market in Seattle has only been growing by 2.28%. That doesn’t seem like a large contrast, but when you consider that Portland grew from 353k employees to 365k employees from 2016 to 2017 and Seattle grew from 426k employees to 436k employees in the same time period, you’re looking at a difference of two thousand gainfully-employed souls. 

Portland has a population of nearly 650k, and Seattle has a population of almost 725k. When you dig even deeper into the numbers to find that the current yearly population growth in Portland at 1.33% and Seattle’s at 2.9%, you’ll find negative equity between Seattle’s job growth and population growth. Portland’s percentages, however, reveal that the job growth is on the rise faster than Seattle, and population growth is a whole 1.6% lower in Portland. Not only that, but the median household income for Portland is rising at a rate of 6.5% versus Seattle’s 4%.

Lifestyle in Portland vs. Seattle

People in Portland are living the dream. In fact, according to a Gallup ShareCare poll, Oregon residents consider themselves the most satisfied with their lives out of any other place in the nation. If you need to take your stress level down by a peg or two, Stumptown is a great place to be.

When living in Portland, you have access to a wide variety of amazing outdoor spaces like the Columbia River Gorge, Rose Garden, Portland Japanese Garden, one of the largest parks in the nation; Forest Park, Lan Su Chinese Garden, Mount Hood, Oregon Zoo, Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Cascade Locks, Horsetail Falls, Leach Botanical Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, Mount Tabor, and Pittock Mansion, and that’s just to name a few. 

For inner-city activities, you’ve got a lot of really cool restaurants, food carts, bars, and walkable scenes up in the Emerald City and down in Stumptown. Both cities are very proud of their food and drink establishments–so much so that there has been a feud brewing between the two for a very long time. 

If you ask Thrillist, Portland’s food scene destroys Seattle’s. One of the reasons is that Portland’s food cart community is, for lack of an even more accurate description, off the hook. There are more than 600 food carts woven throughout the city of Portland. It’s eclectic, too; you can get anything from pancake sliders to Viking Soul Food. You can even have your grilled cheese sandwich and eat it in the most extravagantly-decorated bus we’ve ever seen. 

Ah, but what about the beer scene? Sure, Seattle has the most breweries in the nation, with 174 of them. But Portland, with its humble 84 breweries, ranks number one in the nation for quality and taste of beer. That stat is difficult to argue with.

 

Ok, so the food and beer are better in Portland, but what about the cost of said amenities? The average price of a restaurant meal for two in Portland is $50; in Seattle, you’ll an astounding 29% more at $70. And if that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, the average beer will cost you $5 in Portland vs. $7 in Seattle.

 

And housing? If you’re looking for more of a comfortable neighborhood vibe with many different styles of homes to choose from, there’s no place like Portland. Seattle has a great mix of housing styles, too, but the price point is much higher, and the vibe isn’t always as friendly. Seattle even has a name for the perceived level of friendliness there, and it’s called the “Seattle Freeze.” Seattleites seem to assume more of a business lifestyle, and this makes it seem like people in Seattle are in much more of a rush than those living the laidback lifestyle of Rose City. Across the board, the Portland vibe is generally more chill and relaxed. 

 

Portland ranks high in livability and low in stress. It’s a unique city with a small-town vibe. Great food, equally as good coffee, the nation’s best beer, easy commutes, bike-friendly streets, a bridge for every type of traveler, affordable housing, friendly people, access to a wide variety of nature exploits, involved communities and lower cost of living make Portland a very desirable place to live.

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Thinking about moving to Portland, Oregon? We can help.

We specialize in helping people who are considering a move to Portland, Oregon. Our combined experience and vast number of connections in the Portland real estate market are hard to beat. If you’re thinking about moving to Portland, we can help you find your perfect home in the right neighborhood for you. If you’ve got questions about moving to Portland, feel free to call, text, or email Jackson Wilkey or Jesse Dau.

Need help moving to Portland?

If you’re thinking about moving to Portland, OR, we can help you find your perfect home in the right neighborhood for you. If you have questions about moving to Portland, feel free to call, text, or email Jackson Wilkey or Jesse Dau.

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About Real Agent Now Group

Jesse & Jackson are high-touch broker’s known for their extensive market knowledge and  unmatched devotion to clients.

Their success is based almost exclusively on positive referrals. They earn the respect of their clients by working tirelessly on their behalf and by always offering them candid advice.

Get to know them better by checking out their Portland and real estate YOUTUBE CHANNEL.

About Real Agent Now Group

Jesse & Jackson are high-touch broker’s known for their extensive market knowledge and  unmatched devotion to clients.

Their success is based almost exclusively on positive referrals. They earn the respect of their clients by working tirelessly on their behalf and by always offering them candid advice.

Get to know them better by checking out their Portland and real estate YOUTUBE CHANNEL.

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