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The cheapest U.S. cities for renters

By Andrew DePietro/GOBankingRates

If you're looking for the cheapest cities to rent a home, you'll need to do some serious research. Not only will you have to look at different types of homes, but you'll need to look at how much it costs to rent in various cities -- and not just the big cities like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.

Lucky for you, GOBankingRates.com did a lot of the work and compiled a list of the top 20 cheapest cities for renters. In our study, we ranked the 150 most populous U.S. cities based on the median rent of one-bedroom homes, two-bedroom homes and single-family residences sourced from Zillow.

Whether you're fresh out of college or looking for an affordable city to rent during retirement, here are the 20 cheapest cities to rent in the U.S.

20. Rochester, New York

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $747.50
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $850
  • Single-family residence median rent: $1,050

The median rent for a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom in Rochester is cheap -- but it's really the rent for a single-family residence that puts it in the top 20 cheapest cities to rent. Median rents in Rochester are much cheaper than in New York City and even beat rents in another upstate city, Buffalo.

To get the best deal on an apartment or home, consider renting a home in the neighborhoods with the cheapest apartments, such as Culver-Winton, Charles House and Maplewood, according to RentJungle.com.

19. Indianapolis

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $740
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $839.50
  • Single-family residence median rent: $1,000

Apartment rental prices are low in Indianapolis, but in the last three years, rents have increased year-on-year, according to RentJungle data.

Out of the 20 cheapest cities to rent, Indianapolis has the second-highest median rent for one-bedroom homes and the third-highest median rent for two-bedrooms.

18. Boise, Idaho

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $675
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $775
  • Single-family residence median rent: $1,085

Can't decide whether you should buy or rent a home in Boise? You might want to consider renting.

According to HousingPredictor.com, Idaho's real estate market is experiencing record lows for inventory, which could be the reason why home prices are rising.

17. Cincinnati

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $665
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $930
  • Single-family residence median rent: $950

The Cincinnati housing market is struggling with tight inventory, and many people are deciding on renting instead of buying. Fortunately, Cincinnati still offers some of the lowest median rents in the U.S.

Median rents for single-family residences in Cincinnati are much lower than Columbus' median rent of more than $1,000.

16. Des Moines, Iowa

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $725
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $801
  • Single-family residence median rent: $985

Families looking to rent in Des Moines will enjoy a median rent of $985 for a single-family residence, the seventh-cheapest rent of the top 20 cheapest cities to live.

But the low rents might not last. After home values in the city bottomed out in 2012, they increased by around $15,000 over the last next years, according to Zillow data. During the same period, rent list prices jumped by more than $200 a month.

15. Lubbock, Texas

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $590
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $800
  • Single-family residence median rent: $1,150

Lubbock is one of two cities in Texas to make the top 20 cheapest cities for renters. As the Lone Star State's booming economy pushes housing prices higher in its major cities, Lubbock has managed to still be cheap. Notably, Lubbock boasts the fifth cheapest one-bedroom median rent.

14. Little Rock, Arkansas

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $695
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $777.50
  • Single-family residence median rent: $1,000

Little Rock is almost perfectly centered in the middle of Arkansas, far from other major metro areas. Despite this, Little Rock's median rents are all $1,000 or less.

The median rent for two-bedroom units in Little Rock is among the cheapest in the nation. However, according to Zillow, the Little Rock housing market is very hot and currently favoring home sellers. As home values have increased in Little Rock, so has the median rent list price -- from $830 a month in December 2012 to around $1,000 a month as of July 2016.

13. El Paso, Texas

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $603.50
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $750
  • Single-family residence median rent: $1,117.50

Across the border from Mexico, El Paso is the 20th-largest city in the U.S. by population and the sixth-largest city in Texas. Smaller than cities such as Houston, Dallas and Austin, El Paso boasts median rents that are cheaper than all of them. And, rent list prices actually decreased from August 2015 to July 2016, according to the Zillow Rent Index.

​ 12. Spokane, Washington

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $595
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $795
  • Single-family residence median rent: $1,047.50

If you want to live in Washington but can't afford Seattle's high prices, then Spokane could be your solution. Spokane has one of the nation's cheapest median rent prices for one-bedrooms and costs more than $1,000 less than the median rent in Seattle.

Meanwhile, single-family residences in Spokane have a median rent that's over $1,600 less than Seattle's and around $800 less than the median rent of another popular Pacific Northwest city, Portland, Oregon.

11. Tallahassee, Florida

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $625
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $750
  • Single-family residence median rent: $1,050

Tallahassee's median rents are cheaper than those in larger Florida cities. For example, the median rent for a two-bedroom unit in Tallahassee is $500 cheaper than in Orlando and $1,850 cheaper than in Miami.

10. Tucson, Arizona

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $575
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $750
  • Single-family residence median rent: $1,100

Tucson boasts some of the cheapest median rents in the U.S. Coming in at No. 10 of the cheapest places to rent, Tucson scores one of the cheapest one-bedroom median rents in the country, behind cities like Toledo, Ohio, and Wichita, Kansas. One-bedroom median rents in Tucson are nearly $300 cheaper than Phoenix rents, too.

9. Greensboro, North Carolina

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $655
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $740
  • Single-family residence median rent: $962.50

One-bedroom, two-bedroom and single-family residence median rents in Greensboro are all hundreds of dollars less on average than in Charlotte.

8. Memphis, Tennessee

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $683
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $750
  • Single-family residence median rent: $900

Memphis is the first of two Tennessee cities to make our list of the cheapest cities to rent a home. Rental rates in Memphis also compare favorably with Nashville.

7. Knoxville, Tennessee

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $600
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $800
  • Single-family residence median rent: $950

Knoxville is up and coming, but this city's median rent is cheap -- especially for one-bedroom units. Two-bedroom residences, however, will cost a bit more than most cities on our list of the cheapest places to rent.

6. Columbus, Georgia

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $725
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $673.50
  • Single-family residence median rent: $900

Columbus comes in at No. 6 of the cheapest places to rent, thanks mainly to the median rents of two-bedroom and single-family residences. Columbus is tied with two other cities for the fourth-cheapest single-family median rent on our list. Meanwhile, its median rent for two-bedroom units is the third-cheapest of the cities on our list.

5. Augusta, Georgia

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $614
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $775
  • Single-family residence median rent: $895

Georgia is a real estate hotbed, with Atlanta and Marietta ranking among the top 20 U.S. cities experiencing the biggest increases in home prices. Fortunately, Augusta is still very cheap when it comes to rent. Single-family residences in Augusta tie for the third-cheapest median rent in the U.S. among the 20 cheapest cities on our list.

4. Fayetteville, North Carolina

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $585
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $697
  • Single-family residence median rent: $900

Fayetteville racks up solid numbers across all three categories of residences. On this list of the 20 cheapest places to rent, the city's single-family median rent is tied for the fourth-cheapest alongside Memphis and Columbus. In terms of one-bedroom and two-bedroom median rents, Fayetteville is among the cheapest, too.

3. Wichita, Kansas

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $547.50
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $700
  • Single-family residence median rent: $895

Wichita has some very cheap apartments for rent, scoring the second-cheapest one-bedroom median rent on our list. Wichita also ties for third place for the cheapest single-family residence and comes in fourth for the cheapest two-bedroom median rent.

Wichita's cheap rents could be ideal for trying to get younger generations to move in. Considering millennials seem to be less interested in homeownership these days, cheap apartments could be key to bringing in fresh blood and money to the city's economy.

2. Detroit

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $625
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $650
  • Single-family residence median rent: $750

One-bedroom apartments in Detroit are cheap, but not the cheapest on our list. With the other apartment types, however, Detroit ties for the cheapest two-bedroom median rent but claims the No. 1 spot for the cheapest single-family residence median rent.

Not all parts of Detroit are cheap for renters, however. Rent prices vary widely, with neighborhoods like Barton-McFarland costing less than $500 a month while Downtown Detroit costs nearly $1,800 a month, according to RentJungle.

1. Toledo, Ohio

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  • 1-bedroom median rent: $442.5
  • 2-bedroom median rent: $650
  • Single-family residence median rent: $790

Toledo takes the top spot for the cheapest cities to rent a home.

Though the vacancy rate for apartments in Toledo inched up to 5.2 percent in the last half of 2015, in general, the apartment market is strong. Since the end of 2014, Toledo's vacancy rate has gotten smaller while its average rental rate has risen, according to a March 2016 article in The Blade.

Fortunately, rental prices in Toledo are still at national lows and beat the other Ohio cities on our list of the 20 cheapest cities. Toledo has the cheapest one-bedroom median rent, one of the cheapest two-bedroom median rents and the second-cheapest single-family residence median rent.

And if you're looking to lower your monthly rent even more, the cheapest neighborhoods to rent apartments in Toledo include Birmingham, Franklin Park and Scott Park, according to RentJungle.

Methodology

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GOBankingRates used July 2016 data from Zillow.com (sourced Sept. 8, 2016) on the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment, the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment and the median rent for a single-family residence to calculate the cheapest cities to rent an apartment based on the 150 most populous cities in the U.S., according to 2015 Census estimates.