The 10 most expensive cities to live in the UK

As it stands, living costs in the UK are not expected to return to their 2021 levels in real terms until 2027. The cost of living crisis has seen inflation and food shortages, with wages struggling to keep up with rising costs. Notably, rents are now at their highest rate on record, alongside rising energy bills. 

For those seeking to live alone at such a time, weathering the storm relies heavily on addressing this factor. With that in mind, chartered surveyors Stokemont analysed the 20 biggest cities in the UK to answer the question – which UK cities are the most expensive to live alone in?

The most expensive cities to live alone in the UK

RankCityEstimated monthly cost of living for a single person in the city centre (including rent)

Unsurprisingly, the study found that the most expensive city to live alone in the UK is London. The monthly cost of living alone in the English capital is just over £3,075, which is over £1,000 more than any other city in the country. Central areas are particularly pricey, with the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom flat taking you back just over £2,086. Rental prices rose by 12.4% last year, due to a decreasing number of available properties and an increased demand. The bright side for London’s 9 million+ residents is that the city is also the highest-paying in the UK, with an average monthly net salary of just over £3,258 after tax.

Bristol is the second most expensive city to live alone in the UK, with an estimated monthly living cost of just over £1,913. The reasons for this mirror those found in London – students and workers returning to the city after COVID has generated an imbalance in the housing demand-to-supply ratio, leading to higher rental costs. It was reported by Zoopla in December that many renters are now paying up to 35% of their income towards rent, a figure which could increase further if the crisis continues.

The high rental costs in Edinburgh brings the city to third place on Stokemont’s list, with many private tenants seeing a significant increase in this figure from landlords since 2021. The crisis prompted the Scottish government to introduce emergency measures to ease the blow of spiralling costs in September 2022, including a rent freeze and eviction ban, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan suggesting the approach could be effective in the English capital too. As it stands, the estimated monthly living cost for a single person in Edinburgh is just over £1,735.

Manchester follows in fourth, with an estimated monthly living cost of just over £1,682 for single people in the city centre. This is once again linked to what Zoopla labels the ‘chronic imbalance’ between supply and demand in the rental market. The situation is made worse by rising mortgage rates, which leave those looking to become first-time buyers in a position where their only option is renting. 

Leeds rounds off the top five. House price inflation in the northern city saw a growth of 13.6%, as reported late last year, which is notably higher than the UK average of 9.2%. The estimated monthly cost of living alone in Leeds is currently just over £1,604.

Conversely, Stokemont found that the cheapest big city to live alone in the UK is Hull, where the estimated monthly living cost sits at just over £1,068. Unfortunately, Hull also has one of the lowest average monthly net salaries out of the UK’s big cities, at £1,819. So though rent prices are over 77% lower here than in London, the local purchasing power is only 17% higher, meaning the figure does not necessarily indicate affordability.

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