In Delaware / Dec 13, 2019

A Complete Guide to the Cost of Living in Delaware

From median income to home values and rent rates, taxes, utilities, groceries, health care, transportation, and other miscellaneous costs, there’s much that goes into determining a state’s cost of living. Below, we take a detailed look at individual factors that determine the cost of living in Delaware, as well as how these numbers compare to national and regional averages.

Median Income

Salary levels vary from region to region and how much money you are bringing in is possibly the single most important factor in determining the affordability of your lifestyle in a given area. In 2018, Statista reported that the median household income in Delaware was $65,012, up from $62,318 in 2017, and $1,833 higher than the national average. While 2019 numbers are not yet available, the last almost thirty years of data show that Delaware’s median income has been steadily on the rise, growing from $30,804 in 1990 to more than double that amount in 2018. 

While a certain amount of pay inflation is expected over nearly 3 decades, it’s interesting to note that the median household income across America only rose from $54,621 in 1990 to $63,179 in 2018. Why the historical overview? It’s always helpful to put cost of living numbers in context, and Delaware is a state whose economy has considerably improved and is still improving, with a median income that is currently above the national average.

Home Values

As with income, Delaware’s home values are on the rise. Over the past year, home values have risen by 0.5%, and Zillow estimates that they will rise by 1.1% in the next year. Zillow’s median home value for Delaware is $236,300, and the median list price per square foot is $152 (compare to Zillow’s US median home value of $231,000); the median price for homes currently on the market in Delaware is $300,000; and the median final sale price is $232,300. 

It’s important to note that the median Zillow home value index varies greatly city to city. Prices are high in Hockessin at $415,100; in Bear the median is $256,000; in Middletown the median is $255,000; in Newark the median is $223,200; in Smyrna the median is $217,800; in Claymont the median is $213,800; in New Castle the median is $178,800; in Dover the median is $161,700; and in Wilmington the median is $135,500.


Like home values, rental rates vary from county to county. According to Zillow, the median rent price in Delaware is $1,425, or $0.97 per square foot. The Zillow rent index puts Delaware at $1,570, compared to the U.S. rent index of $1,573. For 2017, the Department of Numbers listed the US median gross rent at $1,012; Delaware at $1,086; Kent County, DE at $978; New Castle County, DE at $1,124; and Sussex County, DE at $978.

Of course, rent also varies by size of apartment. Best Places lists Delaware’s average rent by bedroom size as follows: $812 for a studio (compared to a national average of $821); $929 for 1 bedroom (compared to a national average of $930); $1,136 for 2 bedrooms (compared to a national average of $1,148); $1,504 for 3 bedrooms (compared to a national average of $1,537), and $1,730 for four bedrooms (compared to a national average of $1,791). 


Taxes, of course, also play a substantial, if less immediately obvious, role in cost of living calculations. A big draw for many out-of-state transplants is that Delaware is one of only five states that do not charge sales tax. Really! As of 2018, other states pay anywhere from 7.25% in sales tax (California) to 2.9% (Colorado). Beyond not charging sales tax, Delaware also has no personal property taxes, no social security tax, no inheritance tax, and low property tax rates.

Whereas the average American household spends $2,279 on property taxes every year, the annual taxes on a Delaware home priced at a state median value of $238,600 is just $1,329, or 0.56%, making Delaware property taxes the sixth lowest of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

Delaware vs. US Cost of Living

Compared to the US as a whole, Delaware is slightly above the national average. In comparing Delaware’s cost of living to national averages, it’s important to remember that Delaware’s median income is also higher than the national average. 

Best Places breaks down cost of living expenses into several categories and gives each state a rating. Delaware’s overall cost of living index is 102.7, compared to a US average of 100. Side by side comparisons for individual categories are as follows (the US average for each category is always 100): For groceries, the Delaware index is 105.9; for health it’s 115.7; for housing it’s 100.3; for utilities it’s 105.2; for transportation it’s 95.8; for miscellaneous is 104; and the median home cost is $231,900 (compared to $231,200).

Delaware vs. East Coast Cost of Living

Even though Delaware ranks slightly higher than the national average, if you're looking to be on the East Coast then it's not a bad idea to consider this small state as Delaware’s costs of living are often lower than costs in many neighboring states. Best Places rates Maryland’s overall cost of living index at 113, New Jersey's at 120.4, Pennsylvania's at 92.5, Virginia's at 103.7, and New York's at 120.5. Its overall cost of living compared to neighboring states, combined with its favorable tax laws, makes Delaware a desirable retirement location for many.

Cost of Living by Area

Cost of living averages also change greatly based on where you’re located in the state of Delaware. In Kent County, the cost of living index is 99.4, and the median home price is $213,300. In New Castle County, the cost of living index is 104.7, and the median home price is $233,000. In Sussex County, the cost of living index is 106.5, and the median home price is $278,300.

Specific cities within these counties also vary when it comes to cost of living. For example, Middletown (New Castle County) is 18.4% less expensive than a coastal city like Rehoboth Beach (Sussex County), and Bethany Beach (Sussex County) is 79.1% more expensive than Wilmington (New Castle County. In general, Delaware’s coastal towns are significantly more expensive than its inland cities.


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