One of the first questions people ask themselves while planning a move to Germany is whether or not they can afford the cost of living in Germany. When looking for information online, it can be hard to find straightforward information. In the end, you really need to have this information before you can decide if relocating to Germany makes sense for you.
Most people assume that the cost of living is quite high in Germany, given that it is such a great country with lots of opportunities and a strong economy – the largest in Europe and the fourth largest in the world, in fact. However, it’s not as expensive as you might think to live here.
Is Germany Expensive?
Germany is not considered an expensive country to live in. In fact, Germany is cheaper than almost two-thirds of countries in Western Europe. Compared to the rest of the world, Germany is the 29th most expensive country to live in, as this research from CEO World shows.
Even if Germany isn’t the cheapest country to live in, don’t worry. You can still find ways to live frugally even if you choose a big city like Berlin or Munich.
Of course, your cost of living will depend on your requirements and personal choices, like where you’re going to live, the number of times you decide to go out for dinner, whether you take taxis or public transportation, or the type of health insurance you choose.
The city you choose to live in will impact your cost of living, which is why it’s important to do your research before relocating to Germany. Find out what the average living costs are in the various cities you’re interested in moving to, then weigh the pros and cons of each.
What’s the Cheapest City in Germany?
The cost of living in Germany’s cheapest cities averages between €1,200 to €1,550 per month for a single person, including rent for a single-bedroom apartment in the city centre. Here’s a list of the 10 cheapest cities in Germany, according to Numbeo:
However, if you would rather live in a bigger city, you might want to consider Berlin, since it comes in at number 11. Even though Berlin is the capital of Germany, it’s still very affordable to live there. For example, there’s a wide range of delicious and inexpensive street-food and street-food markets thanks to the large number of foreigners living in Berlin.
As a comparison, the average cost of living in Berlin for a single person with a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre is around €1800 with all expenses and health insurance included; if you live in the outskirts, that might drop down to €1550. Outside the city centre, you’re probably going to pay €650 (or a little bit more) for a one-bedroom apartment – excluding ancillary costs.
What’s the Most Expensive City in Germany?
The cost of living in the most expensive cities in Germany varies from an average of €1,300 to €2,300 per month for a single person, including rent for a single-bedroom apartment in the city centre. Here’s a list of the 10 most expensive cities in Germany, according to Numbeo:
What’s the Average Cost of Living in Germany?
The average cost of living in Germany is around €1,400 euros per month. However, it all depends on how much you can save on groceries, dining out, and rent. Where you live has a huge impact on your cost of living, and we’re not just talking about the cities. The neighbourhood you choose to live in matters, too.
If you choose to live in the outskirts of a city you can save a pretty significant amount of money each month. For instance, living outside a city like Aachen costs on average €400 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, while the same apartment located directly in the city centre would cost an average of €650 per month – excluding ancillary costs.
You can also find cheaper deals by renting a single bedroom in a shared apartment. In the end, it’s all about what you want and how you’re willing to live – whether it’s more comfortable or on a budget.
Cost of Living in Germany: A Breakdown
Talking about the cost of living for an expat in Germany as a whole is extremely difficult because there are many factors and some considerable variations. As you can see from the comparisons above, the cost of living can vary from €1,200 to €2,300 for a single person, mostly because costs vary so widely between cities.
According to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the average household – considering those living alone and large families – spends €2,700 euros per month on living expenses.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research also states that as a rule of thumb you can expect to spend a third of your income on housing. Of course, it varies according to where your housing is located and whether it is furnished or not.
According to Numbeo‘s estimates, a single-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs, on average, €728 per month. However, on average, the same type of apartment can vary from €490 to €1,300 per month – excluding ancillary costs.
If you’re moving to Germany, you need to know that it is illegal to be uninsured, even if you’re still/only in the process of applying for residency. So, when considering your living expenses in Germany, you will also need to consider the amount you will pay for health insurance.
Public Health Insurance
In general, if you earn less than €60,750 per year, you are not allowed to get private health insurance, which means you will need to opt for public. The public health insurance – also known as Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (GKV) – costs 14.6% of your gross income, plus another supplemental charge that equals 1.7% of your gross income.
These contributions are usually not your sole responsibility, however. The public health insurance is paid half by you and half by your employer, while the supplemental charge is paid by the employer alone.
So, if you work 40 hours per week and earn the minimum wage – which would be €1,593.00 at the time of writing – you would pay €116.29 per month for public health insurance.
In addition to those charges, you still need to become a member of the nursing care scheme (called Pflegepflichtversicherung), which costs 3.05% (or 3.3% if you have no children) of your gross income.
Private Health Insurance
Certain people are eligible to get private health insurance instead of public health insurance. You qualify if:
- Your income is higher than €60,750 per year;
- You are self-employed;
- You are a student.
It’s important to note that private health insurance is not mandatory if you fall into one of the above criteria. Even if you’re self-employed, earn more than €60,750 per year, or are a student, you can still choose to have public health insurance instead.
The average cost of private health insurance in Germany ranges from €400 to €700 euros per month – but it can cost more or less than that depending on your age, any pre-existing conditions you might have, your medical history, and the coverage you choose.
Another expense to consider when calculating your cost of living in Germany are household utilities. On average, you will spend around €257 per month. However, average costs can vary from €167 to €400 per month. This expense includes electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage, and high-speed internet.
On average, you should expect to spend an average of €50 to €199 per week on groceries – which is what around three-quarters of people who live in Germany said they are used to spending, according to Statista.
Again, it depends on how many people live in your household and how willing you are to look for the best deals, buy from cheaper brands and go to cheaper supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl. If you’re looking for special items and organic products, for example, the costs per person can increase.
The costs of public transportation in Germany can vary depending on which city you live in. On average, prices range from €60 to €90 per month. One-way tickets usually vary from €2.20 to €3.30, while monthly passes may vary from €55.00 to €98.50, according to Numbeo.
This is another expenditure that can vary immensely. Depending on your budget, you can choose to go out more often or not go to restaurants or order food at all. Meals in an inexpensive restaurant can range, on average, from €6.90 to €18.00. This means that if you go to a restaurant once a week, you can spend anywhere from €27.60 to €72.00 per month for one person.
On the other hand, if you opt for a mid-range restaurant, a meal for one person might cost an average of €17.50 to €40.00. If you eat in this kind of restaurant once per week, you could spend around €70 to €160 per month.
If you have children, you should also consider the amount of money you’re going to pay for childcare and school. The monthly fees for a full day of private preschool is €335 per month on average. However, these costs can vary from €123 to €799 per month.
Meanwhile, a month in an international primary school costs around €990 per month. But these costs can also vary depending on the school you choose and the city you live in. The average international school might range from €462.50 to €1,667 per month, according to Numbeo.
Sports and Leisure
In Germany, fitness clubs cost on average €30 per month and usually require a contract of 6 to 12 months. These prices can range from €20 to €59 per month, though, depending on the club you choose. Leisure activities like going to the cinema usually cost from €6.90 to €15. These expenses might not be things you think about at first, but they should be factored in.
In Germany, the cost of clothing is typically not high. A summer dress in a fast-fashion store or a department store usually costs anywhere from €20 to €60, while a pair of men’s leather business shoes cost, on average, between €60 and €150.
PS: If you’d like to check the prices for a specific city, check out Numbeo’s website to learn more about the average costs.
Cost of Living in Germany vs. the USA
Is living in Germany more expensive than living in the USA? Once again, it depends. But if we compare, for instance, the two capitals (Washington DC and Berlin), the difference is pretty significant.
You would spend an average of €890 for a single-bedroom apartment in the centre of Berlin. In Washington, the same apartment would cost €1,980 per month. Rent prices are currently 41.38% higher in the United States.
Grocery prices are 28.44% lower in Germany, and dining out is usually more expensive in Washington than in Berlin. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant would cost, on average, €9.00 in Berlin and €12.46 in Washington.
On the other hand, a pair of jeans – Levi’s or similar – would cost around €82.50 in Berlin and €47.34 in Washington. The local purchasing power of Washington is also 21.91% higher than in Berlin.
The most extreme difference, however, is childcare. One month in a private full-day preschool (or kindergarten) costs, on average, €123.50 in Berlin and around €1,413.66 in Washington.
However, if you compare the average cost of living in both countries as a whole, the difference is not so big. Consumer prices – including rent – are 12.88% higher in the United States than in Germany.
PS: Check this article if you are an American moving to Germany!
Cost of Living in Germany vs. the UK
Another question people commonly ask is whether living in Germany is more expensive than living in the United Kingdom. On average, living in Germany is much cheaper than living in the UK.
Comparing the two capitals (London and Berlin), the difference again is significant. For instance, while you’re spending an average of €890 for a single-room apartment in the centre of Berlin, in London, it would cost €1945 per month.
Going out to eat in a restaurant is also cheaper in Berlin. You can get a meal at an inexpensive restaurant in the German capital for €9.00 while the same meal would cost an average of €17.36 in London. Public transportation is also way cheaper in Berlin. A monthly pass costs, on average, €82 while in London it costs €174.90.
One of the biggest differences between London and Berlin is childcare, just like when we were comparing Washington DC and Berlin. One month of full-day private preschool (or kindergarten) costs around €123.50 in Berlin, and it would cost around €1,673.31 in London.
While the average net salary after tax is higher in London (€3,387.60) when compared to Berlin (€2,422.40), London is still, on average, much more expensive than Berlin (49.25% more expensive).
If you compare the countries as a whole, you will see that the difference decreases. However, living in Germany is still 5.39% cheaper than living in the United Kingdom.
Cost of Living in Germany for Students
The average cost of living in Germany for students is around €750 to €1,500 per month. This amount can vary, and it depends on which city you choose to live in, whether you rent a house, live in a shared flat, or live in a student residence. It will also depend on how often you go out and how selective you are when grocery shopping.
The best part about being a student in Germany is that public universities don’t charge tuition fees, which also applies to foreign students. There are some exceptions to this rule, but, in general, you don’t pay tuition fees to study.
The only payment you will need to make is the administration fee, which usually costs anywhere from €100 to €350 per semester.
However, if you’re planning to study at a private university, you must be prepared to pay an average of €26,000 to €40,000 per year in tuition fees.
Cost of Living in Germany for a Single Person
The cost of living in Germany for a single person can vary from an average of €1,200 to €2,300 if you choose to rent a single-bedroom apartment for yourself.
Again, the costs will greatly depend on which city you choose to live in and in which area. The amount of money you spend on groceries will also make a difference. Typically, it costs less than 50 euros per week for a single person – alcohol and toiletries not included – if you plan your meals carefully and go to discount supermarkets.
In the end, the factor that has the biggest impact on your costs is your rent. So, if you live in a small city, spend very little in the supermarket, and don’t go out very often, you can easily spend less than the average.
Cost of Living in Germany for a Couple
The cost of living in Germany for a couple will vary and depends on your lifestyle and where you’re going to live. On average, a couple will spend around €3,000, according to the German Federal Statistics Office.
Of course, this is an average, and as we pointed out a few times in this article, the prices vary greatly from city to city and from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. How often you dine out or go to concerts or movies will also impact your living cost as a couple. If you cook your own food, plan your meals, and shop smart, your monthly costs can be lower than that.
Cost of Living in Germany for a Family
According to the German Federal Statistics Office, the average cost of living in Germany for a family is almost €3,500 per month. Again, this number can increase or decrease based on where you live – which city and neighbourhood – how big your house is, how many people need to take public transportation, how many of them are kids, teenagers, or young adults, and so on.
There are several factors that can highly impact your cost of living in Germany, so the best thing to do is start with some extensive research. Or, you can hire experts in relocation who can help you to save money when moving to Germany, whether you’re an individual, group, or family.
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