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Cost of Living UK vs US

With the rise of remote work, more people can now live anywhere globally. The US and the UK are both popular options, offering a high standard of living and cities with fantastic cultures. However, the cost of living will always be a key aspect of this decision.

Read this article, and contact our immigration advisors at 0333 305 9375 to learn more about how we can help you assess where and how you can afford the cost of living in the UK and the US.

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Overview of Cost of Living in the US and the UK

Both nations have a cost of living that varies greatly depending on where you live. However, you can expect that there will be a higher cost of living in the US than the UK. Data shows that the cost of living is 0.49% lower in the UK than the US.

This difference is even greater in cities that are expensive to live in. New York City and London are generally considered the most expensive places to live in the UK and the US. They are cities with very high property values, which have trickled down into every aspect of life. Investopedia estimates you would have to earn £3700 a month in London compared with £4700 in New York City to live a good lifestyle.

So why is the cost of living so much higher in the US than in the UK?

Housing Costs

For most people, rent or mortgage payments are the highest outgoing cost each month. The amount you spend on housing, therefore, defines much of your cost of living.

Housing in the UK

Housing in the UK is generally cheaper than in the US, and the average one person rent in the UK is £880. Meanwhile, a family would expect to pay £1,550 a month.

There is a huge amount of variation depending on where you live in the UK. The city centre of London is the most expensive city at £1800 for a one-bed flat in the city centre. Meanwhile, as you move North, you will find the rent quickly becomes cheaper. Most British people consider Hull the cheapest city to rent in, costing around £400 per month on average.

Housing in the US

Rent in the US has long been rising, and currently average £1,130 a month for a one-bed apartment. Family rents are also higher in the US. They average £1880 a month.

Much like the UK, how much you spend on rent massively depends on where you choose to live. While cities like New York and San Francisco have extremely high rents, you can find a cheaper cost of living in cities such as:

  • Victoria.
  • El Paso.
  • Lubbock.
  • Port Arthur.

Utility Costs

Of course, rent or mortgage payments are not the only aspects of the cost of living related to your housing arrangements. You also need to pay utility bills to ensure you keep your home heated and comfortable.

Utilities in the UK

Energy bills vary depending on the amount of energy you will use and the size of the home you will live in. However, the national average energy bill in the UK was £2,500 in 2022.

The UK is currently finding its way out of a major energy crisis, which heavily contributed to an increase in inflation to 10%. Polling by the Office of National Statistics found that 73% of people had found that energy bill increases substantially increased their cost of living. Therefore, you can expect that energy bills will start to fall in real terms soon.

Utilities in the US

Utilities are one of the few areas where the cost of living is lower in the US. Again, the exact bill will vary depending on your living circumstances; however, the average is £2300 a year.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to get a comprehensive comparison of the cost of living in the UK and the US.

Healthcare System

All immigrants will need to consider how they will be able to access a high standard of healthcare in the nation they decide to move to. The US and the UK have very different systems, changing how healthcare is factored into your cost of living.

The UK National Health Service

All UK residents have access to the National Health Service (NHS). This institution is free at the point of use. You won’t have to pay at a hospital for any medical care you receive. Instead, the NHS is funded by taxes, so the amount you pay for it depends on your earnings.

However, you do have to pay for some services, which include the following:

  • Prescriptions (currently £9.65 per item).
  • Eyecare.
  • Dental care.

UK Health Insurance

The NHS is not the only way that British people access healthcare. Around 10% choose to go private with health insurance because of the long waiting times and difficulty getting an appointment in the UK. If you have complex medical needs requiring specialist care, you must consider getting health insurance to skip the queue.

The US Healthcare System

The American healthcare system could not be more different from the UK’s. The system is entirely privately operated, meaning you must pay for any healthcare you receive.

Most Americans choose to take out health insurance so that the high costs don’t fall on them. As demand has increased in recent years, the cost of health insurance premiums is increasing. They currently lie at an average of $560 per month.

It should be noted that the US government has introduced measures to help people with low earnings afford medical care, such as MEDICARE and MEDICAID. At IAS, we can help you to understand if you might be eligible for these measures. Find out more by calling us at 0333 305 9375 or contacting us online.

Contact us to for more information about living in the US compared to the UK and discover which one is right for you.

Groceries

Groceries are another large outgoing spend for all people, encompassing all the food that you buy to cook at home. They are generally cheaper in the UK. Each month, you can expect to spend:

  • £340 in the UK.
  • £460 in the US.

Variations in Grocery Prices

However, the situation is more complex than groceries being cheaper in the UK. It depends greatly on what you choose to buy because of the differences in regulations between the two nations.

Items that are cheaper in the UK include the following:

  • Bread.
  • Rice.
  • Fruit.
  • Vegetables.

However, some products can be 20-40% more expensive in the UK. This includes the following:

  • Milk.
  • Chicken breasts.
  • Eggs.

Transport Costs

Average monthly transportation costs are around 50% cheaper in the UK than in the US, partially because the US is much bigger than the UK. Again, transportation is too complex to simply consider this difference. Below, we compare the ways that transport works in the US and UK

Driving

Petrol costs £1.83 per litre in the UK, putting the average cost of a full tank at £100. In recent years, the UK’s fuel market has been volatile, so this price is subject to a great deal of change.

Meanwhile, petrol costs an average of £1.13 per litre in the UK, putting the cost of a full tank at £62. This difference is because the US produces its own petrol, and taxes are set at a fixed rate rather than being a percentage of the overall cost of petrol.

Public Transportation

It is near impossible to compare the cost of public transportation in the US and the UK because the systems work in completely different ways due to their differing sizes.

In the UK, trains are the most popular form of public transport, running quickly and comparatively cheaply. You can get a train from London to Edinburgh for around £140 depending on the time of day you are travelling and if you book in advance.

Meanwhile, flying is much more prevalent in the US as the nation is too big for trains. You can expect to pay an average of £280 per domestic flight.

How IAS Can Help

Living costs are not the only outgoing spend you must consider if you are immigrating to the UK or the US. Immigration is expensive as you need to work out the logistics of moving your belongings, and pay for any visa applications you need.

Each visa application is moderately expensive. You can expect the cost to run into hundreds of pounds for both the US and the UK. This will get even more expensive if you fail to properly complete your visa application, requiring re-applications and appeals, costing you more money.

IAS can help you to save. Our immigration advisers and lawyers can ensure that your application is correctly submitted, maximising your chances of success. Contact us at 0333 305 9375 or online to learn what services we can offer if you are moving to the US or the UK.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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Frequently Asked Questions

With the high cost of living in the US, many people are confused about how Americans can afford to survive. The primary way that Americans can afford their cost of living is through their salaries, which are generally substantially higher in the US.

After tax, the average monthly salary is £2,300 in the UK. Meanwhile, it is £3,400 in the US. Businesses are generally wealthier in the US and can afford to pay their workers better salaries. This is reflected in the nation’s very high GDP per capita, which sits at £56,600.

If Americans are paying a lot more to survive, are they living better lives than people in the UK? In most metrics, people are happier and healthier in the UK.

From a health perspective, the life expectancy in the UK is substantially longer at 80.9 years. Meanwhile, Americans are expected to live for 77.3 years.

America also falls behind on quality of life metrics, and the UK also scores higher on the human freedom index.

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