Auckland vs Christchurch vs Wellington: Let’s compare the living costs

/ / Family Immigration, Life in New Zealand

New Zealand isn’t one of the cheapest countries to live in, but it is still a popular choice with families in search of a better life.

You owe it to yourself, though, to see if you can afford to live in New Zealand before uprooting your family. It’s stressful enough to move countries. You don’t also want to add financial stress into the mix.

That’s why we’re going to look at the cost of living in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch.

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital, and Auckland is the country’s largest city. Christchurch has been New Zealand’s construction hub for at least a decade due to the area having to rebuild after 2011’s devastating earthquake.

What are we comparing?

Our starting point is looking at the average annual salaries of each city. You can’t fully assess your living costs if you don’t know how much you’re likely to earn.

The costs we’re comparing are for everyday expenses such as rent, utilities, and groceries. We’re also going to look at the cost of transport, buying a car and putting your children through school. To round things off, we’ll look at what it’s going to cost you to unwind over the weekend.

Please note: All costs are in New Zealand dollars.


There isn’t a massive difference between the average salaries earned in Wellington and Auckland. It’s only NZD1,000. Christchurch offers the lowest average annual salary at NZD64,000, which is NZD4,000 less than in Wellington.

Average Annual Salary68,00067,00064,000

1. Rent

It’s not surprising that living in the suburbs is cheaper. The most affordable accommodation is in Christchurch, where a 1-bedroom apartment in the suburbs is NZD1,143.75 a month.

If you’re a family of up to four, you’re also looking at Christchurch if you don’t want expensive accommodation. The monthly rent for a 3-bedroom apartment in the suburbs is NZD1,977.78, which is NZD740 cheaper than in Auckland and NZD590 less than in Wellington.

 WellingtonAuckland Christchurch
1-bedroom apartment in the city2,009.521,902.791,465.00
1-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre1,550.001,681.671,143.75
3-bedroom apartment in the city3,315.383,374.352,662.50
3-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre2,571.432,718.381,977.78

2. Utilities

Household utilities are most affordable in Wellington, but an internet connection is the cheapest in Auckland. When adding utilities and the internet, Wellington comes out tops for affordability. Christchurch takes second place, and Auckland is the most expensive.

Basic utilities for a 85m2 Apartment (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage)169.64181.91170.61
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)83.5284.27 83.53

3. Groceries

When comparing a basket of nine everyday items, you’ll spend NZD54,43 in Auckland, NZD50,60 in Christchurch, and NZD49,57 in Wellington.

1L Milk2.642.84 2.61
Loaf of bread (white)2.783.18 2.37
12 Eggs6.27 6.045.68
1kg Local cheese11.6211.69 10.66
1kg Chicken fillets13.0414.8713.15
1kg Apples3.31 4.07 4.08
1kg Bananas2.83 3.063.44
1kg Tomatoes4.755.685.61
Lettuce2.33 3.00 3.00

6. Sending your child to school

While state schools are free, private schooling is not. Preparing your child for school is going to cost between NZD1,000 and NZD1,270 a month. For primary school, you’ll have to budget for between NZD11,600 and NZD20,375 a year on average.

Private preschool (or kindergarten) - Monthly for 1 child (full day)1,039.001,267.121,126.00
International primary school - Yearly for 1 child15,500.00 20,375.0011,600.00

4. Getting around

New Zealand has a public transport system but many people still choose to buy a car to get around.

You’ll see new cars cost more or less the same in all three cities, as does filling up.

Costs do vary quite a bit when taking the bus or train. There is an NZD1.60 difference between the cheapest and most expensive one-way tickets. This difference is even more for monthly passes. There is nearly an NZD100 difference between monthly passes in Auckland and Wellington!

Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (or equivalent new car)35,000.0036,245.0039,750.00
Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (or equivalent new car)31,073.731,496.6731,310.00
1-way Ticket (local transport)5.003.603.40
Monthly pass (regular price)150.00215.00111.96
1L of Petrol2.182.112.11

5. Eating out

No-one only works to pays the bills. We also like to unwind. Many of us do that by enjoying a meal in a restaurant.

Going for a quick lunch with colleagues will set you back NZD20 in Wellington and Christchurch. Date nights are going to be the most affordable in Wellington, where a three-course meal is NZD90. The same meal is going to cost NZD120 in Auckland and NZD105 in Christchurch.

Restaurant meal17.7520.0020.00
3-course Dinner for two people90.00120.00105.00
330ml Imported Beer10.0010.0010.00
330ml Coke3.48 3.582.99

Please note: Salaries are from Payscale and costs are from Numbeo (February 2021).

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