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London vs New York – Cost of Living

Cities don’t come much more exciting than London and New York.  Both are global centres of renowned art, theatres, music, finance…  the list goes on.  When it comes down to the cost of living, there are some interesting differences between each city.

One thing you can’t get away from is that both cities are pretty high up there in the cost of living stakes.  A recent report in UK paper, the Telegraph, put London as the most expensive city in the world to live in 2014.  But both consistently feature in the top 5 most expensive in the world, with each managing to be more competitive on one hand than the other.  And with prices of property, petrol (gas) and food changing on almost a daily basis, along with each currency being fairly volatile, it’s impossible to give a completely accurate overview.

However, it’s safe to say that currently each city is on a par with the other when you take everything into consideration.  But that doesn’t mean that one city won’t be cheaper than the other when it comes to a person’s individual circumstances. For example, petrol (gas) prices are hugely different, meaning that if you do a lot of driving, then this would make a big difference to your cost of living.

To accurately represent the difference in costs between the two cities, it’s necessary to get an accurate exchange rate between the dollar and sterling, using a currency convertor such as the XE converter to get accurate figures.

So let’s take a look at the individual differences between each city.


Despite Londoner’s constantly bemoaning the price of rent and property in the city, living accommodation is actually less here than in the Big Apple – by a whopping 17%.  According to Expatistan , who collate prices on all cities on an annual basis, the capital of the UK represents better value for money when it comes to finding a place to rent.

For instance, rent on an apartment covering 85sqM of living space, fully furnished in an expensive part of town will set you back around $3,479 (£2,306) per month in London.  In New York, you’ll be shelling out an average of $4,123 for a comparable property.  You can check out rental and purchase prices of property in London on sites such as Zoopla and Right Move.

Utilities, however, are 8% higher in London. The average cost for a couple living in the above apartment will be around $215 (£143) a month, against the New York price of $199.  However, the savvy Londoner will ensure they’re paying the lowest price for their utility by checking out different suppliers using an online comparison site such as USwitch.

Throw in a cleaner, which every busy expat knows is more of a necessity than a luxury, and London wins hands down – with an average hourly rate of $15 (£10) versus a cool $23 across the pond.

Petrol (Gas)

Now this is a contentious issue if ever there was one.  And everyone in London (indeed, the whole of the UK) moans about the price of petrol (gas). And when you look at the prices compared to New York the reason for this becomes apparent.  In fact, petrol is 104% more expensive in London than it is in New York, with a litre retailing at around $2.02 (£1.34) here, against $0.99 in New York.  

However, fuel in London tends to vary quite widely according to area and the outlet you purchase it from.  Supermarket petrol stations are nearly always more competitively priced, such as Tesco, Morrisons and Asda.  You can check out the cheapest fuel prices at the Petrol Prices website in the UK to ensure you’re not paying more than necessary.  And with eye watering prices such as these, it’s almost essential that you know where the cheapest place to fill your tank is located.

With the price of fuel so high, you might well expect the cost of the vehicles themselves to be cheaper in London.  But no such luck, with the cost of a car such as a VW Golf TDI 2.0 litre (new) being $31,038 (£20,569) as opposed to $23,619 in New York.

Public Transport

London also scores poorly in this aspect as well.  A monthly pass to use the tube, trains and buses in the capital will set you back around $199 (£132) per month, against a more affordable US experience of $114.  This makes London’s transportation system 75% higher than that of New York.

Food and Groceries

Well, after the shock of the prices of fuel and transportation in London, it’s good to know that on average, you can eat for less.  Staples such as cheese, tomatoes, apples, potatoes in supermarkets in London are between 1-49% cheaper in London.  For example, a 2kg bag of potatoes in London will set you back around $1.69 (£1.12), against a massive $3.34 in New York.  Milk is around the same price in both places, and bread is around 43% cheaper in the UK capital.  

You can often save time (although not necessarily money) by doing your grocery shop online.  Companies such as Ocado, Tesco and Sainsburys all offer such services.

However, when it comes to eating out, New York wins the day.  An average price of a daily menu in the business district is around $16 in NYC, but $19 (£23) in London.  And a Big Mac Meal in London will cost you 13% more than in New York.

Socialising & Entertainment

Once again, London wins the day in this category.  For instance, a basic meal for two in a nice pub will set you back around 4% less in London than in New York, at around $47 (£31) versus $49.  For the movie buffs amongst you, London is one of the most expensive places in the world to see the latest films.  A couple of tickets here will set you back around $35 (£23) as opposed to the New York average of $28.

But if you fancy your entertainment more up front and personal, two tickets to the theatre in New York will see you paying around 38% more than in London ($337 versus $210).

For the more fitness minded, gym memberships are around 9% less in London than in New York.

Personal Care

London wins once again when it comes to looking after oneself or purchasing products from the chemist or pharmacy.  Deodorant in the UK is cheaper by a whopping 37%, and toilet paper an incredible 40% cheaper than in the US.  Toothpaste is also around 5% cheaper, but it’ll cost more for a gentleman to get his hair cut in London.  The average price of a tidy up haircut here is around $24 (£16) as opposed to $21 in New York.

As you can see, London is much more expensive when it comes to fuel, transport and vehicle costs.  But when you factor in the that the UK capital is cheaper on more of the day-to-day outgoings, both cities end up being fairly comparable when it comes to the cost of living as a whole.