Cost of Living in China vs. US: A Brief Comparison

Living in China and the United States both have its own pros and cons, this article is going to give you a brief comparison of the cost of living in each country.

In the United States for example, you can make quite a bit of money, but a lot of it goes to pay your bills. In China, on the other hand, despite the increasing cost of living, the overall price of goods and services are still quite low compared to most western countries. This provides an opportunity for a great life style while earning a reasonable salary.

Below is a simple breakdown of the comparison between cost of living in China and the USA:

ExpensesCost (China)Cost (USA)Monthly Cost (China)Monthly Cost (USA)
Rent$200 ~ $700$500 ~$1,000$200 ~ $700$500 ~$1,000
Food$2~$5 per meal$10 ~ $15 per meal$100 ~ $150$150 ~ $250
Transportation$,0.3~$0.5 each way (bus)$3 ~ $5 each way$30 ~ $50$100 ~$200
Utilities$50 ~ $100$250 ~ $300$50 ~ $100$250 ~$300
Total$380 ~ $1,000$1,000 ~$1,750

China vs US: Cost of Renting

  • US: $500 – $1,000 per month
  • China: $400 – $500 per month

Rent is always one of the biggest bills that you need to pay each month. In fact, over in the USA, you probably had to put out $800 per month minimum for an apartment unless you were still living rent free with mom and dad.

In China, the rent is quite affordable. In a Tier 2 or Tier 3 city, you can get a single apartment close to the city area with as little as $300 per month; However, in a Tier 1 city, the price increase to about $500, or as much as $700.

China vs US: Cost of Food 

  • US: $150 – $250 per month
  • China: $100 – $150 per month 

In the USA, food prices are continuing to rise, which means you are probably spending at least $50-$75 each week to feed yourself.  And, that is if you are not going out to eat all that often. If you choose to eat out in the US, you can easily pay $15 to $25 per meal and that’s if you don’t have a drink or choose to have only one. Those prices can be even higher depending on where you live and the restaurant that you choose.

In China, the basic grocery in incredibly cheap, and it’s possible to feed yourself with $30 or less per week! If you feel like dining out, there are a lot food options that are both cheap and delicious. A normal meal for one person will cost about $2 – $5.

China vs US: Cost of Transportation

  • US: $100 – $200 per month
  • China: $30 – $50 per month

You probably had your own car to drive around in, which meant you were possibly paying for your car, the insurance, and the gas that you used each week. If you didn’t have a vehicle, you may have utilized your local bus, a taxi, or the subway. Each one of those trips would have been a few dollars each way, or more, if you were taking the taxi to further destinations.

The public transportation system is China is very advanced, and cheap. A bus ticket costs you less than a dollar (10 to 30 cents) each way, and the subway ticket is about 50 cents to 1 dollar, depending on how far you’re going. Didi (the Uber in China) is another great option if you prefer more convenience, and the price is usually double or triple the subway price, which is still quite cheap.

China vs US: Cost of Utilities  

  • US: $250 – $300 per month
  • China: $50 – $100 per month

Utilities are what gets everyone’s budget each month and they include electricity, water, gas, telephone, and Wi-Fi.

In the US, all these things can add up $300 per month or more depending on where you live, how much heat or air conditioning you need to use, whether you get your water for free each month, and what type of phone and internet plan you have.

In China, you should expect to spend approximately $100 or less for everything each month.


cost of living in China vs US, cost of living in china compared to us
An infographics about cost of living in China vs US

Above is the cost of living comparison between China and the United States in renting, food, transportation, and utilities. If you’d like to see the price breakdown of specific items, you can check out the updated date from Numbeo.

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