America loves shopping and knows where to find a bargain. It invented the modern retail experience, from supermarkets to Amazon deliveries to fast food emporia. America killed off a few consumer goods along the way too, with smartphones and online services replacing much of what we used to cram into our shopping bags. So, with all that innovation, is it cheaper than other places? The all-new USA cost of living index investigates a range of prices, including our new ways of spending.

Overall, our survey found prices in the US around 12% less than in the UK.

For the sake of this survey we used the sales tax rates for Florida. Do check the specific sales tax in the state where you plan to live. The UK prices were from Tesco supermarket. The exchange rate was the average for the GBP/USD for 2019 at the interbank rate, of US$1.27 to £1.

Prices are only half the story, especially if you’re earning money from the UK. Read how to prevent currency volatility wrecking your budget when you move to the USA, in The Currency Guide to Emigration, free to download.

An American farmer’s’ market (Arina P Habich / Shutterstock.com)

In the supermarket

America invented the modern retail experience and for many of us, though we might not admit it, it’s part of the excitement of moving there. Big chain supermarkets operating across the USA include some that you’ll be familiar with; Aldi, Costco, Whole Foods and Kmart can be found in every State. Walmart is the USA’s biggest national supermarket chain, with over 4,000 stores.

In general, groceries are not taxable in Florida. But the state is rather specific as to what falls under this category of food items. Some items you might consider to be groceries are, in fact, not considered groceries by the state of Florida!  Anything classified as a “snack” such as candy, sodas and certain carbonated beverages, or hot and cold prepared foods from the deli, are taxed. Even unassuming products such as ice and ice cream packaged in a container that is a pint in size or less are subject to tax. For example, being under a pint, a tub of Haagen Dazs ice cream is taxed.

In the supermarket UK prices (£) USA in $ USA in £ More/less expensive in  USA, %
Large, wholemeal sliced loaf of bread (800g) £1.10 $2.78 £2.19  + 99%
Pack of butter (250g) £1.50 $5.74 £4.52  + 201%
Milk (I litre) £0.80 $1.68 £1.32  + 65%
6 eggs, large free range £1 $0.68 £0.54  – 46%
Iceberg lettuce £0.70 $1.28 £1.01  + 44%
Teabags (per 100) £2.50 $2.98 £2.34  + 6%
Fresh pineapple (whole) £1 $4.98 £3.92  + 292%
Fresh tomatoes (1 kilo) £2.50 $1.76 £1.38  – 45%
Fresh chicken for roasting (free-range/organic/corn-fed) £7.50 $5.51 £4.34  – 42%
Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream (500ml) £4.20 $3.88 £3.05  – 27%
fresh white fish, cod type (1 kilo) £13.50 $17.88 £14.07  + 4%
Jar of mayonnaise (600g) £2.50 $2.98 £2.34  – 6%
Heinz cream of tomato soup (400g) £0.95 $1.88 £1.48  + 56%
Coca-cola zero (2 litre) £1.95 $1.68 £1.32  – 32%
Bottle of whisky (blended) 70cl £15 $25 £19.67  + 31%
Dark chocolate bar (Green & Black type, 90/100g) £2 $2.17 £1.71  – 15%
Complete dog food, dry (5 kilo) £10 $16.22 £12.76  + 28%
Laundry detergent (40 washes) £4.50 $11.97 £9.42  + 109%
Kitchen roll, 4-pack £2.20 $4.64 £3.65  + 66%

Travel

With long distances to drive and the car being somewhat eulogised in American folklore, it’s hardly surprising that driving in the USA is cheaper. For electric vehicles, you pay a $225 initial registration fee, then $36.10 per year. For the train fare, we chose Miami Airport to Boca Raton.

Travel UK prices (£) USA in $ USA in £ More/less expensive in USA, %
1 litre petrol (unleaded) £1.30 $0.78 £0.61  – 53%
Car hire, small car, 1 week £124 $238.22 £187.43  + 51%
Return train fare, London to Brighton equivalent (about one hour) £23 $10.28 £8.09  – 65%
Car tax, electric/hybrid, 1 year £140 $36.10 £28.40  – 80%

In the home

In the home UK prices (£) USA in $ USA in £ More/less expensive in USA, %
Paying a domestic cleaner – per hour £12.50 $11.50 £9.05  – 28%
White Dulux emulsion, or equivalent (2.5 litre) £14 $8.40 £6.61  – 53%
Ikea “Billy” bookcase (80x28x202 cm) £35 $63.58 £50.02  + 43%
Samsung TV, 55” £549 $400.68 £315.25  – 43%
Alexa echo dot £35 $42.38 £33.34  – 5%
Electricity (per kilowatt hour) £0.13 $0.14 £0.11  – 16%
Home broadband, no data limit (per month) £23 $50 £39.34  + 71%

You won’t have to haggle over prices in the US, except when it comes to buying your home! Read our guide, How to Negotiate Abroad, for insider tips and tricks on getting the best price.

Leisure and pleasure

Leisure UK prices (£) USA in $ USA in £ More/less expensive in USA, %
Medium cappuccino in local independent coffee shop £2.80 $4.24 £3.34  + 19%
500ml Bottle of coke zero from local shop £1.50 $1.99 £1.57  + 4%
Pain au chocolat in coffee shops in local coffee shop £1.90 $3.13 £2.46  + 30%
Big Mac/quarter pounder cheeseburger £3.09 $4.22 £3.32  + 7%
House wine in local mid-range restaurant (bottle) £17.95 $46.64 £36.70  + 104%
Half litre draft beer in bar £2.20 $3.18 £2.50  + 14%
Three course meal in local restaurant (not inc drinks) £27 $37.10 £29.19  + 8%
Tip you would add for meal (above) £3 $5.25 £4.13  + 38%
Cinema ticket £11 $12.70 £10  – 9%
Spotify Premium subscription, per month £10 $9.99 £7.86  – 21%
Amazon Prime, per month. £8 $12.99 £10.22  + 28%
Daily newspaper (equivalent to Times) £1.80 $2.12 £1.67  – 7%
Women’s Running shoes, mid-range, £105 $127.50 £100.31  – 4%
Paperback fiction book £9 $13.77 £10.83  + 20%
SuperMario Kart (latest version, download), on Nintendo Switch £43 $63.58 £50.02  + 16%

Healthcare

Healthcare UK prices (£) USA in $ USA in £ More/less expensive in USA, %
Dentist – basic check up, no other work £22.70 $79.00 £62.16  + 174%
16 paracetamol tablets – generic, the cheapest available £0.68 $0.32 £0.25  – 63%
Calpol (or equivalent), 6 plus £3.50 $5.97 £4.70  + 34%

Other

Other UK prices (£) USA in $ USA in £ More/less expensive in USA, %
Women’s jeans – mid- range, Zara or equivalent £26 $42.29 £33.27  + 28%
One midweek night in a mid-range city hotel, Premier Inn/Ibis equivalent £72 $84.69 £66.63  – 7%
Finance – cost of a basic bank account, no overdraft facility. £6 $9.60 £7.55  + 26%
Nappies, medium-sized, pampers-type £0.10 $0.37 £0.29  + 191%
Men’s haircut, old fashioned type barber £12 $25 £19.67  + 64%

 

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  Ask the right questions
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  Move in successfully

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