The cost of living in South Africa: Your ultimate guide (2020 Update)

cost of living in south africaMany of our clients started their emigration journey by researching the cost of living in South Africa. It’s not surprising. Anyone who is considering emigration wants to know that they’ll be able to maintain – or better – their lifestyle.

The good news is that we’ve done the research for you. It’s all right here. All you have to do is read this article to the end to know how much you’re likely to earn and how much:

  • Housing;
  • Utilities;
  • Transport and
  • Groceries are on average in South Africa.

Let’s start with salaries:

Salary

Your salary will depend on your industry, qualifications and experience. To get an idea of average salaries in South Africa, do a search on PayScale for your occupation.

Housing

You have two options when choosing a home – renting or buying. Many expats choose to rent a place while looking for somewhere to buy, so let’s explore rental prices first.

Renting:

Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban are South Africa’s largest cities. The average rental prices in each city are:

South Africa Rent Costs

 Cape Town Johannesburg Pretoria Durban
1-bedroom apartment in city centreR11,161.54R6,681.45R5,088.89R4,810.00
1-bedroom apartment outside of city centreR7,491.67R5,852.94R5,441.69R5,181.48
3-bedroom apartment in city centreR23,015.15R13,481.03R10,392.86R9,248.00
3-bedroom apartment outside of city centreR15,328.12R11,178.87R11,184.29R11,184.29

You can explore specific areas in each city, or other areas around South Africa, on any of South Africa’s big property sites, such as Property24 and IOLProperty.

Buying:

House prices in South Africa increased by an average of 3.6% in 2019 which was slightly lower than the 3.8 percent year-on-year growth in 2018. Factors that influenced property prices were affordability, political uncertainty, and a sluggish economy.

While these developments have been hard on sellers, the property market has become a favourable environment for sellers. This was especially true in Cape Town where house prices decreased in all areas most popular with local and foreign property investors.

The average house prices in 2019 were as follows:

Property TypeAvg Price in 2019
Low income R395,000
Lower-middle incomeR638,200
Middle incomeR935,000
Upper income R1.3 million
Luxury valueR2.3 million

To do suburb-level research on house price, it’s easiest to again turn to the likes of Property24.

Heed the hidden costs

Buying a house involves many hidden costs. In South Africa these are:

  • Bond registration costs and a bank initiation fee, but only if you’re using a bond (mortgage).
  • Taxes and bank charges, if you’re transferring money into South Africa for the transaction.
  • Attorney fees.
  • Transfer costs, deeds office fees, posts and petty costs.

Utilities

The main utilities for any home would be water and electricity. Of course an internet connection is also considered essential in this day and age.

Water:

Water charges in South Africa is anything but straightforward.

Residents are charged on a sliding scale per kilolitre (1000 litres) – the more you use, the more you pay – and tariffs are further influenced by a property’s value. To add to the complexity, charges are not standard across the country:

The focus in South Africa has definitely shifted towards using less water though. Many parts of the country have been gripped by droughts over the past couple of years. In fact, Cape Town was heading for ‘Day Zero’ in 2018 when it was said the city’s taps would run dry.

Electricity:

Electricity prices, just like water prices, are calculated on a sliding scale. Another similarity is that electricity charges vary from city to city:

Gas is not widely used in South Africa. You would most likely have to install gas appliances in your home if you prefer gas to electricity. Shop around for gas products on The Gas Company and Afrox.

Some major retailers and brands also stock gas appliances in South Africa. Try Makro as well as Smeg.

Internet:

South Africa offers a wide selection of internet service providers, each with its own price and service offerings.

Some of the prominent ISPs are:

You can find a complete list of South African ISPs here.

Transport

South Africa has a public transport system but it is not as developed, or reliable, as its European counterparts. As such, many South Africans choose to drive where they need to be.

New or used cars are easy to find. There are hundreds of dealerships countrywide as well as many online autotraders.

Here are a couple of prices for new cars to start your research with:

Model (new cars)2020 Price
Hyundai Grand i10 From R174,900
Honda Jazz From R222,700
Kia Rio From R248,995
Ford Ecosport From R271,500
Toyota RAV4From R436,200
BMW 2 Series CoupéFrom R553,200

What about insurance and fuel?

South African drivers are covered by third party insurance as part of the Road Accident Fund (RAF). The RAF does not however cover all claims that may arise as the results of an accident. It is thus advisable to take out a comprehensive auto insurance policy.

You can shop around for insurance providers on Hippo.co.za. The site also has a car insurance guide to help you make sense of auto insurance in South Africa.

As for fuel, you can stay up to date on prices by checking the AA’s site regularly. The current wholesale prices of petrol and diesel are:

 CoastalInland
Petrol Unleaded 93R15.39R15.84
Petrol Unleaded 95R15.52R16.16
LRP (Lead Replacement Petrol)R15.39R15.84
Diesel 500PPMR14.08R14.62
Diesel 50PPMR14.13R14.67

Please note: The price per litre at fuel stations may vary slightly.

Groceries

Numbeo is a great site to check average grocery prices in South Africa. You can also look at specific cities or compare the prices between cities.

Let’s take a look at the prices of a couple of basic groceries:

 Price
Milk (1L)R14.17
Fresh white breadR12.99
Eggs (12)R28.21
Cheese (1kg)R99.69
Chicken breasts (1kg)R69.99
Rice (1kg)R20.12
Apples (1kg)R22.21
Bananas (1kg)R17.73

You can go to Numbeo for a full list.

How does South Africa’s living cost compare to that of other countries?

Numbeo’s 2020 Cost of Living Index compares the cost of living of 440 cities around the world. Pretoria is South Africa and Africa’s most expensive city while Durban is South Africa’s cheapest city of those that ranked.

With that said, Pretoria only ranked at number 252. That makes South Africa’s administrative capital much more affordable than cities such as London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Barcelona. These cities ranked at numbers 28 , 171, 38, and 202 respectively. The most expensive city in the world, in case you wanted to know, is Zurich.

Here’s a bonus tip on the cost of living in South Africa

Use PriceCheck to compare prices of computers, appliances, phones, furniture, and much more to delve deeper into the cost of living in South Africa.