Cost of living in Australia compared to the US

by Mark Benson on January 7, 2010

in General Information

Living in Australia

Australia is very popular with US expats who are looking to start a new life in a foreign land where the weather is good, prospects are encouraging and the standard of living is comparable to their former homeland. However, with prosperity comes a price with the cost of living in Australia having been on the increase since around the turn of the century and the difference between the cost of living in America and the cost of living in Australia seemingly growing all of the time – but is this really the case?

So what are the main factors to consider when comparing the cost of living in Australia to the cost of living in America?


One of the main factors you need to consider when moving to a foreign land is the cost of property whether you are looking to rent or you are looking to buy. Even though the trend of renting your home rather than buying it outright is still evident in America we have seen more and more US citizens acquire their properties. After peaking at around US$322,000 in the first quarter of 2007 the cost of the average home in America is now around US$269,000. However, it is a difficult to compare and contrast against the Australian property market due in the main to the massive divergences in price and quality of housing!

If you take the largest cities in Australia the average price of a property has increased from AUS$371,000 to around AUS$381,000 over the last year, a year which has seen perhaps the worst economic environment since the 1920s. Indeed many of Australia’s largest cities are seeing houses sell for well over AUS$1 million and there is a feeling that only the rich will be able to live in areas such as Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane, to name but a few, in the future. At the moment property prices compare very well to America but this may well change in the future.


Australia has a taxation system which is very similar to that in the UK and compares relatively unfavourably to that in the US. However, the American system includes a federal tax rate and local taxes which can often vary wildly from state to state. There are also other issues to take into account such as healthcare which is state funded in Australia via a 1.5% tax levy while in the US there is no real comparable state healthcare system and private healthcare is being pushed on to the population.

However, it is also worth noting that the relative shortage of skilled workers in Australia has created a situation whereby incomes relative to the cost of living are rising in Australia compared to America which is giving those moving from the US the potential of a higher standard of living. It is worthwhile noting that again this can vary significantly depending upon employment skills and the area of the country in which you decide to live. At the moment the local spending power of citizens in the US and Australia is fairly similar but Australia is certainly on the ascendency.

Food and Drink

It is well-known that America has a relatively low cost of food and other essential items and this is no different when compared to Australia. When you consider that food in Australia can cost up to 2.5 times the cost of similar items in the UK and can be even more expensive compared to the US you begin to get a feel for the difference in the cost of living. However it must be said that the cost of the food you buy in Australia will depend upon the type of lifestyle you are looking to create for yourself and your income.

If you look at for example the cost of eating in a restaurant in America compared to the cost of eating in a restaurant in Australia it is markedly cheaper in America. The price of beer is also cheaper in America as is the cost of the likes of Coke/Pepsi and water. Again, it will depend upon where you visit for your meal but on the whole it is becoming more and more apparent that Australia can be significantly more expensive in many areas.

While in some cases it is difficult to compare like-for-like, on the whole it has to be said that food in Australia is more expensive than the equivalent products in the US.


As we touched on above, the cost of health care in Australia compared to the cost of health care in the US is very different. The Australian system is very similar to the UK NHS system whereby a 1.5% levy is charged on employment income to fund a state wide free health care system. This is at odds with the US system which is very much based on private health care, although changes are being made at the moment.

Even after the proposed changes to the US healthcare system it will still be more expensive to obtain health care in America compared to Australia. Whether the Australian government moves towards a private healthcare system in the future, or at least encourages some to make the switch, remains to be seen because the ever-growing population is placing more and more pressure upon government budgets.


The US has been renowned for many years as a relatively cheap country to live in and this becomes more and more apparent when you compare the current cost of living in Australia to the current cost of living in the US. Even after you discount the wild swings in the currency exchange rates the cost of living in America is still significantly lower than that of living in Australia. However, we also need to consider the benefits of living in Australia and the prospects for the Australian economy.

There is no doubt that Australia is a country which has grown significantly over the last 20 years with many people believing the best may still be yet to come. The population has quadrupled since the First World War, predominantly because of a fairly relaxed immigration policy, and the continuing influx of skilled workers is having a beneficial impact on the overall Australian economy. On the downside, the influx of foreign workers attracting relatively high incomes has placed pressure on the property market and prices have risen substantially since 2000.

You need to balance the cost of living in Australia against the cost of living in America while also take into account the standard of living, the weather, prospects for the future, healthcare and other everyday issues. Only then will you be able to ultimately decide whether a move to Australia from the US would be beneficial to your lifestyle, your employment prospects and ultimately your overall cost of living and level of disposable income.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Dareen Brown January 23, 2012 at 9:09 pm

The forum is not a good starting point – you can't compare both countries – it's like comparing South Africa to USA or Singapore to China.
Many things are better in the USA because of its economy size – which means lower cost of living – and that will never be the same in OZ.

As an immigrant myself – immigrants are able to do better in the US much faster and quicker – there is a common belief that immigrants are 8 times more likely to succeed in the US than locals – because they came from higher cost countries, and usually able to save more.

But many immigrants do not succeed in the US as well – due to language and cultural barriers.

As a personal experience, and as an "Aussie immigrant" in USA – I feel it is easier to make money in the USA – USA is a place for would-be business owners – good business culture, large market, lower cost and plenty of opportunities; and lower tax rate as well.

But "local Americans" don't know the difference – they have no idea life is much more expensive outside the USA – and whey they finally have a chance to live abroad, they come back with much better appreciation.

But like Australia, US is not a place for lazy people ( where no place is), you have to work hard and try hard – but when you do try hard – the reward is much bigger and yes, you can live in a very comfortable life in the US with $100,000 income a year – which is pretty much the minimum you need just to meet the essentials in Australia for a family of 4.


Firechef June 25, 2014 at 11:04 pm

My friend you are dreaming with the $100.000 figure. Average income, not counting the RICH is $38.000 and for retired people on Social Security only $ 13.000.
That is why more people retire to Philippines, Indonesia, South American countries than anywhere else. My choice is the Philippines, at least with my SS I can live comfortably not starve as I am doing here in the USA.
I appreciate your opinion, but you are WAAAAY OFF!


Michael Brown February 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm

My general experience between the 2 countries are:

1. Cost of living: apart from healthcare – US is far more cheaper than Australia in pretty much everything
2. Healthcare: This is a mystery – in OZ, you still need private insurance as medicare's coverage is getting less and less. A good care will still cost around $3,000 to $4,000 for a family in OZ…and coverage is also limited.
3. Tax: Much higher in Australia – especially income tax, so an uplift in income doesn't mean much.
4. Income: Min. wage is higher in OZ, but mid-high level jobs pay much better in the US and much benefits. If you work on min. wages, OZ is better, but for waitresses – they get much better pay in the US once tips are added.
5. Property price: I won't even go into that, OZ is ridiculous expensive..

Source: My 20 years of living between the 2 places.

I love both countries, I can live in both places, I was born and raised in OZ. But in terms "value for money" if you want to call it, I have decided to live in the US, and use the money saved for my kids to get good education and also travel around, plus investments. Can't really do that in OZ, no spare money at the end of each month.


Amelia March 1, 2012 at 5:40 am

I would follow your steps. Now husband has a stable job here. Just thinking whether I should move there. Everyday, I am very worried about my own retirement.

Australia is a really boring country. The gov't thinks their country is very popular, but not to people like us who use to live in singapore. I prefer lower taxes, more job opportunities and much better lifestyles.

I am already 40. Another 10 more years to accumulate my retirement fund. Not enough time to do so.


Daniella February 13, 2012 at 12:29 am

It's interesting to see the results from US Green Card Lottery (Diversity Visa Program) which admits 50,000 Green Cards randomly each year. The number of Australians applying for it and received had been increasing every year. It used to be just a handful, it is now over 1,000 "successful" Australians receiving this every year.

Statistically speaking, it is about 1 in 30 chance, this means, around 30,000 to 40,000 Australians actually enter this program with interest in moving to the USA. This is also nothing compared to New Zealand, which has even higher success rate. In some countries like Nigeria or South America, as many as 1 / 10 of population applying moving to the USA in this program.

The rate is 50,000 over 5 million last year. So, that is very interesting. It shows that Australians understand the hardship in terms of living cost, so why not retain that life style but at a fraction of the cost – and you can do so by living in the US.

Our living cost here is now 70% less than what it used to be in Australia..which is very big, we are on the way paying off our mortgage in the US now, as opposed to just paying the interest in Australia…people compare about salary between the 2 countries, the skilled professionals actually get better salary in the US, plus they also get insurance, and much lower tax rate, plus, you can offset tax with your interest on your own home..


ll cool j February 14, 2012 at 11:36 am

a complaint it’s reality Australia is so damn over priced …highest utlilty bills ,, white goods .ever damn thing ..ah but the health care system well you truly pay for it in other ways .. love a Australia but hate it’s over priced life style transpotation ,cars ever thing is over the to top much perfer the low cost of the states .. the lucky country .. wrong


Irish Mike May 1, 2012 at 10:18 am

I am a Civil Engineer who has been living here in Australia for 4 years. In that time, I have time I have seen the cost of everything escalate scarily. I earn a pretty good salary, but I don't know how people earning even the median can survive. What I've seen here is that there is a growing greed which is destroying all I love about Australia. Whats worse is that I've noticed growing undercurrents of racism, especially against Indians. I'm looking to move from Australia to either Canada or the USA, what is life like there for families? Is there work for Civil Engineers? I'm really worried for the future of my two sons, I don't want them to be sucked into the increasingly feral sub-culture that is evolving here.


Nad June 2, 2012 at 12:26 am

It is better to live in an expensive country, where you are proud to be one, like an australian. but in USA you are called, hypocrite, arrogant and racist. I have a GC and live there for quite sometime and now planning not to comeback.

These are the things you have to know before moving to USA, I cannot say about economic condition because obviously it is cheaper in USA, but consider these facts

1. They have this stupid SSN that your life depends on. In this internet world, this number can be easily hacked, so watch out.
2. Gun Crazy assholes especially whites are everywhere, they just go crazy anytime and shoot you. Go get a gun and learn to shoot it to protect yourself and your family.
3. RIpoff telemarketers, bogus debt collector and people everywhere wants to rip you off, be careful, they are experts in those trades, that is why a lot of them are rich.
4. They have lots of enemies from other countries because of their hypocricy and their love of war. so be careful when you travel.
3 Lastly, learn to speak Spanish, because for some reason this country speaks spanish, you will hear them everywhere, phones, tv, markets, etc. and be prepared to be discriminated if you don't speak that language.

I have too many things to say, but above are just the main one, that will affect you most.

Money is not everything.

I still prefer Australia, my adopted country, I will fight for her.


Zekie Ledwell January 22, 2018 at 1:20 am

You are so off it’s not even funny! I have traveled many countries and I myself have considered retiring to another country one day(I am a USA citizen) but that seems doubtful now. Through out all my travels I always hear what a great country we come from. We do need tighter gun control laws but you are so far off base, my friend. Our SSN is very safe and is only hacked in most cases by neglect of citizen(giving it out…not paying attention…ect.) or hacked but jealous crooks from other countries. We also have phone blocks to shut out telemarketers and scammers….calling in most cases from other countries!! If you are scammed 9 out of 10 times it’s because of your own ignorance! We have a multitude of foreign peoples not just Spanish….English is ALWAYS SPOKEN AND SERVES AS THE MAIN LANGUAGE IN ALL ASPECTS OF BUSINESS OR SALES!! Please, I love Australia, and all countries have faults, but please to not post such utter ridiculous false statements about the USA. You have NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!


Bored Oz June 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Australia will never be like US. The govt here is VERY greedy and forever taxing people with their unreasonable taxes just meet their budget. Everything here is expensive. I find Australia is really backward. This country has ridiculous trading hours restriction. these days in order to be in the globalisation competition, you should never have restriction trading hours laws. But, Australians' mindsets are backward. All they care is not working and enjoy the lifestyle. It is so ancient the way they think here. The present govt here is worst. Jobs are limited here as well. I live here close to 6 years, and I still regret coming here… I should have gone to america where the opportunities are abundance. Americans love spending where as Australians are conservative and they hate spendings.


Hafiz October 3, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Aussie really need to put things in place because people are really undergoing some economical stress for the next generation everything in Australia is very expensive especially Sydney which is known as the centre of Australia , if it continue this way I think there will be more homeless than any country in the world. I like Australia .


jess December 4, 2012 at 12:14 am

I am Aussie wanna to live in US.

I am plan either looking for Job, or open small business, web design area.

How can I do this legally?


Anthony Rapone August 1, 2014 at 6:21 am

Just go to Mexico come across the board and claim political asylum and promise to vote Democratic and say,” I love Obama and where is the welfare office.” Bingo you are in….


Zekie Ledwell January 22, 2018 at 1:27 am

Real cute Anthony…..this is so sad that people give honest people wanting honest answers these “smart” and “untrue” answers….It’s very sad and not a bit funny, my friend!


boring oz February 9, 2013 at 11:22 pm

i don't like australia. don't think i will ever like here… it's a country very much like a third world countries. nothing is exciting for us here, practically nothing. we are so damn bored here. shopping hours is only from 7 to 5. no variety. australians are boring people. shit, i just wonder why i move here.

once we can get jobs elsewhere, we will move out from here. it's a god damn boring country. unless the govt knows how to change. but i doubt it will ever change for the next 10 years… good luck australia, u will be forever down under and forgotten


bob March 13, 2014 at 11:53 am

I have been in Australia for about 8 years previously from the uk
and since I have been here in this short time I have seen the fuel prices go from 72c a liter to $1.60.
and everything else has gone up just as much the government is taken this country really down under, I love everything else about this place except the cost off living Australians are too laid back and will take all the price hikes on the chin.
as for that I am really interested in moving to usa but I have never been any recommendations?


Andrew from Michigan July 15, 2014 at 3:52 am

The U.S. is a good place to be. At its core, it is designed to be what you make it. It isn’t easy to do well, but it isn’t difficult. The harder you work, the more successful you become. “Work hard, play hard,” is a popular saying around here for those with ambition. While people try to complain that they aren’t as well of as others, it is nothing they can’t get out of. Here, everybody has equal opportunity, but that doesn’t mean equal outcome. The beauty of the country (which was even better in the 1980s and early 1990s) is that you can take risks and are allowed to fail or succeed. If you fail, you can get back up, learn from it, and try again. You get successful and pass that knowledge onto your children and hopefully have a head start on wealth to give them a boost. Somebody who grows up poor may have to work extra hard to get going, but they have the same ability to start a business or go to school and make a lot of money, which allows the next generation to thrive a little easier. This is a more conservative mindset that teaches self-freelance as a means of becoming successful. The more successful you are, the more you can help others in the way YOU see fit, rather than paying higher taxes and having the government spend it for you (governments, by their very nature, ate inefficient).

I would recommend looking at Michigan. We had a terrible Governor from 2002-2010 who crippled our economy as the US economy also was falling due to bad lending policies following a great economy. However, Michigan currently has a brilliant Governor who has brought Michigan from the bottom to one of the most business friendly states in under 4 years. He tends to be fairly moderate overall, but gets things right with Michigam’s economy and leaves the social issues to Congress/The People. The Grand Rapids area and the West Michigan region as a whole is the 2nd largest area compared to Detroit and has actually survived and thrived while the rest of the state suffered or wad stagnant. We tend to me more conservative in policy, but it has resulted in a higher standard of living for us all here and set an example for the rest of the state.

I should note that Michiganders will complain about the weather. Sure, the weather can be all over the place, but we have nice summers that can be mild-hot and winters that can be snowy but also can be very mild and short (people will always tell you winter is too long if they don’t appreciate winter sports). We don’t get much in the way of natural disasters besides the rare tornado or flood. No earthquakes or hurricanes or mudslides here! Plus, you’re never more than 90 minutes away from the beautiful freshwater coastlines of the Great Lakes! Some places in northern Michigan have been ranked as the most beautiful in the US!


Chris Michaud May 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I’ll give my opinion for what its worth. I’ve never been to Austrialia, but have lived in Canada as a child but mostly in the United States. I can say this. The United States might be “cheap” to live in, but the wages in the United States suck. I see people here complaining of the taxes in Austrialia, don’t complain! I live in North Carolina and they tax every frigging single thing you do.

Another warning folks, the United States is essentially a police state and the government spy’s on everything you do. Also if an Aussie moves to the Southern United States or a very rural area, watch out because religion is very big and they will try and “convert” you.

Yes its cheaper, but think about this. Someone skilled in a suburb, somewhere makes $15 per hour. Well add it up, you have to buy health insurance or get it through your employer so thats a bill. Rent is not cheap unless your living in a place with absolutely no jobs. Average rent in the US is about 800-900 for something that is not a crap hole. After taxes on everything, you don’t end up with much at the end if anything, And even if you have ‘health insurance” you still get bill after bill after bill. Its a mess folks.

The US is not the worst, but it is certianly not the best.


Abby June 1, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Chris, there’s a reason someone here wrote that if you live abroad you will appreciate the US more and I think that’s exactly what you should do so that you can be more content and happy with your life.
This is coming from someone who lives in NC as well who lived for a short time in New Zealand and has family in Australia.


Leon Prince March 26, 2015 at 12:30 am

Being an Australian citizen while living in U.S.A. I prefer Australia’s way of doing things such as having a free healthcare system which cuts out the middle man mainly the insurance company. I still prefer Australia, my home country. I’ll fight for her against anyone beliefs. Another difference between them is while the gun laws in Australia are much more stricter & U.S.A. has a more looser one. I believe that the N.R.A. should look at the gun law here in the States before any more innocent people gets killed from gun related deaths. I agree with Bob that you learn from your mistakes, but not to the point of bring harm to your family’s safety at risk in a country which needs to regulate the guns distribution better. Money isn’t everything, but one’s safety is.


Ed June 10, 2015 at 10:28 am

It would be so easy to correct house prices in Australia if the greed factor were to be curtailed ideally
I would stop ALL investment in existing domestic realestate and allow new development of rental properties controlled by local government BUT protect existing stock from redevelopment. It is not right that large corporations and wealthy individuals are Llowed to strangle realestate forcing prices out of the reach of individuals in both the buyer and renter market.
Love to see a society where a house is a home again not an investment!


Sharlene March 15, 2017 at 4:27 pm

I’ve been living in US for 12years married American but I have no friends no real life my health iis very poor because of US lifestyle
I cry night after because I just want home to have friends feel OK too leave my home
I don’t know where to begin to get out and get home so I can sleep again and have my life back
I can’t make this country work for me
Can anyone give me advice?


Kerry July 20, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Sharlene, after 12 yrs of living in the U.S. and still being so unhappy I don’t think any advice will change your current situation. That said I have to ask what spefically is making you so unhappy? Is it related to relationships with family or friends, lack of interests/hobbies, financials, politics, health, etc? You have to be able to identify the reason for your unhappiness then make decisions on how to improve the quality of all aforementioned reasons for your unhappiness. Regardless of where you live you are responsible for your happiness and choices are always available to you to change your life. I live in Florida but have lived in Europe for 2 years where I didn’t love more than my own home in the U.S. but still found many positives while living there by working a job I enjoyed, traveling, and involving myself in the community I lived. I made the experience work for me as opposed to the experience itself dictating the outcome. In other words, you are in control, create your own happiness. I hope that helps. Kerry


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