Ultimate Guide To Cost of Living in New Zealand vs US [2024]

With the cost of living going up exponentially, people are more worried about their spending, especially when moving countries. If you are considering relocating from the US to New Zealand or vice versa, living expenses and salaries are probably on top of your mind.

New Zealand is a significantly cheaper place to live in compared to the US. In New Zealand, the average cost of living for a single ranges between $3,500 to $5,200 per month. In the US, a single needs about $4,800 to $7,000 (US$3,000US$4,300) monthly.

The US is generally an expensive place to live, but people also get paid pretty well. While New Zealand is the 15th most expensive country in the world, the salaries barely meet the standards. Read on for more information about living costs in New Zealand vs the US, wages, taxes and more.

Read our guides about the cost of living in New Zealand and watch a video on YouTube.

Is it cheaper to live in New Zealand or the US?

According to Numbeo – the largest database for the cost of living in the world, New Zealand ranks as the 15th most expensive country in the world while the US holds the 16th position. However, you will learn in this article that actually living in the US will cost you more! In some cases, thousands of dollars more!

Here are the things that you will pay more for in New Zealand vs the US, 100% guaranteed:

  • Fuel
  • Some groceries
  • Houses (when buying)
  • Many consumer items
  • Fast food
  • Furniture
  • Clothes
  • Cigarettes

Categories where you will save in New Zealand vs the US:

  • Housing – rents
  • Medical care
  • Cars
  • Utilities
  • Eating out
  • Insurances e.g., pet insurance and pet visits
  • Taxes
  • Education and childcare

Below is the cost of living index from Numbeo:

3Cayman Islands
12Hong Kong (China)
15New Zealand
16United States
19South Korea
20Macao (China)

That said, New Zealand is ranked 12th out of 79 countries regarding the cost of living, with a price index of 184.

According to the world’s largest cost of living resource Numbeo.com:

Consumer prices in New Zealand are 3.1% lower than in the US
Rent prices in New Zealand are 34.1% lower than in the US
Restaurant prices in New Zealand are 12.6% lower than in the US
Groceries prices in New Zealand are 4.7% lower than in the US

Thus, according to Numbeo, New Zealand has lower prices across the board. That said, local purchasing power in New Zealand is also 18.6% lower than in the US.

My conclusion of the cost of living in the US vs New Zealand:

  1. Housing: Rents are higher in the US, however, buying a house is more affordable in many locations in the US vs in New Zealand. The US is one of the best countries to own a house.
  2. Utilities: Utilities such as electricity, and water are cheaper in New Zealand.
  3. Food: The cost of groceries is comparable to or higher in the US. However, eating out is cheaper in New Zealand, and you don’t have to tip.
  4. Transportation: Owning and driving a car is cheaper in New Zealand due to the low car prices and insurance rates.
  5. Healthcare: New Zealand has free, publicly funded healthcare for all residents. Your medical expenses can be as low as zero. You don’t even need insurance for it! In the US, healthcare accounts for a large junk of monthly expenses average Americans have.
  6. Taxes: Tax systems differ significantly in these countries. For example, the US has several taxes, whereas, in New Zealand, you only pay income tax.
  7. Education: New Zealand offers much more affordable and, in some cases, free education. In the US, you will pay more across the board, including tertiary education and childcare.

Consequently, the US is a much more expensive country across most categories.

Average cost of living

Here is an overview of the general monthly cost of living in New Zealand vs the US for a single person:

New ZealandThe US
Rent for a two-bedroom house$2,200 – $3,000$3,661 (US$2,268) – $4,921 (US$3,049)
Utilities$150 – $300 $347 – $560 (US$215 – US$350)
Groceries$800 – $1,200$800 – $1,450 (US$500 – US$900)
Transportation (owning a car)$200 – $400$807 (US$500)
Phone$25 – $50$30 – $65 (US$20 – US$40)
Broadband internet$55-$85$100 (US$65)
Miscellaneous and leisure (eating out, cosmetics, etc.)$150$300 (US$200)
Total per month$3,580 – $5,185$6,047 – $8,200

Here is what I spend every month while living in New Zealand as a single:

  • Rent: NZ$1,800
  • Electricity, gas, and water: NZ$150
  • Mobile phone: NZ$45
  • Internet: NZ$45
  • Groceries: NZ$950
  • Insurances: NZ$130
  • Fuel: NZ$320
  • Gym: NZ$107
  • Total bare minimum: NZ$3,547 or US$2,197

On the other hand, below are some common monthly expenses (proven by studies) of a single living in the US for 2022 (in US$):

  • Housing: $1,784
  • Utilities: $300
  • Transportation: $819
  • Food: $610
  • Food Away From Home: $198
  • Healthcare: $431
  • Health Insurance: $306
  • Entertainment: $243
  • Gas: $131
  • Clothing: $120
  • Housekeeping Supplies: $70
  • Personal Care Products and Services: $54
  • Education: $106
  • Total: US$5,172 ($8,348)

In 2021, however, the average household spent even more. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household’s monthly expenses were US$5,577 ($9,000). Moreover,

  • The average annual income after taxes was US$78,743.
  • An average American spends US$1,885 per month on housing, US$691 on food, where US$438 goes to groceries, and US$253 – eating out.
  • Transportation costs are pretty high, with an average of US$913 per month, but it includes the car purchasing price.
  • Americans spend a whopping US$454 per month on healthcare.

Read more about average expenditures in the US in this comprehensive study.

Spendings also vary significantly depending on the household size, here is the data for the US.

Household sizeAverage monthly spending in 2021
One personUS$3,405
Two peopleUS$5,782
Three peopleUS$6,597
Four peopleUS$7,749
Five or more peopleUS$7,400
Source: U.S. Bureau and Labor Statistics (2022).

On the other hand, as a family living in New Zealand, you are looking to spend at least this amount:

Main expensesMonthly costs (NZ$)
Rent (three-bedroom house)$2,500
Food and groceries$1,300
Other expenses$400
Total:$4,875 (US$3,019)

Generally, a typical NZ family spends between $5,000 – $6,000 (US$3,233 – US$3,883) every month. In the US, an average family of four spends about US$7,749 per month.

That said, most families in New Zealand actually spend more if we consider housing, like renting a three-bedroom house. A family of four living in a main city like Auckland usually spends closer to $7,000 – $8,000 (US$4,300 to US$4,955) per month.

1. Housing


New Zealand rent prices are lower than in the US.

The US

In 2023, the national median rent was US$1,937 ($3,126). Some US cities like New York will shock you with current rates! For instance, the median rent in New York City in 2023 was US$4,022 ($6,492).

The second highest rent is in Boston, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. They all have median rents of above US$3,000 for a single-bedroom apartment. Generally, New York and California are the two most expensive states in terms of housing.

Compared to New Zealand, where rental prices are constantly rising, non-stop, the US has seen some considerable drops over the last few years.

Here are some cities where the decrease in rents in 2023 was more prevalent:

  • Austin, TX (-11%)
  • Chicago, IL (-9.2%)
  • New Orleans, LA (-3%)
  • Birmingham, AL (-2.9%)
  • Cincinnati, OH (-2.9%)
  • Sacramento, CA (-2.8%)
  • Las Vegas, NV (-2.4%)
  • Atlanta, GA (-2.3%)
  • Phoenix, AZ (-2.1%)
  • Baltimore, MD (-2%)
  • Minneapolis, MN (-1.6%)
  • Houston, TX (-1.5%)
  • San Antonio, TX (-1.3%)

Here are the rental rates for a one-bedroom apartment in different US cities:

  • New York City – around US$2,800 per month
  • Los Angeles – US$2,200
  • San Francisco – US$3,500
  • Houston or Atlanta – can be US$1,000 and less

That said, housing costs in the US vary significantly depending on the location; in some areas, you can get a pretty decent house for the money you would have paid in New Zealand. For instance, according to Statista, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in February 2023 across the US is US$1,320 ($2,129).

New Zealand

Rent will take a large portion of your salary in New Zealand, this is because you generally will earn less than in the US, and rent rates are high too. In fact, New Zealand is one of the worst countries when it comes to income and housing expenditure.

For example, in main cities like Auckland, you will need at least $650 per week ($2,500 or US$1,550 per month) to afford to rent a two-bedroom house in the suburbs. Smaller towns are less expensive, but nowadays, it’s hard to find anything with more than one bedroom for less than $600 per week or $2,400 per month.

Here’s a breakdown of average rent in New Zealand vs in the US for different housing options (main cities):

House typeAverage rent per month in the USAverage rent per month in New Zealand
Studio$1,100 – $2,400 (US$700 – US$1,500)$1,500 – $2,000
1 Bedroom$2,261 – $3,200 (US$1,480 – US$2,000)$2,000 – $2,200
2 – 3 Bedroom$3,635 – $7,268 (US$2,251 – US$4,500)$2,400 – $3,000

Smaller apartments and studios can be more affordable in the US due to the larger amount of these properties. In New Zealand, apartment buildings are less common.

Also, keep in mind that these are average numbers across the US; in some cities, like New York, renting a one-bedroom apartment can cost as much as US$4,000 or $6,460.

The median rent in Auckland in 2022 is between $595 to $690 per week for two bedrooms or $2,200 to $2,500 per month. However, actual market rent is often higher, and you can expect to see rents above $700 per week in desirable neighborhoods.

In Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, the average rent across all types of properties was $620 per week in January 2023.

To save on rent, check out house sitting!

Buying a house

Most people, either in New Zealand or the US, will look into buying property sooner or later. It’s a fact that houses are very pricey in New Zealand. Generally, you are looking into about $800,000 to million New Zealand dollars for an average home.

In fact, the average price of the house in November 2022 was $945,568.

Overall, house prices in New Zealand vary heavily depending on the location. Prices range from $350,000 to $1,382,722. Statistics show that the average cost of buying property in New Zealand is $6,602 per square meter.

In the US, the median home value was US$303,738 ($490,307) in April 2023. At the same time, you can find a decent house for as little as US$200,000 ($322,849) in less expensive states.

Below are average rent prices depending on the property type in 2023:

85 m2 condo in expensive areaUS$3,049 ($4,921)
85 m2 condo in normal areaUS$2,268 ($3,661)
One-bedroom apartment in expensive areaUS$1,974 ($3,186)
One-bedroom apartment in normal areaUS$1,480 ($2,389)

Read this guide about house prices in New Zealand.

2. Utilities

Mainly because of the soaring electricity prices, utilities tend to cost more in the US vs New Zealand.

In America, the average monthly cost of utilities, including electricity, gas, and water, is around $348 (US$216) for an average condo. An average energy bill ranges between $158 – $242 (US$98 to US$150) depending on the state.

To compare, New Zealand’s average household pays around $250-$300, and some pay even as little as $150 per month. The price of electricity significantly depends on the heating method the house uses and how much you consume it.

A home internet costs about $103 (US$64) in the US on average and about $60-70 in New Zealand.

The bill can be as high as $500 for some families. If heating is done with electricity, the price will be higher, while gas is more affordable.

Utility bills in New Zealand mainly come to electricity since water is often free of charge or relatively cheap. Gas is another concern if you are using it for cooking.

That said, an average US family spends about $3,325 (US$2,060) per year on utility bills. It’s about $277 per month and can be compared to the amount a typical New Zealand family will spend.

3. Food


Food is the second largest expense you must budget for in New Zealand. Groceries are on the expensive side in this country. In fact, in 2021, New Zealand was ranked as the sixth most expensive out of 38 countries. However, food here is still more affordable than in the US.

In the US, the average household spends about $1,115 (US$691) on food per month. Here is the split between expenditure on groceries and eating out.

Food expenseAverage monthly spendings in 2021
Food away from homeUS$253

In New Zealand, most people spend at least $200 per week on groceries. Some singles might get away with $100 per week, but this is possible only when compromising on high-quality produce. Vegetables and fruits are very pricey in NZ. Tomatoes cost over $10 per kg, and cucumbers at least $5. One bell pepper sells for $2,5.

Here is an overview of grocery prices in the US and New Zealand as of April 2023, keeping in mind that grocery prices are rising rapidly in both countries. We have taken prices of typical items from Target in the US, which is probably the most famous supermarket, and Countdown in New Zealand – two middle-range supermarket chains in both countries:

MarketsUSNew Zealand
Milk (1 liter)$3,2
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)$5.67
Oats 500 gr$12.26
Rice (1kg)$6.73
Eggs (regular) (12)$7.41
Broccoli$2.89 each
$2,5 each
Cheddar Cheese (1kg)$27
Chicken Fillets (1kg)$19.26
Beef mince (1kg)$19
Apples (1kg)$7.84
Sweet potato (1kg)$4.85
Banana (1kg)$2.59
Oranges (1kg)$6.70
Tomato (1kg)$7.36
Cucumber $1.92 each
$3,5 each
Bell Pepper$2.41 each
$3 each
Potato (1kg)$4.44
Carrots (1kg)$3
Strawberries 250gr$6.44
Onion (1kg)$4.47
Lettuce (1 head)$3.44
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)$20.95
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle)$4.36
Source: Target; Countdown

The cost of food is a concern in both countries; some items are more expensive in New Zealand, while some are in the US.

Inflation 2022-2023 and food prices

New Zealand experiences a sharp increase in grocery prices. Change in food prices March 2022 vs March 2023 according to the Stats.govt.nz:

  • Fruit and vegetable prices +22.2%
  • Meat, poultry, and fish prices +7.8%
  • Grocery food prices +13.7%
  • Non-alcoholic beverage prices +8.2%
  • Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices +8.7%

Food prices have risen at their fastest annual rate in more than 30 years, with a sharp increase in groceries, fruits, and vegetables.

Stats NZ said food prices in 2023 rose by at least 12%.

Read more about the cost of food in New Zealand.

Eating out

Both Americans and Kiwis love to eat out. Expect to pay about 12.6% more when eating out in the US, and don’t forget to add the tip, which is usually at least 10% and can be as high as 20%! In New Zealand, giving a tip isn’t required, and most people don’t leave them because you usually will pay at the counter.

Here is an overview of typical restaurant, cafe, and fast-food prices in the US and New Zealand as of April 2023:

USNew Zealand
Meal in a regular cafe$32 – $40$25 – $30
Breakfast$30 – 40$18 – $25
Meal for 2 in a decent restaurant $120$120
Fish and chips $20$10 – $14
Beer$11$10 – $12
Cappuccino or flat white$7$5

Here are some typical prices of eating out for two people in the US, depending on the cuisine:

  • Asian – $58
  • Chinese – $44 
  • Italian – $61
  • Japanese – $71

Read the full guide about the cost of food in New Zealand.

4. Transportation

In transportation expenses, New Zealand wins over the US, especially when it comes to owning a car.


Most people drive a car in New Zealand. Luckily, cars here are pretty affordable, you can buy a decent used vehicle for $5,000 to $10,000.

The cost of running and owning a car in New Zealand depends on how much you drive and your insurance type. On average, expect to spend about $3,000 to $4,000 annually or about $250 monthly.

Car insurance is cheaper in New Zealand, where the most affordable option sells for $400 per year, and the most expensive goes for around $800 annually. In the US, typical car insurance costs over US$100 per month or US$1,601 per year, on average.

In addition, US drivers pay high fees for parking and rental parking places. In New Zealand, you will enjoy a lot of free parking places.

In the US, an average household spends about US$975 per month on transportation, however, this number also includes car finance.

The breakdown of transportation costs for an average household in the US in 2021:

Transportation expenseAverage monthly expenditure (US$)
Vehicle purchases$402
Gas and oil$179
Public transportation$38
Vehicle finance charges$23
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Public transportation

In Auckland, a single bus or train ride costs around $4-$6, depending on the number of zones, while a monthly pass costs about $215.

In New York, a single bus or train ride costs $4,5 (US$2.75), while a monthly pass costs $208 (US$129).

Here is an overview of public transport costs in the US vs New Zealand. However, this type of transport isn’t available anywhere you go in New Zealand. Keep in mind that only main cities like Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch have developed public transportation.

USNew Zealand
One-way ticket US$2.50
$2,5 to $3,50
Monthly passUS$70.00
Taxi startUS$3.50
Taxi 1 kmUS$1.68
Gas – petrol 91US$1.00

Using public transport on a regular basis would be more affordable in the US, but this country isn’t known as a country with a well-developed public transport system!


However, fuel is considerably less expensive in the US, costing only about US$1 per liter! That’s $1.61 per liter for petrol, while in New Zealand, it’s around $2.91 in 2023.

5. Phone and internet

Mobile data and the internet are generally more expensive in the US than in New Zealand. The internet is quite pricey in both countries. So for a basic plan with 2 GB data and 100 min of calls, you will pay at least $25 at Vodafone.

In the US, similar packages with AT&T or T-Mobile USA sell for $48 (US$30) and less. In fact, a plan with 5GB + Unlimited calls and texts at AT&T costs $48 (US$30) per month.

Home internet is also cheaper in New Zealand. Unlimited internet for your house starts at $55 for broadband, but fibre will cost you $69 per month.

New ZealandThe US
Phone$25 – $60$50 (US$30)
Broadband internet$55 – $85$100 – $120 (US$65 – US$80)

6. Healthcare

The healthcare systems in New Zealand and the US are dramatically different. In New Zealand, it’s publicly funded, and all residents enjoy free medical services, except for dentistry.

In the US, there is a risk of becoming bankrupt when getting seriously sick.

An average American spends $732 (US$454) per month on healthcare, while an average Kiwi spends about zero! Here is what the cost split looks like in the US:

Healthcare expenseAverage monthly expenditure, 2021
Health insuranceUS$309
Medical servicesUS$89
Medical suppliesUS$15

That said, both in the US and New Zealand, you pay for dental care, ophthalmology, and some prescription medications out of pocket. In that case, private dental insurance or health insurance might be helpful.

Before you can qualify for free healthcare in any of these places, we recommend signing up for private insurance like Cigna Global. They operate worldwide.

7. Insurances

What insurance do you need in New Zealand and the US, and how much does it cost?

In New Zealand, one generally doesn’t need any insurance; at least, there aren’t many mandatory ones except house insurance for homeowners. Besides, New Zealand doesn’t have a suing culture like the US does. Hence, people don’t need to have insurance for everything in order to compensate for potential lawsuits.

Car insurance is mandatory in the US, and most drivers have one in New Zealand. The average price is about $500 in New Zealand and $2,582 (US$1,601) annually in the US.

The cost of other insurance you might take out, like contents insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, and pet insurance, are calculated at the insurance company when you submit the quote.

On the other hand, an average American household spends $1,058 (US$656) per month on diverse insurance.

This includes:

  • Personal insurance
  • Insurance for pensions / Social Security

And It doesn’t even include:

  • Homeowners insurance
  • Renters insurance
  • Car insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Personal liability insurance
  • Accident insurance
  • Disability insurance

So, we would need to add another US$200 – US$500 per month on top of it!

Personal insurance and pension expenseAverage monthly expenditure, 2021
Personal insurance$39
Pensions/Social Security$617

8. Schools and childcare

In New Zealand, the education system is publicly funded, where primary and secondary schools are free of charge. The US is similar to New Zealand, where parents don’t pay for schools. However, some schools may require additional fees for things like school uniforms or extracurricular activities.

Childcare is expensive but still pretty affordable by international standards. The average cost of full-time preschool childcare in Auckland is around $350-400 per week or $1,200 per month max.

The average cost of full-time preschool childcare in New Zealand is $1,238 per month vs $2,160 in the US.

9. Entertainment and others

If you want to stay fit and join the gym, it will cost you $94 (US$58) per month in the US and $66.79 in New Zealand, although it’s more common to see membership prices of around $100 in New Zealand.

A movie ticket in Auckland costs around $16-$22, while a ticket to a live music concert can range from $40-$150. The best thing about New Zealand is that most people spend their free time outside, exploring nature and the outdoors, which is free!

That said, a cinema ticket in the US costs around $22 (US$14), while the price for a ticket to a live music concert ranges from around $150 (US$90). Generally, an average US household spends $480 (US$297) per month on entertainment and other expenses:

Entertainment expenseAverage monthly expenditure, 2021
A/V (audiovisual) equipment and services$85
Other entertainment supplies, equipment, and services$77
Fees and admissions$55

Lastly, if you are fancy shopping for clothes, here is what to expect:

USNew Zealand
1 pair of jeans$82.20$115.75 
1 summer dress$59.50$67.58
1 pair of Nike shoes$130.45$158.94
1 pair of men leather business shoes$177.68$189.54
Source: numbeo.com

Well, jeans are indeed very affordable in the US! That’s probably because many global clothing brands originated in the US.

If you are considering moving to New Zealand with your US job, read this article.

Cost of living in Auckland vs New York City

Well, if you are wondering whether New York or Auckland is more expensive, guess the answer is pretty straightforward. There is barely a city in this world with such a high cost of living like New York, maybe Zurich.

Here are some facts regarding the cost of living in Auckland vs New York:

Overall prices in New York are 28.7% higher than in Auckland
Consumer prices, including rent in New York, are 70.5% higher than in Auckland
Rent prices in New York are 161.1% higher than in Auckland
Eating out is 42% more expensive in New York than in Auckland
Groceries in New York are 34% higher than in Auckland

If you are working remotely and have an opportunity to keep your NYC job and move to Auckland, you should do so! That will save you a tremendous amount of money!

To live comfortably in New York, you would need a whopping $14,834 (US$9,213). At the same time, you will have a similar lifestyle in Auckland while spending only $8,700 (US$5,389).

Here is an overview for you:

RentAucklandNew York City
Two-bedroom house/flat$2,500 – $3,200$6,051 to $10,489 (US$3,749 to US$6,498)
Groceries$800 – $1,200$1,000 – $1,450 (US$600 – US$900)
Transportation (public)$215$208 (US$129)
Average cost of a mid-range meal$30 $48 (US$30)
Total per month for one person$4,791$10,000 (US$6,195)

New York City rent prices

Type of housingAverage rate
1-Bedroom apartmentUS$4,331
2-Bedroom apartmentUS$6,191

Salaries in the US vs New Zealand

When speaking about the cost of living, it’s also crucial to talk about local salaries. I also have a guide on salaries in New Zealand which you can check it out.

According to Statista, in 2021, the average annual wage in the US was US$74,738 ($120,645). In New Zealand, the average national salary was $1,189 per week in June 2022. That comes to about $58,000 (US$35,930) per year. Well, that’s a drastic difference. However, New Zealand has a considerably high minimum wage of $22.70 per hour.

Generally speaking, wages are higher in the US than in New Zealand, mainly because the economy is much larger. Here are some examples of salaries across typical jobs:

ProfessionNew Zealand (NZ$)The US (US$)
Software engineer70,000 to 120,00090,000 to 140,000
Registered nurse50,000 to 80,00080,000 to 100,000
Teacher50,000 to 90,00060,000 to 75,000
Marketing manager70,000 to 120,000120,000 – 160,000
General practitioner (GP)80,000 to 200,000200,000 to 400,000

Considering that NZ$1 is only 0,6 of US$1, salaries, even in NZ$, are so much lower in New Zealand than they are in the US.

Moreover, I have analyzed mean wages according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and here how much professionals across various fields earn:

OccupationAnnual mean wage (US$)
Preschool, Elementary, Middle, Secondary, and Special Education Teachers$65,580
Lawyers, Judges, and Related Workers$159,710
Metal Workers and Plastic Workers$47,020
Other Management Occupations$113,420
Advertising, Marketing, Promotions, Public Relations, and Sales Managers$152,320
Writers and Authors$91,560
Web Developers$87,580
Software Developers$132,930
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

You can find your occupation on US Bureau of Labor Statistics and check the salary yourself.

Here is some general data about salaries in the US:

  • National average income: The national average US income in 2021 was US$97,962. The median US income in 2021 was US$69,717.
  • Income by gender: The median male salary in 2021 was US$50,391, 27% higher than the median female salary of US$36,726.
  • Salary by state: Male residents of Washington, D.C., made a median income of US$83,567, the highest of any state in the country. The lowest median male wage is in Arkansas – US$40,736.
  • Median family income: Two-person families have the lowest average family income, earning US$75,143 on average. Four-person families earn the most, with an income of US$105,901.

Moreover, according to Glassdoor.co.nz, the average salary for a software engineer in Auckland is $95,000. According to Teleorg.org, for this job type, Auckland ranks 86th for salaries among 265 cities across the world – not the best score.

On the other hand, a software engineer who works anywhere in the US can expect at least US$80,000 ($130,000). Not to mention that in cities like New York or San Francisco, they might earn twice as much.

That said, in New Zealand, a good annual salary is between $70,000 and $80,000 per year before taxes. In the US, you should make about $110,000 (US$70,000) for a comfortable lifestyle.

The average annual salary for some typical jobs in New Zealand in 2022:

JobAverage salary (NZD)
Project Manager97,524
Civil Engineer91,800
Mechanical Engineer70,794
Project Engineer96,163
Business Analyst81,300
Registered Nurse75,670
Data Analyst78,965
Software Developer88,130
Primary School Teacher75,130
Office Manager55,833
Pharmacy Technician47,280
Dental Assistant45,300
Farm Worker43,522
Graphic Designer60,119
Veterinary Nurse43,200
Source: jobted.co.nz

Highest paying jobs in New Zealand include:

  • Information architects (IT): $135,000
  • Data warehousing and Business Intelligence (IT): $115,000
  • Cybersecurity specialists: $105,000
  • Construction project and contract management: $105,000
  • IT Sales: $105,000
  • Finance managers: $100,000
  • Database experts: $95,000
  • Quantity surveying: $95,000
  • Surveying: $95,000
  • Test analysts: $95,000
  • Architects: $85,000
  • Geotechnical engineers: $85,000
  • Civil and structural engineers: $85,000
  • Commercial property management: $85,000
  • Accountants: $75,000

*source: Trademe.co.nz; Seek.co.nz

Top-paying industries in the US look slightly different:

Did you know that in New Zealand, you can apply for government support via Work and Income if you don’t earn enough?


New Zealanders pay higher taxes than US citizens but aren’t obligated to file taxes when living abroad, like Americans. Moreover, as an NZ resident, you are entitled to free healthcare and don’t even need insurance. So, some huge savings are possible.

Nonetheless, the OECD reported that the US “tax wedge” for the average single worker was 28.4% in 2021. On the other hand, the tax wedge for an average NZ worker was 33.8% in 2021. New Zealand ranked 21st out of 38 OECD countries in terms of tax-to-GDP ratio.

Here are income tax rates in New Zealand for 2023:

SalaryTax rate
Up to $14,00010.5%
Over $14,000 and up to $48,00017.5%
Over $48,000 and up to $70,00030%
Over $70,000 and up to $180,00033%
Remaining income over $180,00039%
Source: www.ird.govt.nz

US tax is more complex than that because there are several different taxes like federal income tax and state taxes, plus the US government makes separations depending on your marital status. In the first stage, your US income will be taxed on the federal, most state, and sometimes local governments level. Secondly, the federal government levies payroll taxes on both employees and employers. 

For instance, as a single, you can expect to pay the following rates (in the US$):

Tax rateTaxable income bracketTax owed
10%$0 to $10,27510%
12%$10,276 to $41,775$1,027.50 plus 12% of the amount over $10,275
22%$41,776 to $89,075$4,807.50 plus 22% of the amount over $41,775
24%$89,076 to $170,050$15,213.50 plus 24% of the amount over $89,075
32%$170,051 to $215,950$34,647.50 plus 32% of the amount over $170,050
35%$215,951 to $539,900$49,335.50 plus 35% of the amount over $215,950
37%$539,901 or more$162,718 plus 37% of the amount over $539,900
Source: nerdwallet.com

That said, in 2020, the average federal income tax payment was US$16,615, according to Businessinsider. Therefore, if you have made US$80,000 and paid US$16,615, you still have US$63,385 left.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in New Zealand?

As you have learned in this article, New Zealand isn’t a particularly cheap country, in fact, it’s a pretty expensive one. So how much money do you need to live without a constraint here?

A general rule of thumb in terms of budget for a single living in New Zealand in a separate house / flat is at least $4,000 per month. In cities like Auckland and Wellington, it looks more like $4,500 – $5,000 monthly. To have this disposable income, you should strive for an annual wage of at least $60,000 with tax.

Nonetheless, the cost of living is constantly rising, and according to Statistics, 34% of Christchurch residents, earning between $70,000 to $100,000, said they only had enough money to survive, while 11% said they could not cover all their basic needs like food, shelter, and utilities.

Keep in mind that Christchurch is one of the most affordable cities in the country.

Therefore, it’s highly recommended to move to New Zealand with an income of $100,000+ so that you can enjoy the fantastic quality of life and the lifestyle it has to offer.

For more details about the cost of living in New Zealand, read the full article, where I also share my monthly expenses.

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