9 Pros and Cons of Moving to New Zealand from the USA

There are pros and cons to moving anywhere.  Here are nine pros and nine cons of New Zealand.

Pro: Work-Life Balance

New Zealand has an excellent work-life balance compared to the US.  Almost all employees get four weeks of annual leave.  A lot more businesses are closed holidays than in the US, and the government requires 1.5X pay for working a holiday.  Many companies are close from Christmas through New Years, including restaurants, mechanics, and many small businesses.

New Zealand work life balance

Con: Salaries

Even though New Zealand offers excellent work-life balance, salaries tend to be lower in New Zealand than the US.  The median salary in 2016 in New Zealand was ~$50,000 NZD ($34,000 USD), and the median US salary was ~$45,000 USD ($66,000 NZD).  Other things make up for the lower wages, but many professional occupations pay substantially less in New Zealand.

Pro: Universal Healthcare

If you have a visa valid for greater than two years, you get access to New Zealand’s universal healthcare.  New Zealand’s universal healthcare is not free, but it provides a standard of healthcare for everyone in New Zealand.  It also allows for easier access to primary care physicians and getting even minor issues addressed.

NZ ministry of health

Con: Lack of Healthcare Resources

New Zealand has universal healthcare, but it is not like US healthcare. There are a lot fewer resources than in the states, and it often takes a long time to wait for testing or procedures. Over half of working New Zealanders have private health insurance in addition to public healthcare.

Pro: Low Vehicle and Insurance Costs

The ACC covers medical costs for accidents, including car accidents. This takes medical liability out of car insurance and reduces costs to less than half of what they are in the states.

New Zealand drives on the left-hand side of the road and is one of the largest importers of used vehicles from Japan. Since Japan has limited markets for their vehicles and incentives the purchase of new cars the resale value tends to be lower than cars in the states.

Con: Road Conditions and Fuel Costs

New Zealand has very few kilometers of dual carriage highways. The roads tend to lack shoulders, and the lanes are 1.5 car widths wide.  New Zealand saves money by not sealing the streets like in the US. This leads to very rough and loud driving conditions. New Zealand includes about 70 cents of tax in each liter of petrol.  This causes petrol to be over twice the cost of in the states.

NZ road conditions

Pro: Housing Costs

Housing is relatively affordable compared to US housing costs.  Yes, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown have expensive housing, but when you compare it comparable US cities like New York, Chicago, and Boulder, it is not as costly. Rent is also paid weekly which makes budgeting even easier.

Con: Housing Shortages

Even though rental costs are relatively affordable, there is a shortage of housing units.  Nice rental units often have a line of people looking to rent them, and people frequently submit applications the day they view a property. It is not uncommon for it to take weeks to find the perfect place.

Pro: Friendliness of Kiwis

Kiwis are truly friendly people.  They are willing to talk and engage you in conversation.  I had more conversations in the past year in the checkout line at the supermarket than I had my entire life before I moved to New Zealand.

Con: Difficulty Making Friends

Depending on where you live, it can be a little harder to make friends with native Kiwis.  They are used to foreigners coming and going, and because of this, it can be harder to break into their social circles.  It is very easy to meet expat friends, and some areas are more cliquish than others.

making friends in new zealand

Pro: Gun Control

New Zealand has strict laws surrounding guns.  The requirements to get a firearms permit are a lot more stringent than in the states.  Saying that it is not impossible to own a gun, you need to go through the proper channels.

Con: Taxes

The maximum income tax in New Zealand is 6% less than in the US, but New Zealanders pay more taxes than people in the US.  New Zealand collects 34.5% of GDP as taxes, where the US only collects 27.1%.  There are benefits of those taxes: cheaper higher education, interest-free student loans, free national parks, ACC, public healthcare.

Pro: Higher Education Costs

New Zealand has very affordable higher education costs, and there currently is legislation that allows for one year of tuition-free higher education.  New Zealand also offers interest-free student loans.

Con: Isolation

New Zealand is far away from just about everywhere except for Australia.  This means that it can take a long time to get specialty items and parts since they frequently need to be shipped to New Zealand.  It also takes a long time to go just about anywhere that is not Australia or a small Pacific Island.  The isolation is part of New Zealand’s charm, but it also can be frustrating at times

Pro: Employee Pay

Not all employees are paid a “living wage” in New Zealand, but the minimum wage is $17.70 which is higher than any state in the US.  Since the minimum wage is so high, other wages fall inline above minimum wage.

New Zealand Salaries

Con: Limited Store Hours

Shopping involves a little more planning in New Zealand than many places in the states. Few restaurants are open late.  Some of the ten largest cities in New Zealand do not have a 24-hour grocery store, but they all have a 24 hour McDonalds. Store hours, including restaurants, tend to be more absolute than in the states.

Pro: Upfront Restaurant Costs

It is nice seeing the exact price that you are paying for a meal when you look at the menu.  Tip and tax are essentially included in menu prices in New Zealand.  This can make menu prices look expensive, but they are cheaper than they seem.

Con: Binge Drinking

I would argue that the US has a culture of binge drinking, but I think that binge drinking in New Zealand is worse. Due to taxation laws, most of the beer historically has been 5% or less. With the advent of pre-mixed drinks with a higher alcohol percentage, the problem is not getting better.

New Zealand binge drinking


I think the pros of moving to New Zealand outweigh the cons.  Here are 10 of our favorite things about New Zealand. Look at our guide to moving to New Zealand for more information about making the move.

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