Australia vs. the UK: who has the better cost of living?

cost of living

There are many ties between the UK and Australia, culturally, socially, on the sporting pitch and even family ones. London is considered to be the biggest Aussie city outside of Australia and more and more British families are moving over Down Under to get better weather and lifestyle.

With that in mind, which country has the better cost of living?

UK rules: owning your house

One of the big advantages the UK has over Australia is that interest rates have remained low for a long time now. Thus when you use this mortgage calculator to work out mortgage payments in Australia you’ll see that because the interest rate is higher, the payments are higher and owning a house will ultimately cost you more.

In addition property prices in Australia have sky-rocketed during the last 20 years in smaller cities such as Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. This has created a housing affordability crisis which has not been helped by wealthy foreigners buying property in these cities and pushing housing prices through the roof.

In comparison property prices in Manchester or Liverpool haven’t increased by much since the beginning of the Global Financial Crisis, although we may very well see an increase in the not too distant future.

UK rules: groceries

Australia has a virtual duopoly when it comes to Supermarkets. Coles and Woolworths account for over 80% of all supermarkets in Australia which is unhealthy in terms of competition.

Add in the fact that Australia needs to import foodstuff from a overseas and you should expect to pay a lot more for your day to day grocery down under.

Compare this to the UK, a member for the European Union and close to many countries that produce plenty of food that is eaten in season. This is why food in the UK is much cheaper.

Australia rules: owning and operating a car

Where motoring in concerned the Aussies have it good. Brits on the other have some of the most expensive petrol prices in the world. At an average cost of £0.80 in Perth, Western Australia the Aussies pay almost £0.50 per liter less compared to their British mates when it comes to petrol.

Although buying a car is 20% more expensive in Australia, this is offset by the fact that the British pay more on car insurance which is why this one goes to the Aussies.

Australia rules: commuting

With a combination of cheaper petrol and cheaper public transport the Aussies win this one hands down. The average monthly Metrolink season ticket from the suburbs of Manchester into town will set you back £75; compare this to Perth where the monthly rail pass is half that amount. I

t just shows how expensive public transport is in the UK.


Obviously this based on comparing only two cities: Manchester and Perth. It still seems to me that the UK is overall the cheaper place to live because of the lower housing prices and the cost of groceries.

How about quality of life? Well, ask me this one some other time.

photo credit: texaus1 via photopin cc

22 thoughts on “Australia vs. the UK: who has the better cost of living?”

  1. I have no idea how things are in the UK, but I’ve lived in Australia and Canada. When I moved to Canada, I was shocked by how much cheaper everything was! I spent my first month in the mall grabbing things like they were free. 😉

  2. One big issue with Australia is also the cost of transportation and flight to the rest of the world. If you are used to have business or vacation in Africa, America or Europe, living in Australia is extremelly expensive.
    Thank you for posting,

    1. @Robert: This is correct; I have a colleague who worked in Australia for several years and he was saying that being far from everywhere else is not a very good feeling. Professionally or personally. At the same time, I can get used to the beach and the sports.

  3. I have lived in both countries Canada for 3 years and Australia for over 10 years, honestly speaking….Australia is beautiful BUT fairly expensive compared to CA and YES Melbourne is very cold in Winter time, cannot reach Vancouver minus 5 degrees but the wind in Melbourne and Adelaide even in Sydney from June to September is freeziiinnnnnngggggggg!!!
    And the feeling “we are” living in a very far…far…far…far way land which to flight to any place is fairly expensive……
    My vote would be to CA or probably UK is cheaper, as far as I read and asked to some friends.

  4. What a joke! Australia is dramatically lower in cost of living when compared to the UK. Your housing comparisons are so wrong. You can have a house twice the size in Oz for half the price – what are you comparing here? And in terms of rentals you can get a 3 bedroom house near the city for the same price you can find a crappy 1 bedroom flat in the UK. It’s not even comparable.

    You can’t take a piss in the UK without paying and someone is always trying to charge you for something. Everything costs a fortune in the UK and the wages for professionals are a lot lower.

    As for groceries the quality, variety and freshness of fruit and vegetables is miles ahead and you are wrong on pricing – the UK is much more expensive.

    Train travel is a joke in the UK too – Train from High Wycombe to London Daypass at around 25 quid with the comparable distances on train in Australia for about a fiver.

    The writer needs to do some proper research here because you couldn’t be further from the truth.

    1. Yes I do agree with you we lived in London for a 13 years and is true rent cost very high travel cards is cost a lot and everything is very compressed .
      and we live now in Sydney for a year we love the weather for sure.
      UK is expensive to live

    2. I assume your experience was in and around London. Vastly different from living elsewhere in the country.
      Just returned from 1 month in WA and 2 on the Gold Coast – renting, not luxury hotel. The groceries in both places were similar to South Coast , UK , but still more pricey. House prices in England are NOT house prices in London or anywhere within commuter distance of London.
      House prices in and around Perth were extremely high although they were more reasonable over on the East Coast. (obviously not Sydney but then that would be like comparing prices with London).
      Loved Australia but price-wise, we did find it cheaper in UK. That makes it difficult as all family are Australians and living over there….including only child, so this isn’t biased to UK I promise. I think sometimes lifestyle is mistaken for cost of living and there are different ways of living that can accommodate the kind of price differences we found. That is with the exception of the strangely high prices of property around Perth.

    3. Dan have you been living in a cupboard for the last 10 years? Been living in oZ for over 5 years, paying $300 (£150) a week for just a room with a toilet! (“studio apartment” they call it), every time I go to the supermarket it’s at least $50 for just a few things – UK is far far cheaper: sandwiches $2 jar of coffee $5. in Oz it’s $13 just for a jar of nescafe (just a few examples). House prices!? Can’t get anything for under $500,000 (£250,000). Uk can buy a place for £80,000 ($160,000). All be it not in London, obviously. But still, any of the other major UK cities are wwwaaayyyyy cheaper than Australia.

      Train service in Oz is terrible, they go about 10mph and you’ll pay upwards of $40 (£20) just to travel from Sydney to Newcastle. No metro/underground systems either

      You’re basing your prices on London mate, but Sydney, Melbourne (are there any other cities worth living in?) are expensive as hell.

    4. Hurrah!!thankyou for that!I’ve just been on a property course in the uk so now deciding whether to invest in property in the uk or Australia or both?any tips?

    5. I agree with you how the hell does Austraila get the name of being so expensive !!! I am in the uk now and no one can afford a steak , ok W.A cost of living is High but so Are the wages ,we live in N.S.W. The best country in the world ,and I have been to a lot of them xxxxx

  5. As an Australian who has been living in the UK for almost three years – two just south of London and since May 2015 in the north east – I would say that the total cost of living is cheaper here than in Australia. Yes, petrol is cheaper in Oz, and insurance, but here the roads are better. Fruit and vegetables are usually grown in the UK, and if you use your local market you get excellent products very cheaply. Try buying 500g of cherry tomatoes for $2 in Australia. Train travel is dearer here but at least you don’t have to wait a whole day for a train to another city. In Perth you have to wait 15 minutes between metro trains – 30 minutes on a Sunday. Here it is every six minutes on a weekday. The NHS means you never need to pay to go to the doctor, and children and aged people get free prescription medicine. Hospitals are free, and while the waiting list may sometimes be long, it’s had some problems that way in Australia, too. Admittedly, things like steak are expensive here, but pork is very good value. Beer is cheap and there is a huge range of different types. Wine is where we really notice the difference. A cheap bottle of not very good wine will set you back $8 – you can get a good bottle for half that in Oz.

  6. You’ve got to be kidding Valerie. It doesn’t compare.

    I’d be keen to know the roads you are comparing. The motorways can be good at times but in peak hour when you need them most they are shocking as completely congested. And if you want to hit the coast in Summer – plan to spend a good 2 or 3 hours sitting in traffic. Once you get off of the motorways the roads are shocking and always congested. I can wait an hour or more just getting out of the industrial estate I work on and thats a common occurrence. The condition of secondary roads is poor too with massive potholes everywhere.

    And I’ll wait the extra 9 minutes for the next train when I can pay $4 instead of $40. I know people who are paying over 5000 pounds per year to train to work – utterly ridiculous.

    The Fruit and Veg doesn’t compare here for quality either. Australia’s is also mostly grown locally too and has a much greater variety. More than 90 per cent of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, milk and eggs sold in supermarkets are domestically produced in Australia.

    Your medical comparison doesn’t add up either. Yes, you don’t pay to see the doctor each visit but what’s the use if it takes forever and they constantly push for the cheapest alternative to aid you. I have needed a doctor twice here – both times have included a 2 week wait just to get in and then I was told I can’t have the medication I have used for years at home because they have to give me the cheaper option. The second visit recently for a known knee issue and I am still waiting for someone to call from the department that looks after that side 2 weeks later. Yes I had private health in Aus but within a week I was able to see a GP, surgeon and then have the surgical procedure I required. I’m happy to pay a little if it means things actually get done.

    Its also the little costs that add up here too. There is someone here set up to add cost to every little thing you do. There’s always an extra. You pay a huge amount for a gym and then you have to fork out 60 quid just to park there. Pay a fortune to get into London and you need to go to the loo, you have to pay – it’s never ending. I’m finding it claustrophobic with the add on costs of everything here and I earn a good wage.

    You can live on your cheap beer, wine and cherry tomatoes but with all costs taken into account the costs in Australia are hugely lower. All of these bits and pieces add up to the standard of living and in the quality of food, transport and housing here it just doesn’t compare to the quality available in Australia. If you add the cost and quality of all commodities and services here Australia is much cheaper. The cost of living is the sum of all outlay – not just a few commodities that are found to be less. You must also balance that with the quality of those products and services.

    1. Dan, I think you are comparing Australia to London, or within commuter distance of it, to prices in Oz. That would be fair if it was Sydney vs London. I have to say though that parking and road congestion is a big issue in many parts of UK.
      Waiting times for hospital appointments could be avoided if you paid privately the way you said you did in Oz, or at least pay for the first consultation with the specialist, that is what takes a lot of the time. You could see consultant privately within few days and then you revert to nhs and he will refer onto next stage – it saves weeks of waiting. If you paid privately in Oz , it isn’t a fair comparison when you could do the same in UK.
      I do agree about public transport costs in UK. The two countries are actually very hard to compare with any accuracy I think. Oz has the amazing climate – well not so much in Victoria, but still very nice. UK as everyone on earth knows, has the most frustrating climate on the planet. London is lovely……but it’s not England.

  7. I cant compare Australia with UK as I never lived in Australia, living in Dubai for 4 yrs. and now in UK for 14 yrs.,Dubai is a wonderful country to live, food is cheap but everything else especially Accommodation, kids school, hospital all are very expensive.
    As I heard from my friends and some family who migrated to Australia, Perth(busselton), got a cousin in Adelaide and another friend in Sydney, they all come up with the same sort of story, cheaper leaving compared to UK, houses are big, fresh food but the main benefit is you get more time with your family and more time with kids, not like the kids in UK who spent majority of there time playing with gadgets and as parents after a long wait in the traffic along with the ridiculous weather we don’t even have enough energy to play with our kids.
    So I would say and we are planning(thinking to be honest)to move to Australia if we can.

  8. I think the only real way to compare the cost of living between the UK and Australia is with the “how much do I have left over each pay period” method.
    Born and educated in North Sydney with a move to London in 2010, doing the same job with the same pay ($70k Aus & £35k UK) I find that I have on average, £230 ($460) per month more in savings in the UK compared to Australia.
    This is comparing real apples with apples as I lived in North Sydney 2060 and now live in Chelsea.

    If you take a 100-200km drive out of Sydney, head north to the Central Coast or Newcastle, wages drop by about $15k per annum and an average 40 year old 3 bed house on 600 sq/m is about 1/2 million dollars less than Sydney (excluding western Sydney). Go south to Tasmania and you will be lucky to earn over $45k per annum for 40 hours per week, yet a 3 bed house on 600 sq/m can be picked up with a starting price of $90k.

    When I first arrived in the UK in 2010, I lived in Bath for a few months, then Bristol – probably a good equivalent to Newcastle in Australia.
    Again, I would say that I was coming out in front financially living in Bristol UK for a year or so even though I was doing more partying etc. as it was all new and I was younger. I actually ended up buying my first home in Bristol, something I would have found difficult to do in Newcastle Australia without a partner or second income.

    Christmas/New Year 2015/2016 I returned home to Sydney for a 6 week visit, stayed with the parents and was completely overwhelmed by how much Australia had changed for the worst. (Sydney is virtually another Chinese province, population is up by 1.3million in NSW).
    Grocery prices are out of control, even with Aldi on the block and the housing buy/rent prices were triple compared to 2010. My parents modest 1890’s built 3 bed cottage in North Sydney with 2 car parking and harbour glimpses is valued at $5.3m, the average 2 bed semi detached to rent in the area is $1500 per week unfurnished, a 1 person grocery shop is about $160 per week and petrol isn’t cheap if you buy the 95ron which is about $1.75L.

    As much as I love Australia and the outdoor life it provides, the UK for me wins hands down on living a better life financially – oh, and I love the long daylight hours for about 5 months of the year where I can get a game of golf in after work – cant do that in Aus.

    And one final thing – my accountant here in the UK looks after everything for me and provides a graph each year – in Australia, after tax I would keep 71.3% of my salary, in the UK after tax, I keep 82.2%. That sure adds up !.

    Anyway, I have no plans on returning to Australia as quite simply, its been on a roller coaster ride downhill with immigration in overload since 2007 (about the time Rudd became PM) and the cost of living.


  9. one pack cheapest cigarette $17 , house rent and much more things very expensive in Australia! Also no job, shut down all industry! Everything coming from China. You can’t imagine to go dentist because extremely expensive!I came 6 years ago from Istanbul and I didn’t like Australia . I’m thinking about go back to Istanbul.Because more cheaper and luxury life than Australia!

  10. Guys am now planing to move to Australia as we did relocated to Uk . We came from Italy lovely place to raise children and the education is really good, as I realize when my kids started school here in Birmingham they comes home without any assignment from sch. Sometimes I feel really sorry for them as since we came to here every activities for the children are indoor and you need to subscribe and book appointments whiles in Italy every activity is outdoor more time with family and 9months sun shine not like Uk that, you are even lucky enough to have sun shine for 2weeks for the whole of the year.

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