Cost of living in Germany: How much do you need?

Cost of living in Germany: How much do you need?

Home About Germany The Basics Cost of living in Germany: How much do you need?
Last update on November 26, 2018

The cost of living in Germany is relatively affordable compared to its western neighbours, with Berlin’s cost of living typically lower than other European capital cities.

The cost of living in Germany is fairly reasonable compared to other countries in western Europe, although Germany’s cost of living is more expensive than its eastern European neighbours and many other parts of the world.

Berlin’s cost of living is still relatively affordable for a capital city. Germany’s standard of living, public transport, healthcare and education systems are excellent and shopping bills are significantly less than other major cities including Paris, London, Rome, Brussels and Zurich. In terms of quality of life and well-being, Germany ranks above average in the OECD Better Life Index.

The cost of living in Germany naturally depends on your lifestyle and the city, or area of a city, in which you live. However, estimated expenses in Germany for students or professionals earning modest salaries in Germany are between EUR 800 and EUR 1,000 a month. The official survival rate – Existenzminimum – in Germany is estimated at around EUR 730 per month.

This guide provides an overview of the costs of living in Germany, including averages costs for housing, groceries, education, health insurance, public transport and more. It also gives some examples to compare the Berlin’s cost of living with the cost of living in Munich, Hamburg and Heidelberg.

This guide to Germany’s cost of living includes:

Cost of living in Germany

According to the Federal Statistics Office, the household expenditure in Germany averages EUR 859 a month, allocating around 36 percent of their consumption budget to housing, energy and maintenance. 

The cost of living in Munich is among the highest in Germany, followed closely by Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and other popular areas such as Heidelberg. The cost of living in Berlin, the country’s capital, is surprisingly more affordable than some other major cities in the country. 

Berlin cost of living – cost of living in Berlin

On average you should expect to pay from EUR 7–12 for lunch in an average bar, café or restaurant or up to EUR 5 for a sandwich or bakery snack. A cup of coffee is around EUR 3–4. 

Other general costs to compare include cinema tickets at around EUR 12–15, up to EUR 700 for a yearly gym membership and an average of EUR 2.50–3 for a beer.

Standard of living in Germany

The standard of living in Germany consistently ranks well in Mercer’s living quality survey. In 2017 seven German cities featured in the top 30, three of which were in the top 10: Munich (4), Dusseldorf (6), Frankfurt (7), Berlin (13), Hamburg (18), Stuttgart (24) and Nuremberg (25). Munich and Frankfurt were also ranked as having the world’s second best city infrastructure (after Singapore), with Dusseldorf in fifth place (one ahead of London) and Hamburg (tied with Zurich) in ninth position.

Cost of living in Berlin 

Berlin’s cost of living makes it one of the cheapest capital cities to live in Europe, although an influx of expats and creatives in recent years have influenced upwards rent prices. It is becoming more difficult to find reasonably priced housing, particularly in popular and central Berlin neighbourhoods, although the cost of living in typically lower in Berlin’s suburbs.

Numbeo estimates the cost of living in Berlin as:

  • 34.28 percent lower than New York, with rent prices 72.70 percent lower
  • 23.75 percent lower than London, with rent prices 61.67 percent lower
  • 23.53 percent lower than Singapore, with rent prices 59.47 percent lower.
  • 20.30 percent lower than Paris, with rent prices 35.13 percent lower
  • 7.90 percent lower than Munich, with rent prices 29.56 percent lower
  • 5.66 percent higher than Madrid, with rent prices 6.17 percent lower

Cost of living in Munich

Munich‘s cost of living is among the highest in the country, although the city offers a great deal of facilities as the capital of Germany’s southern province Bavaria.

Munich’s cost of living is estimated as:

  • 40.14 percent lower than New York, with rent prices 158.06 percent lower
  • 20.50 percent lower than London, with rent prices 83.76 percent lower
  • 20.45 percent lower than Singapore, with rent prices 73.78 percent lower
  • 7.90 percent lower than Berlin, with rent prices 29.56 percent lower
  • 15.56 percent lower than Paris, with rent prices 8.58 percent lower
  • 12.83 percent higher than Madrid, with rent prices 24.93 percent higher.

Cost of living in Hamburg

  • 12.38 percent lower than London, with rent prices 60.14 percent lower
  • 24.66 percent lower than New York, with rent prices 71.62 percent lower
  • 5.58 percent higher than Munich, with rent prices 26.76 percent lower
  • 8.64 percent lower than Paris, with rent prices 32.54 percent lower
  • 21.12 percent higher than Madrid, with rent prices 2.43 percent lower
  • 14.09 percent lower than Singapore, with rent prices 137.26 percent lower

Cost of living in Heidelberg 

Heidelberg is a university and scientific town, besides being a favourite among visitors for its riverside location and historic town centre. Living in Heidelberg offers a mix of old and new, located around 90km south of Frankfurt.

The cost of living in Heidelberg is estimated as:

  • 47 percent lower than New York, with rent prices 234 percent lower
  • 27 percent lower than London, with rent prices 138 percent lower
  • 27 percent lower than Singapore, with rent prices 125 percent lower
  • 22 percent lower than Paris, with rent prices 41 percent lower
  • 11 percent lower than Hamburg, with rent prices 5 percent lower
  • 8 percent higher than Madrid, with rent prices 3 percent lower.

Germany’s cost of living, however, varies greatly between major cities and rural towns:

Cost of housing in Germany 

General housing costs in Germany are fairly high, but vary considerably depending on the type of property you choose and the area in which you live; some areas offer better deals, for example, suburbs around Berlin. Only 10 percent of the population own their property so finding a place to live can be challenging. However, there are no restrictions on expats to buy property. 

The cost of buying property in Germany varies wildly. For example, one and two bedroom apartments in central Berlin average between EUR 300,000–500,000, while a five-bedroom, semi-detached in Schraplau, Sachsen-Anhalt can be found for around EUR 50,000. Generally .

Generally Bavaria is significantly more expensive. The same house in Bavaria can cost three times as much as neighbouring southern cities. In Munich, for example, a new two-bedroom apartment costs around EUR 600,000–800,000, with luxury two-bedroom apartments reaching EUR 3.0m, on top of the costs of getting a German mortgage.

To provide a comparision, average housing costs in northern Germany range from EUR 195,000–265,000 compared to around EUR 315,000–335,000 in the south. In the west prices are similar at around EUR 195,000–255,000, while east Germany is slightly cheaper with prices ranges of EUR 175,000 to EUR 255,000.

In general, average property prices for major cities are around: 

  • Frankfurt – EUR 525,000
  • Hamburg – EUR 465,000
  • Berlin – EUR 340,000
  • Düsseldorf – EUR 490,000
  • Munich – EUR 775,000

Some general figures from various real estate sources show the average family house ranges from 140–180sqm, including a garage. The average property price in Germany range around: 

  • EUR 150,000 for 100 sqm
  • EUR 240,000 for 100–140 sqm
  • EUR 310,000 for 140–180 sqm
  • EUR 530,000+ for 180 sqm

However, most expats rent in Germany. When looking for rental apartments it is important to understand the terminology in advertisements. If an apartment is advertised as four rooms, it will feature two-bedrooms, a living room and a dining room. Kitchens, halls and bathrooms are not classified as rooms.

The majority of apartments to rent in Germany are unfurnished. Although this reduces the rent fees compared to furnished apartments, expats are usually required to buy everything required for a home including kitchen appliances, bedroom furniture, tables and a sofa. The cost of furnishing your home should therefore be included in your initial living costs in Germany.

The most expensive German cities to rent are Munich, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Hamburg. Expect to pay around EUR 15 per sqm. Rent in Berlin is also becoming more expensive due to rising demand, although still more reasonable at around EUR 10–12 per sqm. The lowest housing costs in Germany are Bremen and Leipzig where rent charges range from EUR 6–8 per sqm. Below provides an idea of average rental living costs in Germany.

  • Berlin: EUR 600–1,300
  • Munich, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt: EUR 675–1,350
  • Cologne: EUR 670–1,300
  • Hamburg: EUR 500–1,300
  • Heidelberg: EUR 1,500–2,000

The easiest and quickest way to find a rental apartment in Germany is through an estate agent (Immobilienhandler). By law, handling fees for estate agents are the responsibility of the landlord so check how these fees are to be paid before signing a contract. Rent charges are paid each month. Utility costs, TV, broadband and waste disposal are typically charged separately. 

Utility costs in Germany 

Germans pay almost twice as much per kilowatt of power than residents in the US, yet pay less overall in utility bills. due to energy-efficient appliances and tactics to cut down gas and electricity consumption. 

Utility bills in Germany are sent each quarter. Prices are set in accordance with the current market, with the last price hike occuring early 2017. The average energy costs of living for one person in a 45 sqm studio in Berlin averages EUR 95–EUR 120 a month. In general, you can calculate utility costs at a rate of EUR 2.50 per sqm. 

Living cost in Germany

Numbeo estimates average yearly utility costs – including water, gas, electricity and waste disposal – for a 90sqm apartment at around: 

  • Munich, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf – EUR 2,900–3,100
  • Berlin – EUR 2,800–3,000
  • Hamburg – EUR 3,280–3,330
  • Cologne – EUR 2,600–2,700.

Like in many other parts of the world, utility bills for gas and electric in Germany are changing due to the transition to renewable energy. Although renewables may reduce the utility bills, so-called ‘green taxes’ could mean you end up paying more. 

In addition, monthly internet in Germany is around EUR 35–50 depending on the package you opt for. Service providers also include a fixed landline charge. An additional living cost in Germany is the mandatory television and radio licence.

Cost of public transport in Germany

Public transport in Germany is of an exceptionally high-standard and reasonably priced in comparison to transport systems elsewhere in Europe. 

Prices range from EUR 60–90 a month depending on the cities in Germany. On average a one-way ticket is EUR 2.70–4 depending on the zones covered. InterCity trains sometimes have special offers. If you commute to work, you can buy a Bahn Card for reduced rates. You can also use the Bahn Card on buses. Buses are slightly less expensive, but fares depend on the distance you are travelling. Like most countries, you pay bus fares on the bus rather than buying prepaid tickets, although monthly travel cards cover buses as well. The public transport system is well policed. Passengers without valid tickets face a fine of EUR 40–60. 

Owning a car in Germany is more expensive. Generally speaking, expats living in major cities like Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt don’t need to own a car other than for convenience. Recent fuel prices in Germany were EUR 1.35 for unleaded and EUR 1.22 for diesel. 

Taxi tariffs start at around EUR 3.20–EUR 3.60, but vary widely between cities. For example, in Berlin fares start at EUR 3.90, Hamburg is EUR 3.20, Frankfurt, Dortmund and Cologne are EUR 3.50 and Munich is EUR 3.60. The most expensive is Braunschweig at EUR 10. Fares per kilometre range between EUR 1.50 and EUR 2. Low-cost taxi services such as Uber and rideshare are banned in Germany as they are deemed to violate traffic laws.

Costs to study in Germany 

There are numerous universities in Germany that rank in global listings of top universities. Studying in Germany is free in some universities, boosting the country’s reputation as student hotspot.

There is also a good standard of German education. Public schools in Germany don’t charge fees and are a good option for expats with younger children if they can pick up the language quickly enough. 

The alternative is to send your children to international schools in Germany. Tuition fees are substantially more expensive although vary in relation to the prestige of the institution and the grade level of schooling. Average costs start around EUR 16,000 and increase upwards of EUR 20,000 a year for comprehensive schools (30 to 50 percent less for junior school). Bilingual schools cost between EUR 500–600 a month.

Cost of childcare in Germany 

Germany boasts an excellent childcare system, with certain cities offering daycare subsidies (more so in former east Germany, although it becoming more common in the west). 

The majority of state-owned childcare centres cost an average of some EUR 250 to EUR 400 per month, while private centres range between EUR 600 and EUR 900. Subsidised childcare costs in Germany are based on income and can be as little as EUR 120–140 a month for seven to nine hours per day.

You can also find German childcare centers that offer prices at a substantially lower rate for older children. For example, fees up to the age of four can average more than EUR 200 euros a month, compared to less than EUR 100 for children aged five because it is their final year before starting school. Read more about childcare in Germany.

Healthcare costs in Germany 

Expats living in Germany are required to take out basic German health insurance. The cost varies depending on age, cover and the health insurance company you use. Basic insurance for students starts at around EUR 80 and from EUR 160–400 for professionals.

Germany cost of living

Expats that are employed by a company can arrange to pay insurance premiums through a subsidized company insurer. Self-employed individuals should organize private health insurance.

In exchange, residents in Germany have access to subsidised or free healthcare in Germany.

Cost of groceries in Germany 

Staple foods are not too expensive in Germany, although upmarket supermarkets such as Rewe and Tegut are more expensive. If you shop at Lidl and Aldi you can save between 10 and 15 percent. 

However, supermarkets tend to stock fewer items so you may need to head to specialist stores where prices are higher. Asian vegetables are a good example. Expats should budget for around EUR 40–50 a week per person for basic foods.

Food costs in Germany

Dining out in Germany is affordable, although there is an extremely cosmopolitan choice of restaurants which widely differ in price. A budget lunch costs between EUR 5 and EUR 11, while an evening meal in a standard restaurant can cost between EUR 8 to EUR 17 euro per person. If you have a couple of beers or a glass of wine add 10 euros on. A budget EUR 30–40 per person can cover a decent meal in a nice restaurant. Tips are not included in the bill and are typically around 10–15 percent.

Germans drink their beer in various sizes from the standard half pint to two-pint tenets. A typical price for a small beer is EUR 2.50–4, a pint is EUR 3.50–5.50 and a tenet is EUR 9–10.

Tax costs in Germany 

Residents in Germany pay personal income tax on worldwide income. In certain circumstances there will be other taxes to pay. You can find more about paying taxes in Germany in this guide

Married couples are taxed on a joint income. The percentage of taxable income is based on earnings as follows: 

  • Singles earning up EUR 8,820 – 0 percent
  • Couples earning up to EUR 17,640 – 0 percent
  • Singles earning EUR 8,820–54,058 – 14 to 42 percent
  • Couples earning EUR 17,640–108,116 – 14 to 42 percent 
  • Singles earning EUR 54,058–256,304 – 42 percent
  • Couples earning EUR 108,116–512,608 – 42 percent
  • Singles earning over EUR 256,304 – 45 percent
  • Couples earning over EUR 512,608 – 45 percent

In addition, there is a ‘solidarity surcharge’ of 5.5 percent of tax to aid costs of integrating former east German states.

Social security and pension costs in Germany 

The social security and pension system in Germany is not part of the tax system, although deductions are generally taken directly from the salaries of employees. Contributions are made by both you and your employer. 

Social security contributions are high and account for 40 percent of your wages. However, they cover you for health insurance, nursing care, pension and unemployment. 

Read more about the social security system in Germany.

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Cost of living comparison

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