Cost of Living in New Zealand vs the US?

New Zealand Cost of Living

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New Zealand is an island country with one of the most impressive creations of nature, with stunning scenery and exotic wildlife. However, the cost of living is quite high compared to the rest of the world. Actually, compared to the USA, which has a cost of living index of 71.92, New Zealand stands at 79.14.

Moving to New Zealand

If you decide that New Zealand might be a good fit for you, as a US citizen you can apply for a working holiday visa for up to 2 years. You can use it to work temporarily while getting to know the country and explore the culture. Another type of visa you can obtain is the Skilled Migrant Visa, which is comparable to a residential permit and would allow you to live there for as long as you want. What best about this one is that you can bring your partner and children. Permanent residents have close to the same rights as citizens, so you will never feel out of place. 

If you want to retire in New Zealand, you have two options. The first is by keeping $500.000 in a New Zealand bank for at least 2 years before moving and provide proof of a monthly income of at least $60.000, which is not feasible for everyone and requires planning far in advance. If you have any children living there, you can apply for The Parent Resident Retirement Visa, for which the costs and investments are notably higher. Therefore, New Zealand is not the best option if you’re looking for a low-cost comfortable retirement but mostly targeted towards pensioners with a high income. 

How much does it cost to rent or buy a property in New Zealand?

New Zealand is an island, which means it relies mostly on imported goods, where the import taxes will have to be included in the selling price. When it comes to renting or buying a home, the high price takes into account the fact that homes are sparse and the land is pricey as well. 

New Zealand Houses Above

The most expensive cities to live in are Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch, where the rent is around $1,382.47 for a one-bedroom apartment. These are also the most popular cities to live and work in, because there are many good paying jobs.

Hamilton and Tauranga are the most affordable cities to live in, and they have plenty of jobs available. The rent here goes for about $982.90. If you think about buying a home, expect to pay between $982.90 and $2,494.71/sq ft.

The cost of utilities in both cities are close to each other, around $210 for basic utilities and internet.

Food & Transportation

Tourism is one of the main contributing factors to the New Zealand’s economy. The prices for dining out, groceries, and necessities are influenced by how much tourists are wiling to pay for them, so they tend to stay pretty high up there. A meal for one person can go from $13 at an inexpensive restaurant to $50/person at a mid-range restaurant. Groceries and household items that include all the necessities cost around $470/month.

New Zealand Aukland Transport

Expect to pay around $100 for gas or other forms of transportation. A one way ticket for public transportation costs $2.83 in Auckland and $1.74 in Hamilton, quite a significant difference. Monthly bus passes are $166 in Auckland and $76 in Hamilton. If you prefer a cab, taxis require around $3/mile. 

Healthcare

One great thing that New Zealand offers is universal healthcare. Even though it’s way better than the one of many countries, there are hospitals only in the cities. If you decide to live in a rural community, you might have to drive a longer distance to get to a hospital. Ambulances are privately owned, and you might have to pay to use the service. If you have universal healthcare, expect to wait for quite a while for an appointment if it’s not an emergency. The waiting times are shorter with private health insurance.

Education

New Zealand has two type of schools, public and private. The free public schools are one of the best in the world. Private schools can cost up to $12.000/ year, but public schools are free except uniforms, books, and meals. 

New Zealand also has public integrated schools which are semi public and often targeted to local children of a certain religion, and private schools. The latter have excellent curriculums as well, but it’s not the official government one, and they tend to cost quite a lot. You will have to provide proof of immunization when enrolling your children in public school. 

Monthly costs

Overall, the minimum wage in New Zealand is $20/hour, with an average of $25/hour. From the total monthly income, about half of it will go towards rent or mortgage and groceries with the rest being distributed as it follows:

  • Groceries: 32%
  • Housing: 28.8%
  • Dining out: 14.3%
  • Transportation: 11.9%
  • Utilities: 6%
  • Sports & Leisure: 4.5%
  • Clothing: 2.6%

The total cost for one person is between $1,800 to $2,400 depending on the city.

Benefits of living in New Zealand 

The land of Lord of the Rings is the perfect living destination for working families who want to enjoy their spare time to the max. The beautiful warm weather year-round will give you endless opportunities for outdoor activities. Nature is very generous in this country, and the best part about it is that you can find stunning destinations very close to the cities.

Life, in general, is peaceful because of the low population density. No matter if you choose to live in a city or in a rural area, you’ll have peace of mind, especially since locals are laid back.

One reason why people living here are happier than most is because they have a very healthy work-life balance.

They don’t get overworked like it happens so often in the US, so they can lead a more productive life. Now, because of the low population density, there is work for everyone. The unemployment rate is very low, and the businesses afford to pay higher wages. If you want to open a business, New Zealand laws are on your side and will help you along the way.

If you make the move with your family, especially if you have children, they will greatly benefit from living in New Zealand. Subsidized healthcare is for everyone, including those on a visa, and the medical facilities and staff are excellent. Unfortunately, they don’t have a dental plan or an optometry one for adults in this program, but children do have one. 

Another excellent part of living in New Zealand is the very low crime rate, as the country is considered one of the safest ones in the world (NR 10) in 2021.

Cons of living in New Zealand

Living costs in general are quite high, but if you don’t want to 100% rely on local goods, you must be aware that imported ones are quite costly due to the taxes on them. I detailed above what you could expect to pay monthly while living in New Zealand. 

If you leave loved ones behind, it might be difficult to keep in touch due to the big time difference. New Zealand is quite isolated, and it takes a long time to get there if you want them to pay you a visit. 

New Zealand is a wonderful country to live in. If you’re thinking about moving, it’s best to do an in depth comparison between it and your current country of residence. 

Overall, the good outweighs the bad, but I advise you do extensive research before moving to New Zealand. For all the official information, please visit the US Department of State website. 

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