What most people don’t know is that Alaska is the fourth most expensive state to live in: Hawaii, California, New York, and Alaska. You would be surprised how many people are stunned by that fact. Of course everything is relative and you need to know what someone’s baseline is. I will compare what it costs to live in Alaska compared to when I lived in Arizona, which has a relatively low cost of living. If you are curious as to what it costs to live in Alaska, read on as I will give you a behind the scenes look at what it costs for me to live in Alaska.
Disclosure: This post not only answers your questions about costs of living in Alaska, but also has Affiliate Links that I earn commissions from. This is how I make a living and keep this little blog running. Thank you for supporting me! I appreciate it. Much love, Kristi. This is not a sponsored post, just sharing my love of Alaska with you.
Back Story About Getting to Alaska
I left Arizona in 2013 for what I thought would be an 8-month road trip around the contiguous US. In 2014, I decided to hit my 49th state which ironically was Alaska – the 49th State to enter the Union.
It has almost been four years since I left Vancouver, Canada to drive north to Alaska. What I thought would take me 5-7 days, took me 9 days to drive. There were a lot of things to see and do, and I wanted to take my time! You can also fly up with just your luggage or take the ferry if you want to move everything at once. I came up initially to interview the craft breweries in 2014, so I only had camping gear and a couple suitcases with me, that was it.
Making My Car an Alaska Car
I drove a Toyota Scion tC and average 30 miles a gallon. The price of gas driving through Canada made my jaw drop and it hurt every time I put my debit card into the machine. Back in 2014, gas in Alaska on average was above $3.75/gal and in towns like Seward and Homer I paid well over $4/gal. Thankfully, gas prices have decreased since then. Now in the winter gas is about $2.75/gal and in the summer it has dropped to around $2.40 and goes up at times to above $3. I fuel up at Costco as it is the cheapest in Anchorage. I also shop at Fred Meyers (a Kroger store) and shop for groceries on the weekends when I earn 4x on gas reward points.
I had to add on an additional $200 to my 6-month car insurance policy compared to the same exact policy in Arizona. There is also no free glass coverage in Alaska like there is in Arizona. In the winter, neither chemicals nor salt are not put down on the road as it can get into the waterways and hurt the salmon. Instead, they put down tiny rocks and gravel which will, at some point, crack your windshield. I’m personally on my third windshield in four years. Each one costs $250 to replace.
One thing I found truly baffling about Alaska was the lack of full-service car washes. You know, the kind where they wash the inside of your car and dry off the outside. In Phoenix, they are everywhere. In Anchorage, good luck with that. I was looking for a regular car wash that just cleaned out the interior and washed the exterior, which is normally $10 in Phoenix, but $75-125 in Anchorage!! A regular drive-thru car wash where you drive through the little machine is $18! This is not the only sticker shock that happens in Alaska! Most often if you want the interior cleaned in your car, you are looking at a $100 minimum, and you have to go to a car detailer.
Winterizing Your Car
I wrote a post about winterizing your car for Alaska. Basically, you need an oil change, snow tires (get studs if you live remote or on the hillside), a remote car starter, and an engine block heater if you live farther north like in Fairbanks.
Finding a Place to Live
In a ideal world, I would love to own a cabin overlooking the ocean or a lake. Before I had ventured up to Alaska, I thought everyone lived like this – I was so naive. For years, I loved vintage and living in older homes. Not anymore. I’m not sure when it happened, but I crave a gourmet kitchen and like things a bit more modern, including super-fast WiFi. A lot of Alaska has only 3G, no running water nor electricity. I now make sure to ask when I am looking at places!
If you come up to Alaska in the summer you might want to look at places that need a roommate or be prepared to shell out almost double for a place to rent. Before I decided to live in Alaska permanently I had 3 different roommate situations. One was in a beautiful cabin in Eagle River (10 minutes north of Anchorage) and paid $800 for rent with utilities included. The landlord thought she could go through my things when I wasn’t home, so that one was a disaster and I was there only a couple of months. Then I lived with a traveling nurse in Midtown Anchorage and it was awesome. I paid $400, which included everything from February to June. The last place I rented with roommates was in Wasilla (an hour north of Anchorage) for $500 for a room in a beautiful home. Every one of these came furnished, but with no garage space.
After traveling full-time for four years I was ready to have my own space again. I had been in other people’s spaces for the last 4 years, and I craved silence and solitude. I was in each of these Alaska rentals for 3-6 months and would travel down to South America and within the Lower 48 the rest of the time. I would pop back up to Alaska for a few weeks and then fly out on another adventure.
In case you are curious about what led me to living as a full-time traveler and what it was like, read this: I Found a Life Worth Living as a Full-Time Traveler
The minute I made the decision that I wanted Alaska to be my home base, I knew I wanted to live in Anchorage. I found a newly remodeled condo downtown that was everything I wanted. It had a fireplace, a brand new kitchen (although very tiny), lots of closets, and the best part – one helluva killer view. The price tag though was high for me at $1200.
It is very difficult to find a 1-bedroom apartment in Anchorage in a good area for less. Most average $1000-1800, with 1-bedrooms being very hard to find no matter your price range. You can find 2-bedrooms for about $1200-2000. My 2-bedroom luxury apartment in Phoenix was $900 and for a 3bd rental house was $1,400. When I had my large 4-bd home, our mortgage was $2,200 a month. Just to give you an idea of what I’m used to paying for rent and mortgage.
If you plan on renting, just remember that seasonal workers start to return in late April and tourists start pouring in mid-May. If you are thinking about buying a home, it is currently a buyer’s market. If you can afford it, buying is the way to go!
Whether you are coming up for a vacation or plan on living here, you might want to take a look at What to Pack for Alaska.
I need to preface this with saying I eat almost completely organic and non-GMO. I also don’t eat much commercial meat or chicken, but rather wild-caught Alaska fish and game meat like moose, sheep, and caribou. I shop mostly at Costco and Fred Meyer. One thing I love about Costco is that they stock a ton of organic products. They costs about 15-20% more than what they are in Arizona. The same goes for Fred Meyer. This a pretty good article though on a different perspective on groceries and what happens when there is a shortage or a hiccup in the delivery system. On average, I spend $250-300 a month on groceries just for me. In Phoenix where you could double coupon and prices were less I spent maybe a $100 a month.
Eating out costs a lot more in Alaska than in Arizona, no doubt about it. In Anchorage, it is hard to find a burger and fries for under $10. Salads range $10-15 and entrees typically are around $25-60. When you are in towns like Seward, Homer, or Talkeetna, don’t be surprised when you can’t find anything to eat for lunch under $10 or dinner under $20. Most of these towns do not have fast food, which I don’t eat anyways. Just be prepared that eating out will eat at your finances quickly if you eat out all the time. I don’t eat out very often and budget just a $100 a month for it.
What others questions do you have about the cost of living in Alaska? Let me know in the comments and will cover it in another post.
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