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Why Living in France Can Cost Half as Much

A huge Burger, fries, and wine and at Café Charlot in Paris
Burger, fries, and wine and at Café Charlot in Paris

On May 16th, I’ll be speaking on a webinar hosted by the Federation of Alliances Françaises U.S.A about “Why living in France can cost half as much!

It’s not a joke. Every time I start running down the list of personal living costs, Americans drop their jaws.

You can Google “Cost of Living France vs U.S.” and you’ll come up with a whole host of sites to give you price comparisons, such as:

International Living
Cost of Living
World Data

And you can easily get confused. So, ignore them all and get it from the “horse’s mouth.”

(These comparisons do not take into account any income taxes one might pay for revenue generated in France. Note that France and the U.S. have the best tax treaty in Europe!)

Let me give you some REAL figures that you can sink your teeth into:

1. Property, to Rent or Purchase

Let’s start with the cost of housing. The most expensive property in France is in Paris and it’s about twice as expensive as any other city in France. The average per square meter price of a property in Paris is $12,698.93 compared to New York’s $17,702.15. But, rents in Paris are not expensive for a variety of reasons.

Chart and map of property prices around France

Now, compare the rent. A one-bedroom in Paris will cost you on the average $1,453.80 per month compared to New York’s $4,150.51 and a three-bedroom apartment in Paris will cost you $3,359.12 on the average compared to $8,432.88 in New York.

This means that New York cost 2.5 to 3 times Paris if you’re renting and 40% more to purchase!

Note: Housing is the one expense that will vary the most.

2. Property Taxes

When you own property, there are property taxes to pay. Secondary homes in France come with what’s called “Taxe d’Habitation,” but primary residences don’t pay this tax, only paying “Taxe Foncière.” Believe it or not, the Taxe Foncière and Taxe d’Habitation usually amount to approximately 10 to 20 euros per square meter per year each.

Let’s make some real comparisons. My Paris apartment, a two-bedroom in the 3rd arrondissement, paid 957€ ($1,029.72) last year for Taxe Foncière ($14.70 per square meter). My one-bedroom apartment in Nice paid 636€ ($684.36) ($18.24 per square meter).

According to calculations by Insider using 2021 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the overall effective property tax rate in the U.S. stands at 1.10% of the value of the home. With a median home price of $244,900, homeowners typically pay $2,690 annually in property taxes. Alternatively, considering the average home value in the U.S., which is reported by Zillow as $346,270, the average property tax bill amounts to $3,803 annually at the same effective tax rate.

Calculating property taxes

And these are the averages, so consider some very highly taxed states, such as California. According to, a Los Angeles home valued at $1 million would pay $7,500 a year in property taxes. That’s equivalent to the value of my Paris apartment, meaning the California taxes are 7.3 times higher!

It’s so much fun to ask our clients how much tax they pay on their U.S. property. It’s always jaw-dropping to hear their amount compared to mine and realize that if they sold that property in the U.S., how much they would save and have to spend toward a property in France!

3. Utilities—Electricity, Gas

You’re going to laugh at this one. France has a higher cost per Kwh of electricity than the U.S.—France with $0.21 compared to United States with $0.18—but guess which country uses the most electricity per capita? You guessed right: the U.S., with 10 times the usage than in France! So, you can expect your bills to be a whole lot less, even if the rate is a bit higher.

Household electricity prices

Reality: My Nice apartment costs 66.39€ ($71.44) per month for electricity usage, running a Mini-Split (AC and heat) 100% of the time when I am there, which is about 50% of the year.

4. Phone/TV/Internet

Another jaw-dropper is when I explain that for 29.99€ per month (plus 20% TVA, 35.99€ [$38.73]), with (or any of the other companies that offer this), anyone can have high-speed internet using fiber optics, a VOIP phone that includes calls to mobile phones in mainland France, DOM and certain destinations such as the USA, China, Canada and Cambodia, as well as to fixed lines in over 110 destinations, plus over 580 live TV channels. No joke.

And you’re going to LOVE this: add on a cell phone for 9.99€ ($10.75) a month with Forfait Free 5G, unlimited calls in France, unlimited SMS and MMS from over 100 destinations, unlimited calls, SMS and MMS from Europe to French overseas departments, Canada, Australia, Israel, USA, South Africa…over 110 destinations. What this means is that when traveling outside of France, the calls are free within that country and free back to France! And so is my Hot Spot…so that means internet wherever I go.

Free phone rates

Try to beat that with any U.S. provider. You can’t do it.

5. Homeowner Insurance

Homeowners insurance is another expense you will find shockingly low. If you’re living in an apartment, you only need to insure your contents as the building insures the building and that’s part of your homeowner association fees. And of course, it depends on the value of your contents, but nevertheless, you will find it silly cheap.

The average yearly amount is about €372 ($400) a year. Mine in Paris is 460€ ($495). Compare that with the U.S. where homeowners insurance costs an average of $1,915 a year, or about $160 a month. That’s about 4 times as expensive!

Are you catching on?

6. Homeowner Association Fees

If you live in a condo, then you pay Homeowner Association Fees. According to the Observatoire national des charges de copropriété de l’ARC, OSCAR, the fees in France are about €50 ($53.80) per square meter per year. I used to own a co-op in the West Village in New York and the annual dues were $540 per square meter!…10 times that of France!

What do you pay?

7. Groceries

Add to all of this the price of groceries. The average American household spends an average of $475.25 a month on groceries, according to the most recently available dataset from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2022. The same groceries will average about $330 a month in France. However, aside from the savings, you will find the quality superior, too!

Map charting that cost of groceries by state in the US

8. Restaurants/Dining Out

Most people know I prefer to dine out rather than fill my little fridge with food that will spoil or dirty my kitchen (!!), so how is it that I can afford to dine out twice a day? That’s because I live in France! It’s a tough statistic to compare, because there are so many variables to the quality of a restaurant, but there’s one thing for sure—the tax and tip are included in the price of a meal in France.

Almost every day I have lunch at Café Charlot. It’s known to be one of the more expensive cafés on the street, but for good reason—the quality is better. Lunch averages $30 with coffee, including tax and tip. When was the last time you had as good a meal in the U.S. for such a bargain?

Funny note: Have you ever heard of the Big Mac Index?

Since 1986, The Economist has been publishing the Big Mac Index, an informal measure aimed at gauging the purchasing power parity (PPP) between two currencies. It serves as a test to see if market exchange rates lead to goods costing the same across different countries, aiming to simplify exchange-rate theory. The index achieves this by comparing the global relative price of the Big Mac, a hamburger available at McDonald’s restaurants.

Graphic for the Big Mac Affect

It doesn’t really compare the price of a restaurant meal, more than it does create a level for currency exchange. Although it was not intended to be a legitimate tool for exchange rate evaluation, it is now globally recognized and featured in many academic reports. The index also gave rise to the word burgernomics!

9. Health Care

This is a biggie and I hope you’re sitting down when you read this. We find that the French healthcare system will cost you one-tenth of what it costs you in the U.S.

When you become a bona fide resident in France, you will be entitled to be on the French social security system which means that up to 70% of your healthcare costs will be covered by France.

A doctor’s visit in France costs about €26.50, roughly equivalent to $28.50, while seeing a specialist is about €50 or even a bit more ($54), without being on the system! Once you are enrolled in the system (PUMA), a doctor’s visit would only set you back about 8€ ($8.50), as 70% of the visit cost is reimbursed directly to your bank account. Similarly, with the 70% reimbursement, an appointment with a specialist would cost approximately $16. The French government generally refunds patients 70% of most health care costs, and 100% in case of costly or long-term ailments. Prescription drugs, priced very affordably (about one-tenth of U.S. costs), are covered up to 100%.

If you want complete coverage, you can take a “mutuelle” insurance policy to top it up. The price of supplementary health insurance fluctuates based on the extent of coverage and the insurer. Typically, such insurance is reasonably priced, with basic plans starting as little as €10 per month. However, expenses can rise notably for broader coverage or individuals with pre-existing health issues. I have one of the best policies in the business with 100% coverage and no deductible. My premium is about 1,900€ ($2044) a year and I’m 71 years old.

Special note: The best part of all of this is not the savings…but the seriously excellent care you’re going to get in France. Remember, in the U.S. the sicker you are, the more money everyone makes. In France, the healthier you are, the more money the government saves. So, when it comes to preventative medicine, France is all for it, while the insurance companies don’t see that as a win for them!

See the official word on French healthcare costs here.

10. Public Transportation

France boasts one of the most intricate transportation networks globally, featuring 146 kilometers of roads and 6.2 kilometers of rail lines per 100 square kilometers. This network is structured like a web, with Paris serving as its focal point. Rail, road, air, and water transportation are all extensively developed modes of travel throughout the country.

Many expats relocating to France find it advantageous to forego owning and operating a car, particularly those who live in larger cities and lots of smaller towns. According to the average annual cost of owning a car increased to $9,282. Do you realize how many trips in Europe you can take for that amount of money?

Opting for public transportation—such as buses, trains, and trams—in cities like Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg, Nice, Aix-en-Provence, and others, offers those kinds of significant savings. Most locales provide senior discounts on the city’s public transit network, including buses, trams, and even boat shuttles in coastal areas.

France’s swift, efficient train system with discounted fares is accessible via the SNCF-Connect website. These high-speed trains facilitate swift travel with minimal or no intermediate stops and standard SNCF trains feature dining cars.

Gare de l'est in Paris

I go back and forth between Paris and Nice frequently on the TGV. For 49€ ($52.75) a year, I can take advantage of a Carte Avantage Senior that saves me tons of money. Trips under 1h30 = €49 maximum, trips between 1h30 and 3h = €69 maximum, trips over 3h = €89 maximum. I get 30% off trips all year round, 60% off tickets for up to 3 children traveling with me and a 15% discount on SNCF services.

THE BOTTOM LINE: living in France can cost you about one-half of what it costs you to live in the U.S. and you’re going to have a much higher quality of life than you’ve ever had! How can you say no to that?


A la prochaine…

Adrian LeedsAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

Screenshot of Adrian Leeds and contributors in an episode of House Hunters InternationalP.S. We’re looking for a one-bedroom apartment in any district of Paris in which to film a House Hunters International episode sometime during June 7 to 11 as a comparable property to the one the contributors have rented. The owner of the apartment must sign the release forms. It takes about 4 hours with a small crew and light equipment. If you have such an apartment and willing to allow us to film there, please email us immediately! Thanks!!



  1. Paul Dandurand on May 8, 2024 at 12:21 pm

    Good article. However, there’s one catch that’s missing. That’s the France 7% to 10% transfer of ownership fee when purchasing a home. Let’s call that a “sales tax”. In the US, there’s no sales tax. If you figure a home at around $346,270 and say, a 7% sales tax in France, that would be around $24,238. It would take you up to 6 years and a few months to break even before the advantage is France when not counting the annual property tax in the US of $3,803. I didn’t do the math, but if you include the US annual property tax that into the equation then the break even is probably more around 4-5 years. If you plan to retire and stick it out with a long life, then the big winner is France.

    • Adrian Leeds Group on May 14, 2024 at 4:34 am

      Exactly! In France property is purchased with the long-term in mind. Plus, there are no bidding wars and a seller is morally obligated to accept a full-price offer. While the closing costs may be higher than in the US – this one of those trade-offs that brings you a higher quality of life and savings in many other areas. It’s just part of the small cost of living in France!

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