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How Much Does It Cost to Live in Des Moines, Iowa?

cost of living with coins around
Photo Credits: Canva


If you are thinking of moving to Des Moines, Iowa, you might be wondering how much it costs to live in this city. Des Moines is the capital and the largest city of Iowa, with a population of over 600,000 people in the metro area. It is also the economic and cultural center of the state, with many businesses, attractions, and events that draw visitors and residents alike.

But how affordable is Des Moines compared to other cities in the Midwest and the country? What are the main expenses that you need to consider when planning your budget? And what are the benefits of living in Des Moines that make it worth the cost?

You will find all the answers to these questions and more in this article. We will explore the cost of living in Des Moines, based on the latest data and estimates from various sources. 

If you are considering moving to Des Moines Iowa, knowing the pros and cons will also help you make that decision or better understand the city you have already committed to. You can also consider several attractive neighborhoods that frequently rank highly on lists of the best places to live in the area. Don't forget to watch the video below to help you further understand the costs of living in Des Moines from a resident's experience.

Housing Costs in Des Moines

Housing is one of the biggest expenses that you will face when living in Des Moines. The good news is that housing costs in Des Moines are lower than the national average and many other cities in the Midwest. According to Expatistan, a website that compares the cost of living in different cities, the average monthly rent for a 900 sqft furnished apartment in an expensive area of Des Moines is $1,507, while the same apartment in a normal area costs $1,031. These prices are 35% and 32% lower than the national average, respectively.

Of course, the housing costs in Des Moines vary depending on the location, size, condition, and amenities of the property. You can find cheaper or more expensive options depending on your preferences and needs. For example, if you want to live in the downtown area, you can expect to pay more per square foot than in the suburbs. If you want to live in a newer or larger house, you will also have to pay more than in an older or smaller one.

Transportation Costs in Des Moines

Another major expense that you will have to consider when living in Des Moines is transportation. Des Moines is a car-dependent city, meaning that most people rely on their own vehicles to get around. According to Numbeo, a website that collects user-generated data on the cost of living, the average price of gasoline in Des Moines is $3.14 per gallon, which is slightly lower than the national average of $3.18. The average cost of a new car in Des Moines is $23,500, which is also lower than the national average of $25,000.

You can also use public transportation in Des Moines if you don’t want to drive. The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) operates buses and paratransit services throughout the metro area. The fare for a one-way trip is $1.75, while the fare for a monthly pass is $48. You can also use ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, which charge around $3 for a base fare and $1.5 per mile.

Alternatively, you can also bike or walk in Des Moines, especially if you live close to your work or school. Des Moines has a bike-friendly culture and infrastructure, with many bike lanes, trails, and racks. The city also has a bike-share program called BCycle6, which allows you to rent a bike for $6 per hour or $10 per day. Walking is also a viable option in Des Moines, especially in the downtown area, which is compact and pedestrian-friendly.

Food Costs in Des Moines

Food is another essential expense that you will have to budget for when living in Des Moines. The cost of food in Des Moines depends on where and what you eat. If you cook at home, you can save money by buying groceries at local supermarkets or farmers markets. The average cost of a basic lunchtime menu in the business district of Des Moines is $14, while a combo meal in a fast-food restaurant costs $9. 

Here are some of the popular supermarkets and grocery stores in Des Moines:

  • Hy-Vee

  • Fareway

  • Aldi

  • Walmart

  • Target

  • Whole Foods

  • Trader Joe’s

  • Fresh Thyme

  • Gateway Market

If you eat out, you can find a variety of restaurants and cuisines in Des Moines, ranging from cheap to expensive. You can enjoy the local specialties, such as pork tenderloin sandwiches, sweet corn, and Maid-Rite loose meat sandwiches, or try the ethnic flavors, such as Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and Thai. The average cost of a meal for two people in a mid-range restaurant in Des Moines is $70, while a bottle of wine costs $14.50.

Some of the popular cuisines and restaurants in Des Moines were:

  • American: Zombie Burger, Bubba, Centro, Django, Fong’s Pizza, Smokey D’s BBQ, Flying Mango

  • Mexican: Tacos Mariana’s, El Michoacano, Malo, Tacopocalypse, Tasty Tacos, La Mie Bakery

  • Italian: Baratta’s, Noah’s Ark, Gusto Pizza, Scornovacca’s, Bordenaro’s Pizza, Tumea & Sons

  • Asian: A Dong, Cool Basil, Pho All Seasons, Wasabi, Miyabi 9, Krunkwich Ramen House, Hana Ramen Sushi

  • Mediterranean: Gaz

Entertainment and Recreation Costs in Des Moines

Living in Des Moines is not only about paying the bills, but also about having fun and enjoying life. Des Moines has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment and recreation, from cultural events to outdoor activities. You can find something for every taste and budget in Des Moines, whether you are into arts, sports, music, or nature.

If you are into arts and culture, you can visit the Des Moines Art Center, which features a collection of modern and contemporary art, or the Des Moines Civic Center, which hosts Broadway shows, concerts, and comedy acts. You can also check out the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, which displays 31 sculptures by renowned artists, or the Iowa State Capitol, which is a historic and architectural landmark. The average cost of a ticket for a movie in Des Moines is $15, while the average cost of a ticket for a theater show is $100.

For under $20 per person, You can watch the Iowa Cubs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, play baseball at the Principal Park, or the Iowa Wild, the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild, play hockey at the Wells Fargo Arena if you are into sports or fitness.

You can also join a fitness club or a tennis court, or go hiking, biking, fishing, or golfing at one of the many parks and trails in and around Des Moines. The average cost of a fitness club membership in Des Moines is $80 per month with the most popular nationwide fitness center being Lifetime fitness, that membership starts at $179/per person. 

Health Care Costs in Des Moines

Health care is also an essential expense that you will have to account for when living in Des Moines.

For employed citizens, they might be eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance, which can cover some or all of their health care costs. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual premium for employer-sponsored health insurance in Iowa was $7,312 for single coverage and $20,712 for family coverage in 2020, which is lower than the national average of $7,470 for single coverage and $21,342 for family coverage.

If you are not employed, or if your employer does not offer health insurance, you might have to buy your own health insurance from the private market or the public exchange. According to, the average monthly premium for a silver plan on the Iowa exchange was $483 for a 40-year-old non-smoker in 2020, which is higher than the national average of $462. However, you might qualify for subsidies or tax credits that can lower your premium, depending on your income and household size. If you are uninsured, or if your insurance does not cover certain services or prescriptions, you will have to pay out-of-pocket for your health care. 

Some of the popular hospitals and clinics in Des Moines are:

Is the Cost of Living in Des Moines Worth it?

As you can see, the cost of living in Des Moines is lower than the national average, but it also depends on your lifestyle and preferences. You can find a range of options and prices for housing, transportation, food, health care, entertainment, and recreation in Des Moines, and you can choose the ones that fit your budget and needs.

But the cost of living is not the only factor that you should consider when moving to Des Moines. You should also think about the benefits and opportunities that Des Moines can offer you, such as:

  • A strong and diverse economy, with many job opportunities in various industries, such as finance, insurance, technology, health care, education, and agriculture.

  • A high quality of life, with excellent public services, such as schools, health care, and public safety, as well as a low crime rate and a high happiness index.

  • A friendly and welcoming community, with a rich and diverse culture, as well as a lot of events and festivals, such as the Iowa State Fair, the Des Moines Arts Festival, the World Food and Music Festival, and the 80/35 Music Festival.

  • A beautiful and natural environment, with a lot of green spaces, parks, trails, lakes, and rivers, as well as a mild and pleasant climate, with four distinct seasons and moderate precipitation.

So, is Des Moines worth the cost? I think the answer is yes. Des Moines is a great place to live, work, and play, and it offers a lot of value for your money. Downtown Des Moines has seen extensive development and offers an urban lifestyle right in Iowa's heartland. But don’t just take our word for it, see for yourself by visiting or moving to Des Moines.

To get a better idea of the standard cost of living here in Des Moines, watch my video below where I gave some insights into the market, neighborhoods, and more!

If you need more help or information about moving to Des Moines, you can book a free consultation with me, a trusted realtor and a local expert. I will be happy to share my experience and knowledge of the cost of living in Des Moines, as well as help you find the best housing option for you. Just click the button below to book your free call.


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