Are you looking to compare the cost-of-living UK vs USA?
Just like the UK, the United States is suffering from all-time high inflation along with a continued rise in household expenses and bills.
This means that it is even more crucial that you understand the cost of living in the UK compared to the USA because it will be an essential factor when you are planning to move anywhere in the United States of America.
Knowing what you are up against, helps you assess whether the potential monetary impact of emigrating will live up to your expectations and whether, or not, a move is feasible.
Housing, transportation, healthcare, education, groceries, and leisure activities all contribute to the overall cost of living and need to be considered when evaluating the affordability and savings between countries.
Here we aim to delve deeper into the cost-of-living UK vs USA.
Before you begin your relocation journey, the first thing you need to organise is a job.
Understanding the job market and having a realistic expectation of your earning potential will help ensure that you can meet your financial needs and maintain the desired standard of living.
Unfortunately, earning expectations are an area where it is hard to generalise figures.
Certain industries or professions may offer higher salaries in one country compared to the other, while others may have similar compensation levels.
Individual factors, such as qualifications, experience, demand for skills, and job market conditions, can also influence salary levels differently in either country.
By taking a closer look into a few common job titles, we can compare, on average, what you can expect to earn annually in the UK and the USA by profession.
- Accountant USA USD75,713 (£59,502) – UK £34,751
- Carpenter USA USD42,914 (£33,726) – UK £31,600
- Computer Programmer USD96,352 (£75,723) – UK £40,000
- Healthcare Social Worker USD54,898 (£43,144) – UK £32,000
- Secondary School Teacher USD51,290 (£40,308) – UK £39,0000
Yes, on average, it is often the case that individuals in the United States have higher salaries compared to their counterparts in the United Kingdom.
That said, it is still crucial to conduct plenty of research into your particular area of employment or expertise so that you are aware of your potential earnings in the USA.
As both countries have their individual taxation systems, this is an area that is hard to draw direct comparisons.
The U.S. tax system is complex and varies at the federal, state, and local levels.
Income tax rates can vary depending on your income level and the state you reside in.
Tax in the USA is worked out in a similar way as the UK by a series of tax brackets. But the brackets are vastly different.
In the UK we have four income tax bands.
Personal allowance, basic rate, higher rate, and additional rate.
In the US, your income tax is taken as a percentage of your income.
In the most recent tax year, you could have anywhere between 10, 12, 22, 24, 32, 35 or 37 per cent of your income spent on income tax.
Overall, in the UK, you will probably pay more tax, but there are other associated costs of living that are exceptional to the USA tax system.
Visit the USA Government Revenue Service website here for a complete guide to paying your taxes in America.
Housing Market Price Differences
Affordability in the UK has been a challenge for many over the past few years, particularly first-time buyers.
The cautiousness of mortgage lenders combined with rising mortgage rates has resulted in a substantial drop in mortgage applications and approvals.
Regardless of where you are on the property market, according to the UK Land Registry stats, buying a home in the UK costs an average of £291,385. (as of September 2023).
On the flip side, the average cost of a home in the USA currently stands at USD 380,000 (£297,650), marginally higher than in the UK.
While owning your own home in America may be a little more expensive, what you get in the USA is space.
Obviously, city living is going to minimise your square footage, but generally, homes in the USA are bigger and sit on much larger plots so you get more for your money.
In most instances in the UK, space comes at a premium.
Rental Market Price Differences
Just like the UK, the rental market in the USA has become much more significant in recent years with increasing numbers opting to go down the rental route.
Renting in urban areas, especially in highly desirable neighbourhoods or city centres, tends to be more expensive compared to suburban areas again, this applies to both the UK and the USA.
As a direct comparison, Numbeo, the cost-of-living comparison website states that the cost to rent a family-sized three bed home in the USA is USD 2485 (£1947) and a similar home in the UK comes in at around USD 1379 (£1,743) per calendar month (PCM).
This shows a saving in the UK of around £231.
However, it is important to note here that currency exchange rates do fluctuate regularly resulting in differing comparisons.
We all need to heat our homes, have access to clean water and expect the electricity to work when we require it. None of these services come cheap no matter where you live in the world.
Utility costs, including electricity, gas, water, and internet, will vary depending on the region.
As a guide, electricity prices in the UK are generally higher than in the USA.
Plus, the UK’s reliance on gas imports and the impact of global energy prices contributes to higher energy costs.
The USA has abundant natural resources and a greater focus on energy self-sufficiency, which keeps its costs down.
How old, and energy-efficient homes are can also affect utility costs.
The UK has a higher proportion of older homes compared to the USA, which may require energy efficiency improvements and potentially lead to higher energy consumption.
Conducting thorough research and considering local factors will provide the most accurate understanding of utility expenses when planning a move.
However, overall, you can expect to pay less per month for utilities in the US.
What are you likely to pay to get around in the USA and, will it be cheaper than here in the United Kingdom?
Access to good transport connections and well-maintained roads is essential, we rely on it for many reasons.
Getting to work, socialising, collecting children from school, important appointments etc., be it by road, sea, rail, or local bus services.
Public transport fares in the UK are often calculated based on distance travelled and have a zonal or fare zone system in place.
In the USA, public transportation fares are often calculated on flat rates or based on time periods (e.g., a fixed fare for a single ride or a day pass).
Here are some comparisons for you:
- Local bus ticket, one-way USD2.50 (£1.98) – UK £2.50
- Monthly bus pass USD80.00 (£63.31) – UK £67,00
- Fuel (the biggest saving) per 1 litre USD 1.01 (80p) – UK £1.96
In short, though costs may differ in both countries with prices increasing closer to main cities, there is not a massive difference if you choose to travel via public transport.
But the US is a winner in the fuel stakes by far.
You can expect to save a considerable amount by driving as the cost of fuel is so much cheaper.
Food Price Comparison
USA food costs vary with some items being more expensive than others in the UK.
Factors such as location, local supply and demand, transportation costs, and agricultural practices can all influence the price of food items on both sides of the pond.
Even the seasons can influence the cost of food. It is always cheaper to buy when your fruit or veg is in season rather than out.
Plus, imported foodstuff, of course, will incur extra costs.
As we know all too well, what supermarkets charge in the UK alone differs wildly.
Given these complexities, it is challenging to provide a definitive comparison of food costs, however, Numbeo the price comparison website has done the homework for us.
Bearing in mind that comparing the cost of food between the two countries is not an exact science.
Here are some basic grocery basket food items and what you can expect to pay for at home and in the States:
- 1 litre of milk USD 83 (65p) – UK £1.04
- 500g loaf of white bread USD 3.60 (£2.85) – UK £1.23
- Dozen medium-sized eggs USD 3.92 (£3.10) – UK £2.97
- 1kg Potatoes – USD 3.09 (£2.44) – UK £1.11
- Mid-range bottle of wine USD 14.00 (£11.08) – UK £7.50
- Cigarettes per pack of 20 USD 9.00 (£7.12) – UK £13.00
- Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) USD 71.53 (£56.61) – UK £32.00.
Yet again, we see that the comparisons are a mixed bag with some items being more expensive and some less so in either country.
Healthcare Cost Comparison
The UK’s NHS provides free healthcare coverage to all residents.
There is a great deal of difference between the British healthcare system and the American system.
The huge and obvious difference is that in the UK we have the NHS.
Antiquated as it may be, we are lucky that for the most part, to have it.
It has always been an envied institution worldwide.
The UK’s NHS provides universal healthcare coverage to all residents, regardless of their ability to pay.
The NHS is funded by general taxation.
This means that essential healthcare services, including doctor visits, hospital care, and necessary treatments, are generally accessible without direct charges at the point of use.
Private medical insurance is also available in England, but it is optional, and it is expensive.
In contrast, the healthcare system in the USA is operated with a mix of private and public funding, multiple insurance models and various payment mechanisms.
Access to healthcare services in the USA often depends on insurance coverage and the ability to pay for medical care.
The average cost unsubsidised individuals US citizens pay for their healthcare is around USD 500 – USD 600 per month (£496), for just a basic package.
There are several levels of healthcare and prices increase depending on what level of coverage you can afford to pay.
You may qualify for extra help in the way of a discounted subsidy. How much you are likely to pay will depend on your annual income.
In terms of accessibility and the absence of direct charges, the UK’s NHS does stand out as a system that provides free-of-charge healthcare coverage to all residents.
Are you thinking about moving to the USA?
There is no denying that the cost associated with emigrating to America is massive.
While the financial aspects of emigrating can be daunting, proper planning, budgeting, and considering available resources and support can help you navigate the transition more effectively.
Enlisting the services of a migration agent who can provide invaluable guidance based on your specific circumstances and goals could make or break your move.
There are plenty of agencies out there ready to assist you.
Here are some you may want to explore:
We hope this article has given you some insight as to what to expect and is of help to you.
Ultimately, with thorough preparation along with a good understanding of the costs involved, you should now have a little more knowledge as to whether a move to the USA is going to be right for you.
Transporting Your Effects to the USA
We hope to have helped you get a better understanding on the cost of living UK vs USA.
Before you arrive, you will need to organise the transportation of your effects to your new home.
It is always advisable to use a reputable removal expert such as White & Company to take care of the safe arrival of your personal effects.
We have moved thousands of people across the globe for many decades.
For further peace of mind, we are members of BAR, FIDI and OMNI, all renowned industry regulators.
You are safe with White & Company!
There are several ways to make contact with us.
Complete a quick quote form online, chat with our Bot, or alternatively, give us a call.
Either way, we will respond as soon as we can and hopefully, it will be the first step towards making your emigration dream to the USA a reality.
Max is a seasoned writer and blogger in the real estate and home moving sectors, as well as a knowledgeable source of information for expatriates living and working abroad. His detailed insights have helped thousands of people move and live abroad with greater simplicity and ease.