COLI Hamburger Index: McDonald’s Quarter Pounder Price Shift


Do you ever feel lazy about cooking after a long day of work? McDonald’s is a top choice for many people not just because of its convenience, but the cost of frequent dine-in or to-go purchases can stack up. When thinking about the cost of living, most people associate it with housing, utility bills, and gas prices. However, other everyday items, such as online subscriptions, clothing, and food consumption can also influence your household bottom-line.


One of the items that C2ER tracks is McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, like the Big Mac index tracked by The Economist. According to the recently published Quarter 2 Cost of Living Index (COLI), the average price for a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder stood at $5.45, marking a 6% increase from the average price of $5.14 a year ago.  Both the highest and the lowest prices have risen over the past year. In Quarter 2, 2022, numerous cities, concentrated in the South and Midwest, sold a Quarter Pounder near the bottom of the list at $3.79. Several cities still sell Quarter Pounders for $3.79 this year, but more cities fell below $4 in last year’s data compared to the current year.


It is not surprising to see Sacramento, CA and Boston, MA on the list as cities in coastal regions typically have higher costs than inland cities due to higher taxes, gas prices, etc. However, why did Billings, MT, Prescott, AZ, and Bozeman, MT sell a Quarter Pounder at a higher price than these two cities? Could tourist attractions be one reason for this difference? Both Billings and Bozeman serve as entrances to Yellowstone National Park, while Prescott Valley is also a popular destination for hiking and other outdoor activities. Additionally, considering McDonald’s worldwide popularity, it could be the most familiar and comfortable choice for tourists when they first visit these places. It is possible that the franchise benefits from this need. Moreover, it’s worth questioning whether the higher cost of supply chain deliveries to those remote areas contributes to increased transportation fees and ultimately food prices.


Has it always been this way? When we compare the price of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder in 2023 to that of a decade ago, we notice significant regional variations. Back in 2013, the average price for a Quarter Pounder stood at $3.70, approximately 2.4% lower than the lowest price in 2023. Notably, the five most affordable Quarter Pounders were all sold below $3.00. When comparing their ranks in 2023, Bozeman, MT fell out of the top 50 with a price of $3.99. Sacramento, CA ranked 41st with a price of $4.07. Meanwhile, Boston, MA continued to rank high on the list with a price of $4.41. Clearly, regional trends have shifted. As the price of a Quarter Pounder continues to increase over time, consumers may reconsider their fast-food consumption and explore alternative meal options.


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[1] Cities with the same price: Alexandria, LA; Monroe, LA; Las Vegas, NV; Albany, NY; Amarillo, TX

[2] Cities with the same price: Bullhead City, AZ

[3] Cities with the same price: Springfield IL; Harlingen TX; Bullhead City AZ; Douglasville-Douglas County GA; Houma-Terrebonne Parish LA; Sandoval-Rio Rancho NM; Elkhart-Goshen IN; South Bend IN; Jackson-Madison County TN; Charleston-N Charleston SC; Conway AR; Amarillo TX; Florence AL; Cedar Falls IA; Alexandria LA; Lake Charles LA; Kalamazoo MI; Dalton GA; Tyler TX; Waco TX; Monroe LA; Jonesboro AR

[4] Cities with the same price: San Juan-Bayamón-Caguas, PR; Richmond, IN

[5] Cities with the same price: Lafayette, IN

[6] Cities with the same price: Hammond, LA; Pueblo, CO; Norman, OK

[7] Cities with the same price: Akron, OH; Shreveport-Bossier City, LA; Enid, OK; Anderson, SC