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London vs Manchester – The Best City in England (Salaries, Rent & More)

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2 days in Manchester - the university
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Hi guys, in this post, I would like to conduct a comparison of two major English cities: London vs Manchester. Both London and Manchester are top choices for professionals coming to work in England from abroad, as there are plenty of tech jobs in both cities. While both cities are exciting and undoubtedly interesting, there are a few key differences to keep in mind when it comes to jobs, salaries and the cost of living.

Here’s what you can expect to find in this post:

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Manchester vs London: the best place to live and work in London. Jobs, salaries and cost of living comparison of London and Manchester

I thought it might be interesting for some of you to read the detailed comparison between these two cities and decide which city do you prefer. This guide is suitable for everyone – whether you’re from the UK and you just graduated and looking for the best place to work in the UK, or you’re a professional coming from abroad and deciding on the best city to live and work in the UK. I also have a few other comparisons: e.g. find my post about comparing Edinburgh and London here.

However, please don’t take this guide as an absolute source of truth – in the end, it’s all up to you. Both cities are great, but it comes down to what you think works best for you. It’s also important to visit both cities, walk around and maybe even live in both London and Manchester for a week or more to understand if any of the cities make you feel at home.

Accommodation costs in London vs Manchester

Overview

As you probably know, London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Now that is not because of the restaurants or food prices (they are similar all around the UK, the difference is really not that big unless you’re visiting the high-end restaurants of London); however, that’s because of crazy high rent prices (and even higher prices to buy properties) and really expensive transport. If you’re planning to live in London, prepare to pay up to 50% of your income for a room or an apartment. The ratio in Manchester is still much healthier despite the salaries being lower.

Rent prices in Manchester vs London

Manchester

Overall, it’s much easier to rent a place in Manchester on an average salary than it is in London. Of course, salaries are much lower in Manchester and a graduate often only makes 18-20K per year – with that salary, you can actually rent a flat for £450-700 and only pay for transport. With jobs becoming increasingly remote, you will end up spending even less on transport!

Manchester is also a big city, and rent prices vary a lot. If you want to live in a shiny new-build, prepare to pay a good chunk of your salary. However, if you’re willing to compromise and live a bit further, then you can seriously save on rent prices and in the end, have a much better lifestyle than in London.

In Manchester, you can rent a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre for around £650-800 per month. However, if you’re ok to commute and live a bit outside of the city centre, you can find a studio or a one-bedroom apartment for £450-550!

London

In London, a recent graduate salary could be around 18-25K (£1350 -£1700), but a similar flat would cost you over £1200 plus £150-200 for transport, so you won’t be able to live on your own. This changes if you’re a high earning specialist or your job in law, software development, or you’re a doctor.

If you earn over £60K year, you can definitely afford your own apartment. However, that won’t be in the city centre either. Living in Central London by yourself is unaffordable unless you’re making something like £4,000 after taxes (that would be over 73K yearly salary before taxes). Hence, most people end up sharing in London until they decide to move in with their permanent partner (which is also a form of sharing).

Renting a room in Central London costs no less than £700-1200 per month.

If you look at some nice areas outside Central London, let’s say Balham in Zone 3, Clapham North in Zone 2 or even Southgate in Zone 4, housing prices will be lower. You could pay £560-1000 for a room and £1200-1700 for a one-bedroom flat. You can read my post about the best areas to live in London here.

However, make sure to avoid the worst areas to live in London. They might be very affordable, but they do have a wide variety of problems, and they are cheap for a reason.

Also, if you’re interested in what you can afford on which salary in London, read my post about moving to London – the guide to costs and salaries in London. Also, I have another post about life on the 40K salary in London – how do three different people live on 40K salary in London.

Buying a property in London vs Manchester – where do you get a better deal

If you’re planning to settle down in London or Manchester and you’re thinking long-term including buying a property in the future, below you can find an overview of buying a property in either of the cities.

Buying a property in Manchester

Buying a property in Manchester is also much easier than in London. As of February 2021, you can easily buy a 2-bedroom apartment for 150-250,000 in one of the trendiest areas of the city, Salford.

You can also buy a 3-bedroom house outside the city centre for 170-350,000 depending on the area. Potentially, you can find even cheaper deals.

It’s especially important for first-time buyers, who want to jump on a property ladder. With the mortgages recently becoming a bit more expensing and requiring 15% of the property price as a deposit, in Manchester, you can actually save for your first property quite fast, while in London it’s very hard and requires many years of saving.

E.g. for a £150K property in Manchester, you need to save around 22,500 which is much easier to do than 70-80,000 in London.

Buying a property in London

London is notorious for its exaggerate property prices. Moreover, there is an unspoken rule – if the houses are cheap in the area, that means that almost no one wants to live there. Why? There could be plenty of reasons for that, from bad connectivity to high crime rates and problems with trash on the streets.

Nice areas are generally very expensive. You can read my post about the best family-friendly areas to live in London here.

Generally, if you’re willing to buy a 1-bedroom apartment, you’ll have to pay at least £350,000- 400,000, and if you’re looking for a house, it will cost you around £550,000 in a safe area in zone 4 of the city. If you want to live closer, you might end up paying £700-900,000 for a house.

You can read a bit more about buying a house in London here!

Transportation costs in London vs Manchester

As I already mentioned, transportation costs in London are just insane. The cheapest monthly travel card would cost you a bit more than £130 a month, while in Manchester you pay around £55 for a monthly bus card. If you live very far away and you need to use rail, then it will end up being around £150 a month as well, but you will save A LOT on rent being far away.

In Manchester, you can also cycle to your work (well, in London as well, but the city is much bigger).

Prices for food & going out in Manchester vs London.

The prices for groceries are pretty much the same in London and Manchester, and the only difference is that in London there are more fancy shops like Whole Foods, Planet Organic or Daylesford. Last time I checked, Manchester didn’t have these shops.

As for going out, in London, of course, there are more spots for going out as well as restaurants. But on average, the prices for mid-range restaurants and chains are similar.

Manchester is famous for great nightlife and prices for cocktails are generally similar (unless you’re visiting Scarves bar in London where cocktails cost £19-25 per cocktail). As Manchester city centre is much more compact, I would actually say that it’s a bit better for going out and it’s fun to live there when you’re young.

You’re also very close to Liverpool, which, in my opinion, has the best nightlife of all cities in the UK, so you can get there for a night out or a weekend for sure.

Restaurants are a bit more pricy in London, and there are also naturally more restaurants in London, including high-end ones. However, Manchester also has a lot of options for going out, so don’t underestimate it!

Salaries in London vs Manchester & job opportunities

Salaries in London and Manchester are actually not that different in some jobs, e.g. admit jobs or Marketing jobs.

For example, a Digital Marketing Manager earns, on average, £44,000 per year in London and around £35,000 in Manchester, which is not such a big difference. However, in Software, the difference is bigger, as most well-paying companies and banks are located in London.

A software developer in a bank or corporation can make around £60,000-£120,000 in London and only around £45,000-60,000 in Manchester.

If you want to explore salaries for different professions in London and Edinburgh, I recommend checking Glassdoor – https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/london-digital-marketing-manager-salary-SRCH_IL.0,6_IM1035_KO7,32.htm?clickSource=searchBtn

Manchester is a fast-growing city, so there are quite a few new jobs and startups around. It’s also a fashion capital of England, so finding a job there isn’t that hard.

Weather in Manchester vs London

Another thing to take into account when comparing these two cities is the weather in Manchester vs London. Many people think that since England isn’t that big, the weather must be similar everywhere in the country.

However, this is not the case. Weather in Manchester is very different from the weather in London – it’s rainy all year long in Manchester. It’s also much colder in summer – you can often see 23+ temperatures in London, and at the same time, it would be just around 17-18 in Manchester. 

That is a massive drawback for some people, even for me. I remember the years I spend in Edinburgh, Scotland, which has a sort of similar weather to Manchester (maybe a bit windier and colder though) and I was constantly cold and had flu 3-4 times per year!

London, on the other hand, is almost tropical (when you compare it with Manchester or Edinburgh) – it had very warm summers in the last four years and nice springs and autumns.

Summary of London vs Manchester – the best place to work in England and lifestyle comparison

So this was a short comparison of London and Manchester, and hopefully, this post was useful for you! Both cities are great, and it really depends on what you are looking for.

In Manchester, it’s much easier to buy a property, and overall, you will have a better lifestyle and more money left after paying your rent. However, the city isn’t as beautiful as London, and it doesn’t have so many exciting cultural events and things to do. Another massive drawback is the weather.

London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and if you’re living on an average salary, you won’t have a good quality of life, and most probably, you’ll have to share a flat with 2-4 other people. However, London is gorgeous, diverse and has so many things to do. It’s also a great place to live in your mid-20es and 30es, and the weather is much better than pretty much anywhere in Mid- or North England!

Some other posts you might find useful:

London vs Edinburgh – which one is for you?

Salary needed to live in London

Life on an 80K salary in London – will you be rich?

Worst areas to live in London

Best things to do in Manchester for millennials

Most Instagrammable places in Manchester

  1. Roberto baggio says:

    come on, liza (BTW, what’s with the caps lock??), the weather difference is marginal. be assured, unless you can be in two places at once, how can you know what the weather is doing in each city? it’s not as if our climate gives us the same THING every year, LIKE you can expect in spain or greece. for instance, today it’s raining in london (i know because there is no play at lords) but sunny and warmer in mcr! unfortunately you’re another victim of received perception. I can also see exactly how we compare just by watching live television, such as bbc breakfast, football etc.
    sorry, RAnt over.

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