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6 Most Overpriced Burger Chains in America

Fast food isn't as cheap as it used to be. Just ask the aggrieved customers of these popular chains.
FACT CHECKED BY Chris Shott

Gone are the days of the dollar menu. Fast-food fans can't help but notice that many drive-thru burger joints are no longer as affordable as they used to be. At this point, steady price increases are downright noticeable—and even shocking. Consider the recent backlash over an advertised $25 meal deal at McDonald's.

Just how much have fast-food prices gone up? One Texas-based newspaper, the Victoria Advocate, recently compared the prices of popular menu items at six fast-food joints, including McDonalds, In-N-Out, Burger King, and Chick-fil-A, and found that prices rose on average 77% since December 2019. At McDonald's, for example, the price of medium fries jumped from $1.79 in 2019 to $4.19 now—that's a 134% increase. Another recent study showed that McDonald's has actually doubled its prices in the last decade.

Historically, fast-food restaurants increased prices by about 2% annually. But since 2022, fast-food joints have been hiking up prices by double digits yearly. Price-weary customers are carefully considering how they spend their dollars, and burger chains are taking note. Executives at Wendy's and McDonald's both said they would be more careful with price hikes this year, according to Business Insider.

Over the past couple of years, customers have largely gone along with the incremental price increases. But there comes a point where customers are unwilling to shell out $3 for a single McDonald's hash brown. Lately, fast-food fans have been quick to point out that part of the appeal of fast food is affordability. Without that, some burger chains are simply overpriced.

These six burger chains are pushing the limit of what customers are willing to pay for a simple beef patty on a bun.

McDonald's

McDonald's Big Mac and fries on a table
Photo: Patcharaporn Puttipon4289 / Shutterstock

Five years ago, a classic cheeseburger at McDonald's cost just a buck. Today, it'll cost you at least twice that, if not more. In south Texas, for example, that same burger is now $3.15, according to the Victoria Advocate. That's a 215% increase.

The rising prices at McDonald's have been riling customers and generating headlines since last summer, when an image from a Connecticut-area Mickey D's went viral. A shopper posted a photo of the menu board, which showed a Big Mac combo priced at $18. That wasn't the last time McDonald's menu boards sparked discussion online, either. Earlier this year, a McDonald's restaurant was slammed for its "outrageous" pricing after a customer paid more than $7 for an Egg McMuffin and posted the receipt on X.

Elsewhere on the internet, Reddit users are complaining about McDonald's "insane" prices, including a $13 Quarter Pounder meal and a $12 Big Mac meal. "My boyfriend and I bought McD the other morning and it was $30," one Reddit user posted. "It's official. McDonald's is now prohibitively expensive," another wrote, citing a $8.35 bill for a McChicken and medium fries—an order that barely cost $4 a few years ago. Many posters say they are done dining there.

 McDonald's Says It's Working On More Value Deals Amid Price Complaints

Five Guys

five guys bacon cheeseburger
Photo: John K. / Yelp

Five Guys drew ire for its prices earlier this year. Back in March, a customer on X posted a photo of a Five Guys receipt sourced from Reddit. "Five Guys prices are out of control. $24 for one person," they wrote. The order, a bacon cheeseburger meal with a regular soda and a small fry, was nearly $22 before tip. The tweet got more than 25 million views, and sparked larger discussions about fast-food prices in general.

"5 guys is the most overpriced burger in the market. I never order from there unless I have a 50% Uber eats discount," one X user posted in March. "It's just not worth it at full price." According to MoneyGeek, a burger, fries and soda at Five Guys will cost you $20 on average.

Some Reddit users say Five Guys is simply too pricey for what it is. "Good lord these prices are out of control," one user wrote. "Used to go to 5 Guys all the time, once a week or so. Hands down my favorite burger place." The customer would order a cheeseburger and a little cajun for about $14. But on their last visit about nine months ago, the same order ran them $18. "That's sit-down-damn-good-restaurant prices," they wrote. "A $4 increase at some point over the last 8 months is absolutely wild."

Of course, Five Guys diehards would be quick to point out the chain has always been slightly more expensive than other fast food joints, because the chain uses fresh-ground beef in its patties.

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Wendy's

Wendy's burger and fries
Photo: Deutschlandreform / Shutterstock

Unfortunately, Wendy's made headlines for all the wrong reasons back in February when an executive threw around the words "surge pricing" during an earnings call. Wendy's CEO Kirk Tanner announced a new idea to investors: fluctuate menu prices throughout the day based on demand. That means consumers would be charged more if they visited during the lunchtime or dinner rush—as in, at least $1 more for a burger.

Though the updated menu technology wouldn't be ready for testing until next year—a $20 million investment for the company—and a spokesperson later walked back the statement, the news was unwelcome for many Wendy's fans who were already feeling the pinch.

"Last summer on a road trip, my wife and I stopped at Wendy's for food, right off an exit. With tax it was $27 for two people," one Reddit user wrote. "We don't eat fast food, and that was the last time in the last 18 months. I wanted to ask, where's the candle light and [Champagne]? But I would have been told 'sir, this is a Wendy's.'"

A former Wendy's employee noted on Reddit that they worked at Wendy's for just over a year and menu prices ticked up four times in that time period. "I like fast food sometimes," one Redditor wrote. "But when my Wendy's meal is $11, it's getting pretty close to a very nice burger where I can sit-down at various bars and restaurants around here."

 Wendy's Expects to Close 100+ Restaurants This Year

Burger King

Burger King's Whopper & fries
Photo: Deutschlandreform / Shutterstock

Price-weary consumers aren't finding much relief at the home of the Whopper, either. A recent post on Reddit compared Burger King coupons from 2021 and 2024, and the results were somewhat shocking. Just three years ago, customers could get a Whopper meal with a small drink and small fries for $5. Now, that same meal runs for $6.99, though it does come with large sides instead. Family meal deals saw a big increase, too. Back in 2021, just $13 would get you three Whoppers, three cheeseburgers, and three small fries. Now, it's clocking in at $19.99, though you'd get a medium-sized fries. And that's with a coupon. "These aren't even deals anymore, that's the price it should be!!" one Redditor commented.

One analysis found Burger King prices have gone up a whopping 85.7% on average based on five popular menu items. A Whopper in December 2019, for example, cost $4.19. Today, it's $7.79, on average. Customers are fed up: "Done with their ridiculous price increases and declining food quality," one Redditor wrote about Burger King. "I just wanted a small double cheeseburger meal, and was informed it was seven bucks with no drink. The person behind the counter warned me they had done a huge price increase, and I might not want to even order."

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Carl's Jr.

a carls jr famous star burger
Photo: Carl's Jr.

West Coasters are equally fed up with menu prices at Carl's Jr. "Wtf happened to Carl's Jr prices?" one Redditor asked. "This place is a ripoff now. Just bought 3 Famous Stars ($5.99 each), 2 fries ($3.49 each), and 3pc chicken tenders ($5.99) and it came out to $34." One Redditor replied, "Famous stars used to be 99 cents back in my day." The all-beef patty with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, special sauce and mayo will run you considerably more today.

Another Redditor posted a Carl's Jr. receipt totaling nearly $18 for a burger and fries. "Almost 20 dollars for a fast food meal? Just go to a taco truck man," a commenter suggested. Just this week, Carl's Jr. was called out again for a new two-for-$12.99 burger deal. A TikToker posted a short clip of the ad, and commenters pointed out those same burger deals used to go on special for two for $5.

While some commenters pointed out that you can score better deals on the app, others maintain the only way to avoid excessive pricing at fast-food places is to skip it entirely. The half-pound cheeseburger at Carl's Jr. goes for around $5.49, according to the blog Fast Food Menus.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack burgers and fries
Photo: Shutterstock

The fast-growing chain Shake Shack is known for its ShackBurger and delicious shakes, but some customers aren't willing to pay the price, anymore. One Redditor complained that they paid $26 for two burgers and two drinks. Another Redditor claimed to have found Shake Shack menu prices from 2019. "The cheese fries was 3.79 and a double shake burger was 7.99. Now for both items it's $16."

"The prices are also ridiculous," one Redditor claimed in a review. "I paid $12 for a double Smokeshack burger… and nothing else. They don't do combos here. Fries would have cost another $4.00 and even the drinks were $3.95. Paying $20 for just one meal at a fast food chain is ridiculous."

Shake Shack announced earlier this month that the chain doesn't plan to increase prices again this year, following a 3% price hike in mid-March, CFO Katie Fogertey told investors on May 2. "We have no current plans to further increase price this year," she said. However, the news may come too late for many burger fans who swore off the chain for being too pricey.

Emily Latimer
Emily Latimer is a freelance journalist with a passion for food and restaurants. Read more about Emily