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Cape Town, Johannesburg, or Durban: Weighing up the costs of living in one of the three main metros

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  • September 2, 2021
Cape Town, Johannesburg, or Durban: Weighing up the costs of living in one of the three main metros

Living in South Africa is changing, and through this uncomfortable teething period, as we are getting used to the new normal, it’s important to take stock of what is important to us and the kind of lifestyle we want going forward.

A current trend in South Africa is moving further away from workplaces and having homes that aren’t just chosen for work and convenience purposes, but rather more for comfort and enjoyment. Working from home could potentially be a full-time option and people are buying houses that suit this need. Looking for homes that include a study or comfortable workspace can be seen as a must-have these days. Additionally, if remote work is an option, one no longer has to reside in the city in which they work. We are free to move around South Africa and choose a lifestyle that suits our needs and preferences. However, when planning our futures, weighing up variables, preferences, and making informed decisions regarding affordability are top priorities. Here are some comparisons to help you make decisions about your next move.

Numbeo allows homeowners and renters to add their data to their site; these data entries generate market averages. The tables above show the averages for hundreds of entries over the last 12 months. The numerical data was also accumulated from sites such as Expatisan, Private Property, Expat Arrivals, Wise, and the Rode and Associates’ report.

Average Costs for Sales and RentalsCape TownJohannesburgDurban
1 bedroom apartment rental in city centreR9,707.77R6,583.33R5,227.27
1 bedroom apartment rental outside city centreR7,171.43R6,146.06R6,004.17
3 bedroom apartment rental  in city centreR20,602.33R14,684.29R11,208.33
3 bedroom apartment rental outside city centreR13,479.17R11,389.19R12,041.67
Price per square metre to buy an apartment in the city centreR34,636.38R15, 566,67R9,333.33
Price per square metre to buy apartment outside the city centreR21,257.96R11,926.15R11,475.90
Average rent comparison32.97% higher than Johannesburg24.80% lower than in Cape Town32.06% lower       than Cape Town



Monthly CostsCape TownJohannesburgDurban
Family of four estimated monthly costs (excl. rent)R30,209.55 – R30,569.89R32,914.84 – R32,924.90R28,102.47 – R28,273
Single person estimated monthly costs (excl. rent)R8,660.15 – R8,700.46R9,389.56 – R9,395.71R8,111.04 – R8,348.41
Average Utilities for 85m2 apartment (Water, electricity, rubbish, heating, and cooling)R1,195.33 – R1,491.51R1,493 – R1,607.05R1,416.78 – R1,535.10
Average Monthly IncomeCape TownJohannesburgDurban
Average salary (after tax)R22,151.63R19,806.90R17,000.00

Average Costs for Rentals and Sales

Rental and sales prices across South Africa vary from suburb to suburb, and from province to province. Property rentals and sales are more expensive in Cape Town on average than those in Johannesburg and Durban, especially in the City Centre, as the centre of Cape Town is a vibrant residential area.

Renting and buying homes cost slightly less in Johannesburg and even less so in Durban, and the variance across suburbs can make finding a reasonable average amount per month difficult. In Johannesburg, the difference between a bachelor flat in the southern suburbs – which averages at R4,166 – can be as low as R2,300 in cheaper southern neighbourhoods and max out at R7,500 in expensive areas like Sandton. Similarly in Cape Town, a bachelor flat in the northern suburbs, which could be just over R4,000, can be compared to a similar-sized unit on the Atlantic Seaboard, which will be around R8500 on average. Durban is much the same as Cape Town given that there is a huge disparity in sales and rental costs. Northern coastal areas like Umhlanga and La Lucia can attract a rental cost of up to R18 000 for a bachelor flat, whereas suburbs to the west can cost as little as R4,000 for a bachelor flat.

Average Monthly Costs – Excluding Rent

On top of rent, utility costs are another important factor to consider. Although the average monthly utility bill is more or less the same from one city to another, service delivery in Cape Town tends to be a few hundred rand cheaper than Durban and Johannesburg.  Although renting and buying property in Cape Town is the most expensive option, the cost of living there is slightly lower than in Johannesburg, but not as low as in Durban. A single person will pay the least amount to sustain their lifestyle in Durban, about 6% less than in Cape Town, whereas in Johannesburg it is almost 8% more expensive than Cape Town to maintain one’s lifestyle. Overall, renting and ownership of property are more expensive in Cape Town than in Johannesburg and Durban.

The difference between Cape Town and the other two cities is quite notable; however, Johannesburg and Durban are not very far apart in terms of monthly costs. According to Numbeo, Johannesburg’s monthly costs are more expensive than Durban’s. The following percentages are cited; Consumer prices (11%) rent prices (13%) restaurant prices (19.96%) and groceries (5%) are higher in Johannesburg on average. To maintain the same quality of life in Johannesburg as one does in Durban, a person would need an income of nearly R40,000, as opposed to the same quality of life in Durban with just over R30,000.

Average Salary (After Tax)

Contrary to popular belief, the average monthly income is higher in Cape Town than it is in Johannesburg. Durban is slightly less than Johannesburg.

What does this mean?

Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban each have their own unique features, some that people gravitate toward and some that others choose to move away from. The choice to move to a particular city involves consideration of many variables. From the data discussed above, rentals and residential property sales in Cape Town are more expensive when compared to Johannesburg and Durban, which are less and less expensive respectively. However, the cost of living in Cape Town seems to be reasonably similar, and in some cases less expensive than Johannesburg and Durban. Durban has the cheapest rent and cost of living exclusive of rent; however, the average monthly salary is significantly less than Cape Town and a few thousand rand less than Johannesburg.

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