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Is it cheaper to live in Scotland or the U.S.

Is it cheaper to live in Scotland or the U.S.?

When it comes to deciding where to live, cost is one of the most important factors. The cost of living can determine whether it’s feasible for you to live in a certain country.

So if you’re looking to determine whether it’s cheaper in Scotland or the United States of America (U.S.), you’re in luck! We’ve listed down a couple of significant expenses to help you decide.

Is it cheaper to live in Scotland or the U.S.?

If we’re talking about the average cost of living, it is generally cheaper to reside in Scotland rather than the U.S, as Scotland is 1.6 times more expensive than the U.S.

Here’s a quick summary of the expenses that we’ve taken into account along with corresponding winners. Don’t worry, though, as we’ll dive into more detail right after. 

Average cost of livingScotlandWhen comparing both countries’ capitals, Scotland’s is 1.6 times less expensive than the U.S.’s.
HealthcareScotlandScotland offers universal healthcare through the NHS while the U.S. doesn’t, so most Americans rely on health insurance to bring down the costs of their medical bills.
RentTieBoth countries have cities that can accommodate various budgets.
EducationScotlandWhen it comes to primary and elementary levels, both countries’ public schools are fully funded by the national government. 

For university, Scotland has the upper hand as it provides nearly free funding to Scottish and EU citizens and heavily discounted fees for students from the rest of the UK.
FoodScotlandThe food in Scotland, whether at a restaurant or grocery, is more affordable than in the U.S.

Average Cost of Living

Average Cost of Living

Image: Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash

Before anything else, it’s important to keep in mind that the cost of living in both the U.S. and Scotland depend on which city and area you plan on living in. 

Of course, if you live closer to the city center, you’ll find your expenses a tad higher than if you lived in the countryside. This goes for property and rent prices as well as the cost of goods and services.

Nevertheless, here’s a quick comparison of what the average cost of living looks like in the capital of both Scotland and the U.S. according to

ExpensesEdinburgh, ScotlandWashington D.C, U.S.
1 bedroom apartment at the city center$1080$1813
3 bedroom apartment in the city center$2059$1494
Utility bill for 1 person$119$98.5
Utility bill for a family$184$151
Public transportation$2.2$3.01
Gas or petrol (per liter)$1.921.16
Monthly internet plan of 50mbps$28.8$61.3

Overall, the cost of living in Washington D.C. is nearly 1.6 times more expensive than Edinburgh. In particular, Washington D.C. is staggeringly more expensive when it comes to rent, food, and internet.

Though when it comes to utilities such as electricity, heating and water, it’s a tad more affordable in Washington D.C. Similarly, gas or petrol is also cheaper in the U.S. 

It’s also worth noting that in a global list of 227 cities by Mercer, Washington D.C. actually ranks 29th most expensive city. Meanwhile, Edinburgh ranks 66th most expensive city.

On the other side of the spectrum, the most affordable state in the U.S. is Mississippi. Meanwhile, Stirling is the most affordable city in Scotland.



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When it comes to the cost of healthcare, Scotland and the U.S. are quite different.

In Scotland, all employed citizens along with their spouse and immediate family members are entitled to healthcare coverage through the National Health Service (NHS).

If you plan on living in Scotland, you’ll be happy to hear that the majority of NHS services are completely free. These include:

  • General practitioner (GP) practices
  • Emergency services
  • Dental examinations
  • Local pharmacy
  • Eye examinations
  • Screenings
  • Immunization programs
  • Prescriptions

Thankfully, the NHS healthcare coverage sometimes even extends to visitors. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out the Charter of Patients Rights and Responsibilities.

Meanwhile, the U.S. doesn’t have a universal healthcare system, which means that the government doesn’t provide healthcare coverage to its citizens and visitors.

Instead, most Americans have health insurance to help bring down the cost of their medical bills. Depending on the type of insurance and technicalities, health insurance companies can pay a portion of or even the entire medical bill.



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Another vital regular expense would be your rent. The cost of rent in Scotland and the U.S. vary quite a bit.

In Scotland, rent is most expensive in its capital, Edinburgh. Following suit, its nearby cities also have one of the highest rental costs in the country. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. has a rather different scenario. Renters in America appear to love the coastal side the most, particularly in Northeast and Western regions of the country, which makes the rental costs here more expensive.

For those on a tight budget or would simply like to save a bit more, we’ve created a table summarizing the most affordable areas to rent flats (or ‘apartments’ as they say in the U.S.) in:

RankScotlandAverage RentU.S.Average Rent
#1Kilmarnock£443.74West Virginia$800

Meanwhile, if you don’t mind spending more on a place to live, here’s a comparison of the most expensive places to rent in:

RankScotlandAverage RentU.S.Average Rent
#3Stirling (Town)£853New Jersey$1,700

Nationwide, here’s what the average rental prices look like for different types of properties:

Rental PropertyScotlandU.S.
Flat or Apartment£2,086.56$1,659



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U.S. Education

In the U.S., education is free if the student is attending a public school for primary school (referred to as “elementary school”), middle school, and secondary school (referred to as “high school”). 

If you’re planning to enroll your child in a private school, you’ll have to pay to attend. Nevertheless, there are several programs, especially for low-income families, to fund their education.

To give you an idea of the costs, here’s a table showcasing the average tuition fee for a private school:

Educational LevelAverage Tuition Fee
Private elementary school$16,040
Private high school$7,630

As for higher education options, the U.S. has a ton of universities and community colleges. The main difference between the two is that the latter only requires 2 years of studying college-level classes to complete.

This is primarily because universities typically require their students to take on general education courses. Hence, they end up staying a bit longer, usually around 4 years, to earn their degree.

Similar to primary and highschool levels, there are also public and private universities and colleges. 

Nevertheless, the overall cost to earn a degree will depend on where you’re planning to study, the degree you are aiming for, and several other factors.

Even so, here’s a comprehensive table on the average cost of tuition fees across different types of universities and colleges in the U.S.:

Educational InstitutionAverage Tuition Fee
Ranked public college$10,423
Ranked private college$39,723
Out-of-state students at public schools$22,953
In-state residents at public colleges$10,423

Scottish Education

Similar to the U.S. educational system, all Scottish students go through 7 levels of Primary School followed by 6 levels of Secondary School.

Another likeness is that if your child attends a public school, their education will be funded by the government. Otherwise, charges will be required to attend a private school or “independent school”.

What sets the Scottish educational system apart is that only Primary School up to Secondary 4 is mandatory. This means that students aren’t mandated to take up Secondary 5 and 6.

When it comes to higher education, it’s important to note that Scotland has one of the most expensive universities in all of the UK. While some universities and colleges have opted to cap their tuition fee costs, it can still be quite a hefty sum.

Thankfully, university or college is nearly free if you’re a Scottish citizen or come from other EU countries taking up your first degree. In other words, if you’re taking up either your Bachelor’s degree or a Scottish undergraduate Master’s degree.

As “home students”, your direct fees will be shouldered by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). 

Meanwhile, if you come from the “rest of the UK” or “RUK” such as England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, your fees will be slightly higher than that of home students. 

Nevertheless, tuition fees for postgraduate studies are roughly the same.

Students from other countries such as outside the UK or EU are referred to as “international students”. 

These students have the most expensive fees since apart from tuition, they’re expected to be spending on lodging and international fees, among others.

Nevertheless, there are quite a lot of scholarship options, especially for international students, to avail themselves of as a means to finance their education.

Student StatusUndergraduate FeesPostgraduate Fees
HomeAround £‎1,820 *Often covered by SAASAround £5,000 to £15,000
RUKAround £‎9,250 for the first three yearsAround £5,000 to £15,000
InternationalAround £‎10,000 GBP to £‎26,000Around £5,000 to £30,000



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When it comes to food, the U.S. is more expensive than Washington D.C. than in Edinburgh, whether you’re buying ingredients or dining out. 

One of the main reasons that food is more affordable in the UK rather than in the US is because the former has more private-label goods.

In fact, the cheapest place to buy food in the entire UK is in Western Europe (Scotland is in the midwest of Europe).  Even then, many opt to purchase ingredients and cook at home instead of eating at a restaurant.

All said, it’s still important to take note that the cost of food in both countries may rise depending on the demand and season.

To save some money, both countries have several farmer’s markets that offer fresh and cheap produce.

According to, here’s what the average grocery item prices look like in both countries:

Food ItemEdinburgh, ScotlandWashington D.C., U.S.
Milk (1 liter)$1.15$0.98
Bread (0.5 kilo)$1.25$3.04
Rice (1 kilo)$1.38$3.83
Eggs (1 dozen)$2.87$3.52
Cheese (1 kilo)$9.27$16
Chicken breast (1 kilo)$6.89$11.6
Round steak (1 kilo)$9.47$15.9
Water (1 liter)$0.82$1.45
Potato (1 kilo)$1.03$3.38
Onion (1 kilo)$0.97$3.55
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