Cost of Living, Studying and Working in Germany

This Cost of Living in Germany info was compiled by Americans (German/Americans) who currently live in Germany, or go back and forth

Exchange rates make a difference, this post was updated April 2023
1 Euro = 1.11 Dollars

Per Facebook group ” Americans living in/considering moving to Germany ” now over 6800 members

Food cost and quality:

About 30% less, especially cheeses, wurst and alcohol, not beef, that’s higher. There is almost no hormones or antibiotic in meats. Food quality in Germany (Aldi, Lidl, Edeka, Norma) is like shopping at an (expensive) American health food store, but paying discount prices. Germany is pork country, that and chicken is affordable. Update Corona crisis: There has been an uptick recently of meat prices.

Watch an informational video here:

Housing cost:

Rent is comparable, or less, except large cities like Munich (most expensive), Frankfurt, Cologne, Berlin etc. . House prices are higher, mainly because of the material and high lot/ land prices. Down payment is 10 to 15% (US 3 to 5%). Home loan interest rates are lower in Germany, like 2.5% (no mortgage interest deduction), and it depends on your credit rating.

Property taxes is 10 times less of the US, average $350 a year, because school taxes are paid by Federal and State.

PS: Be prepared to possibly buy a kitchen. You also need to install lamps and sometimes closets

Healthcare and Insurance:

Germany has the oldest (140 years) Healthcare system, and 95% of residents are covered (also see Bismarck). Cost depends on your income, about 8% for the employed with Employer contribution (7%). No deductibles, no network, no bills in the mail. About 120 non-profit insurance companies to choose from. Higher income earner can buy Private Health Insurance, which often cost more, and is less regulated. German Healthcare system explained (PDF)

Over- the-counter drugs in Germany often cost more than the US counter part, but you can have the Doc give you a prescription and pay a small fee (5 Euro).

If you don’t qualify for the statuary health insurance, like if you are over 55, there is Expat private health insurance available. It has to be approved for longterm stay.

ADAC offers Health insurance for Guests up to one year (50 to 100 Euro a month).

Military retirees have Tricare, which is accepted in Germany

Other Benefits:

  • Paid sick leave up to 6 weeks, and for each child 10 days
  • Rehab 5 Euro a day.
  • Dental  Basic Dental is included. You can buy a supplemental plan for about 30 Euro a month that pays 100% of crowns, bridges and implants
  • Hospital 10 Euro a day
  • Assisted living for you, and you are getting paid to take care your parents, children
  • Emergency house calls are free by doc on duty (Notarzt)
  • Kur or Cure: You entitled to a health vacation Kur-town (Spa or Cure town) paid by the health insurance every 4 years, also right after any major illness.

Energy cost:

Electric and energy to heat a home is more, no air conditioning bills in the summer though.While energy costs per unit may be higher in Germany, you may end up paying less than you would in the US because the buildings are generally MUCH better insulated in Germany

Car Expenses:

Insurance depends on your driving. Best bring your 10 year driving record (original signature) from your current American Auto insurance. I heard HUK car insurance will accept it. Gas is 3 times more, but distances are shorter. Public transportation is more extensive and more affordable, and public access to exceptionally well maintained hiking and cycling networks free in Germany. Cars are not always necessary

6. Internet and Cell Phone:

The Mobile plans are less, also Cable TV. There is a monthly mandatory fee to watch general ARD, ZDF TV though, currently 17 Euro a month. Also see: Rundfunk Beitrag

7. School and College cost:

  • German Public Schools are equivalent to US Private or Prep schools at zero cost
  • Apprenticeship: About 40% of young people doing an Apprenticeship. It is paid by employer, and students get a wage, about ~$1000 a month and lasts up to 3 years
  • College is mostly free, except some administration fees and books, combined about $260 per semester

8. Childbirth – Maternity leave- Childcare

You will get Kindergeld $220 per child a month, the same for the each additional child.

Childbirth and Maternity leave

Maternity Leave

Elterngeld (parent subsidy)


Many federal states the Daycare (over 3 years) is free or a small amount up to ~$170 a month. Under 3 year old babies in diapers will cost about $50 more.


No Entrance fees at most festivals. Lots of free/cheap activities for children and families. Example is free access to many parks and lakes (with the option to pay for things like boat rental, bike rental etc.)

Examples: Membership fee for a kids soccer club is 50 Euro/year. That includes travel costs and team shirts.. Kids drama class: 30 Euro for 6 months

Vacation and Sick days:

All together 38 days; 24 paid vacation days, one national public holiday for which all workers receive a day off, called German Unity Day. In addition, there are between nine to 13 paid religious holidays. Compared with the US chart

Paid sick leave up to 6 weeks, and for each child 10 days


A comprehensive, well researched video here by an American PHD living in Germany:

  • Property taxes are very low, Schools are subsidized by German State and Federal tax. (Prop. tax for example $300 a year for a $400,000 house. Car tax for a Hybrid is 40 Euro ($45) a year
  • Income taxes are progressive, also higher, but not more than 45% for the highest earner. No taxes due if you make under $10,000 a year. 
  • Vat Tax 19% (Mehrwertsteuer) is generally included in the price, what you see is what you pay. Exceptions: 7% for Food, Books, Newspapers and Magazines, Art objects, and Hotel stays. There are a number of difficult to understand differences. For example drinks generally taxed at 19%,  exceptions are mineral water and milk. Take out food and now also overnight accommodation is subject to the reduced rate of 7%, while meals consumed at Restaurant are taxed at the general rate of 19%
  • Inheritance Tax: Spouse, no taxes under 500,000 Euro, Children no taxes under 400,000 Euro, Grandchildren no tax 200,000 Euro. Calculator

12. Average Salary and Pay

Germany’s minimum wage

Average salary or Pay (STEM)

In Germany, STEM professions are among those in which there is a shortage of workers. This is why people qualified in STEM subjects have good prospects as regards careers and earnings. The official German abbreviation for STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Per Website: “No matter which area – job prospects for graduates in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects are favorable in Germany. Indeed, in recent years, German companies have been unable to recruit anything like the number of scientists, mathematicians, and IT experts needed to fill vacant positions. Compared with typical graduates of other disciplines, STEM graduates are much more likely to be offered a permanent contract when entering the job market and have a significantly higher earnings potential. Average starting salaries for STEM graduates are between €35,000 (~$39,500) and €40,000  (~$45000) a year. After 10 years of professional experience, salary levels rise to an average of about €70,000 (~$79,000)”

These are the German degrees that will land you the biggest salaries

Working as a scientist in Germany

Per Website: “Since IT specialists are particularly sought-after, there is a special regulation for them. They can enter the country without training – provided they can prove that they have been working in the business for several years” More below:

Germany is searching for skilled personnel

Average salaries and cost of living

Germany overall Ranking

Cost of Living Germany compared with US

Informational Guide: First steps arriving in Germany (BAMF)

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