Studio vs. Efficiency Apartment: What's the Difference?

By PropertyClub Team
Jan 25th 2022
The efficiency apartment, or the “one-room studio”, is an increasingly popular budget-friendly option in metropolitan and urban areas like New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. A typical efficiency unit is a small apartment of around 300 square feet, with a lower average monthly rent than your average studio. As a more affordable option than a studio, efficiency apartments are a good option for people who want to save on rent and don't need to live in a larger studio with a more spacious floor plan.

hash-markTable of Contents

What is an Efficiency Apartment?
What is a Studio Apartment?
What's the Difference Between an Efficiency Apartment and a Studio Apartment?
Why Should You Choose an Efficiency Apartment?
Studio vs. Efficiency Apartment Bottom Line

hash-markWhat Is an Efficiency Apartment?

An efficiency apartment is a type of studio that typically contains a single room and a have separate bathroom. The main room in an efficiency apartment serves as both your living room and sleeping area, and also includes your kitchen, although many efficiency units only have small kitchenettes with fewer appliances than a full-size kitchen. An efficiency apartment can also often be called a one-room studio or occasionally “single room occupancy” (SRO). Efficiency apartments are common in large urban areas and high-cost cities, where demand exceeds supply.

hash-markWhat Is a Studio Apartment?

A studio apartment is an apartment in which your living space and sleeping area are located within one single room. Studios also typically include a separate kitchen area and bathroom, although in some studios the kitchen is located within the main living space.

hash-markWhat’s the Difference Between an Efficiency Apartment and a Studio Apartment?

The major differences between an efficiency apartment and a studio are that efficiency units tend to be smaller apartments than studios and that studios typically have larger and better-equipped kitchens.

Other key differences between studios vs efficiency apartments as follows:


Efficiency apartments tend to be significantly smaller than studios. They are often less than 300 square feet in total size, whereas studios average around 450 square feet.


Efficiency apartments typically have an enclosed kitchen and bathroom, and sometimes a dining area and/or closet part in the living space. The exterior walls of efficiency units sometimes include at least one built-in unit, such as a desk or shelves.


Due to their smaller size, efficiency units tend to be have lower rents than studio apartments. If you have a tight budget, efficiency units may be more affordable. 


Unlike studios, which typically have a full kitchen, efficiency units often have a small kitchen or a kitchenette. While these areas are not always enclosed and exist within the same room as the living area, they usually have some counter space where you can prepare and eat meals.


Efficiency units are often more common than studios and exist in most large apartment buildings. Typically, an “efficiency premium” is applied to the rent on such units, which can cost between $5 to $25 per square foot more than a studio.

hash-markWhy Should You Choose an Efficiency Apartment?


Efficiency units can be combined! It’s possible to connect them to form larger units (just like you could merge two 1-bedroom units). For example, suppose a couple is not ready for a 2-bedroom, but you want more space than a studio. You could rent one efficiency unit and combine it with another to create a larger apartment at a lower price per square foot overall.


Efficiency apartments are affordable housing options for singles or couples with no children who want a small, simple place to call home. An efficiency unit could be a great option if you fall into this category and can’t afford a studio.


In many markets, studios are so popular that many smaller apartments have been converted to studios. So while there are efficiency units available, you may have a hard time finding a studio in your price range. On the other hand, a high percentage of older buildings have one-room efficiencies, and if your budget is tight, you might find more options for these types of apartments in your price range.

Building Type

If you are looking for an apartment in a mid- or high-rise building, studios are often not allowed, so efficiency units are your best bet.


Many efficiency apartments have more oversized windows than most studio apartments, which give the units a more airy and brighter feel. It is also reasonably common for efficiency units to have private balconies, which studios rarely do.

Lower Maintenance

Since the unit is smaller, you will be spending less time cleaning it. Also, since many efficiency units are older buildings, they tend to have higher ceilings and more windows from which the sun can shine. Efficiency apartments may not have as much space as a larger apartment would, but they offer a compromise between affordability, simplicity, and cleanliness that is worth considering.

Lower Utility Bills

A person living in a studio apartment has less square footage and, therefore, lower heating, cooling, and lighting energy needs. Thus, efficiency units tend to have lower utility bills than studios or larger apartments.

hash-markStudio vs. Efficiency Apartment Bottom Line

There’s no question that efficiency apartments are smaller than studios, but there are a few good reasons why this is often the better choice. Efficiency units are an excellent choice for singles and couples who want to live in smaller apartments. They may be more difficult to find than studios, but if you can find one that meets your needs, they can provide affordable housing options, making them a better option than more expensive studio apartments.