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Living in New Zealand

The Cost of Living in New Zealand

New Zealand is consistently ranked as one of the best countries to live in. However, its natural beauty comes at a high price. The average cost of living in New Zealand is not so attractive. In fact, a family a four spends around 6,000 NZD to 8,000 NZD (3,600 to 4,800 USD) per month. Why is it so expensive to live in New Zealand? The answer is simple. New Zealand is a remote island country, and most goods have to be imported. High import taxes, and the fact that many sectors lack competitors, drive up prices.

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Another reason for the country’s high cost of living is tourists. According to the World Economic Forum, New Zealand ranks 104th in the world for tourism affordability. Prices go steadily up because tourists are willing to pay big money for their New Zealand experience.

The biggest cities, Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch are very popular expats destinations, and they are the most expensive cities in the country. Housing there is scarce, driving up prices of existing properties and rentals. Food and entertainment prices are high as well. If you are moving abroad on a budget, you might want to consider smaller cities like Dunedin and Hamilton. They are more affordable and also have a lot of jobs to offer.

Not everything is expensive, however. Education is government-subsidized in New Zealand. That means public school is free. Likewise, healthcare is state-subsidized and covers emergency, basic, and preventative care.

As living in New Zealand can be expensive, you should plan ahead, and prepare for high prices in general. Read on to get an idea of what life in New Zealand will cost, from expenses with housing, to doctors, schools,and food.

At a Glance

  • Expats can expect to spend 50% of their paycheck on rent.
  • Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch are New Zealand’s biggest and most expensive cities. Housing prices in Christchurch have dropped in recent years, making it more attractive to expats.
  • New Plymouth, Dunedin, and Hamilton are slightly smaller and cheaper cities, but still popular among expats.
  • Public schools in New Zealand are free for foreign students. Parents will have to pay for their child’s school uniform and books. Some schools require an annual donation fee.
  • Food, alcohol, and certain goods are expensive, as non-local products have to be imported from overseas.

Is it Expensive to Live in New Zealand?

Is it expensive to live in New Zealand? The country tends to skew on the more expensive side, with prices comparable to those of the US and Northern Europe.

If you are relocating to New Zealand for work purposes, you will most likely live in Auckland, Christchurch, or Wellington. These cities make up almost two-thirds of the country’s gross national product and there are many job opportunities for expats. As they are so popular, the cost of living in these cities is up to 50% higher than in smaller towns in the countryside. Dunedin and Hamilton are no less popular, but they are less expensive.

Living Expenses in New Zealand

The average gross salary in New Zealand is around 77,000 NZD (46,000 USD) per year. Considering the high rent prices in the country, especially if you live in a city center, you should expect your rent or mortgage to make up the biggest part of your living expenses.

Monthly Costs for a Single Expat

The average monthly living costs for one person range from 3,000 NZD to 4,000 NZD (1,800 to 2,400 USD). The most common expenses are:

Price (NZD) Price (USD)
Rent 1,500 900
Groceries/Household Items 700 420
Utilities 130 80
Internet 75 45
Gas/Transportation 150 90

Monthly Costs for a Family of Four

For a family of four, average living costs range from 6,000 NZD to 8,000 NZD (3,600 to 4,800 USD) per month, with these being the most common monthly expenses:

Price (NZD) Price (USD)
Rent 2,400 1,500
Groceries/Household Items 1,800 1,100
Utilities 250 150
Internet 75 45
Gas/Transportation 400 240

Keep in mind that all these costs are an estimate and differ depending on where you live in New Zealand. As mentioned before, public education is free, and so is early childhood education up to a point. If you want to enroll your children in private daycare, you will have to set aside around 1,000 NZD (600 USD) per month. Private schools or international schools are quite costly with annual fees up to 20,000 NZD (12,000 USD) per year.

The Most Expensive and Cheapest Cities in New Zealand

New Zealand is known for a lot of things but not for being cheap. In fact, the housing market is anything but. In the following section, we will provide you with detailed information on New Zealand’s cost of living byexamining the most expensive and most affordable provinces and cities.

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New Zealand’s Most Expensive Cities

The most expensive cities in New Zealand are without doubt the three biggest: Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Job and leisure opportunities are widely available, making these cities attractive to expats and New Zealanders alike. This has led to increasing housing and living costs. In recent years, the cost of living in the South Island city of Queenstown has also consistently risen. Rent prices in this small city are, on average, higher than Christchurch.

Cost of Living and Rent Prices in Auckland

Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest and most expensive city. Purchasing power is low when taking into account the sky-high prices of goods and entertainment, and overall cost of living. This means that Auckland is not an easy place to save money. Food, entertainment, and rent are high in this Northern Island city. Jobs in Auckland might be plentiful, but so is the number of workers. As a result of this uneven supply and demand, wages are lower here than in other cities.

Cost of Living in Auckland

The table below shows the cost of living for both a family of four and a single expat in Auckland, excluding rent.

Single expat 1,400 NZD 840 USD
Family of four 5,000 NZD 3,000 USD
Rent Prices in Auckland

Rent prices in Auckland vary a lot depending on where you will live. It is more expensive to live in Auckland proper than if you live in the suburbs.

One-bedroom apartment 1,800 NZD 1,100 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 3,100 NZD 1,900 USD

Cost of Living and Rent Prices in Wellington

Unsurprisingly, New Zealand’s capital Wellington is the most expensive city. As the country’s administration and finance hub, the city attracts many people looking to advance their careers. That is a reason why, according to the 2019 Trade Me Rental Price Index, Wellington’s housing prices continue to rise. Wellington’s excellent public transportation system means that you do not have to live in the city center. For cheaper places to rent, look to the city’s suburbs.

Cost of Living in Wellington

The monthly cost of living, excluding rent, for both a single expat and a family of four is represented in the table below:

Single expat 1,300 NZD 790 USD
Family of four 4,600 NZD 2,800 USD
Rent Prices in Wellington
One-bedroom apartment 1,700 NZD 1000 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 2,800 NZD 1,700 USD

Cost of Living and Rent Prices in Christchurch

Christchurch is a busy and innovative business hub that is perfect for expats who prefer the outdoors lifestyle. Even though the cost of living here is relatively high, it is by far the most affordable metropolis in New Zealand when comparing income to house prices.

While the average annual household income is about 85,000 NZD (51,500 USD), the average price for a house is around 461,000 NZD (280,000 USD). In theory, this means that if people residing in Christchurch used their full annual income to pay off their houses, it would take them fewer than 5.5 years.

In 2017 there was a significant drop in housing prices. That is why not only property prices went down, but also rent prices, making Christchurch attractive even for people who don’t want to buy.

Cost of Living in Christchurch

Below you will find the average cost of living, excluding rent, for both a single expat and a family of four living in Christchurch:

Single expat 1,300 NZD 780 USD
Family of four 4,700 NZD 2,800 USD
Rent Prices in Christchurch

Rent prices are relatively low in comparison the other big cities in New Zealand.

One-bedroom apartment 1,650 NZD 1,000 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 2,050 NZD 1,250 USD

Cost of Living and Rent Prices in Queenstown

Queenstown is facing a serious housing shortage, making it difficult for expats to find a home here. In addition, rent prices have sky-rocketed in recent years, especially in Queenstown proper. You might want to consider living in the suburbs and commuting to work every day, as it is more affordable. Entertainment and food priceshave also gone up in recent years, reflecting the city’s popularity.

Cost of Living in Queenstown 

The average monthly costs, excluding rent, for single expats and families of four are.

Single expat 1,500 NZD 900 USD
Family of four 4,200 NZD 2,500 USD
Rent Prices in Queenstown

On top of these monthly expenditures, rent prices are extremely high in Queenstown.

One-bedroom apartment 1,900 NZD 1,150 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 3,800 NZD 2,280 USD

New Zealand’s Most Affordable Cities

Dunedin and Hamilton are not small towns. In fact, they are quite the economic and educational hubs, and very popular expat places. The cost of living and rent prices in these cities are much lower compared to Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. However, New Plymouth and Rotorua are the winners when it comes to low housing prices.

Cost of Living and Rent Prices in Dunedin

Even though Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island, it is also a traditional student town. This means that rent prices and living costs are reasonable. An unfurnished one-bedroom apartment costs on average 1000 NZD (600 USD) per month.

Young professionals moving alone will find North Dunedin a great place to live. As most students live in this area, it has a lot of bars, cafés, and many more interesting things to do. If you are relocating with a family or retiring, consider moving to another part of town that is calmer.

Cost of Living in Dunedin

Below, you can find the monthly costs for a single expat and a family of four. Keep in mind that these estimates do not include rent.

Single expat 1,300 NZD 780 USD
Family of four 4,500 NZD 2,700 USD
Rent Prices in Dunedin

The rent in Dunedin is relatively low and budget friendly.

One-bedroom apartment 1,050 NZD 630 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 1,700 NZD 1,020 USD

Cost of Living and Rent Prices in Hamilton

Hamilton is located only a couple of hours away from bustling Auckland. This close proximity to New Zealand’s largest city offers many advantages, such as the growing and promising business sector, which attracts many skilled workers to the town. This increase in population makes many people believe that Hamilton could become one of New Zealand’s largest cities within the next 20 years.

However, housing prices do not seem to be affected by the town’s growing popularity. In fact, the cost of living in Hamilton is about 40% lower than in Greater Auckland.

Cost of Living in Hamilton
Single expat 1,300 NZD 780 USD
Family of four 4,800 NZD 2,900 USD
Rent Prices in Hamilton

Rent prices in Hamilton are also very low compared to Auckland.

One-bedroom apartment 1,100 NZD 660 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 1,900 NZD 1,150 USD

Cost of Living and Rent Prices in New Plymouth

New Plymouth is a thriving hipster city, with living costs to match its newfound popularity. As the fourth expensive city in New Zealand, it is no wonder food and entertainment come at a sharp price. The city offers a great art scene, surf hotspots, nightlife, and close proximity to Mount Taranaki. However, housing prices are relatively low compared to the overall cost of living, attracting a lot of expats.

Cost of Living in New Plymouth

The average cost of living in New Plymouth, excluding rent, is explained in the table below.

Single expat 1,400 NZD 840 USD
Family of four 4,000 NZD 2,400 USD
Rent Prices in New Plymouth

You should add to that the average monthly price for rent:

One-bedroom apartment 750 NZD 450 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 1,000 NZD 600 USD

 Cost of Living and Rent Prices in Rotorua

Situated between the business hub of Hamilton and the tourist hub of Tauranga, Rotorua has more to offer than simply being a convenient location. Living costs here are relatively low and so are rent prices. Expats looking into relocating here will find life calm and family-friendly.

Cost of Living in Rotorua

Below, you will find the cost of living (excluding rent) for both a single expat and a family of four.

Single expat 1,200 NZD 720 USD
Family of four 3,500 NZD 2,100 USD
 Rent Prices in Rotorua

The rent prices are very low compared to other cities in New Zealand.

One-bedroom apartment 780 NZD 470 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 1,400 NZD 840 USD

Utility Costs

In New Zealand, utilities, such as electricity, gas, and water are not typically included in your monthly rent. Prices vary depending on where you live and how many people live with you. Domestic electricity is more expensive in Rotorua, Hamilton, and New Plymouth, than in Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland. The city with the cheapest price for domestic electricity is Dunedin with 0.26 NZD (0.16 USD) per kWh.

On average, expats relocating to New Zealand should expect to pay around 200-250 NZD (120 to 150 USD). An internet subscription costs about 85 NZD (50 USD) per month depending on the speed.

Grocery Prices

New Zealand’s inland production of goods and produce is high. However, a lot of products still have to be imported. The country’s remote location not only makes it rather difficult but also expensive because of high import taxes. Food and alcohol prices in New Zealand are relatively high compared to the US or European countries, especially imported goods.

Expats that enjoy eating out can expect to pay on average 60 NZD (36 USD) for a dinner for two at an inexpensive restaurant. A finer place can set you back about 100 NZD (60 USD) for two people.

Sample Grocery Prices in New Zealand

Food Item NZD USD
A dozen eggs 5.00 3.00
A carton of milk 2.10 1.30
A chicken 8.00 4.80
A loaf of bread 2.10 1.30
A bottle of beer 5.80 3.50
A bottle of wine 15.00 9.00

Cost of Education

Education costs in New Zealand vary depending on the type of school you choose for your child. Generally, public primary and secondary education in New Zealand is free. However, schools can ask parents to pay for uniforms, books, and meals, as well as asking for annual donation fees. Early childhood education, such as daycare and preschool, is government-subsidized for up to six hours a day.

If you decide to enroll your child in a private kindergarten, expect to pay around 1,000 NZD (600 USD) per month. The costs for private international schools vary greatly depending on where you send your child but be prepared to pay annual school fees of approximately 20,000 NZD (12,000 USD).

Healthcare Costs

New Zealand has excellent state-subsidized medical care. Every resident is entitled to public healthcare that covers everything except dental care for adults. Some expats opt to supplement their public healthcare with private health insurance.

Healthcare costs can easily add up, especially when relying on private services for dental care. A basic consultation at the dentist will set you back around 65 NZD (40 USD).

Travel and Transportation Cost

Transportation throughout New Zealand is slow and expensive. The country’s transportation system is privately owned, so prices vary a lot depending on the region. In addition, New Zealand does not really have an extensive nor well-functioning nationwide rail system. Trains connect the bigger cities, however, a train ticket from Auckland to Wellington costs 160 NZD (95 USD).

New Zealand’s buses are more reliable, but not cheap either. Most intercity travel is provided by companies, such as Intercity and Naked Bus. A bus fare starts at 10 NZD (6.50 USD).

Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown each have a well-functioning local public transportation system. A one-way ticket for local transportation costs 3.50 NZD (2.30 USD) and a monthly pass costs on average 150 NZD (100 USD).

As mentioned before, because of the fact that New Zealand is an island country, import taxes are high. Be aware that importing your own car can quickly become more expensive than buying a new one. Although the price for a new Volkswagen Golf is 35,000 NZD (21,000 USD).

Taxis and ride-hailing apps, such as Uber, Green Cabs, or ihail, are available throughout the country. With an average taxi fare of 3 NZD (1.80 USD) per kilometer, the cost for a ride from Christchurch airport to the city center, for instance, would be around 40 NZD (25 USD).

Updated on: April 21, 2020

All about New Zealand

If you are planning on relocating to New Zealand, this guide prepares you for all the steps for moving to the country, from their short visa application windows and vacancies to their confusing healthcare system. However, it also reassures you about their simple and efficient housing market, overall good working conditions, and the friendly and peculiar Kiwi and Māori culture.

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