Cost of Living in England

What is the cost of living like in England? I may have an opportunity to work there, but I have know idea how much rent, utilities, taxes, etc run. Unfortunately, most of my knowledge of the UK comes from James Bond and Dr. Who! :slight_smile: Any input would be appreciated.

P.S. What about taxes? Would I pay US, UK, or both. I plan on staying for just a few years for a post doc.



The answer depends greatly on where you live - London is so much more expensive than anywhere else in our small country. We have 55 million of us and no space in the South-East so anything that costs are linked to land is expensive as is motoring/fuel costs. On the up side we have a free National Health system that creaks along but copes just about…

If you are going to be in London accomodation is going to be a major expense - say GBP475 pcm for a dble room in a nice house share or GBP1000+ for your own flat. Utilities are reasonable - gas, water, electric etc - say GB30 pcm. Phone calls are expensive - no free local calls but lots of relatively cheap deals for mobiles where European technology makes US handphones look like tin cans linked with string…

If you can live without a car do - weekend rental is cheaper unless you do more than 8000 miles per year. Petrol and insurance are major - fuel is around USD9/gallon (imp gal)! Public transport systems are also relatively expensive thought too apart from local buses.

Tax I cannot comment on - I think US tax tends to follow you around the world but rates start at 10% quickly go up to 24% max out at 40%. You have a GBP4500 tax free allowance per year roughly I think.

Regret everyone the world over finds the UK incredibly expensive apart from maybe the Swiss or the Japanese. As a rough rule assume you spend the same in GBP as you currently do in USD - ie 60% more expensive before you take income differentials into account.

If you are not in London, Bath or Edinburgh though you may find thinks alot more affordable esp rent.

Good luck, ChickenDoc, with your stay and enjoy the culture, seasons, weather(!), beer and the continent on your doorstep with cheap EasyJet flights to take advantage of it!

Thanks for the info Notquitekarpov, you’ve been a big help. If I get the job I’ll be staying in Compton, Berkshire. I’ve been told that its a nice place.

Thanks again

Before living in England, you need to get a sonic screwdriver - Q will issue you with one when you arrive.

notquitekarpov covered most stuff pretty well, but missed the petrol price. I did the conversions/calculations the other day, and it works out to $4.88 per US gallon.

The tax situation can be complicated. I moved here from the US 7 years ago. At first I was getting paid by my US company into my US bank, and had the US taxes taken out as normal. However, since I was resident here I had to by UK taxes. The accountants did all the math to figure what I owed. I paid that to the UK then filed some ammended IRS forms to claim the tax back from the US. If you are going to be working for a UK firm getting paid here, then the taxes will be taken out here and all you need to do is file with the IRS showing that you’ve paid the tax. You won’t get double taxed.

I looked up Comton on Mapquest, it is tiny. Are going to be at the Agricultural Reasearch Centre? Being a small village, it may be hard to find a place to rent.

Yes Sir, I’m applying for a Job at the IAH in Compton. Wish me luck.

I only know Berkshire by reputation.

It’s largely countryside, so housing is far cheaper than London.
But transport could well be a problem (perhaps one train an hour, and a few buses).

Here is the local council:

Compton has been around for over 1000 years (it’s in the Domesday Book compiled after William conquered us in 1066).

Here is a site that gives local comparisons:

The UK Post Office have postcodes for all houses. I put in RG20 6NJ because that is a hotel in the middle of Compton.

Hope this helps!

As notquitekarpov said, if you estimate your spending needs as being in US$ spent in the USA and then conver to the same number of UK£ spent in the UK you will not be far off. i.e. cost of living is about 40% more. If you are going to be on a UK salary for doing the same job you will be even less well off by 20-30%.

There is a UK purchase tax of 15% on many things. Food is always tax fee. Tax on petrol (gas) is very high and there is “road tax” and now even a central London congestion charge of £5 a day.

A place to live will painful on the pocket. On our tiny island, space is at a premium and strict planning laws make building land very expensive.

It all depends on your circumstances of course.

If you are on your own you might consider renting a single room in a house plus use of all facilities and including all utility bills; you may be able to find a UK co-worker who can help you out. Cost a room would £70-100 a week.

A house, which will be a modest town house by US standards, will set you back hundreds of pounds a month. There will be bills to pay and you will even need a TV licence! Your prospective employer should be able to put you in contact with a local “Estate Agent” office that deals rented accomodation and there’s usually one or two specialist property rental offices in every town.

With the exception of central London and some city centres, a car is a necessity. Busses can be an inexpensive way to travel, but the quality of service is highly variable. Trains are expensive and really require that you work and live near interconnected train stations. Even if you can get to work without a car, it would be a pity to come all this way and not get out and about in the UK. Consider buying a car and selling it before you leave.

I would also find out from your UK employer whether they will pay for some sort of tax advice - without boring you I have worked in international HR for a few companies over here and we often build in a clause offering tax equalisation advice into the contract, as it is a bit of a minefield to deal with on your own (and can be expensive).

What I have seen over and over again is that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. You might be able to negotiate help with things like finding accommodation etc. I would imagine an organisation like that would have a history of employing foreign nationals so thay may be used to providing a bit more support.

Good luck, as an Aussie expat I certainly enjoy living here!

chicken, try the main page, search archive, input choice stuff like say the word, taxes, or england, here is Cec’s remarks on the tax situation:

Are U.S. taxes low compared to the rest of the world?

Huh? If you’re talking about Value Added Tax, then that’s been 17.5% for over ten years now. Either way, most don’t have to worry about it. If something is liable to VAT then it’s almost always included in the quoted price.

Well that’s debatable and will come as a big shock to many that manage without one.

Thank you all for the useful information. Have a good weekend.


To back this up and say it a different way, this is what I noticed when in the UK. If you look at a menu the prices will look in line with those in the U.S. Problem of course is that the price is in pounds and not dollars.

Also, do not visit London until you have saved a bundle that you want to spend.

Kniz, I think you mean “do not visit London”!

Way too high. And then there’s the weather. . .

berkshire is indeed a lovely county, with london on its doorstep. its ideally located, as the M4 motorway (major highway) runs straight through it giving you easy access to the rest of the uk, esp. london.

i have family in nearby surrey, and its all a nice part of the country. very typically english.

As others have said, as a general rule expect everything to be more expensive than you’re used to, and then some. This is especially true of the major cities (London) but the rest of England is still quite expensive. This is the land of massive and crippling direct and indirect taxation. Which would be fine if it resulted in superb public services, but instead the tax is generally wasted on political games and bureaucratic madness.

If you pay UK income taxes, a large chunk of your earnings will go in income tax and National Insurance (NI) which is… just another name for more tax. If you want to own a TV or anything capable of receiving a wireless transmission, you must buy a TV licence… which is just another name for another tax. Most things you buy have Value Added Tax or VAT slapped on at 17.5%. If you want to own and run a car, it gets insane. You have to pay for the car (at prices about 20% higher than the rest of Europe), the insurance (diablically expensive) and the road tax (hey! Another tax!). Petrol is more expensive here than anywhere else. If you have the audacity to want to park your car anywhere near a town or city centre, you’ll pay a lot for the privilege. If you fail to understand the Byzantine rules and regulations about parking, and make a simple honest mistake, expect fines of - for example - £80 ($128) for the sin of parking where you shouldn’t have, and maybe £160 ($256) to get your car back if it was towed away. No arguments, no appeal. You pay up or they keep your car. Plus if you go near central London there’s the Congestion Charge (another tax!) to pay as well.

When calculating the costs of running a car, bear in mind that there is a very high chance that your car will be broken into or stolen (mine has been ‘done over’ four times in the last two years). Car-related crime is an epidemic over here, and the police have given up because there’s nothing they can do about it.

While you’re getting used to the generally higher prices, learn to expect lower quality as well. If you eat out, you’ll be dismayed at the kind of sludgy slop that passes for ‘good food’ in England, and how poorly it is served up. In general, in retail and service establishments, expect to be treated as an unwanted contamination of the salesperson’s free time. You will often find yourself staring at the indifferent and unresponsive backs of the people who are, in theory, there to serve you.

My advice: get yourself an accountant as soon as you arrive. Go through your position thoroughly. A good accountant can save you a huge amount of money, and British tax laws are too cumbersome, absurd, archaic and complex for anyone but a trained professional to deal with.

I’d consider getting yourself around during the summer months on a scooter if you can find somewhere secure to keep it.
This is an excellent way to see the countryside and cheaper by far than a car.

You will still need a car as Berkshire is very rural and public transport not only can be variable, but the quality of service can change in a very short time from being good to bad and vice-versa.

Unless you live in an around London, most of us do not eat out much, perhaps once or twice a week, and very often at takeaway places rather than in restaurants.
Berkshire is one of those places where people move from the cities to try out their rural dreams, so you may well find lots of small restaurants and other connisseur type businesses, cheeses, wines, delicatessens, that sort of thing and this really makes it worthwhile exploring the small and medium size towns in the area.

Right now we seem to be a bit depressed as a nation, happens every February but additional concerns, largely domestic and international politics are adding to this.
I would not be too concerned, you have to decide what is truly important, and it appears to me that a lot of Brits are forgetting this.
People seem to be fulfilling the Aussie “wingeing pom” stereotype to a tee, complaining about public services, taxes, pretty much everything that is not themselves, we really could use someone over here with a brighter outlook and a smile, so fetch it with you and light our lives up.

Don’t forget that to also run a motor vehicle legally in the UK, it also has to have a valid MOT certificate. NOT having an MOT cert. will render your insurance and tax invalid: if you are caught, you will be fined.

The MOT test itself varies in price: some garages will do them on “special” - expect to pay between £25.00 and £39.00 for one though -and that’s just for the test. If the car fails fails the MOT, it can prove expensive depending on what needs to be done.

I think it’s true to say that there is some discrepancy in the UK as to what constitutes “rural.” Berkshire, whilst indeed having lovely countryside, I wouldn’t consider to be that rural in comparison to say, the Armpit Of The Country where I live: which is also very scenic, but, that’s about all it has going for it.

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