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Which Australian capital city gives you the most bang for your buck?

Which Australian capital city gives you the most bang for your buck?

Which Australian capital city gives you the most bang for your buck?

You’ve probably heard on the news that Australian cities are amongst the most expensive places to live in world. The problem is that most of these articles are written by people who don’t even live here! So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to crunch the numbers and provide you with the definitive ranking of which capital city will give you the most bang for your buck.

Starting with the most expensive city, we think you’ll be surprised with our findings.


7. Darwin

Cost of living: 32% higher than the national average

Rent $  630.00
Groceries $  240.00
Petrol $    59.85
Rego $    13.12
Energy $    35.00
Public Transport $      7.00
Total $  984.97

Darwin residents have a reputation that matches their cost of living, a little crazy. Darwin (according to our calculations) is the most expensive place in to live in Australia, which will probably be a big surprise to everyone except those people who actually live in Darwin.

It has the highest rent of any city at $630 per week, which is good news for landlords but nobody else.

Groceries are also the most expensive of any capital city. This is due to a large number of goods needing to be shipped in from the southern states. Being the smallest of all the capital cities, it doesn’t have the scale to drive down costs like the bigger cities.

Petrol is insanely expensive in Darwin, and for a city that has really poor public transport it probably has a bigger impact than the 35/L per week we factored in. For equivalent’s sake we included one return trip on public transport, but from our discussions with Darwinians, public transport isn’t really a viable option.

Two things you will save money on in Darwin are jumpers, and heating, because it’s bloody hot 365 days of the year. Sadly because Darwin is as close to the temperature of the sun as you can get in Australia, that saving will be offset by your 365 days of air conditioning.


6. Sydney

Cost of Living: 10% Higher than the national average.

Rent $  530.00
Groceries $  180.43
Petrol $    53.20
Rego $    16.36
Energy $    32.00
Public Transport $       6.80
Total $  818.79

Sydney is the 5th most expensive places to live on the planet according to, probably because no one at Time has heard of Darwin. I’m fairly sure that people from Sydney have heard of Darwin!

Sydney only has the second most expensive rent in the country. How is that possible? Well… Sydney is a big place and whilst the national press thinks that all Sydneysiders reside in Bondi or Ultimo, there are actually a lot more affordable suburbs where people actually live.

Sydney does have two things going for it. One – its massive population makes it a big market so groceries are the second cheapest in the country, and it’s got a pretty great climate which keeps a lid on energy use.


5. Perth

Cost of Living: 1% Higher than the national average

Rent $  450.00
Groceries $  199.93
Petrol $    53.20
Rego $       9.20
Energy $    31.00
Public Transport $       6.40
Total $  749.73

Perth is the most remote city on earth in terms of its distance from another town with a population of more than 100,000. You’d have to drive 2104km to Adelaide. To put that in perspective it’s only 2800km from London to Moscow. So the idea of a road trip has a different meaning there.

In a city this isolated, grocery prices are going to be high. Perth has the second most expensive groceries in our list. That isolation also makes internet shopping a nightmare. It does however, keep us east-coasties from discovering the perfection that is drinking a cold beer and watching the sun setting over a perfect surf beach.

As the administrative centre for WA, Perth had large pressures put on its real estate during the mining boom. Rent is still pretty crazy, but now that Sydney and Darwin are completely insane they don’t look so bad by comparison.

Transport-wise, Perth has the cheapest car registration in the country and is on par for the cheapest public transport.



Cost of living: 7% below the national average.

Rent $  410.00
Groceries $  185.97
Petrol $    53.90
Rego $    12.54
Energy $    27.00
Public Transport $       6.40
Total $       695.81

This one was a surprise. I thought for sure Brisbane would be cheaper than Melbourne, given all my Melbourne friends complain constantly about how expensive it is to live there. However, it has the same problem that Perth has and that’s an abundance of mining money inflating the hell out of rent.  You only have to be at the airport on a weekday morning and see the abundance of high-vis clothing in the Qantas lounge to work that out.

Rent is the main factor that makes Brisbane unaffordable. In our study we looked at house rental prices and in Brisbane there is a shortage of housing but an abundance of units. If we looked at units it might be different.

Energy prices in Brisbane are the cheapest of any city. Brisbane temps are the most comfortable of any capital city so there is really no requirement for heating (try telling a Brisbanite that) and air conditioning is really only needed for a couple of days a year.



Cost of living: 9% below the national average.

Rent $  390.00
Groceries $  179.57
Petrol $    52.15
Rego $    14.57
Energy $    37.00
Public Transport $       6.40
Total $  679.69

Hold on… has Melbourne as the 6th most expensive city on the planet and you’ve put it as the 3rd cheapest capital city in Australia? That’s right. Basically, according to Americans there are only 2 cities in Australia; Melbourne and Sydney. Melbourne by comparison, is a pretty affordable place to live in comparison to some other capital cities.

Rent outside of central Melbourne is much cheaper than all the other cities previously listed. Melbourne’s excellent public transport system also means that living outside of the inner city doesn’t mean you’re car dependant, another saving.

The public transport system in Melbourne is on par the cheapest in the country and given its high quality really enables a much better standard of living for those on low and middle incomes than in other cities.

Melbourne also has the cheapest groceries of any capital city. Its large population creates a big market and given how food focused Melbourne is, there is a lot more competition than there is in other cities.

The downside is that it gets cold, so heating bills increase energy use.



Cost of living: 12% below the national average

Rent $  350.00
Groceries $  186.26
Petrol $    56.70
Rego $    15.34
Energy $    38.00
Public Transport $       6.40
Total $  652.70

Hobart has the equal the cheapest rent in Australia. This is the major contributing factor to its ranking as the second most affordable capital in Australia. It’s 85% more expensive to rent a house in Darwin than it is in Hobart. Given that why don’t more Darwinians move to Hobart? Oh that’s right, it’s cold! Hobart is the coldest of the capitals and thus has the highest energy costs of any city in this study. So, if you don’t mind the cold Hobart may be the place for you.

Bass Straight stops Hobart from being the most affordable capital. The high cost of shipping goods to Hobart means that groceries and petrol are more expensive than the mainland, but not at Darwin levels.


1. Adelaide

Cost of living: 14% lower than the national average

Rent $  350.00
Groceries $  184.83
Petrol $    52.50
Rego $    10.50
Energy $    34.00
Public Transport $       8.00
Total $  639.83

Adelaide is the cheapest capital city to live in of all the capitals in Australia. In every expense category but energy and public transport, it’s below the national average. Even energy is only .60c per week more expensive than average. It’s also in the Top 10 of The Economist’s “World’s Most Liveable Cities” so it’s a pretty compelling place to live.

It has the cheapest rental market of all the capital cities. When we searched today (19/6/15), we found an abundance of 3 bedroom houses for $300/week. That just doesn’t happen in any other capital city!

To put how affordable Adelaide into perspective, it’s 27% more expensive to live in Sydney and 53% more expensive to live in Darwin! Adelaide has festivals. It’s close to wine country. It’s got sport. Why wouldn’t you live in Adelaide?


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