Home » What is the cost of living in New Zealand vs the US?

What is the cost of living in New Zealand vs the US?

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When you are researching a move to NZ the topic of the cost of living in New Zealand vs the US has to be a huge consideration to your research process. It is important to understand how expensive New Zealand is compared to other places around the world, particularly the high cost of living in Auckland-A common ideology among residents and migrants.

It is crucial for you to know that these comparisons are different for every individual which is dependent on salary, lifestyle and some other factors. Speaking from experience we found the adjustment difficult at first but then we have learnt to accept it. To find out more check out our cost of living in New Zealand article where we go into depth about our cost of living when we first moved here in 2015 to our lives now in 2022.

cost of living in New Zealand vs us
Comparing your exact cost of living now with your future lives in NZ is hugely important to your decision making process.

In this article, we will be using our finances and lifestyle to give you a rundown of our cost of living in New Zealand compared to the US.  To do this successfully we sought help from Isaacs’s cousin who lives in San Jose, California. We ask her a few basic questions to gauge if the cost of living in New Zealand is more expensive than the US.

In this article you will find out:

·         A platform you can use to compare costs in NZ to your current life;

·         Cost of living in New Zealand vs the US in 2019;

·         Cost of living in New Zealand in 2019;

·           A supermarket cost comparison;

Let’s start with the research -it is important that you do your own adequate enquiries

Considering the fact that some details can be quite elusive and we might have skipped some important points in our own survey, that is why a its is important to compare your own personal cost of living with the cost of things in NZ.

 A good place to start is to compare the cost of living in NZ with your current location, which can be researched easily on sites such as  Numbeo or NationMaster. Numbeo is a crowd-sourced website that gives you the opportunity to immediately find out about the comparative cost of your key points of interest and some less important ones, including rent, transport and a selection of groceries.

 Nationmaster is another good statistics database that offers a large directory of variables for comparison purposes. This database provides you with all the information you need to get started on your transition from the US to NZ. This comparison gives you an idea of what to expect in terms of consumer goods say you want to buy a meal in an inexpensive restaurant (it goes for 11.43$ in NZ compared to 15$ in the USA FYI!).

After making your comparison, you should then know that taxes are also a very crucial part of your expenditure. New Zealand has a GST of 15% on virtually everything you buy excluding your income and financial transactions (like renting a home or bank charges). You are compelled to pay all the GST and other taxes when you become a part of New Zealand community.

Making all these comparisons is necessary but what is more important is your financial status, you should be able to answer questions like is my new salary going to fit into all the plans I have here in NZ? Will my spending match my earning or be lower? The answer to these questions is not in your present earnings as they do not reflect on your new location (which is NZ). A good resource for establishing an average salary level based on the guide for respective occupations can be found via Trade Me.

Now, you have found an estimate of your new salary structure and made a comparison with your new living cost, the next question is;

How does this translate from my current financial situation and lifestyle?

Getting a solid hold on how your new living costs will affect you, you need to totally understand your present financial situation. This can be made possible by using a money planner to determine your current spend and disposable income. We have created a tool to help you do this. It can help you through the whole planning process and it is quite handy!

By setting up a detailed list that contains all your outgoing spending, you will also be able to address all the not-so-frequent expenses that pops up all of a sudden for example, insurances, coupled with additional spendings that comes up without any prior notice such as car maintenance and damages!

A detailed review of these demands helps you understand how to transit from your current living expenditure to that in NZ. The list of websites provided in the next paragraphs will help you calculate some of this outgoing spendings:

Household expenses

Databases like Glimp and Power Switch will help you estimate the cost of essential household bills such as electricity and broadband.

Vehicle Costs

New Zealand Transport Agency is the go-to firm for car licensing and registration. More on this in our Driving in New Zealand article. For up to date on fuel prices here in NZ, then AA is the right website.


To access quotes of insurance policies, health, life, mortgage and income protection, Life Direct is a sufficient tool for you.

We are humans and as such we have desires. You are definitely not moving across countries to just live there, you definitely had your reason and more importantly, plans like the view of your new home, the location( FYI! NZ is not that small). Should it be on the suburbs, close to the ocean or top of a hill?.

 When we decided to move, it wasn’t just for relocation’s sake initially it was a 6-month visit to one of our relatives and then NZ grew on us and now we have spent over 4 years (almost 5!) in New Zealand since moving from England in December 2014. The journey over the years has not been smooth but trust us when we say,  it has been interesting.

This is us, , 5 years into life in NZ!

While it’s necessary to plan financially for all of your spendings in NZ and your new home, remember to think about your desired lifestyle. While estimating all of your costs, put into consideration how you’d like to live in NZ and, hence, how you may intend to use your extra income. Are you moving to the city where you’d like to enjoy the social scene? Do you have enough money to buy a house beside the ocean? These questions are quite practical and they need answers only you can provide.

So what actually are the costs of living in New Zealand vs the US?

The data provided in this section was last updated on 8th December 2019 and was given to us by Isaac’s cousin who lives in San Jose. We understand that every region/state of the US has different costs of livings and that is why in the first part of the article we strongly recommend you do you own research with the platforms we have suggested to you.

But essentially the graph below is a brief overview of household expenses and costs of bills like housing, internet, and fuel in San Jose compared to our lives in New Zealand in 2019.

It is worth noting that there are some stark differences in the way bills are charged and paid in both countries, a good example is taxes charged on goods and services. In New Zealand, the GST is included in the ticket price unlike in the US where it is added after purchase (just like having 20$ to purchase an item within that price range but ends up summing to 22.5$ because of taxes pretty annoying right?!

The graph is monthly costs and in USD.

 UtilitiesUSANew Zealand
Rent ( 3 bedrooms in the city center)$2,095$1,450
Electricity and Gas  $151$80
Internet     $63$73
Total $2309$1603
Variable Costs 
 Fuel (1 liter)$0.77$1.59
Food (Basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district$14$13

Note: All data are updated as of December 8, 2019 and are expressed in US Dollarseven the NZ side of the graph.


After comparing this data with the cost of living in New Zealand as of 2019, we noticed the cost of living in the US (San Jose in particular) seems to be higher by about 44%.

Going NZ cost of living
The small change matter’s to this little piggy.

How about the supermarket shops? Is the price of food higher in New Zealand?

Considering the fact that there are more restaurants and shops in the US than NZ and considering the US has so many different states it was quite difficult to do an exact comparison. We asked for Isaacs cousin help in this section, the Table below gives a detailed look into the expenses incurred while purchasing some groceries at a Isaac’s cousins nearby store in San Jose.

Please note: All prices are in USD and are correct as per the current exchange rate at the time of writing this article. (1 USD is 1.53 NZD)

 VolumePrice in the USA, San JosePrice in New Zealand
Bananas0.25kg    $0.40$0.39
Apples0.29kg  $1.35$0.75
Tomatoes0.20kg  $0.80$1.50
Milk2 litres  $1.68$2.31
Paracetamol500mg  0.27$ per pill0.12$ per pill
Eggs12 pack  $2.40$3.60
Loaf of fresh white bread125g  $0.70$1.15
  Total   $7.60$9.62

So which Country was cheapest?

“Our Results show that the cost of groceries in the NZ is on average 26.57% more expensive than in US”

On this particular comparison the cost of purchasing grocery items at a grocery store in the US is less than New Zealand! This is not something that surprised us as we do know the cost of a supermarket shop in NZ is more than our the cost of food at supermarket in England.

We only asked Isaac’s cousin for the prices of a few of the more popular every day items – so we would love to do a more in-depth comparison of this soon.

Some of the food items certainly did differ a small amount while others differ in huge amounts. This investigation is just a brief representation of what is going on in both markets but I do hope you have found this useful.

In Conclusion:

I think the lesson we have learned over time is to stop analyzing it so much and to think of New Zealand as a place where you get to experience new possibilities. As we now live in a country that excites us and we now live in a country that has a given us better opportunities and of course a better climate!

Every time we analyse (check out our NZ vs Australia cost of living article) it we still come to the conclusion that we believe NZ is worth the extra expense and we hope you think so too!

Are you thinking of moving to New Zealand or arrived and finding things to be a bit more expensive than you’d hoped? We’d love to hear from you so feel free to get in touch!