March 11, 2024 | Sammy Tran

18 Items That Are Expensive in America but Cheap Everywhere Else


America's Expenses

Many people see America as top of the world, with the best of everything. Which may be true, for the most part, but not everything is better in America—especially when it comes to cost.

In fact, there are many things American’s pay a lot more for than most other countries.

money and hat and man split image

Why do prices vary in different countries?

There are many reasons things may cost more or less in other countries, such as:

  • Supply and demand
  • Tax rates
  • Duties / tariffs
  • Inflation
  • Availability
  • Transportation costs

A huge container ship sails under the bridge from Savannah, Georgia into South CarolinaTom Driggers, Flickr

Is it expensive to live in America?

Living expenses vary greatly by location, but the average monthly living expenses for a single person in the US are close to $5,000 USD.

In Europe, it can average out to about $3,800 USD per month—depending on location and lifestyle.

Times Square, Looking north up Broadway from 43d Street, New York City, USAJim.henderson, Wikimedia Commons

College Education

In the USA, a post-secondary education can cost you around $20,000 per year, whereas the same quality of education in Europe can cost you as little as $5,000.

Many countries have started offering free post-secondary educations to their citizens.

Students in graduate uniforms smiling and facing the cameraGlobal Partnership for Education, Flickr

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Healthcare

Not only is healthcare necessary in America, it is also expensive. Even minor medical emergencies, such as appendix removal or dental surgery, can cost thousands of dollars.

However, most countries in Europe, and other places like Canada, offer free healthcare for their citizens.

healthcare planfizkes, Shutterstock

Prescription Medication

As with all healthcare expenses in the US, prescription medication is no different. Americans pay a hefty amount for prescriptions, whereas in some other countries, citizens can buy generic drugs at a much lower cost without worrying about insurance or waiting for refills.

Pharmacy items displayed on a store racks.ManzoorRph, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Childbirth

While we’re on the healthcare issue, childbirth is no different. In fact, depending on where you are in America, child birth can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000.

In countries where healthcare is free, it can cost nothing. In other countries, the cost may be as low as $3,000.

Young working mother cuddling baby and using laptop at homeSarah Chai, Pexels

Cosmetics

Makeup and cosmetics are another category of products that are more expensive in the US. This is largely due to taxes imposed by the U.S. government and marketing costs associated with each brand.

Close-up Photo of makeup brush on black container placed on a tableAnderson Guerra, Pexels

Gym Memberships

It is not uncommon to see gym memberships cost anywhere from $60-$100/month in America. This, of course, depends on where you live.

But in other countries, gym memberships are a fraction of that cost. Some even offer them free as part of wellness programs.

Male Person training on a treadmill in Gym wearing sportswearWilliam Choquette, Pexels

Cars

In the U.S., cars can be significantly more expensive due to import taxes and dealership fees. These factors combined can make the final price tag of a vehicle in America much higher than in other countries.

Close-up Photo of displayed Cars for saleHelgi Halldórsson, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

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Trains

Train travel is very common in Europe, which may be why it costs significantly less than here in America. It also may be because of the less developed train infrastructure in America compared to other countries.

Several bags on trolley near train station with train parked on the stationveerasak Piyawatanakul, Pexels

Fresh Produce

Due to higher production costs, including labor, land and transportation, fresh produce is significantly more expensive in the US than in most other countries.

As well, the year-round demand for variety in America adds to the overall cost.

Close-up photo of a vegetables and fruits placed on a stallPhotoMIX Company, Pexels

Wine

Like produce, wine is also much more expensive in the US. This is mainly due to taxes and other tariffs. Most experts agree that these taxes make it difficult for wineries from other countries to compete with American producers, resulting in higher consumer prices.

Close-up Photo of a wine bottle placed horizontally on a wooden tableMarkus Spiske, Pexels

Cheese

Anything related to dairy in the U.S. is expensive. Cheese can cost up to twice as much in the U.S. compared with other countries like France or Switzerland, where cheese is a significant export.

Close-up Photo of sliced cheese and bread on brown table topNastyaSensei, Pexels

Taxes

In America, the listed price you see does not include tax. This is because sales taxes vary by state and sometimes cities.

In many other countries, the tax is included in the list price already. This difference can make goods and services seem more expensive in the U.S. compared to countries with all-inclusive pricing.

Close-up of business man in blue shirt  working on savingsDaenin, Shutterstock

Housing

Unlike in other countries that have extensive housing programs, the burden of homeownership in America is on the homebuyer alone, leading to higher upfront costs.

Photo of a house with tree in front and For Sale signKindel Media, Pexels

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Cell Phone Plans

Americans often pay more for mobile phone plans, with limited data and fewer perks. For example, India has the cheapest unlimited text plan: $2 per month. The U.S. has noticeably higher rates of up to $20 per month.

A Set of Tables and Shelves with Displayed CellphonesMathias Reding, Pexels

Childcare

Americans spend a substantial amount of money on childcare. But in Denmark, parents pay no more than 25% of the cost of having their 2-year-old attend child care. That child is also guaranteed a spot until age 10, when after-school care takes over.

Woman reading a book to the children in a kindergartenYan Krukau, Pexels

Public Transportation

Americans spend about 17% of their household budgets on transportation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This cost is much lower in other countries. Spain and Malta have actually recently started offering free travel options to their citizens.

Photo of Empty Subway Train with yellow seatsPixabay, Pexels

Internet

According to a study conducted by Fastmetrics, America ranks 114th when it comes to internet pricing per customer. Americans pay an average of $66.20 each month.

Europe, South America, and Asia pay less than $50 each month.

Close-up Photo of White switch hub turned on with plugged internet cablesPixabay, Pexels

The Penitentiary System

America spends an average of $74 billion each year on the penitentiary system—more than the entire GDP of 133 countries.

In most states, a single prisoner costs about $31,000 per year. In New York it costs $60,000/year to keep someone locked up.

A Bunk Bed With Striped Linen Behind BarsRDNE Stock project, Pexels

Things That Cost Less

While we may pay more for education, childcare, healthcare, etc., there are still many things that cost less in the US than they do abroad.

Here’s five things in specific that cost less in America.

Photo of shopping mall with escalator in the Photo of shopping mall interior with escalator in the middle and stores left and rightMagda Ehlers, Pexels

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Shoes

A decent pair of brand-name athletic shoes will cost Americans about $70 or so. In many other countries people will pay hundreds of dollars for the same pair of shoes.

Brown Leather Shoes on Brown Wooden Shelf in a Shoe StoreAntoni Shkraba, Pexels

Electronics

Many electronics including game systems, mobile phones, fire sticks, laptops, televisions, etc. are much cheaper in the US than in most other countries.

This is mostly due to a lower import duty.

Close-up Photo of a woman touching black headphones in a electronics storeRDNE Stock project, Pexels

Milk

Even though milk has gone up with inflation, it is still much cheaper in the US than it is in most other countries.

For example, Americans pay roughly $4.30 per gallon of 2% milk, while Canadians pay roughly $12-$14 per gallon of 2% milk. ($3.50/L CAD)

Milk Shelves at Whole FoodsStephanie Booth, Flickr

Jeans

Jeans in America cost much less than in most other countries. What can cost you around $100 here will be double that abroad.

Close-up Photo of a pile of denim jeans displayed on a store rackWaldemar, Pexels

Apple Products

Apple products cost a lot more in other countries than in the US. For example, an iPhone 14 costing $799 USD in America would cost $1,076.46 USD in the UK.

Close-up Photo of MacBook, iPad and iPhone placed next to each other on a wooden tablePixabay, Pexels

Final Thoughts

While America has many things that cost a lot more than in other countries, there are also many things we pay a lot less for as well. 

In fact, Americans report being fairly satisfied with their lives living in the US. So, it must not be so bad.

Photo of a shopping stores inside the MallArunodhai V, Pexels


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