One of the most asked questions to any expat is “What’s the cost of living?”
Mexico is a big country, and the cost of living can vary. Housing in cities with international airports are going to cost more than smaller towns an hour or so away. Meats and produce tend to be cheaper in Mexico, but you might pay considerably more for imported foods and products. Water and cell phone service is cheaper, but electric and internet costs can fluctuate depending on your usage and location. Regardless, the cost of living in Mexico, and particularly Queretaro, is one of the reasons we moved here.
Housing Expense Depends on Location
Renting or buying a house in Mexico will be your biggest expense. In Mexico City alone, what neighborhood you decide to rent in determines the cost. In Polanco, a 1-2-bedroom apartment could cost you 20,000 pesos a month, while the same apartment just north of Coyocoan may cost you 15,000 pesos a month.
Living near the beach also comes with its roller coaster prices. A 3-Bedroom condo could cost between $1000-3000 USD depending on the number of expats (who drive up the price) and the location. Say you want to live in Puerta Vallarta. The City central area will cost more, but 30 minutes away in Sayulita you may find something bigger, cheaper and with less tourists.
Before we moved to Queretaro, we searched a variety of housing websites to see what we could afford. Considering Queretaro has so many foreign industries and a strong middle class, housing here is considered on the high end. Yet, I saw houses that gave us plenty of space around the $500-700 USD range (depending on how big of a backyard we wanted). That was half the cost of our mortgage in Florida.
Cost of Living Breakdown
In the chart below I’ve listed our expenses of what we paid in Orlando, our rental house and the house we built. These numbers are based on our experience and are broken down to a per month average (except gas for the car). This is a rough estimate because some bills are every other month and gas for the house is only when we need a refill. I used 20 pesos for 1 US dollar exchange conversion to make it easier to calculate the prices.
Other people may pay more or less in their home country and in another part of Mexico. It’s good to research using the keywords COST OF LIVING IN… so you have a better idea of what to expect. Additionally, I have included a few other expat expense summaries in this post to give you a better idea of prices in Queretaro.
Expenses for Orlando Explained
ELECTRIC- In Florida, our electric bill was always over $300 between June and September because we were constantly running the air conditioning. $150 USD was the lowest the electric bill ever was during the year, usually in February.
CABLE TV- We were able to get rid of DirecTV ($165 USD) and switched to Amazon Fire TV almost a year before we left. This was a tremendous savings for us.
GAS FOR TRANSPORTATION -Tiffany commuted 45 minutes to work 5-7 days a week, and Tom delivered wine to his customers 4 days a week.
Expenses on our Rental House and the House we Built Explained
MORTGAGE- When we built our house, we paid cash from the sale of our house in Florida. It’s nice not having a mortgage!
ELECTRIC– Explained further down.
GAS FOR TRANSPORTATION- We only have one car here in Queretaro, so that alone cuts down our expenses. With the upswing of the coronavirus since March, we aren’t traveling or exploring as much. Our trips are reserved for the grocery store and bank. If there wasn’t a pandemic, our transportation costs would be the same or maybe slightly higher.
CELL PHONE- Tom has a Google phone and pays $30 USD a month. Tiffany has a Mexico phone and pays less than $15 a month for service.
****NOTE: Once we have fiber optic internet and are being billed by the electric company, our monthly expenses will go up.*****
Renting a House in Queretaro
Rents can vary just as much as the housing available. The interesting thing about the housing market is that it keeps going up even with several residential communities being built on speculation. Housing is available and searching a variety of websites can give you an idea of what you can afford in your price range. We recommend contacting a realtor who will have better access to what’s available in the neighborhoods you want.
To see what a typical modern Mexican house features, read our post House Hunting Fun in Queretaro
We paid 9000 pesos ($470 USD) for our 3-bedroom/2.5 bath house in a gated neighborhood. The average cost for a 3-bedroom house seems to be about 10,000-20,000 pesos ($500-$1000 USD) unfurnished and 13000-25000 pesos ($750-1500) for furnished. The price depends on the neighborhood.
What Are Other Rentals Like?
This price range is what I’ve seen on real estate websites. I also asked some friends what they pay for their rental places around Queretaro so you can have a better idea of what prices really are like here.
Tina rents a 2/1.5 apartment 10 minutes from Centro with kitchen, dining room, outdoor space and a washer fully furnished. Her rent is 14,000 pesos a month, electric is 316 pesos and cable/internet/phone are 469 pesos a month. She can walk to two grocery stores and a number of restaurants close by.
Donna and her husband rent a 200-year-old house unfurnished with two bathrooms in Centro. Tiled floors, an inner courtyard and 15 ft. ceilings with exposed beams are part of the charm. It has a kitchen, dining room, living room and five other rooms, but no closets. Their rent is 20,000 pesos a month, water is 500 pesos a month and gas is 500 pesos every 6 weeks.
The utility bills in Mexico are much lower than what we paid in Florida. However, the electric has been a bit of a headache. If you live in a new neighborhood that is still building houses, the electric could be free. Meanwhile, you could be on a neighborhood generator that loses power for an hour or two each week as they refill the generator. This usually happens on Monday mornings.
More established neighborhoods will bill you monthly or bi-monthly for your electric kilowatt usage. The average electric bill for 2 months is $40 but if you go over the allotted watts, the price per kilowatt jumps. If you go over your allotted kilowatt usage month after month, they take away the discounted rate and start charging you more pesos per kilowatt. We learned this the hard way.
From what we could gather from our electric bill, we are allowed 500 kilowatts, but ours was over every month. We do have is a dryer, second refrigerator and an additional small refrigerator that maybe most people do not have. Our electric bill kept going up from 600 pesos to 840 pesos to over 1300 pesos. When you divide this over two months and convert it back to US dollars, $35.00 USD per month doesn’t sound so bad, But when the bill arrived for 6409 pesos ($320 US dollars) right before Christmas and the family of 6 down the street is only paying 400 pesos, something doesn’t sound right. We went over twice and stopped receiving the discounts.
Can You Contest Your Electric Bill With the Electric Company?
Fighting the electric company is a losing battle. Our Mexican friends went down to the CFE offices to argue our case for us, and the electric company didn’t care. Pay or they will cut the service. You never want them to cut the service because they will need to send a technician out (at their convenience) and it will cost somewhere between 15,000-20,000 pesos to turn back on.
Water usually costs 400-450 pesos ($20-25) a month. In our rental neighborhood, water was billed every month. In our new neighborhood, it’s billed every two months. One of our friends is billed every four months in her neighborhood, so it all depends on where you live.
Our water bill has recently gone up to around 700 pesos ($35) a month. We are on a private water supply, and other people in the neighborhood have started complaining about the costs going up as well. We shall see what happens.
GAS FOR THE HOUSE
Our water heater, stove and dryer used gas in the rental house. We would fill up about every 6 weeks and it usually cost 1600 pesos ($80).
In our new house, we opted to get an electric heater, solar water heater and only have the dryer and stove on gas. We filled it up at the end of January for 2600 pesos (it’s a much larger tank than the one we had at the rental house). Even with Tom roasting vegetables and cooking non-stop, we still have 42 pounds of pressure 7 months later. My guess is we will fill it up twice a year.
We’ve tried three different internet service providers in Queretaro. We’ve tried satellite internet first with IENTC. 50mbps was 1499 pesos a month, and the service was horrible. Telmex fiber optic was finally installed in our rental neighborhood and we had wonderful service with 100 mbps plus TV and phone for 1500 pesos a month. Later we downgraded to 70 mbps for 999 pesos because our VPN was not able to get American programming without being kicked off.
Our new neighborhood does not have fiber optic internet installed (a recommendation I mention in our House Hunting post) so we are on cell service. It works (or doesn’t work) just as good/bad as IENTC satellite, but costs less.
We were very happy with Dish TV/HD channels- 1200 pesos in our rental home. Yes, during thunderstorms we would lose the signal, but that doesn’t happen very often. When we moved to our new house, we decided to get SkyTV because they have more sports channels. Little did we know, COVID-19 would cancel many of the sporting events for the year. Still, we do like it better. We get a few extra world news channels, watch past sporting events like NFL football, and we have all the movie channels with an option of original language audio.
Netflix- 299 pesos ($15) a month. We haven’t been able to watch our Netflix with our current internet option. A handful of 2-hour movies uses up a majority of our bandwidth for the month. Some of the cable companies have package deals with Netflix included. Megacable is working on installing fiber optic internet in our neighborhood and is offering Netflix as part of their package with phone, TV and internet. It’s a slow process of installing internet in a neighborhood, and if you ask when the service will be ready, the answer will always be “2 more months”. We’ve heard this 3 times now.
Amazon Prime- 299 pesos ($15) a month- again you need to have good internet speed to stream Amazon videos. Even when we had IENTC satellite, we very rarely could play movies from Amazon video.
Community Maintenance Fees
Our new house was built in a gated community, and the community maintenance fees for the upkeep of the landscape, street lights and security. In November we paid for the full year of 2020 fees. You can pay monthly, but they will give you a 20% discount if you pay for the full year in one payment. It does go up every year. in 2019, the fees were 485 pesos per month. In 2020, our fees went up to 525 pesos per month. COmmunity maintenance fees can vary depending on the nighborhood and amenities.
You’ll be happy to know that property taxes in Mexico are very low. The property tax called a Predial is assessed and paid for at the beginning of the year between January anf February (The earlier you pay, the better the discount). Last year we only had a lot, and paid less than $100 USD. Our landlard for the rental home showed us his predial. For a 138m2 lot with a 168m2 house his property taxes were roughly 3952 pesos ($180USD). Our lot is 160m2 and we built a 225m2 house, but we doubt it will be more than $300 USD. This post will be updated again in 2021 when we receive our official predial for our lot and house.
TRANSPORTATION AND CAR EXPENSES
Until we bought a car, we used Uber exclusively for one month. If you decide to live in Centro, a car will not be needed because everything is within walking distance and there is very little parking. You might need an Uber once a month if you plan to shop at Costco or Walmart or want to go to one of the fancy restaurants along Fray Junipero.
We live on the northern edge of Juriquilla, a 25-minute drive from Centro. On occasion, we prefer to take an Uber to Centro instead of dealing with traffic and finding parking. An average Uber ride is 140-180 pesos one way to Centro. During peak hours and holidays, the price does go up.
Buying a Car
We paid $14,000 USD cash for a new car. Car dealers do offer monthly payment options if you prefer. Check out the process of buying a car and getting your tags in our post: Buying a Car in Mexico
Car dealers and your bank will offer car insurance to you. We found a good rate with full coverage from MAPFE for 17000 pesos ($850) a year. We pay for the full year coverage in January.
Queretaro is stricter than other Mexican states about car emissions. If you buy a new car, you can get a 2-year sticker (called a Doble Cero) for around 849 pesos ($42). After this has expired or if you buy a used car, you have to get your car checked for emissions every 6 months. Because of COVID-19, some places prefer you to make an appointment, and some have even said that a once a year check is fine because they want to minimize the number of people coming into their check areas. For more details on emissions and maintenance, read our post:
PRICE OF GROCERIES
Tom and I spend more on groceries than the average couple, and probably more than a family of 4. Tom loves creating new dishes, sauces and vinegars so we have a very full pantry of dehydrated fruits, roasted vegetable salsas, cocktail flavorings, vinegars and leftovers in the fridge. What I can say is that in-season produce is ridiculously cheap. Spend a week going to the grocery store every day to find out when they have discounts. The Chedraui Selecto near us has their best deals on Tuesdays.
EATING OUT IN QUERETARO
Because of the coronavirus, we haven’t eaten out much, but have on occasion bought take-out food. Before we self-isolated, our usual bills for 2 people including a 25% tip ranged from $8-$13 US dollars for breakfast to $20-$30 for lunch and $50-$75 for a multi-course meal with wine.
Tipping: 10% is the usual tip when dining in Mexico. Wages are low, and if we can afford a few extra pesos to make someone’s day, we do it.
BUYING FURNITURE AND OTHER HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
The quality and price of furniture you can buy in Mexico is comprable to other countries. Kitchen items like blenders and food processors tend to be higher priced because they are imported. We brought all of our kitchen stuff with us, but bought all the big sfurniture here. Check out our post on furniture shopping for more price comparison and when the best time to buy here: Buying Furniture in Mexico
Because we do not work in Mexico, we are not that knowledgeable on income tax. What we heard is that income tax in Mexico is around 30% and is taken out of your paycheck every month if you work in Mexico. If you are still a resident of the United States but work for a Mexican company, you can claim the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE). You can earn the equivalent of $107,600 USD (this amount might have gone up this year) in Mexico before you are taxed on your earnings by the United States. If you work online and get paid exclusively by a company in the United States, you have to file income tax forms with the United States and with Mexico. Both countries tax on worldwide income. There are ways to not be double taxed. It’s best to contact an international accountant to learn about what needs to be reported, credits and deductions. This article can explain it a bit better: https://1040abroad.com/blog/taxes-for-us-expats-living-mexico/
SUBSCRIBE TO INTERNATIONAL LIVING
Our research on finding the best place to live started with a subscription to International Living. This magazine and website prints real stories from real people living in other countries around the world. From big cities to small villages, it’s been a wonderful resource for us in evaluating cost of living, finding the ideal weather and being centrally located to several towns and countries for travel. Writers for International Living go more in-depth on topics such as taxes, banking overseas, health insurance and real estate. If you don’t know where you should start, check out International Living for their subscription and bonus offers.
Compare your hometown with a place you want to move to on Numbeo.com for a complete breakdown of expenses, grocery prices and crime rates. This website helped us narrow down our interest in cities around Mexico.
Mexico is a fantastic place to live with warm-welcoming people, a fabulous food scene and jaw-dropping landscapes. Queretaro has the cooler mountain weather, modern conveniences, and availability of international food products that we enjoy. I hope this post helps you in deciding where you want to live and what is comfortably affordable to you.