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They're notoriously two of the most expensive cities in the world, but how much does it really cost to live in London or New York?
It's no secret that both London and New York are vibrant, exciting and cosmopolitain cities full of people from all over the globe and every walk of life. Both offer world class attractions, unrivalled entertainment and unparalleled opportunities, so it's not surprising that they're frequently compared as they compete for global supremacy.
The populations are also similar, resting at around 8.5 million as of 2016 (albeit across a much smaller land mass in New York), and they're equally considered to be key cities for the financial sector, fashion industry, tourism and other major industries throughout the world. In addition, although moving from one to the other requires a visa, it's relatively easy to adapt in terms of lifestyle due to the huge similarities between the two and the common language.
However, as a result of these attributes, both London and New York often find themselves topping lists and surveys of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. While debates have raged over which is really the more costly metropolis, we've compared rental costs, monthly utilities, transport, groceries and entertainment to find that, although costs are comparatively similar in both cities, the cost of living New York is slightly cheaper on the whole than London. This is largely due to the steep price of rent, utilities and transport in London.
However, it's also worth bearing in mind the cost of healthcare in the USA, which varies depending on the policy and health of the individual as there is no National Health Service as in the UK. If you're considering a move to New York from London, speak to your employer to see if they provide health insurance or research personal health insurance costs, as this could significantly increase your monthly cost of living depending on your health and policy.
While we've tried to be as accurate as possible in our research, these prices are also based on the current exchange rate as of September 2017 (£1/$1.32), a rate which is slightly favourable to the pound over the dollar.
Both London and New York are renowned for having some of the highest rental costs in the world, but as you’d expect in a city as huge and diverse as New York, rental prices vary as wildly by area as they do in London. Therefore to compare rental costs across both cities, it’s best to find an equivalent neighbourhood in terms of lifestyle and inhabitants. Here we’re comparing the cost of properties in Hackney London with Williamsburg New York, and Kensington & Chelsea London with Upper East Side New York.
Rental prices in vibrant, creative areas with good nightlife and transport links are relatively similar in both cities. A one-bedroom flat to rent in an area such as Shoreditch averages around £1,900 per month while in New York, the equivalent property in Williamsburg averages around £2,500. In more premium and central areas, London is generally more expensive - in the upmarket Kensington & Chelsea one bedroom properties average around £2,500, compared to £1,390 in New York’s Upper East Side.
Average Monthly Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: £1,250+
New York: Average
Monthly Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: £2,780+
While rental costs may be relatively similar in both New York and London, the cost of utilities and bills such as gas and electricity are quite a lot lower across the pond. Depending on the cost of your apartment, this may make your monthly spend on accommodation and associated costs quite a lot more in London than it would be in New York.
According to city comparison website Expatistan, monthly utilities for a two-bedroom apartment in New York will cost around £154, compared to £174 in London. Internet subscriptions in London are significantly cheaper at an average of £22 versus £36 in New York, but unfortunately Londoners also have to pay monthly council tax on top of utilities and rental bills. This costs around £100 a month per property on average, although this varies depending on which borough of London you live in.
Monthly Utilities (including internet): £196,
Council Tax: £100
Monthly Utilities (including internet): £196
Both London and New York are fortunate to have an extensive transport system of buses, trains and underground networks to help ferry the millions of inhabitants around the city everyday. In New York the metro alone transports a staggering 1.65 billion people every year, compared to 1.2 million in London. It’s also much more comprehensive in New York, with 24 lines to London’s 11 and nearly double the number of stations, as well as running 24 hours a day.
Despite the apparent supremacy of New York’s subway system, it’s actually much cheaper than London too due to the ‘flat fare’ rather than the zone fares imposed in the UK. A single journey on the New York Metro or bus service costs £2.00, while on the London Underground a journey costs £2.30 - £6.90 depending on the zone with an Oyster Card or contactless payment card, and £4.80 - £8.40 without. Monthly passes are also much more budget-friendly in the Big Apple, with a 30 day pass in New York available for £88 compared to £123.30-£320.30 in London.
Taxis are also notably cheaper in New York compared to London’s eye-wateringly expensive black cabs. The average journey cost in New York per kilometre is £1.35 compared to £3.30 in London, although both cities now benefit from budget-friendly taxi apps such as Uber which brings down the average taxi spend.
Single Journey Underground: £2.30 - £6.90 with an Oyster card,
Single Journey Bus: £1.50,
Monthly Pass: £123.30 - £320.30
Single Journey Underground: £2.00,
Single Journey Bus: £2.00,
Monthly Pass: £88
Weekly Shop (Groceries & Toiletries)
Londoners may pay more for rent and utilities, but we do save money on the weekly grocery shop compared to New Yorkers - supermarket prices are around 25% cheaper in the UK according to some reports for the similar products. Fresh food such as fruit, vegetables, meat and bread is much more expensive in New York, with bread more than double the price in certain cases. Toiletries and personal care products are also generally cheaper in London.
The higher cost of groceries in New York are partly due to the lack of large supermarkets in the city, meaning residents tend to shop at a selection of small stores which don’t have the range of products or budget options which can be found in somewhere such as a large Tesco in London. It’s also more expensive to purchase organic, free-range or hormone-free products in New York than it is in London.
Loaf of bread: £47p,
Large milk: £1
Single toilet roll: 39p
Loaf of bread: £1.28, Large milk: £1.40,
Toilet roll: 55p
Entertainment, Leisure and Going Out
When it comes to activities, attractions and enjoying all that the city has to offer, New York and London are very close in cost. Bars and clubs stay open later in New York although London boasts more venues, and a night out is likely to cost you around the same in either city whether you’re in a dive bar or a classy cocktail spot.
Restaurant prices are also very similar, with both enjoying a range of eating out options from quick sandwich shops and budget cafes to Michelin-starred establishments. Cinema tickets are identical with New York, with an adult ticket for a new film at the AMC in Times Square costing around £11 in both cities. Culture is cheaper in the UK with most of London’s museums being free to enter, while in New York admission to attractions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art or MOMA is £19 for adults. London also boasts more green spaces, gardens and parks to enjoy, with an incredible 62% of the city made up of greenery compared to just 14% in New York.
London: Cinema ticket: £11,
Average three-course meal for two: £52,
Museum admission: Free
Cinema ticket: £11,
Average three-course meal for two: £60,
Museum admission: £16
Prices accurate as of September 2017 (exchange rate: £1/$1.34)