Australia's capital cities: Where is it cheaper to live?

Australia’s capital cities: Where is it cheaper to live?

/ / Life in Australia, Our latest posts

australia cities living costs

Money doesn’t make you happy, but it sure does make the world go round. That’s why an integral part of the decision making process for people who want to immigrate is understanding how expensive their dream destination is.

At the very least, you’d want to sustain your standard of living, right? Ideally, you’d like to improve it. Especially if you have children! In our experience, all parents immigrate to create a better life for their off-spring.

Seeing as you’re here, we can assume that you’re interested in going to Australia.

To help with your research, we have decided to gather the living costs for all of Australia’s capital cities. Our tables will show you exactly where it’s most affordable to live, so that you can give your children – or yourself – the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Please note: All costs are averages and quoted in Australian dollars.


Many of us spend a huge chunk of our salary on rent each month, so let’s start there, shall we?

1-Bedroom apartment in the city centre

Let’s assume you’re a single person or a couple. You want to start out small, so a 1-bedroom apartment is going to be perfect for the time being.

Now let’s further assume that you want to live surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city. In this case, the cheapest capital city is Darwin.


1-Bedroom apartment in the city








Electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage collection








Internet (60 mbps or more, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)
















3-Bedroom apartment in the suburbs

However, perhaps you’re a family of three or four and you want a 3-bedroom apartment instead. As you’ll see below, Adelaide is now the cheapest capital city.


3-Bedroom apartment outside the city








Electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage collection








Internet (60 mbps or more, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)

















To give you a good idea of what you’ll spend at the shops, we selected 11 items that all of us buy regularly. Furthermore, we took the prices of a kilogram of all items, with the exception of the milk, bread and eggs, to keep things equal.

As you can see, your money is going to go the furthest in Adelaide. This means this capital city could be a good choice for a family, seeing as a 3-bedroom apartment is also most affordable in Adelaide.

 MelbourneSydneyBrisbane DarwinPerthAdelaideHobart

1L Milk








Loaf of white bread








12 Eggs








1kg Local cheese








1kg Chicken fillets








1kg Beef round








1kg Rice








1kg Apples








1kg Bananas








1kg Tomatoes








1kg Potatoes








Total cost








2. School fees

Going to public schools is Australia is free, although schools can charge ‘voluntary contributions’ for certain items and events.

Let’s say, however, that you choose to send your child to a private institution. In this case, Adelaide has the lowest monthly pre-primary school fees while primary schools are least expensive in Hobart. Looking at mainland Australia, the most affordable primary schooling is in Darwin.

 MelbourneSydneyBrisbane DarwinPerthAdelaideHobart

Private preschool (or Kindergarten) - Full day for one child








International primary school annual fee for one child








This could be another sign that Adelaide is a good choice for a family. As we saw when we calculated our monthly expenses above, 3-bedroom apartments and groceries are cheapest in South Australia’s capital.

3. Getting around

To go about your daily business in Australia, you can choose to either take public transport – which is world-class – or to buy a car.

Taking public transport

Let’s say you choose public transport. The two cities to choose from are Darwin and Hobart. One-way tickets are cheapest in Darwin while a monthly pass is cheaper in Hobart.

Truth be told, you’ll spend more or less the same whichever of the two cities you choose. The 1-way ticket in Hobart is only 10 cents more expensive and Darwin’s monthly pass is just $9.46 more.

Don’t forget that Darwin is also the cheapest when renting a 1-bedroom apartment, so this could be the city for you if you’re single and still settling into your career.

 MelbourneSydneyBrisbane DarwinPerthAdelaideHobart

1-Way ticket on local transport








Monthly pass








Buying a car

You might choose to buy a car instead. You’ll notice that there isn’t massive variances between new car prices across the seven capitals. The same is true of the cost of a litre of petrol, but we call know those cents add up quickly when filling your car!

 MelbourneSydneyBrisbane DarwinPerthAdelaideHobart

1L Petrol








Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (or equivalent new car)








Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (or equivalent new car)








4. Going out for a meal

An evening out with friends while enjoying a meal together is a favourite pastime for many of us. You get to unwind, catch up on each others lives, and have a good laugh or two.

Lunch at your local restaurant

If you pick a local laid-back restaurant and a simple meal with only a drink or two, you’ll spend the least in Hobart which is Tasmania’s capital.

However, if you’d prefer to be on mainland Australia, then an evening in Sydney will be cheapest. This is fairly surprising as Sydney has been the most expensive city to rent in and the most when it comes to grocery shopping.

 MelbourneSydneyBrisbane DarwinPerthAdelaideHobart

Restaurant meal at an inexpensive restaurant








330 ml Imported beer








330 ml Coke or Pepsi
















3-Course dinner at an up-market restaurant

Sometimes we like to treat ourselves and go to a restaurant with all the trimmings. Let’s imagine it’s your birthday and you want a three-course meal with a good bottle of wine. Now Adelaide is the cheapest by far.

Remember that we’ve said that Adelaide could be a good choice for families, so with these reasonably-priced fancy meals, parents can afford to spoil themselves with date nights.

 MelbourneSydneyBrisbane DarwinPerthAdelaideHobart

3-Course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant








Bottle of wine
















5. Your morning coffee run

Grabbing a coffee on the way to work is such an integral part of our lives. In Sydney, you’ll pay the least for a cappuccino and that bottle of water you grab to go with it.

 MelbourneSydneyBrisbane DarwinPerthAdelaideHobart









Bottle of water
















In conclusion

Looking at the numbers, it seems that Adelaide is a good choice for families with young children. Darwin, on the other hand, could be a good choice for singletons and couples. If you don’t want to spend a ton of money on your monthly commute, then either Darwin or Hobart could work for you.

Note: All of the costs were taken from Numbeo and are correct as at May 2020.

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