Whether you're celebrating a recent UF acceptance or working on budgeting for your second or third year in town, we've done the legwork so you can accurately estimate cost of living in Gainesville, Florida. This guide was created by a group of Gator grads and University of Florida students (our lovely interns!).
Monthly Recurring Expenses in Gainesville
Gainesville Apartment Rent
Monthly rent for student apartments in Gainesville can greatly range based on a number of factors including the size, distance to campus, and floor plan design. For example, options that are within close walking distance to UF campus will be much more expensive than apartments that students have to commute by bus or car and can come with additional expenses like hefty monthly parking garage fees. Likewise, large apartments with higher square footages will be more expensive than smaller spaces. Rent will also tend to be higher for brand new UF apartments and luxury apartments. Apartment rent is typically the biggest cost of living expense, so you have to decide for yourself what aspects fit your budget and lifestyle that are worth the splurge.
We used Swamp Rentals pricing data to analyze hundreds of floor plans at student housing communities across Gainesville and found that the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Gainesville is $1,105/room, $974/room for a two-bedroom, $686/room for a three-bedroom, $696/room for a four-bedroom, and $800/room for five-bedroom floor plans. Some apartments charge additional fees to rent furniture ranging from $20-$40.
We asked a current UF student about her monthly rent expenses. Madison is a rising Junior and lives just a 3 minute walk from campus. Her apartment is a 4x2 floor plan where she shares a bathroom with one other roommate. It's just under 100 sq feet in size. She chose this complex because of the proximity to the business school, modern style, and amenities including a large pool and gym. The apartment is also fully furnished and dog friendly. The total rent per month is $750/room per month with an additional $200 per month for parking.
Everyone has different needs when it comes to monthly fees, and it's always important to remember to pick the best option for your budget. Are an updated kitchen, pool, gym study room, private bathroom or study room worth the money? And don't forget, there are many additional fees including pet rent, parking, and utilities. See the transportation section for more information on parking expenses.
Utilities in Gainesville
Utilities can be electricity, natural gas, water, sewage, trash, and recycling. Utilities can be all-inclusive or partially included in monthly rent prices; however, most are an additional charge. If you are interested in a specific apartment, ask the management how much the average cost of utilities would be per month and what is already included. For example, an apartment complex may charge for water and electricity, but have recycling and gas be part of the rent. This can be helpful to simplify cost of living expenses by chunking bills for easy payment. We asked current UF students about their monthly utility bills.
Madison lives with girls in her sorority in a four bedroom apartment. Her utilities are about $45 per month.
Evan, a junior finance major, lives in a house with 4 of his friends. His utilities are about $60 per month
Caroline is a junior who lives with one roommate. Her utilities are around $80 per month.
Do you need somewhere to live with your furry friend in college? Fees vary for different pet friendly apartment complexes. Some apartments charge a one time fee for pets (about $100-$300) while others charge a pet rent (about $15-$50 per month, per pet).There are also apartments that charge pet rent in addition to the one time fee. Sometimes, you get the deposit back at the end of the lease, while other times it is non refundable. Pets also come with costs of their own so don't forget to factor that into their budget.
Semester Startup Expenses at UF
Getting prepared for the semester means getting everything you need to succeed in your classes.
Typically this is a bigger expense and prices can vary from class to class. Whether you decide to purchase or rent, there are a few different options.
Students can purchase directly through the UF Bookstore. While this can provide easy online preordering and convenient on-campus pickup, the prices are not always the best available. If you decide to purchase or rent through the bookstore, always price check with competitors like Chegg or Amazon because in-store purchases can be price matched.
Discounted/Deferred Payment Programs
Students can opt to purchase electronic textbooks at reduced prices through UF All Access. Not all courses have this available, but when they do the purchase is made through your student account.
UF also has a Deferred Payment Program that allows students to purchase books and supplies through their student account before financial aid awards, like Bright Futures, are distributed. Once aid is released, the charges are deducted from your account.
If you’re on the hunt for a secondhand option, join UF textbook exchange Facebook groups to find books from students who previously took your courses. A quick internet search on sites like Amazon, Chegg or BetterWorldBooks can also be the key to finding maximum savings. Be sure to ask your professor if earlier versions of the book can be used. Often getting a slightly older version is cheaper!
Pro Tip: Before making your purchase, search for a PDF version of your book online.
What school supplies you stock up on will vary based on your major, but regardless, students should expect to spend a minimum of $20 each semester on pens, paper, notebooks and anything else for class.
Having a reliable laptop is essential for college today. Student laptops typically will range from $700- $1,200, depending on the brand. Make sure to check the laptop requirements for your specific college. The College of Journalism and Communications, for example, recommends an Apple computer for students to run editing and design software on.
This is a recurring expense that students will run into throughout their time at UF. There are over 50 locations on campus to print, but only three offer free printing. Otherwise, students will be charged 8¢ a page for black and white and 75¢ color on their student accounts. The Reitz Union Computer Lab and the Institutes of Black and Hispanic Latino Culture all offer free printing.
Many students, especially those in notoriously rigorous classes, decide to purchase study aids like Smokin’ Notes, Study Edge, Chegg Study or Course Hero. Smokin’ Notes can be purchased for individual courses through the UF Bookstore or students can pick various subscription packages ranging from $25 to $95 a month. Study Edge memberships have $50 and $75 monthly options. Chegg Study is $14.95 per month and Course Hero has three memberships ranging from $9.95 per month to $39.95 per month.
Transportation in Gainesville
There are many options when it comes to navigating Gainesville. This section will help you weigh the cost and benefits of each alternative to make the best decision for your lifestyle.
Having a car in Gainesville comes with a few added expenses including gas, insurance, and parking. While this can raise the cost of living as a student significantly, it does allow for more freedom to explore everything Gainesville has to offer. A car can be essential if you’re a Florida resident planning to visit home often.
According to gasbuddy.com, the best/cheapest places to get gas in Gainesville for 2021 currently are Sam's Club, Shell, and Sunoco. With the average price of gas is typically less than $3.00 per gallon, students should budget for around $20-$50 to fill up their tank. Keep in mind, gas expenses depend on the fuel efficiency of your car and your frequency of use. If gas prices are a concern, the gasbuddy app is a great tool to find the cheapest near you. Typically, the gas stations closest to campus have higher prices than others a few miles away; go a little further to save!
Parking at UF Apartments
Gainesville is notoriously challenging for parking. Some apartment communities offer free parking, while others can charge over $200/month for a spot. Usually the closer you are to campus, the more of a premium parking becomes. Apartments can offer parking in the form of a pass, allowing you to park anywhere in the complex, or a designated parking spot reserved just for you. Covered parking in a garage will cost more than outdoor parking. Visitors parking is free in most places with designated spots. Before you sign a lease, check the parking rates and whether or not it is included in your rent and be sure to factor it in when budgeting for your cost of living.
If your apartment’s rates are too high or it doesn’t offer parking at all, Gainesville street parking decals are a good next option. Gainesville neighborhood parking permits are sold on an annual basis from October 1st to September 30th. Permits for renters/nonpermanent residents are $115.75 per decal in Zone 1, 2 and 5 or $58.00 per decal in all other Zones. Typically, spots can be found in a timely manner, but spikes in activity can make finding parking a lengthy ordeal. If you plan to commute to campus by car, you may need to purchase a University of Florida Campus Decal for $160.00 annually, $80.00 per semester, $35.00 Monthly, $15.00 Weekly. Parking violations often cause cars to be towed (usually $100+) or result in tickets (usually $35). For off-campus students, purchasing a UF decal is a rarity, mainly because of its price and the other options available to get on campus. Parking on campus without a permit is available, but spaces are scarce and strictly regulated. Be sure to check the UF campus parking map to ensure you won't be penalized.
We asked current UF students about their parking costs. Madison pays about $100 per month. Heidi lives in an apartment close to campus and pays $200 for a parking garage. Evan lives in a house a few block away from campus and his parking his included in his rent.
According to trustedchoice.com, the average monthly car insurance cost in Gainesville is $124. Variables like age, gender, your driving record and your vehicle can affect this number.
New scooters can range from $1000-$2000 depending on the make and model. Some popular examples are a Wolf Rx (about $1300) or Genuine Buddy 50 (about $1900) which can both be found at local Gainesville scooter retailers. A cheaper alternative to these options is buying a used scooter. Some scooter stores sell them or you can checkout facebook for students selling them privately. The price of pre-owned scooters depends on the mileage, wear, and brand of the scooter.
You will have to pay for your scooter registration but you can just use your regular drivers for most scooters in the state of Florida. Scooters can help to save money on gas and increase mobility, but there are also the cost of accessories (ex. Helmet), insurance, gas, parking decals and repairs for mechanical issues that may arise. When purchasing a scooter, keep in mind that these extra expenses can really add up and the resale value of the scooter will decrease with time.
Pro Tip: Make sure you see and ride the used scooter in person before buying it so you don't risk any potential mechanical problems!
The cycling community is prominent in Gainesville and lots of students choose this method to get to class. Depending on whether you buy new or used, an average bike should cost you from $80-$250. UF also offers a bike rental program that starts at $40 a semester. Bike racks are all around campus and UF even has a complimentary bike shop in the Reitz Union that offers everything from repairs to a quick tune-up.
Pro Tip: Invest in a good bike lock; bike theft is very common in Gainesville.
The bus on campus is free to all current UF students; just show your Gator 1 card! RTS goes everywhere on campus and also has routes throughout Gainesville. Many routes begin at either the HUB or the Reitz Union. For example, Route 20 starts at the Reitz Union and goes all the way to the Oaks Mall. Route 127 circles starts at the HUB and circles around campus to connect student housing like the Lakeside Complex. Whether you need to go to the Gainesville Airport or Butler Plaza, RTS has a route to get you there. RTS also services students at night as the Later Gator on Wednesday through Saturday 8:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. Download the TransLoc app for live information about routes and arrival times. Taking the bus is a great way to cut down on the cost of living and not sacrifice convenience. Check out apartments near RTS Bus Routes.
The Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol (SNAP) is a free nightly campus safety initiative offered by The University of Florida. Vans that seat 15 passengers run from 6:30PM to 3:00AM, seven nights a week. SNAP stops are scattered all throughout campus and surrounding areas. Download the TapRide app to track and order your SNAP. Fair warning, the waiting times for SNAPS are typically 10 minutes plus, longer than paid services like Uber.
The base fair for an UberX is $2.55 (4 passengers) and for an UberXL is $3.85 (6 passengers). After that, additional charges are added for distance and time of day. Typically rates increase at night, and will be around $8-$9, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. However, UF Safe Rides, a program that offers students discounted Lyfts, take 50% off prices Wed. - Sun. between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. Students should check their University of Florida emails at the beginning of the fall semester for a discount invitation.
Food Near the University of Florida
Food is a primary expense in college. It's a necessity, but it also serves as a social tool for creating community. Gainesville has plenty of options for grocery shopping and an impressive foodie scene to explore.
Depending on your eating habits, the average college student should budget between $50 and $100 weekly for groceries. Getting into the habit of eating at home is a good way to keep your cost of living low, as it is cheaper relative to eating out.
Trader Joes ($) is the go to place for reasonably priced healthy food. TJ’s has interesting items you can’t find anywhere else, but may not be a one-stop-shop with its boutique style inventory.
Sam’s Club ($) is great for discounted bulk food shopping. While there is a membership fee, the savings on groceries or gas will make up the difference. Sam’s is not ideal for those cooking for one, but joint grocery hauls with your roommates could lead to savings.
Walmart ($) is the home of low prices. It is great for getting everything you need in one trip. Be aware the inventory is not always stocked and customer service is not a priority.
Aldi ($) is a german grocer that combines european food quality standards with affordable prices. Check their weekly ads for additional savings.
Winndixie ($$) offers a pleasant shopping experience and a variety of product selections.
Publix ($$) is a Florida favorite for easy shopping. The location right across from campus offers quick lunch options from their hot food bar. Look out for their weekly BOGO deals.
Target ($$) is good to stop in for a quick pantry restock. The location across from campus has a limited selection of products, but is convenient for a busy schedule. For a true Target haul, check out the Target on Archer Road for a full selection.
Whole foods ($$$) is great for easy clean eating, but comes at a premium. However, their bulk food section for a money-saving, environmentally friendly option.
Fresh Market ($$$) has healthy upscale food selections. Keep an eye on their weekly specials for affordable scores on high quality meats. They are also ideal for ready to eat meals.
Ward’s Supermarket ($) is a family owned grocer that offers locally sourced products and produce. They have their own line of products, hot ready-made selections and a bulk food section.
Grabbing a bite in between classes is inevitable for a busy college student. You can pay as you go or open a declining balance account through UF to budget purchases.
Dining Halls are convenient and all you can eat, but food quality is what you’d expect for on-campus buffet-style fare.
There are over 40 food locations on campus. The Turlington area alone has Firehouse Subs, Jamba Juice, Chick-fil-a and Au Bon Pain. The Reitz Union, which has the biggest fourt court on campus, has Subway, Pollo Tropical, Wendy’s, Wing Zone and Panda Express among others. Note that not every location has full menus.
Krishna Lunch is a vegetarian buffet that is served on the Plaza of the Americas Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Meals are $5 and the menu rotates daily.
Looking to explore the cuisine of Gainesville? Check out foodie Instagram accounts like @gainesvillevegans, @eatgainesville or @spoon_uf. In general, eating out in Gainesville will range from $15 to $40 per person depending on the restaurant.
4th Avenue Food Park is a collection of local restaurants with space to socialize and the occasional addition of live music. From one location you can choose from tacos, pizza, artisan sausage, baked goods and more.
Midpoint Park & Eatery is the newest addition to the Innovation District. It features ample room to hang out with friends and a four on site food trucks with everything from Hawaiian to Mexican cuisine
Archer Road is where to go if you don’t know where to eat. The area has all of the familiar chain restaurants and every kind of food. Grab a quick bite at Burgerfi or have a sit down meal at the Cheesecake Factory.
Downtown gives a real taste of local Gainesville bites. Upscale local spots are scattered throughout the area and offer everything from a boozy brunch at OAK to the perfect date night at Dragonfly Sushi.
Beyond the high traffic areas, Gainesville is home to many hidden gems. Make sure to venture out to visit classics like Satchel’s Pizza, Adam’s Rib Company or Zeezenia Kitchen.
There is no shortage of cool coffee shops in Gainesville. Go on the hunt for the best cup in town at Pascal’s, Concord Coffee, Opus, Wyatt’s or Coffee Culture, just to name a few. A cup will cost you between $2.50 and $4.
Gainesville has plenty of options to appease your sweet tooth. From local bakeries like Uppercrust Productions to hipster ice cream joints like Karma Cream, there are desserts of all kinds to taste.
Entertainment in Gainesville
The Gators are known for their impressive athletic programs. Go watch the top tier talent at UF in action at a game. Students can enter into a raffle to get football tickets, which cost $25. If you don’t get lucky in the raffle, check out Facebook groups for reselling student tickets, like UF Football Ticket Exchange. Resold tickets will be more expensive, but usually still cheaper than general admission prices. All other sports are free for students, but be quick with registration because events can sell out. Students should download the Florida Gators app to register for games. Check out apartments near Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to stay close to the action.
Gainesville has a small but energetic music scene. The High Dive is a local live music venue that brings artists of all genres to perform. Tickets usually range between $10-$30 depending on the act. Season passes that get you into unlimited shows are available for a discounted bulk price. The Heartwood Soundstage is another live music venue in Gainesville which focuses on alternative and indie artists. The Soundstage frequently hosts events in its backyard stage and tickets range from $10-$60. If you’re looking for live theater, the Hippodrome is the place in Gainesville. The venue rotates plays and screens independent films with an average entree fee of about $30. Just want to relax with a bucket of popcorn at the movie theater? There are several movie theaters surrounding UF, but Regal Celebration Point is ideal for the ultimate comfortable experience with wide reclining chairs. Expect to spend $10 on a ticket and bring some extra cash for the concession stand.
The Oaks Mall is one of the main spots for retail therapy in Gainesville. The mall houses low to moderately priced retailers like H&M and The Copper Closet and has major department stores like Belk and JCPenny inside. While Butler Plaza is filled with many dining options, it also has some notable shops like Shephora, REI, Anthropologie, Bath & Body Works and more to explore. Be sure to plan a trip to Celebration Point to visit stores like Bass Pro Shop, Tommy Hilfiger and the Nike Factory Store.
Looking for a change of pace? Try spending the day at Flip Factory Zone, a trampoline park where you can pay $16-$22 jump for the day. Get out some aggression and test your accuracy at the Hatchetbury, an axe throwing bar. Pricing starts at $25 per hour. Throw it back to some classic fun at Skate Station with roller skating, go-karting and rock climbing for between $10-$17. Take advantage of Gator Nights, a UF sponsored event that happens every Friday night in the Reitz Union. Students can save on the cost of living and still have fun by enjoying free movies, food and crafts. The Reitz Union also has a Game Room where students can bowl for $3.50 per game, play pool for $5 or play foosball for $1.50. Students have open access to the Harn Museum of Art and the Florida Museum of Natural History for an informative day trip. Another free option to UF students is a day at Lake Wauburg. About 15 minutes from campus, Lake Wauburg has kayaking, sailing, rock climbing and volleyball for you and your friends to enjoy; just show your Gator 1 at the entrance.
Gainesville has lots of options for a night out. Midtown, across from the UF campus, has a variety of bars. Grab a casual drink at Balls or Salty Dog and watch the game. Mingle on the rooftop at Social or que a song at the Rowdy Reptile or Fat Daddy’s. Dance your way downtown to White Buffalo, The Range, or Downtown Fats. Door cover varies depending how busy the night is, but typically is $5-$10. Expect drinks to be between $3-$6, but keep a lookout for daily drink specials. If you’re looking for an 18+ venue try Grog, Simon’s or Bricks. Downtown also features more upscale cocktail bars like Cry Baby’s, Arcade Bar or Madrina’s; speciality drinks will be $10+.
Gainesville is conveniently located to many natural Florida springs and nature spots. Reset with a relaxing tube down the river at Ginnie Springs ($15) or on the Ichetucknee River ($6). Take a dive into prehistoric waters at Devil’s Millhopper State Park ($4). Go on a hike around Paynes Prairie ($6), through Sweetwater Preserve and end the day by watching the sunset.
About Swamp Rentals
Swamp Rentals is Gainesville’s ultimate resource for apartment hunting. We partner with over 100 apartment communities across the area to create the most comprehensive collection of up-to-date pricing, specials, photography, and information in the market. Over the last 12-months, we have helped more than 130,000 unique users connect with apartments in Gainesville that fit their lifestyle and budget. We are passionate about connecting students with apartments that they can call home. At Swamp Rentals, we love the UF community and make it our job to know the area better than anyone else. This is why we have teamed up with 2 current UF students and interns to create the most complete, accurate cost of living guide for the University of Florida on the internet. Our hope is that this guide serves as a resource to incoming and current students to not only help gauge their finances but to become a UF expert.