What’s the Average Cost of Living in New Zealand?

A beautiful picture of Lake Tekapo, New Zealand scenery.

New Zealand has a varied landscape that includes beaches, mountains, rainforests, deserts, and plains. Hypothetically, if you want to ski in the morning and work on your tan in the afternoon, you can do both on the same day when living in New Zealand! 

In addition to beautiful scenery, New Zealand also provides a home to some of the friendliest people in the world. If you enjoy a laid-back approach to life, if you want to sample great food, and if you like to spend lots of time outdoors, then you should consider calling this island country home. 

What does it Cost to Live in New Zealand (in USD)?

Roughly 4.8 million people live in New Zealand, mostly in and around Auckland, the country’s largest city. Made up of two main islands, the North Island and the South Island, New Zealand also maintains 600 smaller islands. 

Depending on your income needs and lifestyle preferences, you can choose to live near lots of people in the city or you can enjoy a little more solitude by living in the country. 

Moving to a new country can cause anxiety and stress, especially if you’ve never visited the country before. But learning as much as you can about your new home before you move should make the transition from one culture to another much easier.

Throughout this guide, you’ll find out how much it will cost to live in New Zealand, along with valuable information about taxes, healthcare, and real estate. 

Below you will find a list of expenses from groceries to utilities, rent, transportation costs, and 

more that make up the average cost of living in New Zealand. 

Groceries/Cost of Food

A picture of Auckland Fish Market sign.

According to International Living, you should grocery shop like the locals do if you want to save money on groceries and other food items. For example, to save money on produce, buy seasonal produce at a farmer’s market rather than going to a grocery store. 

The average cost of groceries and other food items averages about $560.00 USD – $730.00 USD depending on the number of people in your household.  

To put this into perspective, a 12-ounce bottle of Coke/Pepsi costs about $1.89 USD in the United States, while the same bottle costs about $2.29 USD in New Zealand. A gallon of milk costs about $3.22 USD in the United States and about $6.76 USD in New Zealand. 

Rent in New Zealand 

The price of rent for a condominium or house varies based on locality, square footage, and whether you prefer a furnished or unfurnished space. On average, you can expect to pay $950.00 USD – $1,500.00 USD for a one or two-bedroom condo and $1,600 USD – $2,400 USD for a two or three-bedroom house.  

Internet and Utility Costs

Fiber/cable internet service will cost about $50.00 USD – $93.00 USD. For high-speed internet (ADSL), plan on spending $46.00 USD – $75.00 USD. 

For other utilities including heating and cooling, electricity, cable, etc., you should expect to spend $80.00 USD – $200.00 USD per month. Utility costs may vary during the year depending on the weather. 

Transportation Costs

A new car costs $20,000 USD – $23,000 USD. Fuel costs remain high in New Zealand with an average price of $5.58 USD per gallon. 

Larger areas including Auckland have public transportation options including buses, trains, and taxis services. A monthly public transportation pass for use on both buses and trains will cost about $110.00 USD, while taxi services range from $2.37 USD – $3.27 USD per mile. 

If you plan to travel often, buying a car can save you money over time. You can also rent a car by the day or by the week if you want to take a vacation or weekend trip to another part of New Zealand. 

Related: Is The Philippines a Cheap Place to Live?

Clothing Costs

Clothing costs vary based on your needs. A pair of running shoes can cost about $97.00 USD, a pair of jeans can cost $74.00 USD, and a summer dress can cost about $38.00 USD.  

Childcare Costs

One year of international primary school can cost about $11,900.00 USD, while kindergarten can cost about $787.00 USD per month per child. 

Dining Out Costs

Over the years, the food culture in New Zealand has exploded thanks to an influx of migrants from around the world. This means you have many options when it comes to dining out – from fine dining to casual restaurants and cafes. 

On average, a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will cost $42.00 USD – $60.00 USD.

Dining out can turn into a major expense, especially if your budget doesn’t support it. A mix of dining out and eating in (cooking your meals) can help make this part of your budget more manageable. 

Healthcare Costs

New Zealand has a national health care system. In many cases, you can visit an after-hours health care center and expect to pay $68.00 USD for a doctor’s visit plus a prescription. 

The longer you live and work in New Zealand, the less you will have to pay out-of-pocket for medical care. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) provides most emergency care services for free to all New Zealand residents.  

Entertainment Costs

In New Zealand, going to the movies costs about $11.00 USD per person. A monthly gym membership can cost about $40.00 USD. If you enjoy tennis, you can rent a court by the hour and pay $12.00 USD per hour. 

The Reality of Island Country Living

While New Zealand offers many outdoor activities, beautiful views, and a friendly atmosphere, its geographical location requires that most goods are imported into the country. Importing fuel, vehicles, clothing, food, and other essential items cause an increase in the price of these items. 

You can offset these expenses by purchasing used goods when possible. New Zealanders pride themselves on not judging others by what they wear, how they speak, or their educational status. 

In other words, wearing gently worn or used clothing does not influence how New Zealanders see each other.

Sample Budget

A sample budget for living in New Zealand including common expenses and average monthly pay.

Here is a sample budget for one month of living expenses for two people living in New Zealand:

  • Rent: $1,500 USD (two bedroom condo)
  • Groceries: $560.00 USD 
  • Internet/Utilities: $150.00 USD
  • Transportation Costs: $220.00 USD (two monthly transportation passes) 
  • Clothing Costs: $100.00 USD per person
  • Dining Out Costs: $180.00 USD (dining out three times/two people)
  • Healthcare Costs: $100.00 USD (one health care visit)
  • Entertainment Costs: $150.00 USD (two monthly gym memberships, four movie tickets)
  • Total: $2,960 USD per month

You can always make adjustments to your budget by dining out less, purchasing fewer clothing items, reducing your grocery budget, and reducing your entertainment costs. 

What is the Average Income in New Zealand?

The median income in New Zealand is NZ $52,000. The average income for a family of four is about NZ $102,000. 

Your income will depend mostly on your education, training, and employment opportunities. 

If you have the training and education, you can apply for a higher paying job

These jobs include: 

  • IT professionals – NZ $135,000/annually
  • Cybersecurity specialists – NZ $105,000/annually
  • Finance manager – NZ $100,000/annually
  • Architects – NZ $85,000/annually
  • Engineers – NZ $85,000/annually
  • Accountants – NZ $75,000/annually

If you’re a student or someone without extensive career training, you can apply for one of these jobs:

  • Housekeeping – NZ $33,000/annually
  • Wait staff – NZ $35,000/annually
  • Receptionist – NZ $36,000/annually
  • Security – NZ $37,000/annually
  • Kitchen staff – NZ $32,000/annually
  • Administrative – NZ $40,000/annually
  • Machine operator – NZ $36,000/annually

Immigration Costs

To work in New Zealand, you will need to apply for a visa. 

According to New Zealand Shores Immigration Consultants, the types of visa you can apply for along with the average application costs include:

  • Visitor Visa – starting at NZ $211.00
  • Work Visa – NZ $495.00 – NZ $635.00
  • Student Visa – NZ $275.00 – NZ $330.0
  • Partnership Visa – NZ $495.00 – $635.00
  • Resident Visa – NZ $1,480.00 – $3,310.00

In addition to applying for a visa, you will have to also provide various types of personal documentation such as a copy of your birth certificate, passports, driver’s license, and other types of identification. 

If you plan to practice law, teach, perform plumbing or other contracting duties, or you wish to work in the medical field, you will have to register with a specific agency or local municipality. Additional registration fees will apply. 

Paying Taxes when Living in New Zealand

The types of taxes New Zealand residents must pay include:

  • Income Tax – this tax, also called Pay As You Earn (PAYE) comes out of your paycheck.

If you earn NZ $70,000 or more, the highest personal tax rate is 33 percent. If you earn up to NZ $14,000, the lowest personal tax rate is 10.5 percent.  

A flat tax of 28 percent applies to companies and corporations. 

  •  Real Estate and Property Tax – New Zealand does not impose a real estate tax. However, if you own property, you will have to pay property taxes set by the local jurisdiction.  
  • Goods and Service Tax – also called GST is the tax you must pay on the goods and services that you purchase. GST has a flat rate of 15 percent.  
  • VAT Tax – tax you must pay on goods and services. VAT tax in New Zealand sits at 13 percent. 

New Zealand does not collect the following taxes:

  • Inheritance tax
  • Payroll tax
  • Social security tax
  • General healthcare tax
  • General capital gains tax
  • Local or regional taxes (other than property tax)

New migrants do not have to pay taxes on overseas income for the first four years of living in New Zealand. You will only pay income tax on what you earn in New Zealand. 

Real Estate Prices in New Zealand

To buy a house in New Zealand, you must be a resident of the country or have residential status. 

You can expect to pay more for real estate in larger cities such as Auckland. As stated on GlobalPropertyGuide, the average house in Auckland costs about NZ $586,000. Houses in the country tend to cost less. For example, a house on the West Coast costs about NZ $125,000. A house in Southland costs about NZ $217,000. 

Real estate values have gone up in recent years. In 2018, New Zealand parliament passed the Overseas Investment Amendment Act, which forbids foreign ownership of real estate in New Zealand. And while this law hasn’t affected the housing market that much, local interest in homeownership has increased, which has increased home values. 

This law only applies to new home sales. Foreigners who owned property before the passing of this amendment can retain ownership of the property until they decide to sell it or transfer the property to someone else. 

How Do I Apply for New Zealand Residential Status?

To apply for New Zealand Residential Status, you must live in New Zealand for at least two years on a Work to Residence Visa. You must also meet specific health and character criteria. 

Also, you must meet one of the two established pathways to residence. The pathways require you to obtain a Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa or a Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa. Each of these visas has employment and income criteria, as well as age restrictions. 

Can I Use USD in New Zealand?

While you should keep some USD currency on hand when living in New Zealand for emergencies, many local businesses probably won’t accept it as payment. You will need to convert some of your USD currency into NZ (New Zealand dollars) when you arrive. 

Places to Convert Currency

You can convert USD into NZ currency before your trip or after you arrive. Auckland International Airport provides currency conversion services as do most hotels and banks. Conversion rates vary from place to place, with many of these places charging a conversion fee. 

To avoid having to pay these fees or having to compare different currency conversion services, you can use your ATM card to make purchases.   

Debit/Credit Cards

Most people who live in New Zealand use debit or credit cards to pay for goods and services, even small items like newspapers and coffee. 

Contact your bank or credit card company before moving to New Zealand so they don’t flag purchases made in New Zealand as suspicious. Flagging your account could cause a temporary freeze on your ability to use your money. 

ATMs allow you to withdraw cash when you need it so if you don’t want to carry lots of USD currency with you into New Zealand, you can visit an ATM and withdraw from your account the NZ monetary equivalent. 

Contact your new employer to find out if you can authorize direct deposit of your paychecks to your current bank. You can also open a bank account in New Zealand if you have a work, student, or residence visa.

How Much Cash Can I Bring into New Zealand?

You can travel with as much USD currency as you want when going to New Zealand, but you must declare any amount over NZ $10,000. 

You should never travel with that much money on your person. If you need to travel with large sums of cash, divide the cash into smaller amounts to carry in your luggage, in your wallet or purse, and in your pockets. 

Even though crime in New Zealand remains relatively low as compared to other countries, you should remain aware of your surroundings at all times. Responsibly carry USD currency to prevent theft. 

How Much Money do I Need to Live Comfortably in New Zealand?

The amount of money you need to live comfortably in New Zealand depends mostly on your lifestyle. 

Making the right financial choices to support your lifestyle allows you to get the most out of your money. 

For example, if you want to travel to different parts of New Zealand regularly, buying a car makes the most sense. If you prefer to stay close to urban areas, then you can save money by using public transportation or by occasionally renting a car for travel. 

If you want to dine out often, expect to pay more in monthly food costs as opposed to cooking your own meals. 

Rent, utilities, and food will probably make up most of your budget. And while you can make adjustments to your food budget, you can’t adjust the cost of rent or utilities. 

If you move to New Zealand with your family, you will have to pay for schooling, clothing, supplies, additional food costs, vehicle costs,  and you may have to rent a larger house. You will need to factor all of these expenses into your budget before moving. 

Wrapping Up

Now that you know more about the average cost of living in New Zealand, you can begin to get your finances in order. Create a reasonable budget based on how you want to live and the job opportunities you have. Save up some money before you move so you can rent a condo or house immediately.

Make sure you budget for visa application fees and other fees associated with living and working legally in New Zealand. 

Overall, living in New Zealand costs about the same as the cost of living in many other countries. As long as you maintain your budget, you should be able to live in New Zealand comfortably without having to worry that much about your living expenses.

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