The real cost of renting unfurnished vs furnished apartments

If you’ve ever looked at the prices of furnished apartments and thought: that’s a lot for a month’s rent, you’re not alone. The sticker shock is re…

Editorial Team

By Editorial Team

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If you’ve ever looked at the cost of renting a furnished apartment and thought: that’s a lot for a month’s rent, you’re not alone. The sticker shock is real. It’s true, that you’ll pay a higher monthly rate for a furnished apartment than for an unfurnished apartment, but for good reason: you’re getting more! But just how much more? And is it worth it?

There are two things to consider when thinking about which is right for you: time and money. We all value time and money differently, but we’ll show you the importance of each in our assessment.

Let’s start with money

The average cost of renting an unfurnished one-bedroom apartment in a mid-range city, like Washington, D.C., is $2,175/month. And the average cost of renting a furnished Zeus one-bedroom apartment in the same area is $3,498/month.

At first glance, it looks like unfurnished is the way to go (and it might be!), but let’s take a closer look. You’ll need furniture, kitchen basics, WiFi, and plenty of essentials. If you want to set up your unfurnished home just like a Zeus home, here’s what you’d need to buy (or what you’d need to pay to move your existing furniture).


Bedroom ($2,699 – $3,397)

  • Queen bed frame: $336 or King bed frame: $384
  • Helix queen mattress: $1,099 or Helix king mattress: $1,499
  • Parachute down alternative king pillow: $69 – $89 or Parachute down alternative standard pillow: $59 – $79
  • Nightstands: $120 ea.
  • Bedside lighting: $96 ea.
  • Rug (if the room is not carpeted): $250 -$500
  • Dresser: $476
  • Compact cube power strip: $16.99

Living Room ($2,248 – $2,738)

  • Seating (sofa, loveseat, accent chairs, or a combination)
    • Loveseat: $720
    • Standard Sofa: $960
    • Sectional Sofa: $1,200
    • Accent chair: $312 ea.
  • Rug (if there is no carpet): $250 – $500
  • Floor lamps: $144 ea.
  • Coffee table: $150
  • Side table: $120

Kitchen/Dining ($391.68)

  • Dining Set: $391.68

Essential Housewares

Bedroom ($497.78 – $672.73)

  • Mattress protector: $19.99 – $54.94
  • Pillow protectors: $11.99 – $13.99
  • Parachute down alternative duvet: $269 -$369
  • Parachute bed linens: $149-$189
  • Clothes hangers: $19.99
  • Laundry hamper: $27.81

Living room/Storage ($339.35)

  • 50” Smart TV: $269
  • Libman broom and dustpan: $11.49
  • Dirt Devil vacuum: $24.99
  • Iron: $19.99
  • Ironing board: $7.59
  • Extension cord: $6.29

Kitchen/Dining ($959.54 – $993.54)

  • Stainless Steel Cookware: $200
  • Plate Set: $29.99
  • Flatware set (for 4): $89.99
  • Joseph & Joseph Nest 9 Plus (Mixing Bowl): $45.00
  • Water glasses: $14.94
  • Wine glasses: $9.94
  • Cutting board: $5.99
  • Baking sheet: $3.99
  • Bottle opener: $1.79
  • Ice trays: $15.99
  • Flatware tray: $20
  • Filtered water pitcher: $29.99
  • Cooking utensils (The Iconic set from Material Kitchen): $245
  • Coffee maker: $19.99
  • Scissors: $15
  • Water kettle: $19.99
  • Microwave (if not built into the kitchen): $54.99
  • Simple Human trash can: $40
  • Simple Human trash can liners: $15-$49
  • Toaster: $11.99
  • Oven mitt & potholders: $14.97
  • Joseph & Joseph Y Rack (Dish rack): $30.00
  • Simple Human Paper Towel Holder: $25.00

Bathroom ($265.78 – $299.78)

  • Toothbrush holder: $10
  • Trash can: $40
  • Trash can liners: $15-$49
  • Toilet paper holder: $17.87
  • Hairdryer: $14.99
  • Toilet plunger/brush combo: $14.92
  • Parachute towel set: $114
  • Parachute bath mat: $39

The final total of furniture and home essentials: $7,400.45–$8,831.40. It adds up!

Artwork and decor

Not only is decorating a home exciting, but it’s also an important touch that will make a home feel unique. The average person spends a total of $1,200 on artwork and decor for a one-bedroom apartment. With a furnished apartment or home, you can simply add a few touches to make the space feel just like home.

Furniture delivery costs

We know, you’ve fallen in love with the sofa and you want it now. But the odds of you walking out of the store with it are slim. Most items will need to be delivered from a warehouse to your home. These costs can range from $150-$300 per item, per store.

Assembly costs

If you happen to order smaller furniture items from an online retailer, you may be faced with having to assemble the pieces yourself. But if furniture assembly isn’t in your skillset, you should consider hiring a professional to help. This could cost about $30-$50/hour.

Moving existing furniture

If you already own furniture, you’ll need to factor in hiring professional movers (unless you have some really great friends). A professional moving service will cost at least $1,000, and if you’re traveling long-distance, expect to pay around $4,900.

Monthly expenses

In addition to furnishing your apartment, there are other monthly expenses you’ll need to consider, like WiFi, cable, gas, electricity, and water.

WiFi: $40 /month

Cable: $45 /month

Gas: $30-$50 /month

Electricity: $100-$191 /month

Water: $28-$60 /month

It’s easy to underestimate the cost of renting; some costs, like rent and utilities, are obvious, but others not so much. Will you need professional movers? Furniture delivered? Even the little things, like cleaning supplies, add up. Remember to consider all of your needs when budgeting your renting expenses.

Next up, time

Moving into a new home, even temporarily, takes time (no matter the type of home). If you’re renting a furnished home, you need to factor in time for moving any personal belongings and getting to know your new home (you’ll definitely want to know where the wine glasses are stored).

If you’re renting unfurnished, there are a few more variables. That long list of items to buy? You’ll have to spend a lot of your time buying them. And then they’ll have to get to your home (the average wait time for furniture deliveries is 4-8 weeks, and they’re all likely to arrive at different times). Once your furniture is delivered, you’ll need to take more time to experiment with layouts and get it just how you want it—this could take at least 3 days. But if you already have your furniture and the basics, you can skip the shopping spree and use that time to schedule movers, arrange furniture, and stock your essentials.

Then there are the WiFi and cable installations. On average it could take 2-7 days to have a rep come out and install your WiFi and cable. The actual installation process can take anywhere from 2-4 hours.

Which way should you go?

Here’s our verdict on the best renting option based on three scenarios: a 3-month stay, a 6-month stay, and a 12-month stay in a one-bedroom apartment in Washington, D.C.

Scenario 1: 3-month stay


Time: up to 10 weeks

Total Costs

Buying everything: $15,854

Moving everything: $8,254

Somewhere in between: $11,094


Time: 1 week

Total costs: $10,494

Our verdict: Furnished is your best option here. Though renting unfurnished and moving everything will be potentially less expensive than renting furnished, the time and inconvenience for such a short stay isn’t usually worth it.

Scenario 2: 6-month stay


Time: up to 10 weeks

Total costs

Buying everything: $23,108

Moving everything: $15,238

Somewhere in between: $18,348


Time: 1 week

Total costs: $20,988

Our verdict: If you plan on buying new furniture, or even moving in with some of your furniture, the costs for renting unfurnished will be very close to renting furnished. Unless you move everything or (really) like spending time shopping for your home or decorating, furnished still seems like the best choice.

Scenario 3: 12-month stay


Time: up to 10 weeks

Total costs

Buying everything: $37,616

Moving everything: $30,016

Something in between: $32,856


Time: 1 week

Total costs: $41,976

Our verdict: This one’s a toss-up. You’re likely to save more money renting unfurnished, but ultimately, it’s a question of time. Do you want to spend up to 10 weeks settling into your home or would you prefer hitting the ground running?

There’s no right way to rent. While you may choose to sacrifice time, others may sacrifice money for convenience. And that’s OK! As long as you’re aware of all the expenses and time associated with both, you’ll be able to choose the path best for you.

Interested in renting a home in Washington, DC,? Let us help you with your search.

Editorial Team

Editorial Team

The Blueground editorial team covers the best things to see, do, and experience in our cities around the world.