New Zealand is a marvelous country with wonderful people and spectacular natural settings to enjoy. It has micro-climates of all types that include the sunny beaches on the north coast, vast tracts of ranch land where millions of sheep graze, stunningly beautiful lakes, and mountains in the south that look a lot like the Swiss Alps. It is certainly one of the best countries to live in as an expat.
Foreigners’ interest in New Zealand increased after the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings films were made there. The hobbit village that was created as a set for the movies is now a tourist attraction. Increased interest in moving to New Zealand started in the UK and the US and then spread around the world.
Many millionaires and billionaires have a second home in New Zealand because it is a peaceful country not very involved in world conflicts. It is far enough away from the global danger zones to be a very safe place to live. Some super-wealthy people built luxury homes in remote areas on with world-class underground bunkers designed to survive an apocalypse. This is their “Plan B” in case the rest of the world falls completely apart.
New Zealand has the reverse of the seasons in the northern hemisphere, so when it is winter in the UK, US, Canada, and Europe, it is summer in New Zealand. Many like to have a second home in New Zealand to spend a lovely time in the warm spring and summer of the southern hemisphere while the northern hemisphere is covered with ice and snow. Then, they return back to their homes in the UK, US, Canada, or Europe for the springs and summers there. It is a great life to always have wonderful weather to enjoy all year long and live in the best parts of the world.
This guide helps those who are thinking about living in New Zealand, full-time or part-time, to learn more about what it costs to live there. It is not designed for the ultra-rich who can live almost anywhere they want. Instead, it focuses on what is experienced by regular, middle-class people, professionals, or retirees who want to call New Zealand their home or have a second home there.
Currency Exchange Rates
We recommend getting and OFX account for currency transfers and to exchange other currencies into New Zealand Dollars. Get more information about this by reading our guide about Moving Money To New Zealand.
All of the cost-of-living information in this guide is expressed in New Zealand Dollars (NZD or NZ$) so you can get used to thinking in those figures.
For an approximate value in the major currencies, as of February 14, 2019, here are the exchange rates for the New Zealand dollar (NZD) converted into the British Pound (GBP), US dollar (USD), Canadian dollar (CAD), and Euro (EUR):
- 1 NZD = 0.53 GBP and 1 GPB = 1.87 NZD
- 1 NZD = 0.68 USD and 1 USD = 1.47 NZD
- 1 NZD = 0.91 CAD and 1 CAD = 1.10 NZD
- 1 NZD = 0.61 EUR and 1 EUR = 1.65 NZD
One easy way to remember these conversions is to think of getting a discount when paying for things in New Zealand dollars. The British get 47% off, Americans 32% off, Canadians 9% off, and Europeans 39% off. By thinking about the conversion in this manner, everything you buy in New Zealand will seem like it is on sale!
City vs. Country Life
The first thing to consider is whether you want to live in the city or in the country. Like almost everywhere else in the world, living in the country is less expensive than city life. Retirees, who are on a fixed income, find their money buys more if they live on the outskirts of a metropolitan area or in the countryside.
For those who are still working, city life may be more attractive. New Zealand has a thriving high-tech industry. Professionals (under 56 years old) who have computer programming skills are in high demand. They will more easily get a working visa because the country is seeking to increase this sector with highly-qualified tech workers from all over the world under the New Zealand Now program.
If working in New Zealand is of interest to you, you will probably want to live in Auckland, Christchurch, or Wellington. Those three cities make up two-thirds of the country’s gross national product. The cost-of-living in the cities is about 20% to 50% higher on average than the cost of living in the countryside. Other cities to consider are Dunedin and Hamilton, which are cheaper to live in than the top three.
The cheapest smaller cities to live in are Rotorua, Napier/Hastings, Whangarei, Palmerston North, Tauranga, and New Plymouth. Rotorua is the least expensive town to live in followed up by the Napier/Hastings area that is located in the beautiful wine country. The rural areas are all about peaceful country living and raising sheep. If you like sheep, New Zealand is a dream come true. There are more sheep than people.
Getting a Car
One of the first things you will need is transportation to get around in order to go hunting for a home or an apartment. In the cities, you can rent a car on a temporary basis for about NZ$50 to NZ$75 per day with insurance.
For longer use, and for driving across the country, you will want to buy a vehicle. If you are not a permanent resident with a work visa and a job, you will not be able to buy a new car or truck on credit. You will likely want to consider buying a previously-owned vehicle since you have to pay cash.
A quick search on the Auto Trader shows that a decent, previously-owned vehicle, with low-mileage (under 50,000), which is less than three years old, costs around NZ$25,000 for a sedan and around NZ$35,000 for a pickup truck. In New Zealand, a pickup truck is called a utility vehicle or a Ute.
Buying a Home
You must be a resident or a citizen of New Zealand to buy a house there to live in. Foreigners are prohibited from buying homes in New Zealand.
The median cost of buying a home in New Zealand is around NZ$550,000. In the big cities, like Auckland, this goes up to NZ$862,000. Once you do become a resident, you may qualify for home mortgage financing at low interest rates.
The cost of buying an average home depends on the area where it is located.
Here are some examples:
- Auckland – NZ$862,000
- Wellington – NZ$675,000
- Christchurch – NZ$475,000
- Other North Island Cities – NZ$519,000
- Rural Areas (near a big city) – NZ$425,000
- South Island Cities – NZ$405,000
Renting a Home or Apartment
The custom in New Zealand is to advertise rental prices as the cost per week. The average apartment or small house has one or two bedrooms. The median rent for a small place in New Zealand is NZ$390 per week (NZ$1,560 per month). The average larger apartment or home has three or four bedrooms. The median rent for a larger place in New Zealand is NZ$525 per week (NZ$2,100 per month).
Auckland has the highest rental prices. The median price for three or four bedrooms in Auckland is NZ$600 per week (NZ$2,400 per month). Larger, luxury homes rent for up to NZ$850 per week (NZ$3,300 per month).
Cost of Living for Monthly Expenses
For two people, the cost of living ranges from about NZ$3,000 to NZ$5, 000 per month.
- Rent – NZ$1,560 to NZ$3,300 per month
- Gasoline – NZ$2.21 per liter (cost depends distance driver and vehicle’s mileage).
- Food – NZ$1,000 per person per month (eat at home). Add NZ$500 per person if you go out to eat.
- Utilities (gas heating, electricity, water) – NZ$253 to NZ$506
- Internet Connection NZ$73
Living in Auckland is the most expensive place to live in New Zealand. Here is how the other cities in New Zealand compare to Auckland:
- Wellington is 6% less than Auckland.
- Christchurch is 16% less than Auckland.
- Hamilton is 17% less than Auckland.
- Dunedin is 20% less than Auckland.
Cost of Common Items
Here is a list of the prices of many things that are often purchased:
- Apples 1 kg (2 lb.) NZ$3.73
- Bread NZ$2.03
- Milk 1 liter (1 qt.) NZ$2.13
- Eggs 1 dozen large NZ$7
- Cheese 500 gr (16 oz.) NZ$7
- Potatoes 1 kg (2 lb.) NZ$3.40
- Tomatoes 1 kg (2 lb.) NZ$5.86
- Chicken 500 gr (1 lb.) NZ$8
- Coca-Cola 2 liters NZ$3.34
- Beer 1/2 liter (16 oz.) NZ$5.84
- Wine 1 bottle, good quality NZ$18
- Business Lunch with Drink NZ$18
- Fast Food Combo Meal NZ$11
- Dinner for Two at Pub NZ$57
- Dinner for Two at Fine Restaurant NZ$104
- Levis Jeans NZ$112
- Summer Dress NZ$66
- Nike shoes NZ$154
- Dress Shoes NZ$159
- Cold medicine NZ$11
- Antibiotics NZ$5.67
- Doctor Visit (15 minutes) NZ$50
- Tampons (box of 32) NZ$8
- Deodorant 50 ml (1.5 oz.) NZ$5.08
- Shampoo 400 ml (12 oz.) NZ$6
- Toilet Paper (4 rolls) NZ$3.23
- Toothpaste NZ$3.94
- Haircut (men’s) NZ$26
- Movie Tickets (2) NZ$33
- Theater (2 best seats) NZ$163
- Cocktail at Club NZ$17
- Cappuccino NZ$4.67
- Beer at Pub 500 ml (1 pt.) NZ$10
- Prepaid Mobile Phone (per minute) NZ$0.35
- Gym Membership (per month) NZ$71
It is not difficult to fall in love with New Zealand. Some take their time. They may make a visit or two, before making the decision to permanently move there. Others can’t wait to make New Zealand their new home. If you are like us, just “Go for it!” We are very happy that we did.
Reach out to us at with any questions you may have about living in New Zealand and we will be happy to help you. Check out the many interesting topics covered on our blog.
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