Cost of living
How New Zealand’s cost of living compares really depends on what country you’re coming from and what part of New Zealand you settle in.
But in general, while some things may seem more expensive and others cheaper, overall the cost of living in New Zealand is comparable to what you’ll find in any OECD country.
You’ll find we offer the same sort of consumer goods you’re used to, at competitive prices. Costs for imported items like cars, electrical and computer equipment and petrol are similar to what you'd find in Australia or other similar countries.
To give you more of an idea - one independent international survey ranked Auckland 98th in the world in terms of its cost of living, and Wellington 123rd, far better than other major cities.
More expensive cities included Hong Kong (2), Singapore (4), Shanghai (7), New York (11), London (17), Guangzhou (18), Sydney (42) and Melbourne (71) - showing that comparatively, New Zealand’s major metropolitan areas are more affordable than those in other countries.
Read more about Mercer's 2016 Cost of Living survey.
Goods and services tax (GST)
New Zealand has a ‘Goods and Services’ tax (GST) that is added to the price of most things you buy.
GST currently applies at 15%.
GST doesn’t apply to rent on a home, apartment, flat or other accommodation. It also doesn’t apply to financial transactions, like bank charges, or to income.
Prices you see advertised are required by law to include GST, but you should always look for the phrase ‘incl GST’. Sometimes businesses will quote a price excluding GST because it looks cheaper.
Silvia Canessa, Italy
“In Italy - a family of four - you need a couple of salaries just to reach the end of the month”. Once the family had been in New Zealand a few weeks they felt reassured that things were cheaper and they could live on Fabio’s salary.
Typical prices in New Zealand
The government’s Statistics Department has a publication called New Zealand in Profile which lists the prices of some common purchases in 2015:
Bread - white sliced loaf (600g)
Milk - standard, 2 litres
Fish and chips
Meat - lamb chops (kg)
Beer - glass (400ml)
Petrol - 91 octane per litre
(That works out to be NZ$9.59 per gallon)
GP/doctor’s visit - adult
Other typical prices (as at January 2016):
42” LED-LCD flat screen TV
Round of golf
Cup of coffee (flat white)
Pair of jeans
Car - Ford Focus (2.0L, 5 door)
The average family budget
Every three years or so our government Statistics Department surveys what households are actually spending. Here’s where the average New Zealand weekly household budget went last time they looked, in 2016.
|Expenditure type||NZ$||per cent|
|Alcoholic beverages, tobacco etc.||31.00||2.4|
|Clothing and footwear||37.90||2.9|
|Housing and household utilities||332.30||25.6|
|Household contents and services||49.10||3.8|
|Recreation and culture||118.80||9.1|
|Miscellaneous goods and services||115.30||8.9|
|Sales, trade-ins, and refunds||-42.70||-3.3|
|Total net expenditure||1,299.90||100|
Planning your finances
Newly arrived people sometimes find that the cost of living in New Zealand is more than they expected. Salaries for some professionals may be below equivalent roles in Europe and the USA, and our physical location and small population means some imported goods are more expensive.
Before you book your plane ticket it's a good idea to research the type of lifestyle you'll be able to afford here. Then you’ll be able to settle into Kiwi life and enjoy our great country without any financial surprises.
To find out the cost of things in New Zealand you can look at online stores and cost comparison websites. You’ll find some links below to get you started.
It may also be useful to look at the information available on the Government’s Sorted website to ensure outgoings versus income is going to stack up for you.
What you might earn
Average personal income from wages and salaries in 2016 was NZ$49,855. However many households have other people working too, and for households receiving wages and salaries, average annual income from all sources was NZ$98,818.
Obviously earnings vary widely according to what you do. There are various government and privately operated websites that have guides to the salaries being paid for various different careers.
A number of New Zealand not-for-profit consumer agencies and government departments have created a website where you can compare prices of many types of consumer goods such as clothing and appliances.
Price comparison sites for telecommunications and power prices are also available from Consumer, New Zealand's agency for consumer protection and information.
It costs around NZ$100 a week to feed an adult male, according to this 2014 survey by the University of Otago. It has full details by region, sex and age.
Most New Zealand supermarkets offer online grocery shopping. As an experiment, try pricing the weekly shop you do at home on one of their websites. Remember that Kiwi supermarkets regularly have special offers, so you may well pay less in store.
Two supermarket chains to look for on the internet are New World and Countdown.
Our Housing pages have information about what you might expect to pay to buy or rent a home, apartment or room.
For a quick overview, check New Zealand’s very popular, privately owned TradeMe site.
Most people in New Zealand find they need a car. Many buy their cars second hand. Privately-operated TradeMe Motors can give you a good idea of what used cars cost here.
An annual expense involved with owning a car is the vehicle license or registration (rego). Registration costs vary according to the car’s make and its age. As an example however registration for a late model, petrol engined Ford Focus 2L currently costs NZ$85.59.
All cars also need to be tested for a Warrant of Fitness. That will cost you NZ$50-80 (not including any repairs that may be necessary). How often you need to have your car tested will depend on the age of the car.
If you choose a diesel engine car, you will also pay road user charges (RUC) which are calculated per kilometre.
The long, skinny geography of New Zealand means that fuel prices can vary quite widely from region to region. Our national motorist’s organisation, the Automobile Association (AA), keeps an eye on prices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch through its online petrol watch service.
To get an idea of the costs of life, health, income and mortgage insurance, privately operated TradeMe has a site where you can source quotes from a range of providers.
Try a google search for vehicle, house and contents insurance prices.
Mortgage and finance costs
You can find a list of mortgage, personal and business lenders on the privately operated website of interest.co.nz
The energy website of New Zealand’s leading consumer organisation has a lot of information about energy providers and their charges.
Tips on shopping in New Zealand
While we don’t bargain in shops here, New Zealanders don’t generally pay full price if we can avoid it. There are a number of ways to save money on your shopping:
- Buy produce at fruit and vegetable shops or markets. See our Regional pages for information about markets.
- Keep an eye on prices in advertisements or online before you buy. Most retailers regularly have good sales.
- You can find many well-priced goods on TradeMe. It mostly features second hand goods though some are new.
- Asking for a discount for cash on large items is common - normally 10%. It’s especially effective if you’re buying several items from one retailer.