The cost of living in New Zealand: Your ultimate guide (2020 Update)

/ / Family Immigration, Life in New Zealand

cost of living in new zealandOne of the main research point for our clients is the cost of living in New Zealand. Time and again clients tell us they want to know that they’ll be able to live comfortably.

This has lead us to put together the ultimate guide to the cost of living in New Zealand – and today we’re sharing it with you.

You’ll get a better understanding of how much money you could expect to earn and what your average living costs would be:

  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Groceries
  • Transport

We’ll even tell you where to go do a realistic cost-of-living calculation. But first let’s look at how much you could expect to earn…

Salary

As in all countries, salaries range by profession, experience and skill level. To get an idea of what you could earn in your job, have a look at the salary guide on TradeMe.

Housing

You can choose to rent or buy a home in New Zealand. You might have to rent a home when you first arrive so let’s start there:

Renting:

In 2019, the average cost of rent increased just about everywhere in New Zealand:

CityAvg Weekly Rent at end of 2019Year-on-Year Increase
WellingtonNZ$60410%
AucklandNZ$5632.2%
DunedinNZ$4648.4%
HamiltonNZ$4206.1%
ChristchurchNZ$3791.7%

Experts are not expecting rental prices to come down in 2020. In fact, the average Wellington rental property is on track to hit an all-time high of NZ$640 per week in February.

In a recent article on Newshub it was explained that the increase in rental prices mostly comes down to supply – high house prices mean people stay in rentals longer to save deposits, putting pressure on the market. In turn, rent prices are going through the roof. “Essentially, we need more houses,” explained infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen.

These are the rental costs to expect:

Your initial costs when renting a home will include a portion of the rent in advance and a letting fee if you use an agent and a bond.

A landlord can ask for a maximum of two weeks rent in advance while you can expect that the bond (or deposit) will be equal to four weeks’ rent. This means you’ll have to pay up up to six weeks of rent upfront.

You’ll get the bond back at the end of the leasing term, provided you leave the place in a good condition.

To do a search for rental prices in the area you plan on staying, go to TenancyServices, a website hosted by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Buying:

Just like the cost of rent, New Zealand house prices also increased in 2019. At the end of December, the average house prices in 16 of New Zealand largest cities were as follows:

 Average Value3 Month Change
InvercargillNZ$334,3536.4%
Palmerston NorthNZ$483,6954.9%
New PlymouthNZ$495,6493.8%
MalboroughNZ$496,5902.4%
RotoruaNZ$499,7025%
ChristchurchNZ$507,8522.1%
DunedinNZ$514,6808.7%
WhangareiNZ$548,5681%
Hastings NZ$563,8905.4%
NapierNZ$578,8614.7%
HamiltonNZ$604,0342.3%
NelsonNZ$638,8421.5%
Wellington AreaNZ$746,9554.4%
TaurangaNZ$763,4222.1%
Auckland AreaNZ$1,047,1101.9%
Queenstown LakesNZ$1,202,6250.9%

Experts did expect this tide to turn in 2020, and for house prices to fall, but the resurgence in Auckland specifically now have economists predicting that house prices will continue to rise. Most economists agree on an increase of at least 5%.

To get an accurate view of how much you’re likely to spend on a home this year, you can check the median values of homes in any region, city or even street on QV.co.nz.

Keep this in mind: Property ads in New Zealand usually show either an RV (Rateable Value), GV (Government Valuation) or CV (Council Valuation) figure. These figures refer to the valuation used by the local council to calculate rates for the property. These aren’t registered valuations and often don’t reflect the property’s true market value.

Utilities

The main utilities for any home would be water and electricity. Of course an internet connection is also considered essential in this day and age.

Water:

Most regional councils charge for the water they supply and the rates vary from region to region. If you own your home, the cost is added to your rates as water rates.

Electricity:

When it comes to electricity, you’ll find that there are a number of electricity and gas retailers in New Zealand. You can search for the best deal on the PowerSwitch website run by ConsumerNZ and MBIE Consumer Affairs.

Internet:

There are a range of internet service providers to choose from in New Zealand. Glimp lets you compare providers by price, speed, data and plan specifics. You can also use Broadband Compare for service provider comparisons.

Transport

While public transport is available in New Zealand, most New Zealanders choose to own a car and drive to where they need to be.

Choosing to also go this route might mean that you’ll have to buy a car once you arrive in New Zealand. You can use New Zealand’s AA website to see how much your favourite car will cost you new, but here are a couple of prices to start with:

Model (New)Price
Ford FiestaNZ$25,490
Citroën C4NZ$35,990
Toyota RAV4NZ$34,990
Mazda3NZ$36,595
Hyundai SonataNZ$45,990

What about insurance and petrol?

Insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand but third party insurance will insure you against having to personally pay the cost of damage to someone else’s vehicle. Petrol prices are on the AA’s site where regularly updates are published.

Groceries

The general rule is that local produce will be cheaper than imported items.

Keep in mind that imported items travel far due to New Zealand’s ‘end of the earth’ location. This means you might pay considerably more for certain items than you’re used to.

Numbeo is a great site if you’d like to check average grocery prices in New Zealand. You can also look at specific cities or compare the prices between cities.

Let’s take a look at the prices of a couple of basic groceries:

 Price
Milk (1L)NZ$2.59
Fresh white breadNZ$2.31
Eggs (12)NZ$4.92
Cheese (1kg)NZ$9.92
Chicken breasts (1kg)NZ$12.45
Rice (1kg)NZ$2.79
Apples (1kg)NZ$3.54
Bananas (1kg)NZ$2.88

How does New Zealand’s cost of living compare to that of other countries?

Numbeo’s 2020 Cost of Living Index compares the cost of living of 440 cities around the world. Auckland is New Zealand’s most expensive city. At number 53 on the list, Auckland is cheaper than Sydney in Australia but more expensive than Brighton in the UK.

The only other New Zealand’s cities that ranked on the Index are Christchurch and Wellington at numbers 79 and 113 on the list.

The most expensive city in the world, in case you wanted to know, is Zurich.

And, as promised – how to do a realistic cost-of-living calculation

We said we’ll tell you where to go for a realistic calculation of your cost of living and here it is:

You can use New Zealand Now’s cost calculator. You can tailor your income and expenses (be sure to click on the + signs on the expenses!) and adjust to a monthly or weekly outlook.

Of course here at Intergate we like to go the extra mile, so here is a bonus tip to end off our guide to the cost of living in New Zealand – use PriceMe to compare the prices of computers, appliances, phones, furniture, savings accounts and much more.

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