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Living in the UK

The Cost of Living in the UK

If you are relocating to the UK, you will certainly have to consider the average cost of living of your soon-to-be home. So, is it expensive to live in the UK? It is. One of the most intimidating financial aspects of moving to the UK is how pricey it is to buy or rent accommodation. While Londoners earn more than residents of other regions, the capital’s rental properties are proportionally more expensive than in other areas. For instance, the price of renting a one-bedroom apartment in the capital takes up half of the average salary, which is 36,000 GBP (47,000 USD) a year.

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At a Glance

  • The UK’s capital, London, is one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Accommodation prices drive up overall spending. Everyday life tends to be more costly too. Pick another city, such as Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester or Birmingham for a lower cost of living.
  • Rent prices per month vary greatly depending on the region. To give you an idea, in Greater London the average monthly rent is around 1,700 GBP (2,200 USD), much higher than the national average of about 1,000 GBP (USD 1,300 USD). In London itself, the minimum rent price per month for the same size house is around 1,000 GBP (1,300 USD) on average, while a house in the higher end of the spectrum will cost you around 13,000 GBP (17,000 USD).
  • Taxpayers are entitled to 12,500 GBP (15,400 USD) of tax-free income, called a personal allowance. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, tax is payable at the basic rate of 20% on up to 50,000 GBP (61,600 USD) of taxable income. In Scotland, tax is payable at three different rates—19%, 20%, and 21%—on up to 43,430 GBP (53,500 USD) of taxable income. On income between 50,001 – 150,000 GBP (64,445 – 193,350 USD) the tax rate is 40%. All income over 150,000 GBP (193,330 USD) is taxed at 45%.
  • Children of those who are ordinarily residents (living in the UK on a lawful, voluntary and properly settled basis) have the right to attend public school at no cost, meaning that expat children will have this benefit too. But should you decide that an international school is a better option for your children, the average cost for tuition at an international school in the UK is around 20,000 GBP (23,500 USD) a year.
  • Everything from a doctor’s appointment to emergency surgery is free. However, dental and eye care treatments generally carry a cost. Everyone is entitled to free primary care services (e.g. GP consultation) or emergency treatments. But you will need to be registered as an NHS patient in order to access secondary care services (e.g. specialists). Even though prescriptions are paid, they have a fixed price, regardless of the type of medication or the quantity you require per treatment. The current prescription charge is 9 GBP per item (11.70 USD).

Is it Expensive to Live in the UK?

Despite the price tag, the UK is popular among expats because it has a lot to offer. Its impressive infrastructure includes one of the most advanced transport systems on the planet and the publicly-funded National Health Service (NHS). But, all in all, is it expensive to live in the UK?  The main factors to consider when figuring this out are wages and housing prices. It is easy to determine that the cost of living in the United Kingdom is rather high, but wages tend to be high as well. This said, a main concern for anyone who plans on relocating to the UK is the infamous housing market and its increasingly high rent prices.

What are the Rent Prices like in the UK?

Even though London is the first location that comes to mind when people think of the UK, and it is without doubt the favorite destination for expats, there is so much more to this country than its capital city. It is important to keep in mind that the high rent prices are a regional trend, which mostly affects people living in London. As the capital, and a global financial hub, it is one of the most expensive cities in the world, ranking 23rd in Mercer’s 2019 annual cost of living survey . Particularly, rent prices increase overall spending—but day to day expenses tend to be higher too. Choose another city to live more cheaply. Life in a smaller town or village typically comes with a much smaller price tag than larger cities. This is a key factor to consider when you decide where to settle down.

Average Cost of living in the United Kingdom

What is the average cost of living in the UK? This is a difficult question to answer as it varies greatly from city to city. Overall, the cost of living in the UK is high; however, highly-skilled expats can access career opportunities with higher salaries that can provide a comfortable lifestyle.

Before going into the average costs per city, a good way of getting a sense of the cost of living in the UK is in general. As part of your living expenses in the UK, you must also consider travel and transportation costs, grocery prices, utility costs (e.g. electricity, internet, gas, water), cost of education and healthcare, and even restaurant costs, if eating out is part of your routine.

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 3,700 GBP (4,800 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs:  2,150 GBP (2,770 USD)

Average Grocery Prices

Even though the UK is overall an expensive country to live in, the grocery prices are some of the cheapest inWestern Europe – costing 8% less than the EU average, according to EU statistical body Eurostat.

UK Food & Alcohol Prices GBP USD
Basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) 11 14.35
500 gr (1 lb.) of boneless chicken breast 3.30 4.30
1 carton of milk 0.85 1.10
12 eggs 2.30 3.00
1 kg (2 lb.) of tomatoes 1.95 2.55
0.5 kg (16 oz.) of cheese 3.80 4.95
1 kg (2 lb.) of apples 1.85 2.40
1 bottle of beer 1.00 1.30
1 bottle of red wine 6.00 7.75
1 kg (2 lb.) of bread 1.95 2.55

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Average Rent Prices and Utility Costs

Bear in mind that all these costs are just estimates, which vary depending on where you live in the UK.

Average Rent Prices & Utility Costs in the UK GBP USD
  • Monthly rent per 85 m2 (900 sq ft)—furnished—in an expensive area
1,785 2,330
  • Monthly rent per 85 m2 (900 sq ft)—furnished—in an average area
1,415 1,850
  • Utility costs 1 month (heating, electricity, gas) for 2 people in 85 m2 flat
120 157
  • Monthly rent per 45 m2 (480 sq ft)—furnished studio—in an expensive area.
1,040 1,355
  • Monthly rent per 45 m2 (480 sq ft)—furnished studio—in an average area
885 1,115
  • Utility costs 1 month (heating, electricity, gas) for 1 person in 45 m2 (480 sq ft) studio
115 150
  • Internet 8 mbps (1 month)
25 33

The Most Expensive and Cheapest Cities in the UK

Although getting a sense of the national averages is interesting, it is not as useful as knowing figures per city, as costs vary significantly depending on geographical location.The most expensive cities in the UK are London, Brighton & Hove, Oxford, and Manchester, whereas some of the cheapest cities are Dundee, Cardiff, and Liverpool.

Cost of Living in the UK by City

Estimates for the most expensive cities (including rent):

London

It’s not a myth that the UK capital is one of the most expensive cities in the world. To figure out if this is the right place for you, bear in mind that on average Londoners spend around 45% of their income on rent. And, even though they earn more than residents of other regions, the rent prices are proportionally more expensive than in other areas.

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 4,700 GBP (5,900 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs: 2,900 GBP (3,785 USD)
Brighton and Hove

The cost of living in Brighton and Hove is higher than in the rest of the UK. It follows London very closely behind and can even compete with it. The upside is that due to its compact size, this city still has a village-like feel, making it an easy place to feel at home.

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 3,800 GBP (4,750 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs: 2,300 GBP (2,900 USD)
Manchester

Life in this metropolis comes with a hefty price tag. Even more so if you decide to live in the city centre, where you can expect to pay higher prices, especially for rent. However, housing is still cheaper than in London.

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 3,025 GBP (3,800 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs: 1,550 GBP (1,950 USD)
Edinburgh

The Scottish capital is a powerhouse of industry, employment and culture. And, even though the cost of living in Edinburgh may be higher than other parts of Scotland, it is significantly cheaper than in London.

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 3,300 GBP (4,150 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs: 1,800 GBP (2,250 USD)
Oxford

This beautiful city close to the capital, also known for its culture and job opportunities is one of expats and students’ top destinations in the UK for jobs and education. But be warned, Oxford is also one the least affordable cities in the country, in some areas, rent prices are on par with London.

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 3,750 GBP (4,715 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs: 2,200 GBP (2,770 USD)

Estimates for the cheapest cities (including rent):

Dundee

Situated on the Tay estuary, this compact city is the sunniest in Scotland.

It is vibrant and affordable, and regularly leads the UK’s Quality of Life surveys. Dundee offers all the perks of modern city life, but it’s relaxed and easy to navigate.

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 2,700 GBP (3,400 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs: 1,200 GBP (1,500 USD)
Cardiff

The cost of living in this small city is very reasonable. Finding a house in or out of the city makes a big difference to how expensive your monthly spending. Even so, living in the city center will be a lot cheaper than London, Manchester, Brighton or Edinburgh.

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 2,950 GBP (3,700 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs: 1,600 GBP (2,000 USD)
Liverpool

It is a relocation favorite due to its rich history, plentiful job opportunities, and low cost of living. As a city, it has a plenty t to offer with beaches on your doorstep, the stunning Lancashire countryside not far away, and a rich legacy of cultural and historical heritage.

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 2,850 GBP (3,600 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs: 1,450 GBP (1,825 USD)

Cost of Education in the UK

If you are relocating with your family, you will need to factor in the cost of education. If you are residing in the UK, expat children are entitled to free education within the public system. You will only have to pay for uniforms, meals and learning materials.

Should you decide to enroll your children in the private education system, then you will be pleased to know that the UK has one of the best in the world. Nonetheless, according to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), private school tuition fees averaged 14,290 GBP (17,950 USD) back in 2019.

It is common for non-English speaking expats to send their children to an international school. Even though this option represents the least disruption to your child’s life and education, it is also the most expensive route.Most international schools charge a non-refundable application fee. Moreover, annual tuition fees range between 3,000 GBP (3,750 USD) and 30,000 GBP (25,00 USD) in London.

If you have older children or you are interested in going back to school yourself, you should look into higher education. In the UK, university fees are capped at 9,250 GBP (USD 12,070) per year by the UK government.

For more in depth information on UK Education, visit our Comprehensive Guide About the Education System and International Schools.

UK Healthcare Cost

The National Health Service (NHS) provides residents in the UK access to free medical care. This covers doctor’s appointments and some hospital treatments. Most prescriptions are charged at a fixed price of 9.00GBP (11.70 USD) per item. For access to NHS treatments, you have to register with a GP. For detailed information on this topic, visit our section Health Insurance and the Healthcare System of the UK Explained.

 

 

Updated on: April 21, 2020

All about the UK

This guide covers all the essential information to move to the UK: From visa types, to healthcare, and housing options. We will discuss the steps you need to take and the requirements you will have to fulfill for moving to the UK, so you are well-prepared to face all the complexities that lie ahead.

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