Cheapest Places To Live In Iowa For 2020


We used data and science to determine which places in Iowa go easy on your wallet.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the cheapest places to live in Iowa.

If the good people of Iowa could pay for everything in corn, they would be super rich and life would be super affordable. But since they can't, HomeSnacks calculated the most affordable places to live in Iowa for 2020.

How did we determine the most affordable places to live in Iowa? We consulted the latest Census data on cost of living.

Most Iowans have never really experienced unemployment. The crossroads of the Midwest has managed to stay ahead of the national unemployment rate holding strong at 2.4%. And this is because we can thank Iowa for anything corn and soybeans. But did you know that Iowa is home to Pella windows and Winnebago? Coincidentally we can thank Iowa's education institutions like the University of Iowa for producing smart, hard-working individuals who want to make Iowa available and affordable for all.

It's simple economics, folks. Good jobs increase median incomes which translates to most people being able to live in our top most affordable Iowa places. Have we piqued your interest? If you want to know where the most affordable places in Iowa are located, keep reading.

Ask any Iowan, they will say, hands down, that their corner of the world is the best. Heck, there's a reason The Hawkeye State is the 30th most populous in the country.

Yes, we think it has a little something to do with the great people and strong jobs in agriculture; however, to the economically savvy, to truly be the best, the state must have the nicest, most affordable places to call home.

What's the most affordable place to live in Iowa? That would be Denison according to the most recent Census data on incomes, rent, and home prices..

So, if you care about home values and cost of living, take a look at the list below to see where your Iowa dollar will go the furthest.

And if you already knew these places were cheap, check out some more reading about Iowa and the cheapest places in the country:

The 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Iowa For 2020

Denison, IA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 8,358
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 7)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.7x (1st most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 82.7x (23rd cheapest)
More On Denison: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Coming in as the absolute cheapest place to live in Iowa for 2020 is Denison. Denison might not have the cheapest homes on the market or lowest rent in the state, a combination of factors work together to make it the least expensive place in Iowa overall. Denison has the best-paid populace on this list, with a median income of $53,074, which, taken with Denison's median home price of $90,700, means that the city's residents pay the first least proportion of their income on homes in Iowa. And don't worry that cheap = boring; Denison has plenty going on to keep you occupied on a budget.

Denison is located in West Central Iowa.

The median household income in Denison comes in at $53,074 and the median home value is $90,700 for 2020. The unemployment rate sits at 10.7%.

Iowa Falls, IA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,124
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.8x (2nd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 77.1x (32nd cheapest)
More On Iowa Falls: Real Estate | Cost Of Living

Known as "the Scenic City," Iowa Falls is more than just a pretty surface; it's also the second most affordable place to live in Iowa. Homes in Iowa Falls are the eighth cheapest in the state at $87,400. And, even more importantly, residents enjoy the second best home price to income ratio in Iowa. Only a slightly less affordable market for renters than Denison keeps Iowa Falls from taking the gold medal on this list. In any case, whether you're watching a movie at the historic Met Theater or watching birds at Calkins Nature Area, you'll never lack for affordable entertainment in Iowa Falls.

The median household income in Iowa Falls comes in at $49,521 and the median home value is $87,400 for 2020. The unemployment rate sits at 1.8%.

Clarinda, IA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 5,398
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.9x (10th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 77.6x (30th cheapest)
More On Clarinda: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Clarinda's motto is "Honor the Past...Imagine the Future" and boy do they hold true to that. Liberal arts lovers will rejoice that there is not only an amazing art museum in Clarinda, but also a history museum. And you don't need to scrimp and save to enjoy all this high culture. Clarinda residents pay the tenth lowest proportion of their income on homes. The median home price in Clarinda is $90,400 and the median income is $47,250.

Clarinda is located in southwestern Iowa.

The median household income in Clarinda comes in at $47,250 and the median home value is $90,400 for 2020. The unemployment rate sits at 5.9%.

Manchester, IA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,037
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.1x (20th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 96.2x (8th cheapest)
More On Manchester: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Located about an hour north of Cedar Rapids, Manchester ranks as the fourth most affordable place to live in Iowa. Rent in Manchester is absurdly low, with a median price of $547/month. That's roughly half the average rent in Iowa, a state already known for having super-low rent to begin with. Add to that the fact that Manchester residents are paid a median income of $52,612, and you have the eighth best rent to income ratio in Iowa.

On the flip side, Manchester has the most expensive homes for sale on this list at $108,800. In any case, you'll have plenty of money left over to hit the boutique shops in Manchester's charming downtown.

The median household income in Manchester comes in at $52,612 and the median home value is $108,800 for 2020. The unemployment rate sits at 0.6%.

Maquoketa, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 6,026
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.0x (13th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 71.7x (41st cheapest)
More On Maquoketa: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Ranking as the sixth most affordable place to live in Iowa is Maquoketa, a city 45 minutes north of Davenport. Maquoketa is home to Maquoketa Caves State Park, so you can go on outdoor adventure any time without spending a dime. The median rent in Maquoketa is quite low at $618, but what really lands Maquoketa on this list is the affordability of homes. Maquoketa has the tenth cheapest homes on the market in Iowa, with a median price of $87,800.

The median household income in Maquoketa comes in at $44,307 and the median home value is $87,800 for 2020. The unemployment rate sits at 7.1%.

Marshalltown, IA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 27,275
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 5)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.9x (9th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 74.9x (35th cheapest)
More On Marshalltown: Real Estate | Cost Of Living

Located in the central part of the state between Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown ranks as the seventh cheapest place in Iowa. At a population of 27275, Marshalltown is the biggest city to make this list, so you know you'll never lack for things to do here. Marshalltown has the ninth best home price to income ratio in the state, so you won't have to fork over half your paycheck just to live in a nice place.

The median household income in Marshalltown comes in at $50,612 and the median home value is $95,900 for 2020. The unemployment rate sits at 5.5%.

Webster City, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 7,779
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 6)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.9x (11th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 74.4x (37th cheapest)
More On Webster City: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Webster City comes in as the eighth least expensive city in Iowa for 2020. Webster City scored an 8/10 on our overall Snackability scale, with an 8/10+ in most categories, so you know it's an all-around great place to call home. Especially if you're into fishing or kayaking, what with the illustrious Boone River running along the city's east side. Webster City is quite affordable for renters, but with a median home price of $94,200 and a median income of $48,912, the city stands out more for being the 11th easiest place to pay off the mortgage in Iowa.

Another fun fact: Webster City's unemployment rate is under 3%, so you should not have a problem locking down a job here.

The median household income in Webster City comes in at $48,912 and the median home value is $94,200 for 2020. The unemployment rate sits at 2.7%.

Fort Madison, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 10,614
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.9x (8th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 65.2x (58th cheapest)
More On Fort Madison: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Located near the Illinois border in the southeastern part of the state, Fort Madison ranks as the ninth cheapest place to live in Iowa.

History buffs will be delighted that they can nerd out at the city's titular Old Fort Madison, a garrison dating back to the War of 1812. If that sells on you on settling down here, know that you'll be getting the fifth cheapest homes for sale in Iowa at a median price of $79,500. Combined with a median income of $42,282, and Fort Madison is safely in the top ten statewide for home price to income ratio.

On the other hand, Fort Madison is the least affordable place to rent on this list, so keep that in mind if buying isn't an option at the moment.

The median household income in Fort Madison comes in at $42,282 and the median home value is $79,500 for 2020. The unemployment rate sits at 8.8%.

Knoxville, IA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 7,200
Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.0x (15th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 72.3x (39th cheapest)
More On Knoxville: Real Estate | Cost Of Living

Rounding out our list of cheapest places to live in Iowa for 2020 is Knoxville, a city 45 minutes southeast of Des Moines. You'll have no trouble believing that you're living in one of the states with the cheapest rent in America in Knoxville, where you can get a place for just $632/month.

And it doesn't matter if you want to live life in the fast lane at Knoxville Raceway or just chill out at Lake Red Rock, because Knoxville has something for everyone. If you do decide to settle down here, a home will set you back about $92,600.

The median household income in Knoxville comes in at $45,678 and the median home value is $92,600 for 2020. The unemployment rate sits at 4.7%.

Keokuk, IA

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 10,412
Rank Last Year: 9 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.8x (3rd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 61.3x (68th cheapest)
More On Keokuk: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Keokuk is a city and a county seat of Lee County, Iowa, United States, along with Fort Madison. It is also the most southerly city in Iowa. The population was 10,780 at the 2010 census. The city is named after the Sauk chief Keokuk, who is thought to be buried in Rand Park. It is located in the extreme southeast corner of Iowa where the Des Moines River meets with the Mississippi. It is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 61, 136 and 218. Just across the rivers are the towns of Hamilton and Warsaw, Illinois, and Alexandria, Missouri.

The median household income in Keokuk comes in at $39,058 and the median home value is $70,400 for 2020. The unemployment rate sits at 10.7%.

How We Determined The Most Affordable Places To Live In The Hawkeye State For 2020

Map Of The Cheapest Places To Live In Iowa
The two most important things to think about when it comes to being able to afford if you can live comes down to:

  1. How much do money do I make?
  2. How much do I have spend to live there?

You need to understand your costs in the context of how much money you make.

For example, if the median household earns $100,000 and spends $40,000 on housing it's actually cheaper to live there than a place with a median income of $50,000 and housing costs of $21,000. You might spend more on housing, but you have more money overall to play with.

With that example in mind, we derived several statistics from the latest Census American Community Survey 2014-2018 around incomes and costs. They are:

  • Median Home Price / Median Income (lower is better)
  • Median Income / Median Rent (Higher is better)
  • Median Home Price

We added simply median home price because high home prices generally correlate with higher expenses for all costs related to homes (heating, electricity, etc).

You can then compare these metrics in each of the places in Iowa to figure out which is the least expensive.

What you are left with is a "Cost of Living Index" by taking the average rank of each of these metrics for each city.

So we used that cost of living index in order to rank all of the 78 places in Iowa that have more than 5,000 people.

The place with the lowest cost of living in Iowa according to the data is Denison. You can download the data here.

There You Have It Mr. Or Mrs. Iowa Cheapskate

If you're looking at the cost of living numbers in Iowa, this is an accurate list of the most affordable places to live in Iowa for 2020.

Here's a look at the most expensive cities in Iowa according to the data:

  1. Iowa City
  2. Ames
  3. Hiawatha

For more Iowa reading, check out:

The Most Affordable Places To Live In Iowa

Rank City CheapScore Population Home/Income Ratio Income/Rent Ratio
1 Denison 13.0 8,358 1.7x 82.7x
2 Iowa Falls 14.0 5,124 1.8x 77.1x
3 Clarinda 18.0 5,398 1.9x 77.6x
4 Manchester 18.83 5,037 2.1x 96.2x
5 Maquoketa 21.33 6,026 2.0x 71.7x
6 Marshalltown 21.33 27,275 1.9x 74.9x
7 Webster City 22.33 7,779 1.9x 74.4x
8 Fort Madison 23.67 10,614 1.9x 65.2x
9 Knoxville 24.0 7,200 2.0x 72.3x
10 Keokuk 24.33 10,412 1.8x 61.3x
11 Creston 25.67 7,832 2.1x 70.5x
12 Oelwein 26.67 6,050 1.9x 61.1x
13 Boone 28.0 12,529 2.1x 74.7x
14 Estherville 28.0 5,859 1.8x 60.2x
15 Ottumwa 28.33 24,676 1.8x 57.1x
16 Mount Pleasant 28.5 8,528 2.2x 75.6x
17 Oskaloosa 29.0 11,505 2.2x 71.9x
18 Nevada 29.67 6,798 2.3x 88.6x
19 Centerville 30.67 5,487 2.0x 57.8x
20 Marion 31.0 38,699 2.3x 105.6x
21 Orange City 31.33 6,115 2.3x 104.1x
22 Perry 32.33 7,667 2.0x 58.0x
23 Burlington 32.67 25,127 2.0x 58.1x
24 Red Oak 33.0 5,434 2.1x 60.5x
25 Norwalk 33.33 10,568 2.3x 103.5x
26 Vinton 33.33 5,124 2.5x 83.9x
27 Sioux City 33.67 82,486 2.1x 70.9x
28 Fort Dodge 35.67 24,417 2.3x 63.6x
29 Mason City 36.0 27,309 2.2x 70.1x
30 Charles City 36.0 7,413 2.4x 67.7x
31 Cedar Rapids 36.33 131,360 2.4x 78.8x
32 Muscatine 36.67 23,864 2.1x 62.8x
33 Le Mars 36.67 9,894 2.5x 95.3x
34 Clinton 36.67 25,637 2.2x 64.7x
35 Newton 36.67 15,167 2.2x 65.0x
36 Algona 38.67 5,455 2.5x 78.4x
37 Altoona 40.0 17,936 2.4x 84.1x
38 Glenwood 40.67 5,276 2.5x 85.1x
39 Washington 40.67 7,345 2.2x 62.8x
40 Storm Lake 41.67 10,672 2.5x 70.9x
41 Pleasant Hill 42.33 9,736 2.4x 80.1x
42 Waverly 42.33 10,075 2.6x 91.4x
43 Independence 42.67 6,027 2.5x 71.5x
44 Bondurant 42.67 5,826 2.4x 83.4x
45 Clive 43.0 17,195 2.5x 113.8x
46 Grimes 43.67 11,930 2.5x 89.7x
47 Atlantic 43.67 6,709 2.5x 65.7x
48 Council Bluffs 44.0 62,478 2.3x 62.4x
49 Urbandale 44.67 42,881 2.5x 100.1x
50 Sheldon 45.33 5,132 2.9x 85.3x
51 Clear Lake 46.0 7,644 2.8x 88.7x
52 Des Moines 46.67 215,932 2.4x 63.6x
53 Bettendorf 47.0 35,793 2.6x 87.2x
54 Waterloo 47.67 68,134 2.5x 62.6x
55 Sioux Center 47.67 7,499 2.8x 100.8x
56 Asbury 48.0 5,469 2.8x 117.2x
57 Indianola 48.33 15,653 2.7x 77.4x
58 Decorah 48.33 7,765 3.1x 90.8x
59 Johnston 48.33 20,767 2.5x 86.7x
60 Anamosa 48.67 5,461 2.7x 65.2x
61 Davenport 49.67 102,318 2.5x 66.1x
62 Carroll 49.67 9,899 3.0x 78.8x
63 Spencer 50.0 11,092 2.7x 70.0x
64 Ankeny 50.67 59,152 2.6x 79.9x
65 Waukee 51.0 19,344 2.5x 79.6x
66 Dubuque 52.67 58,340 2.6x 67.8x
67 North Liberty 54.67 18,357 2.5x 71.5x
68 Eldridge 55.0 6,399 3.4x 92.9x
69 Winterset 55.33 5,203 2.8x 68.6x
70 Fairfield 55.33 10,216 2.8x 54.9x
71 West Des Moines 57.0 64,400 2.8x 75.7x
72 Pella 58.33 10,273 2.9x 71.3x
73 Cedar Falls 59.0 41,202 3.0x 71.2x
74 Grinnell 63.0 9,223 3.2x 60.9x
75 Coralville 63.33 20,645 3.4x 73.3x
76 Hiawatha 68.33 7,281 3.4x 56.1x
77 Ames 74.33 65,937 4.3x 51.0x
78 Iowa City 75.67 74,566 4.3x 49.6x

How Is The Area In ?

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.