Cost of Living in Australia

25 June 2012
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Overview

Many prospective migrants want to know about the cost of living in Australia and whether they will have a better standard of living if they make the move.

This is not an easy question to answer and everyone's situation is different, so you need to be prepared to take some time and do plenty of research on the subject.

The key elements to this puzzle are:

Your Current Situation
- How much money do you have to bring to Australia?
- How many dollars will that buy at the current exchange rate?
- What size loan will you need?

This is all about the exchange rate, the relative cost of houses and your expectations in terms of location and size/quality of house.

Your Future Situation
- How much will you earn after tax?
- What will it cost to live day-to-day?

Going forward, unless you have an income from overseas (or expenses to pay), you can forget about the exchange rate - now it's all about what you can earn, versus what it's costing to live to a certain standard.

"Standard of Living" versus "Quality of Life"
Many migrants to Australia (especially from the UK) are looking for an easier life - less work and more leisure.

Without doubt, this is much harder to achieve now than it was a few years ago, mainly because the poor exchange rate has reduced their overall wealth and they have to get a bigger mortgage than they would like. Some recent migrants are finding it very hard to get by and are working longer hours in Australia just to pay the bills.

In general, though, most of us have some choices in the work/leisure balance. It should be noted that while some things are relatively expensive in Australia, there are a lot of leisure activities that are free or very cheap.

Disclaimer

Information on this website is intended to give the reader an overview of many aspects of life in Australia, such as healthcare, real estate, tax, superannuation etc.

While we at Aussiemove.com have performed a large amount of research on each subject area, we do not claim to be experts in those fields and we recommend that migrants discuss their requirements with companies specialising in those fields before making purchases, investments or other decisions concerning their move.

The content of this website is general in nature - no specific advice is intended.

We provide links to other companies as a service to our readers. We have taken reasonable care to ensure that each linked website does not contain offensive or inappropriate material. However, we are not responsible for the accuracy of any of the material in any linked website, or the advice that may be contained therein.

Housing

At the time of writing, the median house prices in Australian capitals1 are as follows:
  • Sydney: $555,000
  • Canberra: $495,000
  • Melbourne: $490,000
  • Darwin: $472,000
  • Perth: $460,000
  • Brisbane: $415,000
  • Adelaide: $370,000
  • Hobart: $350,000

The average house price in Australia is $470,000 ( averaged over the 8 capital cities).

What's an Average House?

Generally speaking, an average Australian house would be a 3 or 4 bedroom, single-storey house on its own plot of land. Of course, there are many much bigger houses and many smaller dwellings, such as home units and apartments. As for any other country in the world, location is a key factor in property prices. As an illustration; $460,000, the median price in Perth, could buy you any of the following dwellings, depending on which suburb it's in:
  • A single-storey 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house in Padbury (suburb median $470,000).
  • A double-storey house with a pool on a large block in Gosnells (suburb median $315,000).
  • A 2 bedroom apartment close to the river in Applecross (suburb median $1.25 million).

How Australia Compares

The average UK house price is around £160,4005, equivalent to about $250,000 AUD at the current exchange rate. At $470,000, the average Australian house is 88% more expensive than the UK average!

In New Zealand the average is $365,000 NZD6, equivalent to about $285,000 AUD, so Australia is 65% more expensive than New Zealand.

Of course, we are only looking at the numbers here - it does not take into account the size or quality of the "average" house in each country.

Also, this is not a direct comparison of "Housing Affordability" between countries - that needs to take into account earnings, income tax and mortgage rates.

Mortgage Payments

According to the ABS2, the average home loan in Australia in April 2012 was $288,900.

The current Cash Rate Target (Base Rate) set by the Reserve Bank of Australia3 is 3.50%, resulting in a typical mortgage rate of around 5.9%.

So, an average home loan will cost you around $1830 per month - that's $21,960 per year or around $422 each week.4

Renting

According to REIWA7, the median rent in Perth in March 2012 for all types of property was $425 per week. For 4 bedroom houses, the average is more like $470 per week.

A good way to assess rents is to look at the yield ie. the annual rent as a percentage of the house value. The average yield in Perth is around 4-5%. So, as a rough guide, if you're looking to rent in a certain suburb, where the median house price is say, $700,000, you can expect to pay $700,000 * 4.5% = $31,500 per year in rent. This comes to $605 per week.

A 100% mortgage on the same house would cost over $1000 per week. Add in rates, water rates and a few repairs and you would be paying around $1200 per week as a home-owner.

Clearly, renting is usually a lot cheaper than owning; in our example $605 versus $1200 per week.

An Example...Our House

Our house in Duncraig, 18km north of Perth CBD and 2km from the beach. The suburb is popular with migrants because of the reputation of local schools, attractive parks and good quality housing (which can be a bit dated).

Our house is fairly typical of this area - on a 710sqm block, single storey, 4 bed, 2 bath with lounge, dining, family & games rooms, plus concrete swimming pool - the house was built around 1980 and has had some minor renovations since then.

As most will be aware, Perth house prices went through a boom period between 2004 and 2007, roughly doubling in that perod. Since then prices have fluctuated, but in mid 2012 they're basically back where they were 5 years ago. Our house is probably in the $725,000 - $750,000 range (see the house).

Sources

1 www.rpdata.com
2 Australian Bureau of Statistics
3 Reserve Bank of Australia
4 www.infochoice.com.au
5 UK Land Rgistry
6 Real Estate Institute of New Zealand
7 Real Estate Institute of WA.
8 OzForex. At the time of writing, 1 AUD=0.645 GBP, 1.01 USD or 1.28 NZD.

Household Bills

In this section we list the main costs that our family incurs in running our home, excluding mortgage payments.

We have two school-age children, one dog and we run two cars, so that probably makes us a fairly typical Australian family.

Running the Home

Here are the main running costs for our home over a year.
  • Council Rates (City of Joondalup) = $1693
  • Water Rates = $892
  • Water Usage Charge = $416
  • Building Insurance ($418,000 cover) = $675
  • Contents Insurance ($113,000 cover) = $425
  • Electricity = $1,700
  • Gas = $750
  • Phone = $1300 ^
  • Broadband internet = $600
  • Foxtel Pay TV (Basic + Sport) = $840

Total of these housing costs:
$9,291 per year = $774 per month = $178 per week.

^ Phone - comprises a landline service and locals calls with Telstra, calls to Mobile and international with iiNet, our broadband internet provider. We also all have mobiles, which are not included in this. We could almost certainly rationalise all this and save money...something I keep meaning to do!

Healthcare

Private health insurance is optional, of course, but I would think the majority of Aussies have some level of cover. Ever since we settled here, we have had "ancilliaries" (aka "extras") cover for dentist, optician etc. - we used to have a policy with HBF, but have been with Medibank Private for the last few years.

We now also have "Basic Hospital" cover with another company, AHM. This pays some of the costs for in-hospital procedures, surgery etc.

We do not visit the doctor all that much and don't need any regular medication, but between us all we do use the services of the dentist, optician, podiatrist, chiropractor and occasionally the physio - there is usually something to pay - a "Gap" - on each visit (read more on our health pages)

  • Ancilliaries (Medibank Private Extras) = $87 per month
  • Hospital cover (AHM) = $127 per month
  • Other (GAP) expenses = $100 per month (estimate)

Total for family healthcare:
$3,772 per year = $315 per month = $73 per week.

Pet Health

When things go wrong, healthcare for pets can be as expensive as for humans. We estimate vet bills for our middle-aged cocker spaniel are averaging $300 per year. Add to this the $200 or so for clipping and that's $500 per year.

Total for pooch well-being:
$500 per year = $42 per month = $10 per week.

Education

Here are the education costs for one child in a private high school and one in a state high school.

State High School

No official fees for state primary or high schools, but each family may be asked to pay a "voluntary contribution" which may be up to $235 for the year.

There's a stationery order (about $60) at the start of each year, plus the cost of any excursions or incursions (eg. plays put on at the school).

A contribution towards the P&C (Parents and Citizens Association) may also be requested ($60 this year at my son's primary school).

Total for state high school (approx):
$400 per year = $33 per month = $8 per week

Private High school

  • Annual Tuition Fees = $7,985 (Year 12)
  • Other costs (approximate) = $1400

Examples of "other costs":

  • Resources Fee ($375 per year)
  • Building Levy ($550 per year)
  • Camp fees ($220)
  • netball/athletics/swimming carnivals - $30-$50 each

Total for private secondary school:
$9,385 per year = $782 per month = $180 per week.

Note: this is a "middle-tier" private school. Fees for the "top" schools can be around $20,000 per year for tuition alone. Some private schools, especially Catholic ones, can be quite a bit cheaper.

Cars and Travelling

Our family runs two cars; one is an old '97 Mitsubishi Pajero 3.5L 4WD, worth maybe $8,000. Insurance is $600 per year, annual licence (road tax) is $555. 6-monthly services are $270. Repairs are running at about $1200 per year. I estimate I'm spending $2,500 per year on fuel.
 

The second car is a 2011 Hyundai i30 2.0L, bought new for $19,000. Insurance is $520 per year, annual licence is $472. RAC membership (covers both cars) is $200. Annual service is $220. Repairs estimated at $350 per year. Fuel costs are running at about $1,500 per year.

Petrol (regular unleaded) is around $1.30 a litre in Perth at the time of writing (June 2012). At the same time oil is about US$96 a barrel.

Total Car Costs:
Each car is driven about 10-15,000 km per annum. Total running costs, ignoring depreciation: amount to about $5,400 per year (Pajero) and $3,250 per year (i30), total $8,650 for both ($721 per month / $166 per week).

Of course, if you change your car every few years, depreciation becomes a significant cost. On this basis, overall running costs obtained from the RAC are about $1/km for the Pajero and 56¢/km for the i30. So, based on only 15,000km per year each, the total cost is $15,000 + $8,400 = $23,400 per year!

Public Transport
From Duncraig into Perth CBD (a 2-zone journey), the standard fare would be $3.80 per journey, totalling $38 per week (10 trips). This can be reduced by 25% to $28.50 per week by using a "SmartRider" card.

Links

  • RAC for car prices and running costs.
  • Transperth for train fares and zones.

Groceries

Our main weekly supermarket shopping costs around $250, then there's about another $50 per week spent on additional fresh fuit and veg.

Here are a few general observations;

  • As a new migrant, you will inevitably compare grocery prices with "back home". The fact is, some things are cheaper and some things seem super-expensive (especially with the current exchange rate). After a while, you stop comparing and just modify your shopping to get the best value.
  • Australia has nothing like the variety of prepared meals that are available in UK supermarkets.
  • A lot of fruit and veg is grown locally and the price fluctuates greatly depending on the level of supply. A recent example; storms in Queensland destroyed most of last year's banana crop and the price of bananas in Perth went from about $3/Kg up to $12-$15/Kg! Peaches and plums can be $6/Kg one day and $2.50/Kg the next day.
  • At "growers' markets", fruit and veg can be MUCH cheaper than in the supermarkets. For example, recently in Perth celery has been scarily expensive ($5 for a whole celery), whereas at our local growers' market, celery has been $1.99.

Total food bill for our family of 4:
$300 per week.

Specials

All supermarkets run weekly and daily specials - the price of individual items can be reduced substantially, sometimes by 30-50%. Therefore, if you are able to allocate enough time to the process, you should be able to reduce your weekly shopping bill significantly - I would guess by about 20% overall.

To view some current specials follow these links (if you need to enter a suburb, just enter the capital city you are heading for) :

Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks are not sold in supermarkets (at least not in WA) - they are generally sold in "bottle shops", which may be attached to a pub/hotel or may be a separate shop. Some of the supermarket chains do have bottle-shops as a side-line, located near the main store.

Note that every week retailers have specials which can reduce the price by 20% or more. Also, beer is much cheaper if you buy a "carton" of 24 cans/bottles or a "block" of 30 cans, rather than buying 4 or 6 at a time. Often there are savings to be had by buying wine by the case or half case. Wine casks (wine box in the UK), holding 2, 3 or 4 litres are also fairly popular and work out cheaper in general than bottled wine. Below are some prices of drinks advertised in specials catalogues that dropped through our door in June 2012.

  • Emu Draft Beer (aussie mid-strength 3.5%) - 1 block (30 x 375ml) for $28 = $2.14 per litre
  • Full strength aussie beer (5%) - 1 carton (24 x 375ml) normally about $38, on special for $30 = $3.33 per litre
  • Imported premium beers (5%) - 1 carton (24 x 375ml) normally $55, on special for $45 = $5 per litre
  • Wine - red or white 4 Litre wine cask - 2 for $20 = $2.50 per litre
  • Wine - "reasonable" (opinion of author!) bottle of red or white - $10 on special (normally $13)
  • Spirits - 700mL bottles of gin, blended whisky etc. - $30

Eating / Drinking Out

Here are a few indicative prices seen when eating and drinking out around Perth:
  • Cup of coffee = $3.90, mug = $4.50
  • Full cooked breakfast = $20
  • MacDonalds burger/fries/drink meal - $6.95
  • Large pizza (pickup) - $5.95
  • Gourmet/wood-fired pizza (pickup) - $18.00
  • Fillet steak main course with potatoes and a few veg = $35 - $40
  • Glass of wine in restaurant = $8
  • Bottled full-strength beer in pub or restaurant = $6 - $8
  • Pint of Guiness in a pub = $8 - $10

Estimated total for beer/wine, takeaways, eating out for our family of 4: $80 per week.

Sport and Recreation

Of course, this will vary enormously between families, but the following list is not at all unusual:
  • Family membership of the local tennis club = $420 per year
  • Golf (6 day membership of private club) = $1500 per year
  • Leisure Centre membership (Swim + gym + group classes) = $830 per year
  • Leisure Centre membership (Group classes only) = $645 per year
  • Swimming/yoga/gym (casual) = $12.50 per session
  • Winter kids sports (Soccer & Netball) = $250 per year
  • Summer kids sports (Teeball & Surf Club) = $250 per year

The total cost for our family:  $2,500 per year = $208 per month = $48 per week.

(We do some of the activities listed, not all of them)

Even if your family is not actively into sport, you might need to consider the costs of music or dancing lessons, etc.

How it adds up

Our weekly "fixed" household spending is:

Mortgage$422
Other housing costs$179
Healthcare$73
Pet care$10
Schooling$188
Cars$166
Food Shopping$300
Drinks, snacks & Eating Out  $80
Sport & Recreation$48
Total$1,466

That's just over $76,200 per year, which requires a gross salary of about $102,000 (one earner) or $46,000 each (two earners) to provide.

** We are not saying that is all you need to earn to get by, because there are many more expenses which we are not able to quantify - see below.

Remember this is just an example for our family - in some areas your own costs will be similar - eg rates and utility bills probably don't vary that much between families and groceries won't be hugely different, unless you have very expensive tastes. You can estimate the size of mortgage you will have and calculate your repayments.

But the other categories can be very different depending on how many cars you run and their age and model, whether your kids go to state or private school, how often you eat out and so on.

Also, please note that this only represents our "fixed costs" each week, there are plenty of other expenses, some are luxuries and they will vary enormously according to your income and tastes, so we haven't tried to quantify their dollar value, but consider the following:

  • Clothes
  • Holidays
  • New furniture
  • Electrical goods
  • Home Improvements

Electrical and Furniture

Below, we have listed some prices of household goods recently advertised in Perth:

Kitchen & Laundry
Washing MachineLG 7.5kg Front Loader$798
DryerElectrolux 6kg Auto Sensing$499
DishwasherBosch 14 place 4 star$797
MicrowaveWhirlpool 24 Litre stainless steel$276
FridgeLG 422L Fridge freezer$698
TV/DVD
TVPanasonic 32inch HD LED LCD TV$478
TVSamsung 60inch Full HD Smart LED LCD with 3D$2898
DVDLG DVD Player multi format$48
DVDPanasonic 500GB Blu-ray recorder with 3D$728
Home TheatreSamsung 7.1 Channel Blu-ray Home Theatre system with 3D$888
Computers
DesktopHP Pavillion Desktop with 24inch LED monitor$1474
NotebookSony Vaio i7 processor, 8GB RAM 750GB HDD$1292
TabletiPad 16GB with Wi-Fi and retina display$497
PrinterCanon MX516 Multi-Function$127
PrinterHP Officejet Pro 8600A$338
Cameras
Digital CameraNikon Coolpix 14 megapixels, 5x optical zoom$98
Digital CameraCanon Powershot 16 megapixels, 30x optical zoom$442
Digital CameraCanon EOS 650D DSLR, 18 megapixels$1192
CamcorderSony HDR-CX 190 Handycam$298
Other Indoor
Vacuum CleanerVolta Vortex bagless$148
Vacuum CleanerDyson DC39$872
Outdoor
Lawn Mower4 stroke petrol$300
Outdoor SettingCheap plastic - table & 6 chairs$100
Outdoor SettingAluminium, table & 6 padded chairs$700
BarbequeCheap 4 burner$180
BarbequeDeluxe 6 burner$700

These are indicative prices advertised in Perth, June 2012. Please check with retailers if you need to know exact current prices of particular products.