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Collaborative international cost-of-living index (expatistan.com)
253 points by hammadfauz on June 30, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 79 comments

Would be nice to take into consideration Sales Tax, Income Tax and Property Taxes. In the states it can be fairly misleading if you ignore these factors as some states have no personal income tax as an example and others have crazy sales tax and personal income tax combined with property tax. All these drain a persons resources when they move from one locale to another.

Not sure how to capture "soft" stuff like health care and/or vacation etc. I recently was surprised to learn the in New York an employer doesn't have to pay out unused vacation where as in other states they have to by law. This sort of stuff can certainly catch someone off guard when leaving a job to relocate.

Otherwise it's a very cool concept...

Salaries vary heavily by location; income taxes reduce net salaries, so you can just treat it as a lower net salary for the area.

Sales taxes and property taxes figure into prices of goods. The site already says to include sales taxes, though it would help to have rates noted explicitly. Property taxes should appear as an expense under housing.

Yeah some of the big states are fun.

I'm in NY, my property taxes are about 60% of my mortgage payment.

High property tax rate? High appreciation on your property? Or small mortgage?

Total property tax rate (school + city) is between 2.7 and 3 percent, depending on valuation. I live in an area with fairly moderate swings in valuation.

In small cities like mine, it's killing the housing stock, as taxes are increasing faster than wages, and people are deferring maintenance.

Sales taxes shouldn't be too hard to include, but I noticed the exact same problem in the comparison.

Most countries don't cut that out of the price. Only in the states, I think, do you have to do the math on the price.

In Canada, sales tax is applied at checkout and not included on price tags.

Ok, North America then :)

And projected earnings

numbeo.com has that (but Expatistan's display of price in both currencies is nice)

There are other websites for those things.

I would prefer this one focused on doing what it does right.

This looks very similar to http://www.numbeo.com which was also created in 2009. Is it the same data?

When living in a city that has niche, but no general, name recognition, a friend and I were taken for dinner, a very nice dinner, by a lady who worked for an international relocation consultancy. This was in 2008/2009. She politely, and professionally, refused to disclose the name of her company and of her company's client. Her job was to fly somewhere twice a month, anywhere in the world, meet English speakers ovr dinner, walk around shops with a camera, and write quantitative and qualitative reports of her findings.

The questions and purchase options in this crowd sourced list are extremely similar to the 'basket of goods' she was seeking. Prices are also pretty similar to 2008/2009 but a bit askew from today (particularly food, which over the past 5 years has experienced significant inflation).

Was there a surge of this type of information collection at the time (I can't recall anything of note online), or has a relocation / relocation-type consultancy released past data?

The creator of Expatistan here. No, it is not the same data. Both sites follow a similar principle but we do not share data.

Thank you for the site. My friends are like a little ex-pat community, using your site often to compare cities and figure out where to move next. I really like how easy is to compare the cost of living and make a decision based on data, rather than anecdotal evidence.


Expatistan: "Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI 140 CV 6 vel. (or equivalent), with no extras, new" Numbeo: "Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car) "

I don't know. Not the same but very close and alike. I love Numbeo and this looks eerily similar.

...but shouldn't data collected by two independent process come "very close and alike"? Otherwise we wouldn't have efficient markets.

What is more, Numbeo seems to be more exhaustive.

Expatistan has only 1 accomodation data point (Monthly rent for 85 m2 (900 Sqft) furnished accommodation in EXPENSIVE area) while Numbeo give me information about different size apartments in and out of city center

Yes, currently we have only one accommodation type.

We started collecting prices for different ones a while ago. We are now reaching the point where we already have enough data to include the new types of housing in the public index.

More cities supported for Numbeo for me. (I.e. Berkeley is in Numbeo, at least partially, but not in the other)

That website is useful, but depressing! How is living in Rome cheaper than living in Coventry????!!!!

In fact, most places in the US (even the sunny bits) look cheaper to live in than Coventry. How sad.

This data is either hiding inputs or weighting the outputs inaccurately... I looked at an example of moving to Vancouver, BC from Seattle, WA.

Housing was listed as 5% favorable to Vancouver.

The sub-elements listed were as follows:

                                             Vancouver   Seattle   Variance
  Monthly rent for 85 m2 (900 Sqft)
  furnished accommodation in EXPENSIVE area     $2,301    $2,216        -4%
  Utilities 1 month (heating, electricity,
  gas ...) for 2 people in 85m2 flat               $85      $139        39%
  Internet 8MB (1 month)                           $39	     $47        17%
  40” flat screen TV                              $473      $537        12%
  Microwave, known brand, 800/900 Watt            $121      $116        -4%
  Laundry detergent (3 l. ~ 100 oz.)               $10        $8       -25%
  Hourly rate for cleaning help                    $23       $35        34%
Putting aside the fact that assets like a 40" TV are considered in "Housing Cost of Living", the weighted average for these inputs should be 1.5% favorable to Vancouver.

Take out the TV, detergent, and maid, and you're now 1% favorable to Seattle, driven strongly by rent, obviously.

This is an interesting area of work, but I'd appreciate either full disclosure of inputs and weighting or a much more simplified presentation (e.g. stand-alone rental rates).

I think the sum would be of more interest than a weighted average. The specific comparison between Vancouver and Seattle is almost meaningless for various reasons:

- Nobody rents furnished accommodation in Vancouver, BC. It's almost unheard of.

- You can buy your TV across the border and bring it over (same for microwave).

- Food will generally be more expensive in Vancouver.

- Gas will be more expensive in Vancouver.

- If you buy a house here expect to pay a lot more in Vancouver for a comparable property.

- Taxes are higher (though you do get services in return).

EDIT: As someone who is pretty familiar with both areas I would expect it to be cheaper to live in the Greater Seattle area vs. the Greater Vancouver area. There's a lot of YMMV though.

Will data collected be opened for other to use/analyse/exploit?

At the moment I have no plans to open the data completely.

I do sometimes share the data with particular projects or developers on a case-by-case basis. If you are thinking about using the data for something interesting, you can contact me through the website.

Why not open it in a open data spirit to anyone so incentivise curious people can create nice analysis whenever they feel like it?

This will result in people attempting to outcompete his site using functionally the same business model and UX but superior SEO. c.f. StackOverflow clones.

He could charge for the usage of the data.

I would love to see businesses charging different prices to customers to offset global inequalities.

A simple and easy, but far from perfect, way to do this is to tie pricing to the location of the customer. E.g. 'download this book and pay as much as you pay for an espresso in your hometown.'

You do get some strange differences. For example I compared Cincinnati to Savannah Georgia. It says a TV costs 2x as much in Savannah and that a $129 microwave in Cincinnati costs $500 in Savannah. Odd numbers like this throw off the total.

Main economic institutions [1] already maintains databases of consumer goods and services price across countries, but they don't give easy access to the raw data. Glad to see Expatistan filling this gap.

[1] International Comparison Program for the Worldbank (http://icp.worldbank.org/), Eurostats (http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index....)

Yes, there are a number of international institutions collecting this data, and almost every single national statistical office collect price data regularly. Sadly, they tend not to make the raw data available.

>Yes, there are a number of international institutions collecting this data, and almost every single national statistical office collect price data regularly. Sadly, they tend not to make the raw data available.

And so you start up a project to change that....and then don't make the raw data available? I'm confused.

I looked for it but I don't see any way to get the raw data from it. Can you point it?

I'm not sure where they got their data from, but one thing stood out to me.

I compared the price from Vancouver BC to Seattle WA and was surprised to say that food was cheaper in Vancouver, as Vancouverites are always coming south of the border to buy their groceries. Especially milk, which they load up on by the cart full. On this site though it says a liter of milk in Vancouver is $1.65 and a litre in the US is $2.90, a GALLON in the US can be bought for less than $2.90.

So I'm a little suspect of the data.

This is very consistent with my experience shopping in Van and Seattle... Meat, produce, dairy, and alcohol are all exceptionally more expensive than Stateside.

I may be biased in my priorities, but a 6-pack of decent beer costs $7-$8 USD in Washington and about $15-$16 CAD. Exchange rates are still nearly at parity. I find myself bringing a case to support the drinking habits of my Canadian friends every time I drive up... (No wonder they like it when I show up.)

Yeah, user data may be very skewed (read wrong) for a variety of reasons (People not knowing the relationship gallon/litre for example)

Numbeo gives 0.90 for a liter of milk in Seattle http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/city_result.jsp?country...

I see this in the recent comparison list. Very suspect.

Cost of living in London is 16% more expensive than in New York City

Cost of living in New York City is 14% cheaper than in London

What seems to be the problem here?

120 is 20% higher than 100

100 is 16.(6)% lower than 120

I've used numbeo before and I had a look at this, comparing about 10 or so different cities. The format and function is pretty much the same and I use them both for the same purpose -- a simple comparison of aggregate data on different cities using the same metric. I moved to Rome a year ago and in another year I'll be moving to some German-speaking country, so I'm comparing different cities now. It's not important to me whether the rental estimates are 100% correct or slightly high/low, what's important is that the data is collected the same way for both cities under comparison. I want a broader view to narrow the search, and then I will go elsewhere to get more accurate info -- apartment searches in the respective cities, for example. If you get enough data from varied enough sources to minimise biases (e.g. expats might live in the more expensive parts of the city and not know the local tricks, or most of your contributors might only be from a certain subset of expats) then I don't need to know the comparison of a hundred different types of little things because I can get more exact information elsewhere. What I'd recommend doing instead of narrowing your data selection is to actually broaden the scope of your comparison -- compare aggregated measures of quality of life, average temperatures/rainfall, hours of sunlight per day, number of bars or gyms per capita, etc. If I know what city I'm looking at, I can easily find a list of apartments for rent and get direct information that way. What I can't do as easily is compare the general perspective of life satisfaction or public transport penetration, crime stats, etc.

(Shameless plug) I wrote this blog post in october, based on numbers from numbeo: http://programming.tudorconstantin.com/2013/10/why-ill-never...

I treated the subject of quality of life from the subjective perspective of a software developer (big salary in a country with small income - the average net income in romania is around 400 eur)

It would be even better if you could input what you spend your money on. E.g. if someone buys a lot of alcohol, then the cost of living depends more on the alcohol tax.

I think this might be a hopeless exercise, since the things you spend money on are often dependent on where you live. If you live in London vs San Francisco you will eat differently, dress differently and spend your time doing different things.

As well as what you don't spend your money on. I find it ridiculous that the "housing" index includes not only rent and utilities but the cost of a 40" flat-screen TV. That belongs under "entertainment".

Also, several items are sufficiently vague that they have a huge price range; for instance, "1 pair of sport shoes (Nike, Adidas, or similar)" or "Daily menu in the business district". Far too subjective to serve as a basis for comparison; in the same city, those values could vary by 2-3x depending on taste.

Wherever numbeo and expatistan get their data, it's utterly hilarious that the summaries rank San Jose CA about the same as Valanecia/Alicante Spain.

Let me just say, there is an absolutely ludicrous error somewhere.

It probably doesn't factor in currency conversion (i.e., it's likely based on how many USD are spent and ignores the fact that you're making EUR in Alicante).

Just a thought at least.

The site says Miami is 5% more expensive than San Jose. That's a horrible lie.

Yes, in your interpretation what that data means.

Just a quick glance at craigslist for 1000sq foot rental in San Jose, CA shows that expatistan's "expensive price" is below average. While the Valencia Spain rental price is higher than any I have ever seen personally.

Likewise Spanish food prices are inflated on those sites which you can confirm by looking at mercadona.es which is a mid-high end grocery store in Spain.

But mostly: Valencia and Alicante have huge populations of retired working class British people. There is no way on this earth a retired working class British person could survive in San Jose let alone thrive.

Can this be repurposed as an independent price index/measure of inflation? That is, independent of the World Bank/governments and government-funded economic bodies, which could be useful

This seems to be deliberately targeting "expat prices", which can often diverge significantly from the local cost of living. For example the price for a furnished month-to-month-rent corporate apartment lease does not necessarily track the regular housing market. It might be useful for something, but I would be careful about using expat lifestyles to generalize about a region's economy.

For Santiago, Chile I can confirm that prices are VERY accurate - Entered and researched about 10 price points before I found where I can actually find the list - amazing site - THANKS

Once again asking about "expats", which just means "rich immigrant". You could get totally different answers if you were asking for "main immigrant part of $CITY". The survey to collect data even says "Do not enter prices that can only be found .. in [e]specially cheap neighborhoods", which usually means "immigrant".

Rich expats are pretty much by definition not "immigrants", they're usually visiting for a few years with a fat "expat package" courtesy of the company. But these are increasingly a dying breed, and most expats are neither fat cat expats nor dirt-poor refugees, but somewhere in the middle.

Also, much of the calculator asks for things like a liter of gas or a bottle of Coke, whose price is not going change radically no matter where you shop.

Also, much of the calculator asks for things like a liter of gas or a bottle of Coke, whose price is not going change radically no matter where you shop.

Not necessarily. There is a Big Mac Index[1], that looks at the price of a Big Mac from McDonalds, which shows that the price of a very standard product (a Big Mac) can vary by location.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Mac_Index

The price of a bottle of coke can change quite radically depending on where in a city you are buying it. Venice is one example for such a city.

I don't think this can be used to compare moving abroad to countries that don't have USD as their currency. For instance, when comparing a Brazilian city to a US city it simply converts the Brazilian prices to dollars, which is not the right way, IMHO. People in Brazil don't make the same amount of money and they don't get paid in dollars.

It doesn't make sense to have a single category for "utilities", as those vary dramatically by usage; that would be like asking for the price of "a tank of gas", or gas usage per week/month. It would make more sense to separate out electricity rates, water/sewer rates, natural gas rates, and so on.

Damn Cost of living of Indian cities are f---- cheap. Had a hard time finding cities outside India cheaper than inside India. The lowest I came to was Kolkata the cheapest in India. Even many African cites(like Nairobi) were more expensive than Indian ones. Wonder how much the data is accurate.

Because 80% Indians are wage slaves https://en.w.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lower_caste

Crazy. London is more expensive to live in than New York. Crazy.

New York is portrayed in films as somewhere great to go, whereas they always portray London as dreary, and it is always raining. (London is alright to visit, but by the way).

I first read the title as (crowd sourced cost) of (living database) and wondered what the latter was - a database you have to feed? Turns out to be not so far from what the site does...

Would be nice to be able to turn off specific items, for example house cleaning is a service I've never needed, and probably never will need.

You're comparing cost of living without taking into account median salaries?

I don't think any comparison is complete without some sort of salary survey.

I get this comment a lot. I agree that it makes sense to compare also local salaries to see which city is the cheapest one to live in as an employee.

However, Expatistan is not about finding cheap cities to work in. It's about comparing cost-of-living, independently of your income. Expats are usually not linked to average local salaries in any meaningful way, anyway.

I explain it much better in the website: http://www.expatistan.com/faq#average-salary

While actual salary might not be interesting, how much taxes will affect your gross income is. Tax rules are often very convulted. If you collected gross salary and received salary after taxes numbers, that'd be a great resource. I've moved abroad and all you get usually is vague statements about tax pressure (ie. asking a range of people you get wildly different answers). Often this is related to your income level in non-obvious ways as well. A table for each city with mapping from gross income -> income after tax would be very helpful.

True, and another key component, which will become even more important once median incomes are taken into account, is public services.

For instance Paris is described to be about as expansive as San Francisco. But in Paris, you have your kids' school and your health insurance for free (well, included into your taxes). Plus, if you studied there, you don't have a student loan to pay back.

Well, including that wouldn't make sense unless they also included taxes.

> wouldn't make sense unless they also included taxes.

Or simply give salaries net of taxes. In many countries, a large chunk of the taxes are paid by enterprises, and never appear on your salary sheets, although they're part of your compensation package (they're paid by your employer, because he has to in order to legally hire your workforce, and they serve to fund services you'll benefit from).

I don't think it's possible to meaningfully take salaries into account unless they also have a database with salaries for each profession. In my opinion, it's much better to leave that adjustment to the user.

E.g. if you compare median salaries in San Francisco and Tokyo, you might get similar numbers. But if you're an ESL teacher, you might get paid quite a bit more in Tokyo, whereas if you're a software engineer you'll get paid a lot more in SF.

I don't think salary is necessary at all for this data to be useful. In fact, I think accurately portraying salary differences in different regions is a far harder problem than accurately portraying general COL differences.

In particular, this data can be immensely useful if you live in X with a known salary and you have an offer for a different salary in Y, and you're wondering how it'll stack up. This will answer that question for you.

I agree that median salaries data would be nice to have, but I believe that a lot of people have use-case in the lines of "I consider moving from city A to city B. In city A my earnings are XYZ. How much would I have to earn in city B to maintain same quality of life?"

Not available under a free license, no thanks.

Historical data! We want historical inflation data!

That would be a killer feature. We could prove that the price increase in SF is insane.

santa monica, ca doesn't exist in their database.

and looks like "los angeles" is too large to have accurate numbers.

I think the comparison would make more sense if it is a function of salary, not just an absolute number

This is OK if I want to move from one major city to another, but not for much else. If I, for example, wanted to move to a smaller city two hours away and work remotely most of the time, it's not going to be of much use. This fun to play with, but is it really useful?

Looking at those prices I can see inflation in US has been 100% in the last ten years and will be much more in the next years thanks to QE and the FED printing fetish.

Inflation is theft.

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