How much do you need to earn to live comfortably in Germany? Find out with our guide to the cost of living in Germany.
Germany is renowned for its high standard of living, efficient public transport, excellent healthcare, and a quality education system. Indeed, Germany ranks above average in the OECD Better Life Index in terms of quality of life and well-being. Yet, despite these high standards, shopping bills in major German cities are often significantly less than in other major European cities, so the cost of living in Germany is lower than in other major European cities such as Paris, London, Rome, Brussels, and Zurich.
The cost of living in Germany naturally depends on your lifestyle and the city or area you live in. This guide provides an overview of the costs of living in Germany, including average costs for housing, groceries, education, health insurance, public transport, and more.
This guide to the cost of living in Germany includes:
- General cost of living and standards of living in Germany
- Wages and salary in Germany
- Cost of housing in Germany
- Utility costs in Germany
- Cost of public transport in Germany
- Costs to study in Germany
- Cost of childcare in Germany
- Healthcare costs in Germany
- Cost of food and drink in Germany
- Leisure activities in Germany
- Taxation and social security in Germany
- Assistance with living costs in Germany
General cost of living and standards of living in Germany
According to the Federal Statistics Office, households spend an average of €2,704 per month, allocating €908 to housing, energy, and maintenance. In addition, most Germans spend around €356 on groceries, €351 on transport, and €284 on leisure per month.
The standard of living consistently ranks well in Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey, due in part to the cost of living in Germany. In 2019, seven German cities featured in the top 30, three of which were in the top 10: Munich, Düsseldorf, and Frankfurt. In addition, HSBC ranks Germany as one of the best countries for expats to live in.
Germany considers those earning under €14,109 per year to be at risk when it comes to poverty. This amounts to around 15% of the population; those living alone are more at risk (31%), and women are slightly more likely to earn below the poverty threshold than men. Other groups that make under this amount include single parents (27%), people experiencing unemployment (74%), and those with a low level of education (25%).
Cost of living in Berlin
Berlin is one of the best value capital cities to live in Europe, although it is becoming more difficult to find reasonably priced housing. This is particularly the case in popular and central Berlin neighborhoods, while living costs are typically lower in Berlin’s suburbs.
The cost of living in Berlin is estimated to be:
- 45% cheaper than New York
- 33% cheaper than London
- 26% cheaper than Singapore
- 22% cheaper than Paris
- 15% more expensive than Madrid
Cost of living in Munich
Munich’s cost of living is among the highest in the country, although the city offers many facilities as the capital of Germany’s southern state of Bavaria.
Munich’s cost of living is estimated as:
- 35% cheaper than New York
- 22% cheaper than London
- 13% cheaper than Singapore
- 9% cheaper than Paris
- 35% more expensive than Madrid
Cost of living in Hamburg
- 44% cheaper than New York
- 32% cheaper than London
- 25% cheaper than Singapore
- 20% cheaper than Paris
- 18% more expensive than Madrid
Cost of living in Heidelberg
Heidelberg is a city that revolves around the university and scientific research, while also a favorite among visitors for its riverside location and historic town center. Living in Heidelberg offers a mix of old and new.
The cost of living in Heidelberg is estimated to be:
- 44% cheaper than New York
- 31% cheaper than London
- 24% cheaper than Singapore
- 20% cheaper than Paris
- 18% more expensive than Madrid
The cost of living in Germany, however, varies significantly between major cities and rural towns. For example, consider the cost of living in the following German cities:
Wages and salary in Germany
The average gross household income in Germany is €4,846 per month. When considering households of single people, this is €2,812, with single men earning on average €500 more than single women. The average gross household income is €5,086 in former West Germany and €3,927 in former East Germany.
The average disposable annual income available to German households is higher than the OECD average, at almost €30,000. This is more than all of its neighboring countries, apart from Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Germany’s minimum wage is €9.60 per hour, so working 40 hours per week, you will earn a gross monthly salary of €1664. It rises twice a year and will reach €10.45 by July 2022. German monthly minimum wage is a little less than the Netherlands and Belgium but higher than France, Czechia, and Poland.
Cost of housing in Germany
General housing costs in Germany are relatively high but vary considerably depending on the type of property you choose and the area you live in; some locations offer better deals, for example, suburbs around Berlin. There are no restrictions on expats buying property in Germany.
Rental costs in Germany
Most expats rent in Germany. When looking for rental apartments, it is essential to understand the terminology in advertisements. For example, 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 most expensive German cities to rent are Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, Düsseldorf, and Hamburg. On the other hand, the lowest housing costs in Germany are Bremen and Leipzig. Below is an idea of average monthly rental costs for a 1–bedroom apartment in the city center:
- Berlin: €960
- Munich: €1,280
- Frankfurt: €1,035
- Bremen: €690
- Leipzig: €590
Renting in Berlin is much cheaper than in other capital cities in Western Europe; the average rent is lower than Paris, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Copenhagen. Rent charges are paid each month. Utility costs, television, broadband, and waste disposal are typically charged separately. Read more in our Guide to renting in Germany.
Property prices in Germany
Generally, Bavaria is significantly more expensive, with the same house in Bavaria costing up to three times as much as neighboring southern cities. In Munich, for example, the median price for a property is €7,882 per square meter.
In general, average property prices per square meter for major cities are around:
- Frankfurt: €4,138
- Hamburg: €4,750
- Berlin: €4,743
- Düsseldorf: €3,338
- Munich: €7,882
- Cologne: €3,609
- Dortmund: €2,071
- Stuttgart: €4,037
Cost of domestic bills in Germany
Utility bills in Germany
Utility bills in Germany are sent quarterly. Numbeo estimates average monthly utility costs – including water, gas, electricity, and waste disposal – for an 85 square meter apartment to be around:
- Munich: €257
- Frankfurt: €279
- Düsseldorf: €217
- Berlin: €234
- Hamburg: €233
- Cologne: €249
Like in many other parts of the world, Germany’s utility bills for gas and electricity are changing due to the transition to renewable energy. Although renewables may reduce the utility bills, green taxes could mean you end up paying more.
Telecommunications in Germany
In addition, monthly internet in Germany is around €30–€40 depending on the package you opt for. Service providers also include a fixed landline charge. An additional living cost in Germany is the mandatory German television and radio license. Check our Guide to setting up your phone, TV, and internet for more information.
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 €110 and from €160–€400 for professionals.
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 subsidized or free healthcare in Germany.
Cost of public transport in Germany
Public transport in Germany is of an exceptionally high standard and reasonably priced compared to transport systems elsewhere in Europe, which can help further reduce the cost of living in Germany.
Prices range from €60–€90 a month depending on the city in Germany. On average, a one-way ticket is €2.70–€4, depending on the number of zones covered. InterCity trains sometimes have special offers. If you commute to work, you can buy a BahnCard for reduced rates. You can also use the BahnCard on buses.
Buses are slightly less expensive, but fares depend on the distance you are traveling. 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 €40–€60.
Owning a car in Germany is more expensive. Generally speaking, expats living in major cities like Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, and Frankfurt do not need to own a car other than for convenience. Recent fuel prices in Germany were €1.42.
Taxi tariffs start at around €3.20–€3.60 but vary widely between cities. For example, fares begin at €4 in Berlin, €3.50 in Hamburg, €3.70 in Munich, and €3.50 in Frankfurt, Dortmund, and Cologne. Fares per kilometer range between €1.50 and €2.15.
Costs to study in Germany
There are numerous universities in Germany that rank in global listings of top universities. In addition, studying in Germany is free in some universities, boosting the country’s reputation as a student hotspot.
The alternative is to send your children to international schools in Germany. Unfortunately, tuition fees are substantially more expensive, although they vary according to the institution’s prestige and the grade level of schooling.
Average costs start around €16,000 and increase upwards of €20,000 a year for comprehensive schools (30 to 50% less for junior school). Bilingual schools cost between €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 is becoming more common in the west).
The cost of childcare varies widely in Germany. State-owned childcare centers provide subsidized care according to income, and in Berlin, public daycare centers are free of charge. However, private and international daycare centers cost considerably more. The average salary for a private nanny is €1,540 per month.
Read more about childcare in Germany.
Cost of food and drink in Germany
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%.
Germans generally spend 14% of their income on food, beverages, and tobacco. On average, a single-person household spends €200 per month on groceries; a couple will spend around €365, while a family of four spends €520.
Restaurants in Germany
Dining out in Germany is affordable, although the highly cosmopolitan restaurants widely differ in price. The average German household spends €157 on dining out and hotel stays per month. A budget lunch costs about €8–€10, and up to €5 for a sandwich or bakery snack. Meanwhile, an evening meal in a typical restaurant can cost between €10 to €50 per person. Tips are not included in the bill and are typically around 10–15%.
Beer, wine, and spirits in Germany
Germans drink their beer in various sizes, from the standard half-pint to two-pint tenets. A typical price for a small beer when drinking out is €3.50, while bottles of beer in a supermarket cost €0.63–€1.67.
A bottle of mid-range wine will set you back €5 from the supermarket, while medium-priced vodka costs €12-14 for a 0.7l bottle. Budget vodka costs around €5-9, depending on your supermarket.
Coffee in Germany
A cappuccino in Germany costs around €2.50 in eastern cities and just under €3 in the west part of the country. This is in line with the price of a cappuccino in France, Belgium, or the Netherlands. However, while it’s far cheaper than Austria, Denmark, and Switzerland, it’s more expensive than Germany’s eastern neighbors: Poland and Czechia.
Leisure activities in Germany
Clothing in Germany
Clothing in Germany costs around the same as in bordering countries. For example, a dress from a chain store costs about €35. A pair of good-quality jeans costs about €76.
Sports in Germany
Are you thinking about joining the gym in Germany? Membership of a sports club costs, on average, €30. Meanwhile, an hour’s tennis court rent costs around €20. If you want to save on monthly expenses by going for a walk or run, a pair of running shoes costs an average of €78.50.
Playing sport is almost as much fun as watching it, so why not read more in our Guide to popular sports in Germany? If movies are more your thing, you can pick up a cinema ticket for €10-11.
Taxation and social security in Germany
Residents in Germany pay personal income tax on worldwide income. In certain circumstances, there are other taxes to pay. Read more about paying taxes in Germany.
Married couples are taxed on a joint income. Germany’s income tax is progressive, rising from a basic rate of 14% up to 45%. In 2021, the first €9,744 is tax-free. In addition, there is a solidarity surcharge of 5.5% of tax to aid costs of integrating former East German states.
Social security contributions are high and account for a significant proportion of your wages. They include:
- Health insurance – 7.3% of your income
- Pension – 9.3%
- Nursing care – 1.525%
- Unemployment insurance – 1.2%
Your employer matches all of the above in social security contributions. However, several other surcharges might apply, so be sure to read our Guide to social security in Germany.
Assistance with living costs in Germany
Germany has a comprehensive system of benefits and financial assistance for those in need. If you are a ‘habitual resident’ in Germany, you can claim social welfare benefits when necessary. For some of these, you will need to have paid insurance while employed. In addition, Germany has the following financial assistance available:
- Social compensation – for those injured or disabled as a result of war and other state actions.
- Benefits for accidents at work and occupational diseases
- Care benefits
- Disability benefits
- Family benefits
- Guaranteed minimum resources – income support for those who cannot support themselves
- Survivor’s benefit
- Unemployment benefits
Child benefit includes €219 per month for the first and second child, €225 per month for the third, and €250 for the third, and €250 each for any children after that. Parents can also receive an allowance for two to 14 months, depending on their situation.