Living Hawaii: What is the Cost of Living in Hawaii?

Living Hawaii: What is the Cost of Living in Hawaii?

Posted 10.05.2012 in Articles by Neil-Denny

When relocating to the island State of Hawaii, the cost of living is expected to be much higher than most places on the mainland. That's simply the price you pay to live in paradise. The island's geography offers breathtaking views and a multitude of things to do, but also requires many goods to be imported to its secluded location. We give you a heads-up on some of the major expenses you should expect after moving to Hawaii, and provide tips on how to adjust to your new island lifestyle.

Due to heavy traffic in many areas, transportation will be one of your main areas of concern. With the dense population and amount of tourism present on the island of Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii, getting around is hectic, to say the least. To deal with congestion problems, most islands have their own public transportation system. Oahu's TheBus system only costs $2.50 a ticket. TheBus has plenty of routes and a good schedule, but expect for it to be crowded. Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island also have their own bus systems, while the island of Molokai offers a free Rural Shuttle Service. There are also taxi services on every island, but rates are expensive, so taxis should only be used on occasion.

If you plan on owning your own car, one of the biggest expenses you'll face is gas. Gas prices are at least 50 cents higher per gallon than anywhere on the mainland at any given time - even higher if you live in a rural area or on one of the smaller islands. In July 2012, the average gas price per gallon in Hawaii was around $4.15, compared with around $3.40 a gallon in Massachusetts. The logical solution would be to own a fuel-efficient vehicle, preferably a hybrid or electric car. Although range anxiety was an issue for drivers looking to go electric, Hawaii's Electric Vehicle (EV) Ready Program has made charging station information easily accessible online, so you can plan your daily route accordingly. Since most people do have cars, parking may be difficult, so plan to arrive early. If you're working in Downtown Honolulu or Waikiki, you also have the option to rent out a parking space for a monthly fee.

Housing is also expected to be high in Hawaii. That's simply what comes with having beachfront property almost anywhere you go. As a result, most residents rent their homes rather than buy. The average home price in Hawaii in July 2012 was $408,000, compared with $297,000 in California and $139,000 in Pennsylvania. Rent prices are higher than what most mainlanders are used to: the average rent for an apartment in July 2012 was $1200, compared with $750 in Indiana. Many local families share their home with extended family, while singles will have multiple roommates.

Some of the costs of housing and utilities are also covered by the unique perks to living in Hawaii. Many homes in Hawaii come fully furnished, saving its tenants a lot of money on furniture. Some homes even come with cookware and other necessities. While the cost of electricity can also run up the bill, Hawaii's natural environment renders typical utility expenses nonexistent. Most homes in rural areas rely on catchment tanks for their water rather than county lines. The frequent rains mean free water for these people. Since the islands are temperate year-round, most people do not have heating systems, which are the biggest contributors to high winter electric bills on the mainland. There is also a large boom of alternative energy sources, especially solar power. Many rental homes are solar powered, eliminating the electric bill each month.

Creative homeowners and builders may find themselves suppressed when trying to improve their homes. Hawaii's city planning departments are very strict when it comes to what can be built, where it can be built, and how it must be done, and for a good reason. Hawaii has a fragile ecosystem. Much of the land is home to endangered or indigenous flora and fauna which cannot be disturbed. Many areas are also sacred to Native Hawaiians, so permission to use many areas is given with great discretion. City planning departments tend to be backlogged with permit applications and approval can take months. So if you are looking to extend your home or make major renovations, limitations will be set to protect Hawaii's natural environment.

Shopping for essentials like groceries is also a very different experience in Hawaii for a number of reasons. 90% of Hawaii's food is imported, and due to shipping costs, local grocery stores mark up their prices. While Mom and Pop supermarkets give that island vibe you can't find anywhere else in the States, imported goods will not be as fresh and will be more expensive than the mainland. Locals find fresher and more affordable products at chains like Costco, WalMart, Sam's Club, and Safeway. The high costs of food can also be partially alleviated by growing your own fruits and vegetables in the islands' fertile soils, or by shopping at the numerous farmer's markets around the state.

Living in Hawaii sounds like paradise to most people. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, warm beaches, and friendly people, in many ways, it is. But don't forget that paradise comes with a price. As long as you make these adjustments to the high cost of living, you can enjoy your new island lifestyle even better than you imagined.


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