Living in Las Vegas is alluring, with its world-class nightlife, bountiful outdoor recreation and an average of 330 sunny days per year. The income you need to live in Las Vegas depends on factors that include the part of town you call home and whether you have dependents to support. Average costs for necessities such as rent, utilities, food and transportation provide an excellent place to start.
Las Vegas Averages
The cost of rent, food and even things such as gas vary wildly in Las Vegas depending on the neighborhood. Not surprisingly, everything is more expensive around The Strip, where tourists, many of them wealthy, descend in droves with piles of money to spend on entertainment. Even on the outskirts of town, certain suburbs, such as Henderson, cost more to live in than others, such as North Las Vegas. The following figures are based on citywide averages and may end up being lower or higher depending on where you settle.
Las Vegas Average Rent
As of May 2015, the average apartment in Las Vegas rents for $1,135 per month. One-bedroom units rent, on average, for $819, while two-bedroom rentals average $1,028 per month.
Luxury apartments on or near the Strip frequently rent for more than $2,000 per month. On the other end of the gamut, some of the least expensive apartments rent for under $700 per month. Many of these are in neighborhoods that have high crime rates or are blighted.
Las Vegas Average Utilities
Las Vegas is famous for blazing hot summers with daily highs well above 100 degrees. Many people are unaware, however, that the city can get very cold in the winter, sometimes even accumulating snow. Fall and spring, by contrast, are pleasant. As a utility customer, expect your monthly bill to vacillate significantly based on the time of year. The average utility bill for a 1,000-square-foot apartment in Las Vegas is $180 per month.
Las Vegas Average Food Costs
Food costs in Las Vegas hover around the national average. A gallon of milk costs $3.41, and you can get a dozen large eggs for $2.35. A loaf of bread costs $2.26, and $4 can buy you a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. By grocery shopping in bulk and severely limiting meals eaten in restaurants, you can maintain a healthy, filling diet in Las Vegas for $400 per month or under.
Las Vegas Transportation
Driving in Las Vegas is very expensive compared to most cities. As a car owner in Las Vegas, your biggest costs, other than the vehicle itself, will be auto insurance and gas. Monthly insurance premiums run twice as much in Las Vegas compared to other cities in Nevada. Even for minimum coverage, it is not uncommon to pay $100 per month or more. Gas is similarly costly in Sin City. As of August 2015, the average Las Vegas gas price is $3.20 per gallon, which is 29% higher than the national average.
If you do not drive, a one-way bus ticket in Las Vegas costs $2, or you can purchase an unlimited monthly pass for $65.
Living in Las Vegas as a Student
Las Vegas is a big draw for college students. The nightlife is incomparable, and the weather is ideal for young, active people. With smart budgeting, living in Las Vegas as a student is possible on a shoestring budget. While rents are slightly elevated near the city's largest university, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, you can find two-bedroom apartments for around $1,200. Apartments typically allow two residents per bedroom; sharing a two-bedroom apartment with three other students means your rent share is only $300 per month. Your utility bill is similarly divided: assuming it comes to $200, you pay $50. Add food costs of $400 per month and minimal transportation costs, since, ideally, your apartment will be close to campus, and you can cover basic necessities as a student in Las Vegas on $1,000 per month.
Living in Las Vegas as a Professional
Professionals can live in Las Vegas on a modest salary, though their living costs are almost always higher than that of students. Most professionals prefer not to have roommates and prefer to drive to their destinations.
As a Las Vegas professional, you should count on $1,100 to $1,200 for rent and around $200 per month for utilities. Your car insurance could also be as much as $200 per month. Depending on the length of your commute, monthly gas costs are anywhere from $100 to $200 or more. A professional can still keep a food budget of $400 per month, but even a few meals out on the Strip each month can blow that budget.
It is feasible to live in Las Vegas as a professional on $2,500 per month, or $30,000 per year, but it requires strict budgeting. A yearly income of $40,000 to $50,000 leaves more room for emergencies and extraneous costs, not to mention a little extra money to enjoy the city every once in a while.
Living in Las Vegas as an Unemployed Job-Seeker
Las Vegas is not an ideal city to live in when unemployed and looking for a job. The maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Nevada is $407. It is difficult enough to pay for rent, utilities and food on that amount. When you add car expenses – pretty much a necessity so you can get to job interviews – it becomes a mathematical impossibility.
As of August 2015, the Las Vegas metro area unemployment rate is 7.3%. That is significantly higher than the national rate of 5.5%, and the number does not even tell the whole story. Even if you land a job quickly, there's a decent chance that you will still end up struggling to pay the bills. Thousands of Las Vegas residents who are employed still cannot make a living because service jobs, many of which do not even pay a living wage, dominate the city.
The city's high unemployment rate and dearth of decent-paying jobs combined with Nevada's low unemployment benefit amount makes Las Vegas a poor relocation choice for an unemployed person seeking work.