The cost of living in New Zealand

Gabriela Peratello
17.02.22
8 minute read

With beautiful landscapes and a safe laid-back lifestyle, New Zealand is a dream destination for many expats.

But how expensive is it to live in New Zealand, really? In this guide we’ll cover the most important questions when it comes to the cost of living in NZ and also some popular cities for expats to live in.

You’ll also learn more about Wise, a quick, cheap and secure option for you to move and manage your money abroad.

📑 Table of Contents

New Zealand currency

The official currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar. You’ll see this written as NZD in currency exchange stores and online, and as $ or NZ$ on menus and in grocery stores.

The value of the New Zealand dollar to the US dollar does change all the time thanks to fluctuations in the global exchange markets. Get a reputable online currency converter tool to keep up to date with the exchange rate, and make sure you get a fair deal whenever you convert currency.

Banking in New Zealand

If you’re going to make your dream of becoming a New Zealand expat a reality you’ll need a local bank account. Having a NZD account will make it easier to manage your money once you arrive — and may be essential to pay rent and utility bills.

You’ll be able to pick from a range of local, regional and global banking brands, so you’ll have no problem in finding an account that suits you. In most cases banks will let you start setting up your account online, but you’ll need to call into a branch on arrival to activate your account and pick up your paperwork.

Start by looking at some of the biggest banks in New Zealand to get a feel for the accounts available to you:

  • ANZ (Australia and New Zealand Banking Group)
  • ASB (Auckland Savings Bank)
  • Westpac New Zealand

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New Zealand cost of living: average monthly expenses

Let’s take a look at the cost of living in New Zealand in US dollars. Data is taken from Numbeo, which aggregates live information from users around the world to build a picture of the cost of living in New Zealand and around the world.

ItemCost¹
Estimated cost of living for a family of 4 (without rent)3,268.45 USD/month
Estimated cost of living for a single individual (without rent)906.92 USD/month
3 course meal for 2, mid-range restaurant66.24 USD
0.33 liter coke/pepsi2.24 USD
Monthly travel pass109.14 USD
Rent one bed-apartment in city center1,091.46 USD
Rent one bed-apartment outside of city center870.52 USD

Note: Data correct at time of research — 3rd February 2022

What’s the average salary in New Zealand?

If you’re planning on moving to New Zealand to work you’ll also need to know a bit about what the average salary may be for your profession.

There are some variations in average wage by city in New Zealand, but you’ll be able to get useful insights from a site like Teleport which provides average salaries by city, for a broad range of different jobs.

Here we’ll look at the average yearly salaries in Auckland as an example:

ProfessionSalary²
Dentist89,366 USD
Finance manager73,912 USD
HR manager57,176 USD
Web designer54,445 USD
Project manager48,460 USD
Nurse42,086 USD
Accountant40,712 USD

Note: Data correct at time of research — 3rd February 2022

New Zealand cost of living vs US

Overall the costs of living in New Zealand may be lower than life in a major US city. To give an example, the rental prices in New York are an astonishing 124% higher than rental prices in Auckland.

Of course the actual price you pay will depend on exactly where you choose to live and the type of lifestyle you have — but on average you may be able to save in New Zealand compared to living in the US.

Here are some cost comparisons for cities in the US compared to New Zealand:

CityRent one bed-apartment in city center3 course meal for 2, mid-range restaurantMonthly travel pass
Auckland/NZ³1,354.33 USD79.48 USD142.41 USD
Wellington/NZ⁴1,446.72 USD64.58 USD99.35 USD
New York/US³3,136.21 USD100 USD129.50 USD
San Francisco/US⁴2,927.41 USD85 USD81 USD

Note: Data correct at time of research — 3rd February 2022

How much does it cost to live in New Zealand?

nz-houses

Let’s look at the costs of living in New Zealand in a little more detail.

Housing and accommodation

Housing and accommodation is always going to take a big chunk out of your budget — whether you’re in the US or in New Zealand. The actual price of accommodation can vary widely depending on where in the country you choose to live, and the type of home you want.

Naturally a city center location may be pricier than somewhere more rural, so choosing your location first will help you to set your New Zealand housing budget.

Apartments for rent in New Zealand and utilities

The rental market varies from private lettings to estate agents, and most leases are short or medium-term. Costs of rent vary across regions and they type and style of property — here’s an average from Numbeo to give you an idea:

ItemCost¹
Rent one bed apartment, city center1,091.46 USD/month
Rent one bed apartment, outside of city center870.52 USD/month
Rent three bed apartment, city center1,856.66 USD/month
Rent three bed apartment, outside of city center1,466.94 USD/month
Utilities 85m2 apartment128.88 USD/month

Note: Data correct at time of research — 3rd February 2022

Cost of buying a house in New Zealand

The majority of expats will head to New Zealand’s main cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with Auckland being significantly more expensive when it comes to buying a house.

Property prices have increased sharply in New Zealand over recent years — with an increase of over 20% in some areas over 2021 alone.

The median house price in Auckland was $1,290,000 at the close of 2021, compared to Wellington's $1,000,000⁵.

Transportation and travel

New Zealand’s main cities have efficient public transport systems.

In Auckland the AT HOP is a prepaid card for the train, buses and ferry, and will also give you discounted trips. Wellington’s bus and train fares start at $2.00 and then get more expensive depending on how many zones you travel. Weekly and monthly passes are also available. A monthly pass across all transport will cost about $150.

Buying a used car can also be a cost-effective option, especially if you intend to see more of New Zealand.

Food and entertainment

If you love to eat and drink, and get involved in sport or cultural activities you’ll have plenty of choice in New Zealand. Let’s have a look at some of the costs you might expect to find:

ItemCost¹
Meal, inexpensive restaurant13.25 USD
3 course meal for 2, mid-range restaurant66.24 USD
0.33 liter coke/pepsi2.24 USD
0.33 liter imported beer5.99 USD
Cinema ticket11.26 USD
1 month fitness club membership40.47 USD

Note: Data correct at time of research — 3rd February 2022

Living in New Zealand, there are plenty of ways to keep active and entertained which may not cost anything at all. Why not embrace the outdoors lifestyle with cycling, hiking, skiing, sailing and a multitude of adventure sports to make the most of your new home at the same time as staying fit and healthy.

Health and dental care

New Zealand has a high standard of healthcare. Thanks to heavy government subsidies, all Kiwis and permanent residents, as well as many work visa holders can access healthcare for free or at a small cost.

It’s important to check your cover and add private health insurance if needed.

Education

Education in New Zealand is free to children who are citizens or permanent residents. State schools offer education from 5 to 19 years old, with compulsory education lasting to age 16⁶.

Typically children attend schools close to where they live — although it’s also possible to select a private or religious school if you’d rather. Fees typically apply if you’re attending a school which is not within the New Zealand state system.

For higher education, New Zealand has 8 state funded universities which all offer a range of degree subjects.

Taxes

New Zealand has a progressive tax system which means that the higher you earn, the higher the tax rate that applies. Taxes range from 10.5% to 39% for personal income⁷.

choose-cheap-choose-wise

How much does it cost to move to New Zealand?

Moving to a new country is never going to be cheap. The exact costs of moving to New Zealand from the US will vary based on how you set up your move.

Arriving with a backpack and staying with family or friends until you settle in will be far less costly than shipping an entire household of goods and renting short term accommodation while you find a permanent place, for example.

Build your budget well in advance to make sure you can cover the cost of your move to New Zealand.

💡 Things to factor in include
  • Getting a visa or permit — this may require medical checks, police checks or legal support
  • Flights and shipping for personal goods
  • Short term accommodation and downpayments on a rental home
  • Hire car or transportation
  • Costs of living while you’re not working

Where to live in New Zealand

If you’ve already been offered a job in New Zealand — or if you’re headed out there to study — you might already know where you’ll be living. However, if you’re flexible on location, doing some research in advance can help you find the perfect place to live in New Zealand. Here are some popular options.

Auckland cost of living

auckland

Auckland is a vibrant city and a popular place for new arrivals. There are lots of job opportunities which makes it a great place to settle — but the costs of living here are also among the highest in the country. Here are a few examples:

ItemCost in Auckland, New Zealand⁸
Cost of living, single person, without rent1,017.27 USD/month
Rent one bed apartment in city center1,354.33 USD/month
Inexpensive meal out14.57 USD

Note: Data correct at time of research — 3rd February 2022

Cost of living in Wellington — New Zealand

wellington

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, and as such one of the most expensive places to live. However, it’s still popular and offers a great location on the southern end of the North Island, with easy access to beaches and nature, and some of the best culture and cuisine available in the country.

ItemCost in Wellington, New Zealand⁹
Cost of living, single person, without rent915.41 USD/month
Rent one bed apartment in city center1,446.72 USD/month
Inexpensive meal out13.26 USD

Note: Data correct at time of research — 3rd February 2022

Christchurch New Zealand living costs

christchurch

If you’re headed to the South Island of New Zealand there’s a good chance you’ll end up in Christchurch — the largest city in the area.

Christchurch has a historic center and although it suffered severe damage in the earthquakes of 2010-2012, it has seen significant regeneration and continues to be an enticing place to live as an expat in New Zealand.

ItemCost in Christchurch, New Zealand¹⁰
Cost of living, single person, without rent869.98 USD/month
Rent one bed apartment in city center1,040.84 USD/month
Inexpensive meal out13.25 USD

Note: Data correct at time of research — 3rd February 2022

Where to live with a family

Choosing where to live will be influenced by whether or not you have children.

Expats with kids will need to consider any childcare and schooling requirements. The quality of education in New Zealand is high and you’ll have no trouble finding excellent education options.

Only Kiwis and permanent residents are entitled to free public education, however international student fees at a public school will still be cheaper than private school fees.

From the age of three all children in New Zealand are entitled to 20 hours of government funded early childhood education.

Bottom line: is it expensive to live in New Zealand?

The cost of living in New Zealand can be lower overall than in many major cities in the US. However, the exact amount you need to budget for your new life in New Zealand will vary widely depending on where you choose to head to, and the type of things you enjoy doing.

Use this guide as a starting point to help you figure out how much it’ll cost you to live in New Zealand. Investing some time in research now will ensure you hit the ground running once you arrive, and can settle into your new home right away.


Sources:

  1. Numbeo - Cost of living in New Zealand
  2. Teleport - Auckland salaries
  3. Numbeo - Cost of living comparison: Auckland and NY
  4. Numbeo - Cost of living comparison: Wellington and San Francisco
  5. Interest - Real estate median price
  6. NZ Education
  7. Tax Summaries - Taxes on personal income in New Zealand
  8. Numbeo - Cost of living in Auckland
  9. Numbeo - Cost of living in Wellington
  10. Numbeo - Cost of living in Christchurch

Sources checked on 02.17.2022


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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