Fairfax County Cost of Living: Farfax County, VA Living Expenses Guide
Fairfax County, VA, known for its proximity to Washington D.C. and home to many of the best places to live in Northern Virginia, presents a diverse cost-of-living landscape. From housing and utilities to transportation and leisure activities, understanding the cost of living is crucial for anyone considering moving to or residing in Fairfax County. Discover what financial considerations are key in Fairfax County, helping you navigate the economic aspects of life in this sought-after area.
Housing Costs in Fairfax County
The many benefits of living in Fairfax County have contributed to a higher cost of housing in the area. While the county offers diverse homes for a variety of budgets, overall, it tends to be on the pricier side within the broader DMV region. Fairfax County’s cost of living is comparable to other nearby Virginia areas, such as Arlington and Loudoun, as well as parts of the District of Columbia and Montgomery County, Maryland.
Median Home Price
Single-family homes in Fairfax County tend to start in the $500s and can go well into the multi-millions, with the median falling in the $700s.Varied and diverse communities are spread throughout the county.
More affordable homes less than $350,000 tend to be located toward the eastern and southern parts of the county—such as in the Springfield community and the Fairfax Station area—while million-dollar-plus properties are more common in the northern and western portions. Fairfax County condos are the most affordable type of housing, selling from the mid-$100,000s to around $2 million. Townhouses start around $300,000 and top out in a similar range as condos. Detached single-family homes are the most common and expensive option, and while they start in the $400s in certain areas, luxury homes in Fairfax County can soar above $20 million.
Countywide, rent in Fairfax ranges from around $1,800 to approximately $2,500 per month. Again, this figure is notably higher than the national average for rent, which falls around $1,700 per month. Roughly two-thirds of Fairfax County apartments rent for $2,000 or more per month, with only rare units listing for less than $1,500 monthly. Still, these prices are fairly typical for the overall region, especially in desirable, transit-accessible, higher-income areas like many close-to-DC suburbs. Both more affordable and high-end rentals can be found dispersed throughout the county. While apartments are by far the most common type of rental, Fairfax County townhomes and detached houses are also available, typically for higher prices.
Those considering a move to Fairfax County from elsewhere in Virginia or the United States won't have to adjust their budget much when it comes to utilities. The average Fairfax County home spends roughly $150 to $175 per month on their electric bill, about 10% less than the national average. Many homes also have residential gas connections via Washington Gas. In addition to a monthly service charge of just over $12, customers pay $0.573 per therm for the first 25 therms, followed by $0.542 for the next hundred, and then $0.524 beyond that amount.
Nearly all public water customers in the county are served by Fairfax Water, which offers rates among the lowest in the area. Residential customers are typically billed quarterly, with a roughly $16 service charge, plus just under $4 per 1,000 gallons used. Based on average water consumption, that means a single resident should expect to pay about $17 per month before taxes and fees (roughly $50 quarterly), while a family of four should plan for about $45 to $50 monthly (about $140 to $150 per quarter.)
High-speed internet plans are available for as low as $25 per month, while those looking for top-tier plans with the fastest speeds will pay as much as $100 per month.
Fairfax County Food Costs
After housing, groceries and dining out are often the most significant part of many people's budgets. Fairfax County's plentiful, diverse food options make it easy for residents to stay well-fed. Residents should also expect to spend a bit more than other areas, although dining out at one of Alexandria’s best restaurants or in a D.C. steakhouse will likely be more expensive than in the county.
Grocery shoppers will pay more than the national and statewide average to fill their carts in Fairfax County. These higher grocery costs are a reflection of the overall higher cost of living in the county, especially compared to more rural areas of Virginia. Residents who love to cook can indulge at numerous specialty or high-end grocery stores throughout the county, including popular options like Whole Foods Market and Wegman's.
Meanwhile, shoppers focused on keeping their food budgets low can opt for discount chains like Aldi and Lidl. In between, there are also everyday choices like Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Safeway, and Giant. In addition, Fairfax County's strikingly diverse population means there are plenty of international supermarkets and stores, including numerous Mexican/Central American and Asian-focused grocers.
Fairfax County's delicious dining scene provides options for all budgets and attracts many foodies considering moving to Northern Virginia. Low-cost or fast-food meals are available for as little as $10–$15 per person. An average dinner out for two will generally cost between $40 and $80 in total. However, foodies dining at one of the area's numerous gourmet or high-end restaurants should expect bills of $100 or more for a couple. A beer at a typical bar will cost roughly $6–$8 each, while most coffee shops charge $4–$7 for drinks. Overall, restaurant and nightlife prices align with most of northern Virginia and suburban Maryland but often cost less than Washington, D.C.
Transportation Costs in Fairfax County
While there are an above-average amount of options for getting around Fairfax County and the overall DC region, residents should also expect to spend a larger share of their budget on it. Fairfax County has notably higher transportation costs compared to other parts of Virginia, primarily due to the elevated gas prices that are typical of busy, in-demand areas. About 70% of commuters in the region drive to work alone. Auto insurance costs will vary depending on the driver and coverage, but drivers should expect to pay more than less developed, less busy parts of the Commonwealth and the nation.
Those looking to leave their cars at home can use the Silver or Orange Line rail service of WAMATA, which operates the public transportation in Alexandria, D.C., and which continues across to Prince George's County in Maryland. Fares vary depending on time and length of ride, ranging between $2 and $6 each way. A wide variety of Metrobus routes also serve the area, charging $2 per ride for local service and $4.25 for express routes. Seniors and those with disabilities are eligible for reduced fares, while daily, weekly, and monthly passes also provide more affordable rides.
In addition, the county's own Fairfax Connector bus service operates numerous routes, charging $2 per trip. Virginia Railway Express commuter rail also serves the county with the Manassas Line, where fares range from $3.50 to more than $12 per trip, depending on distance. Frequent rider passes are also available.
Finally, the highly populated nature of Fairfax County means there is also easy access to taxi and ridesharing services. Costs for these will vary greatly depending on demand, time of day, destination, and other factors.
Fairfax County Healthcare Costs
One of the best perks of Fairfax County's northern Virginia location is access to some of the region's best healthcare options—and the fact that residents enjoy reasonable healthcare costs. Healthcare facilities include Inova Fairfax Hospital, Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, Reston Hospital Center, and many more within a short drive.
Overall, healthcare spending in Fairfax is close to the national and statewide average. Residents who don't have access to healthcare provided by their employer can shop for plans on the federal Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace, which offers subsidies based on income. Premiums depend on health and coverage but will often range from around $250 per month to nearly double that amount. The county also provides helpful and unique benefits like care for elderly residents, priced on a sliding scale based on income.
There are also numerous healthcare options for pets in Fairfax County. A typical vet visit for a dog or cat costs $75 to $90, with common vaccines ranging from around $25 to $60 each. Affordable pet insurance is available that can cover more significant costs.
Childcare Costs in Fairfax County
Parents should expect to set aside some significant cash each month for childcare expenses. Department of Labor data shows Fairfax County residents with kids pay nearly $23,000 per year on average for childcare at dedicated centers, or more than an eighth of a typical household income in the county. While this might seem high, it's comparable to or even slightly less than other nearby areas like Loudoun County and the Arlington region. Family-based childcare providers are generally more affordable, though rates and facilities will vary.
Fairfax County also provides its own before- and after-school care programs for school-age kids. Fees are based on household income, ranging from as little as $6 per month to more than $650. Families with two or more children enrolled can also receive additional discounts. Parents looking to hire a private nanny should plan on paying about $20 per hour (around $3,400 to $3,500 per month), though caregivers with extra skills or experience can sometimes charge more than double that. Nanny-share setups can help split some of these costs among multiple children and families.
Fairfax County Entertainment Costs
Fairfax County residents enjoy a wide variety of entertainment options in their county and the surrounding region. Generally, they should expect to pay more to do most things than in other parts of the state and country outside the immediate DC metro area. Options are available for all budgets, including the many free and low-cost outdoor spaces like Burke Lake Park and Great Falls Park, located in the Great Falls community.
A short drive into DC also provides access to Smithsonian museums for nothing other than the price of parking in the city. Those willing to spend a bit more can take advantage of the region's numerous professional sports teams and an impressive selection of concerts at venues such as Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, live theater, and other events. Despite its mainly suburban nature, Fairfax County also offers plenty of nightlife opportunities for both big spenders and budget-minded types, concentrated in areas like Old Town Square, the Mosaic District, and the nearby Clarendon community and the Ballston neighborhood in Arlington County.
Fairfax County residents should factor in a 6% sales tax into their entertainment budgets. Unusually, this is higher than many other parts of the state by 0.7%, though lower than the 7% sales tax rate charged in areas like Williamsburg or York County.
Salary in Fairfax County
Despite the higher-than-average cost of living in Fairfax County, residents make up for it with similarly high salaries and wages. The median household income in the area is around $145,000 annually, which is nearly twice the nationwide median household income. In fact, it's consistently ranked among the highest-income counties in the nation, along with others in Northern Virginia.
Workers in the county will receive at least the statewide minimum wage of $12 per hour, significantly higher than the national minimum. On top of their federal taxes, residents pay a progressive statewide income tax with rates starting at 2% and rising to 5.75% as earnings increase. This is lower than DC and Maryland but slightly higher than West Virginia.
Like the neighboring economy in Alexandria, much of Fairfax County's economy has traditionally depended on the federal government and associated companies, including high-paying government contractors and consultants. In recent years, tech companies have expanded their footprint in the area, as have healthcare and financial services firms. The county and region's many school systems, colleges, and universities also contribute a notable number of education jobs. Unemployment in Fairfax County is usually relatively low, less than the national average, and in line with the state unemployment rates.
Living Costs in Fairfax County
Fairfax County offers a unique blend of urban and suburban living, which is reflected in its cost of living. The expenses vary greatly across different areas and lifestyles, from upscale housing options to diverse transportation choices. Knowing what to expect financially when living in Fairfax County helps residents and potential newcomers make informed decisions about their budgeting and lifestyle choices. Overall, understanding the cost dynamics is key to enjoying all the benefits this exciting region has to offer.