Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban are South Africa’s largest cities. These four cities are also the most popular with foreign nationals looking to settle in South Africa. Especially Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Seeing as this is the case, we decided to compare living costs between these cities. After all, determining if you’re going to be able to afford to live in your city of choice is a big part of immigration and relocation research.

Please note: All costs are in South African rands.

Let’s start with what you can expect to earn

When investigating how much it will cost you to live somewhere, you have to know how much you’ll earn. These are the average annual salaries in all four cities according to PayScale:

  Cape Town Johannesburg Pretoria Durban
Average Annual Salary 235,000 261,000 231,000 202,000

Now let’s see how far you’ll have to stretch those rands.

1. Rent and Utilities

Single people and couples often start by renting an apartment. Let’s say you want to live in the city centre. In this case, Pretoria offers the most affordable monthly rent. Cape Town is the most expensive by far!

Families who immigrate typically prefer to live in the suburbs. Suburb life in South Africa offers families more space and easier access to schools.

When you rent a 3-bedroom apartment outside of the city, Pretoria is the most affordable.

1-bedroom Apartment in the city centre

  Cape Town Johannesburg Pretoria Durban
1-bedroom Apartment in the city 10,559.60 6,745.71 5,326.92 5,340.74
Electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage collection 1,274.07 1,516.73 1,479.18 1,451.96
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) 892.49 926.18 883.71 966.50
Total 12,726.16 9,188.62

6,357.81

7,759.20

3-bedroom Apartment in the suburbs

  Cape Town Johannesburg Pretoria Durban
3-Bedroom apartment outside of city centre 14,556.63 11,433.33 9,814.81 10,142.82
Utilities and Internet 2,166.56 2,442.91 2,362.89 2,418.46
Total 16,723.19 13,876.24

12,177.70

12,561.28

2. Groceries

When shopping, a basket of 14 everyday items is going to cost you the least in Durban. You’ll spend R42,30 more on the same basket in Cape Town.

  Cape Town Johannesburg Pretoria Durban
1L Milk 14.25 16.45 16.17 17.15
Loaf of Fresh White Bread 13.91 14.46 14.16 14.36
1kg White Rice 22.14 23.30 22.07 22.08
12 Eggs 32.58 31.88 28.70 28.35
1kg Local Cheese 111.19 111.98 106.00 102.67
1kg Chicken Fillets 77.52 78.71 65.44 67.29
1kg Beef Round 108.88 108.17 106.77 93.32
1kg Apples 24.36 24.15 24.08 21.93
1kg Bananas 23.44 21.28 21.50 19.32
1kg Oranges 23.37 22.07 24.00 18.27
1kg Tomatoes 22.29 21.47 19.81 16.53
1kg Potatoes 20.49 18.95 22.50 15.47
1kg Onions 19.09 18.51 17.47 16.22
Lettuce 15.43 15.29 15.43 15.68
Total 528.94 526.67 504.10

468.64

3. Buying a car

Most people choose to buy a new car once they’re in South Africa. It’s much cheaper than importing a car from overseas!

You can see that there aren’t massive variances in new car prices. The same is true for petrol, which costs around R15 per litre in all cities.

  Cape Town Johannesburg Pretoria Durban
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (or equivalent new car) 300,000.00 340,000.00 300,000.00 300,000.00
Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (or equivalent new car) 304,052.00 308,445.09 315,657.1 306,418.18
1L Petrol 15.09 15.25 15.63 15.89

4. Sending your children to school

Many immigrants choose to send their children to private schools. These schools often have teaching and learning methods similar to the country from which the family emigrated.

Durban’s preschools and primary schools are the most affordable by far. Most immigrants settle in either Cape Town or Johannesburg, though. When looking at these two cities, you can see that sending your children to school in Johannesburg will be the most expensive.

  Cape Town Johannesburg Pretoria Durban
Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child 3,089.74 3,673.50 3,172.41

2,866.03

International Primary School, Yearly for 1 Child 66,692.38 89,411.20 73,763.04

59,578.95

5. Going out for a meal

South Africa offers plenty of opportunities to unwind, and we’re especially fond of enjoying a meal with family and friends. Durban comes out tops for value for money each time.

Lunch at a local restaurant

When you’re popping out for a quick lunch to catch up with a friend, this is how much you’ll have to set aside:

  Cape Town Johannesburg Pretoria Durban
Restaurant meal at an inexpensive restaurant 120.00 140.00 125.00 100.00
330 ml Domestic beer 35.00 33.50 30.00 30.00
330 ml Coke 13.83 14.13 13.90 13.94
Total 168.83 187.63 168.90

143.94

Dinner at an up-market restaurant

This is how much the evening at an upmarket restaurant is going to set you back if you take a bottle of wine with:

  Cape Town Johannesburg Pretoria Durban
3-course Meal for two at a mid-range restaurant 550.00 600.00 550.00 500.00
Bottle of wine 80.00 79.00 79.00 65.00
Total 630 679.00 629.00

565.00

In conclusion

While Durban has the lowest average annual salary, it offers residents an affordable lifestyle. Durban has the cheapest groceries, the most affordable school fees, and it’s the city where eating out costs the least.

However, remember that each of the four cities we looked at has something different to offer in terms of quality of life. That’s why you should consider your family’s wants and needs, along with the cost of living in a city.

Note: All of the costs are from Numbeo, February 2021.

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