So, what is the cost of living in Mexico?
That seems to be the “million-dollar” question on our minds and I don’t think we’re alone. Many of us considering early retirement abroad (especially to Latin America) are hoping to stretch our dollars by moving somewhere with a lower cost of living. There is hype and ads out there promising 1/4 of the cost of living of our home countries. One of my favorites is “Retire in Comfort and Luxury in _________ (fill in the blank) on Your Social Security!”
While it may be true that cost of living in other countries can be cheaper, I have bad news for you: those promises are not reality and there is no quick and easy answer to the above question.
In this post you will find:
- Tips on how to estimate cost of living
- What is Numbeo and how it can help you
- Sample data comparing cost of living in 3 towns in Mexico to a city in US
- Summary of data and my conclusion for cost of living in Mexico
So, what should someone like me (someone contemplating moving abroad) do in order to get at least some idea of the local costs of living?
Here are three ways I found to get the best possible information:
- Ask questions but do not believe everything you hear/read
- Check out Numbeo
- Visit and see for yourself
1. There are about as many opinions out there as there are people. Some say Mexico is expensive and some say it’s dirt cheap. Just like some expect US luxuries and some can live very simply. It is all about prospective. But please do not let that stop you from asking questions. We certainly are. We are asking locals and expats we know, expats we’ve met online, forums, and while traveling. In my opinion, it is better to be over informed than under informed especially if this topic is important to you. Don’t just believe me or anyone else, do you own research.
2. Use Numbeo to do your own preliminary analysis
“Numbeo is the world’s largest database of user contributed data about cities and countries worldwide. Numbeo provides current and timely information on world living conditions including cost of living, housing indicators, health care, traffic, crime and pollution.”
It is crowdsourcing at its best. If you don’t know what crowdsouring is, it is essentially a way to solicit the public to provide information. So, anyone can enter data and Numbeo averages it out. It uses the wisdom of the crowd to provide you with reliable information. It is by no means an end-all be-all but it is a good place to start.
Here is data I complied from several search comparisons in Numbeo (it’s a bit long but bear with me; there is some good stuff in here):
|Ann Arbor, MI||Puerto Vallarta||Merida||Playa del Carmen|
|Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant||9.48 $||3.71 $||7.22 $||5.78 $|
|Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course||27.98 $||24.75 $||33.00 $||20.63 $|
|Combo Meal at McDonalds or Similar||7.00 $||6.19 $||5.59 $||5.16 $|
|Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught)||3.50 $||1.24 $||0.91 $||2.27 $|
|Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle)||4.00 $||2.06 $||5.99 $||3.30 $|
|Cappuccino (regular)||3.88 $||2.06 $||2.48 $||2.06 $|
|Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle)||1.50 $||0.99 $||0.62 $||0.83 $|
|Water (0.33 liter bottle)||1.25 $||0.83 $||0.50 $||0.99 $|
|Milk (regular), 1 gallon||2.69 $||3.75 $||4.37 $||4.53 $|
|Loaf of Fresh White Bread (1 lb)||1.91 $||1.83 $||1.42 $||2.13 $|
|Rice (1 lb)||0.95 $||0.56 $||0.49 $||0.45 $|
|Eggs (12)||1.50 $||1.49 $||1.77 $||2.06 $|
|Local Cheese (1 lb)||4.00 $||3.74 $||3.74 $||4.87 $|
|Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1 lb)||2.24 $||2.25 $||2.15 $||3.56 $|
|Apples (1 lb)||0.99 $||0.63 $||1.59 $||1.53 $|
|Oranges (1 lb)||2.49 $||0.52 $||1.31 $||1.05 $|
|Tomato (1 lb)||?||1.20 $||0.86 $||?|
|Potato (1 lb)||?||0.52 $||0.60 $||1.31 $|
|Lettuce (1 head)||1.50 $||0.50 $||0.66 $||1.44 $|
|Water (1.5 liter bottle)||1.00 $||0.83 $||0.99 $||0.99 $|
|Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)||5.00 $||7.01 $||13.20 $||8.25 $|
|Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle)||2.00 $||0.83 $||0.99 $||0.99 $|
|Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle)||2.00 $||1.11 $||1.32 $||2.06 $|
|Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro)||6.72 $||3.30 $||3.38 $||3.59 $|
|One-way Ticket (Local Transport)||1.50 $||0.50 $||0.50 $||0.41 $|
|Monthly Pass (Regular Price)||58.00 $||67.91 $||16.50 $||?|
|Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)||2.20 $||1.20 $||1.65 $||2.06 $|
|Taxi 1 mile (Normal Tariff)||1.25 $||0.72 $||2.66 $||?|
|Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff)||?||8.99 $||18.56 $||4.13 $|
|Gasoline (1 gallon)||3.59 $||2.90 $||3.44 $||3.44 $|
|Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car)||20,000.00 $||14,590.03 $||16,500.97 $||?|
|Basic (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) for 915 sq ft Apartment||100.64 $||49.94 $||198.01 $||453.78 $|
|1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local (No Discounts or Plans)||0.35 $||?||?||0.41 $|
|Internet (6 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)||59.95 $||45.30 $||14.98 $||33.00 $|
|Sports And Leisure|
|Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult||55.00 $||31.81 $||61.88 $||61.88 $|
|Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend)||22.50 $||1.24 $||12.38 $||?|
|Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat||9.50 $||4.66 $||3.85 $||4.13 $|
|Clothing And Shoes|
|1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar)||49.00 $||99.01 $||49.50 $||99.01 $|
|1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, …)||30.00 $||61.08 $||66.00 $||49.50 $|
|1 Pair of Nike Shoes||62.50 $||82.50 $||78.38 $||78.38 $|
|1 Pair of Men Leather Shoes||84.50 $||165.01 $||82.50 $||41.25 $|
|Rent Per Month|
|Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre||950.00 $||453.78 $||399.48 $||577.53 $|
|Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre||600.00 $||288.77 $||226.89 $||288.77 $|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre||1,750.00 $||798.96 $||783.80 $||1,196.32 $|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre||1,200.00 $||660.04 $||536.28 $||536.28 $|
|Buy Apartment Price|
|Price per Square Feet to Buy Apartment in City Centre||114.00 $||92.78 $||76.65 $||?|
|Price per Square Feet to Buy Apartment Outside of Centre||100.00 $||139.17 $||61.32 $||?|
|Salaries And Financing|
|Median Monthly Disposable Salary (After Tax)||2,500.00 $||1,285.83 $||631.16 $||660.04 $|
|Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentanges (%), Yearly||4.25||5.00||8.50||12.00|
|Last update||February, 2013||April, 2013||May, 2013||April, 2013|
|Contributors (past 18 months)||21||35||24||9|
Summary of data:
From the above table, you can see that even though cost of living in Mexico (at least the towns we are considering) is cheaper for some things, it is not for others. I highlighted in red some of the interesting differences. You can see that clothing is more expensive but food and gas are roughly the same. Rent however is quite a bit cheaper.
Of course, everything in the table depends on the reliability of the inputs. For example, I picked Ann Arbor because I’m very familiar with it and I can tell you that the numbers are pretty close – not exact. My experience with utilities in Ann Arbor is that they are about 25% higher than what’s listed and I’ve never found a decent bottle of wine for $5 but overall, I think the numbers are close to reality.
I also know from personal experience that a $453 for an apartment in Puerto Vallarta will not get us luxury but it will be comfortable and nice enough. If we were picking today (which we are not), we would likely eliminate Playa del Carmen off our list simply because it looks so expensive. Those utility bills seem killer! But, even though we’ve visited a couple of times, we’ve not actually had a chance to verify any of the costs. So, more research would be required. Which brings me to my next point:
3. Visit and see for yourself
No matter what you read, no matter how reliable your sources, nothing beats visiting and checking things out for yourself. I have actually seen some of the cheaper, outside of city center apartments in Mexico and I would not want to live in most of them. I would not know that, if I’d not visited. Also, different things may be important to you than they are to us, so only you can decide what’s reasonable and what’s not. I for one, draw the line at bugs. If a place is bug infested, I will not live there – now I know we’re talking about hot climates where bugs are prevalent but there are ways to control them – I hate roaches!
Based on my own experience, research, and numbers provided by Numbeo, I believe that cost of living in Mexico is in fact cheaper than in US. It is not nearly as cheap as some would like us to believe but it is cheaper. I think this is true especially if considering the rents and the
transportation costs. Even though, the above table does not show this sufficiently, Mexico has a nice interior transportation system. In fact, I would not own a car if I lived there. This alone is a big savings.
Another point I’d like to make is that I have not yet considered healthcare costs in this post (I will do so separately) and they will be a big part of this equation – more on that topic coming soon.
So, I hope that this information helps you get an idea if Mexico’s cost of living is right for you. It surely helped us!