Cost of Living in Zurich Living expenses in Switzerland

Although salaries are high and taxes low, Switzerland is one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Read more to find out where your money will go and where you can save.

Cost of living in Switzerland?

Switzerland is one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Taxes are relatively low, but insurance, services and food are expensive. Swiss residents still have comparatively high disposable incomes and purchasing power. A 2012 purchasing power study ranked Zurich first and Geneva fourth internationally. Workers require considerably less time to earn enough to buy universal products such as a Big Mac or an iPod Nano.

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Prices in Switzerland compared to Europe

Prices in Switzerland are higher than the European average. The 2014 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Zurich and Geneva as the fifth and sixth most expensive cities in Europe. Housing and utilities, as well as food, healthcare, clothing and leisure activities cost more in Switzerland. Transport, electronics and telecommunications are at similar levels to the rest of Europe. Petrol is cheaper than in France and Italy, but the costs involved in owning a car are high. In spite of the Eurozone's current instability, Switzerland's policy of enforcing a minimum exchange rate to the Euro has been successful in keeping the inflation rate just slightly negative since late 2011. 

Average monthly expenses in Switzerland

Although salaries are higher and taxes lower than the European average, a large portion of gross income goes towards obligatory health insurance and other deductions. Most people rent accommodation because property prices are high and a large down payment is required. Housing and energy account for an average of 16%, transport 8%, entertainment and leisure 13% and food and non-alcoholic beverages 7% of a typical monthly household budget.














Source: FSO, Statistical Data on Switzerland

Cost of living in Zürich

The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Zurich (Dec, 2011) as the most expensive city to live in worldwide. The index is based on a weighted average of 160 common products and services.

Zurich's housing market is tight with few rental properties available: 0.06% in the city of Zurich. The high demand for housing cannot readily be met, so new accommodation is constantly being constructed in the suburbs. Less expensive accommodation can be found on the outskirts of Zurich such as Schlieren, Dietikon, and Winterthur.

An average two-bedroom apartment in Zurich will be in the price range of CHF 3,300. A studio will cost around CHF 2,500. Despite these high prices, Zurich scores well in terms of public transport accessibility and tax rates.

Charges and utilities include building heating costs and maintenance and are usually added to the monthly rent. Initial charges are partial and the actual usage is calculated later, then invoiced or refunded. Electricity is billed directly to the tenant. A deposit of up to the equivalent of three months' rent is payable to finalise the contract. Using public transport, and buying at seasonal sales are ways to save money in Zurich. Other ways of saving money in Zurich include choosing when and where to shop, and taking advantage of discounts and special offers.

Author: François Enzler

After more than 10 years’ experience in relocation in Switzerland, François is now heading the Packimpex Academy which provides over 30 different training courses specific to the needs of the relocation industry. His experience of the daily challenges faced by relocation consultants flows directly into the training courses designed and led by the Packimpex Academy.

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