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Where Can U.S. Renters Get the Biggest Bang for Their Buck?

In the rental world, weighing space and location remains an important factor in choosing where to live. So, how far can the average American stretch their dollar? For example, imagine being torn between a spacious, suburban apartment and a cozy downtown studio—but both offer the same price.

RentCafe’s latest analysis of apartment square footage revealed the sweet spots of space and location in the 50 largest U.S. cities. A monthly budget of $1,700 was examined, which is about the same as the national average rent. The details lie in the ZIP codes, with RentCafe analyzing 1,600 of them. For instance, some offer sprawling spaces of around 1,900 square feet for this budget, while others squeeze renters into a little more than 200 square feet.

So, how does a $1,700 budget pan out in the 50 largest U.S. cities?

On average, it translates to an apartment of about 944 square feet, but this number varies widely across regions. Southern and Midwestern cities—like Memphis and Oklahoma City—lead the pack in spacious bargains. In particular, in Memphis’ 38109 ZIP code, renters can expect a whopping 2,000 square feet for this budget, more than in any other ZIP code analyzed. Similarly, Oklahoma City is also well represented when it comes to the most apartment space for the money, with ZIP code 73127 coming in second nationally.

Top 10 ZIP Codes With the Most Space for the National Average Rent of $1,700:

  1. 38109 Memphis, TN (Square Feet — 1,996)
  2. 73127 Oklahoma City (1,993)
  3. 78211 San Antonio (1,971)
  4. 38116 Memphis, TN (1,928)
  5. 74116 Tulsa, OK (1,899)
  6. 38127 Memphis, TN (1,874)
  7. 73107 Oklahoma City, OK (1,871)
  8. 73129 Oklahoma City, OK (1,869)
  9. 64136 Kansas City, MO (1,841)
  10. 38118 Memphis, TN (1,837)

Contrast this with New York City, a strikingly different scene: Of the top 50 zip codes in the U.S. where $1,700 gets you the least amount of space, an estimated 36 are in New York. This means that, in many New York neighborhoods, your $1,700 might only secure a very small amount of space or a tiny studio. As an example, in Manhattan’s 10013, you might be looking at around 211 square feet.

Top 10 ZIP Codes With the Least Space for the National Average Rent of $1,700:

  1. 10013 Manhattan, NY (Square Feet 211)
  2. 10001 Manhattan, NY (224)
  3. 10282 Manhattan, NY (225)
  4. 10002 Manhattan, NY (226)
  5. 10011 Manhattan, NY (226)
  6. 10026 Manhattan, NY (227)
  7. 10038 Manhattan, NY (228)
  8. 10023 Manhattan, NY (230)
  9. 11109 Queens, NY (234)
  10. 10069 Manhattan, NY (234)

NYC Tops Chart for Least Living Space for a $1,700 Budget & Philadelphia Offers More Room in Northeast

New York City reigns as the metropolis with the highest number of ZIP codes, where a monthly budget of $1,700 can get apartment dwellers the least amount of space. Moreover, Manhattan monopolizes the top positions in the list of the 50 ZIP codes with the most limited legroom. It’s a stark reminder of the borough’s famously compact living conditions, especially the further you head south.

Notably, Manhattan’s ZIP code 10013 stands out at the very top of this list, offering the least legroom with a mere 211 square feet for the given budget. Nestled amidst the vibrant streets of SoHo and Tribeca, this ZIP code may offer a prime location but leaves little room for spreading out. In contrast stands ZIP code 10033, stretching across parts of Washington Heights. Here, residents can enjoy the most space in Manhattan, with a more generous 566 square feet for a $1,700 monthly budget. This area, known for its rich, scenic views of the Hudson River, provides a relaxed and spacious living experience.

As renters navigate the market, many are eyeing better deals. Nearly one-third are searching for more affordable options, while half are keen to explore new neighborhoods within their city, according to a RentCafe survey. And, with the colder months offering less competition and more rent specials, now is the best time to start your apartment hunt.

ZIP Codes in South Lead in Apartment Space for $1,700: Memphis’ 38109 Gives Renters the Biggest Bang for Their Buck

In the competitive world of apartment rentals, the Southern United States stands out for offering some of the most spacious options within a budget of $1,700.

First, Memphis, with its mix of urban and suburban landscapes, illustrates an urban-to-rural gradient where city living comes at the cost of space, while the outskirts offer more breathing room. Specifically, ZIP code 38109, which encompasses the McKeller neighborhood in Memphis, TN, offers the most space in the nation. Here, a monthly budget of $1,700 would get renters the equivalent of 1,996 square feet.

When it comes to the zip codes with the least space in Memphis, they seem to trace a belt smack in the middle of the city, and at the westernmost end of that imaginary belt sits zip code 38103: The neighborhood of Harbor Town, situated on the Mud Island peninsula, provides renters with an area of 982 square feet at a cost of $1,700—the least in Memphis but still above the national average for this price range.

Next, looking at San Antonio and Houston’s maps, one fact pops out: ZIP codes are displayed in the areas in concentric circles. At their core, the zip codes represent areas with the least space, ranging from 700 to 1,000 square feet. Moving outward, there is a noticeable increase in the size of living spaces that renters can expect for $1,700, suggesting a middle ring of more expansive homes (between 1,200 and 1,500 square feet). However, as one approaches the outskirts of these cities, the available space begins to decrease once more, indicating a tightening of living areas. Consequently, renters aiming for the city limits in San Antonio or Houston can expect around 1,000 square feet of space.

Renters can also get generous amounts of space in Alamo City in ZIP code 78211. In fact, it’s the most living space one could get for $1,700 in San Antonio, TX, at 1,971 square feet. Conversely, NoDo’s 78215 offers the least amount of apartment space (764 square feet) for the same budget.

Midwest Living: Kansas City and Chicago Offer Vastly Different Spaces for $1,700

Meanwhile, in the Midwest, ZIP code 64136 located in the southeastern Kansas City area is a true hotspot for generous space. Here, renters can get the equivalent of 1,841 square feet for $1,700. That’s more than double what an apartment-dweller can get in zip 64106, which takes the #1 spot in Kansas City with the least amount of apartment space at 837 square feet.

Further north in Chicago, ZIP code 60621 stands out for its spaciousness, providing an impressive 1,376 square feet for $1,700. Located in the Englewood neighborhood, ZIP code 60621 is an option for renters seeking ample living space within the urban landscape.

On the other hand, ZIP code 60611, situated in the bustling Near North Side area, offers the least amount of space in Chicago. Encompassing neighborhoods like Streeterville and parts of the Magnificent Mile, ZIP code 60611 offers notably more compact options at just 459 square feet.

San Francisco, LA, and San Diego: A Tale of Space vs. Location in Prime Pacific Cities

The northeastern curvature and city center’s limited space versus the more generous offerings of the southwestern neighborhoods underscore the varied lifestyles within San Francisco. For example, ZIP code 94132 in the southwestern part of San Francisco, near Lake Merced and San Francisco State University, is the city’s most spacious option, with 474 square feet. This ZIP code is a stark contrast to the densely packed neighborhoods of the city center.

ZIP code 94123—nestled in the Marina District—offers the city’s least space at a mere 294 square feet for $1,700. Rather, this area, known for its picturesque views of the Golden Gate and proximity to bustling Chestnut and Union streets, embodies the trade-off between space and location that city center dwellers often embrace. In Los Angeles, ZIP code 90008 emerges as a spacious contender, boasting 704 square feet for $1,700. Located in the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw neighborhood, it offers urban accessibility for those seeking more room to breathe.

To read the full report, including more data, charts, and methodology, click here.

About Author: Demetria Lester

Demetria C. Lester is a reporter for DS News and MReport magazines with more than eight years of writing experience. She has served as content coordinator and copy editor for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Orange County Register, in addition to 11 other Southern California publications. A former editor-in-chief at Northlake College and staff writer at her alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, she has covered events such as the Byron Nelson and Pac-12 Conferences, progressing into her freelance work with the Dallas Wings and D Magazine. Currently located in Dallas, Texas, Lester is an avid jazz lover and likes to read. She can be reached at [email protected].

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