Record-breaking Number of Americans Seek Affordability in Mexico
More Americans than ever are considering moving to Mexico. In a recent survey, expats listed the culture, weather and affordability of Mexico as the main drivers of their decision to relocate to another country. As Americans continue to feel the financial pinch of inflation and the uncertainty of an unpredictable economy, more retirees, digital nomads and others are looking for an alternative way of living life to its fullest: in Mexico.
All prices below are in USD unless otherwise noted.
Americans are Flocking to Mexico in Record Numbers
Americans are permanently moving to Mexico at a record pace, with data from the Mexican government showing a sharp increase in Temporary Resident Cards (TRT) issued to Americans in recent years. 2022 was a record-setting year eclipsing even the migration numbers that spiked around the Great Recession of 2008. If this trend continues, in 2023, over 12,000 Americans will permanently move to Mexico, setting another record since Mexico began tracking this data uniformly.
An analysis of Google searches for terms related to “moving to Mexico” shows that folks in the US are considering becoming expats in Mexico now more than ever, so we likely have not seen the end of this North American migration trend:
Source: Google Trends 2004-Present
The interest over time numbers above represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term, in this case the peak was around the US November 2016 Presidential election. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A score of 0 means there was not enough data for this term at the time.
A $100,000 income in the US can feel like $200,000 in Mexico
In our recent survey, expats listed cost of living as a major driving factor when they made their decision to move. Here’s a look at the cost of living in various US cities versus Mexican destinations.
Lower prices on major commodities means that a low six-figure income goes much further– even in Mexico’s most desirable locales. A $100,000 USD salary in a US city can feel like $200,000 or more in a place like Cancún, if you’re used to paying US prices for housing, goods and services. If you’re moving from Austin, TX to Cancún, you’ll enjoy prices that are 59% lower, for example. An American expat from Tampa, FL making an average US household income of about $70,000 might feel like they’re earning $140,000 USD living in Puerto Vallarta where overall consumer prices, including housing are 58% lower than in Florida.
One way to think about the overall cost of living in one place versus another is by using a Cost of Living Index. In the chart above we’ve compared popular Mexican destinations like Cancún and Puerto Vallarta to Seattle, Phoenix, and others.
The chart above uses data from Numbero, a crowd-sourced cost of living index that uses New York City, NY, USA as 100, with the highest cost of living as a reference point for comparing to costs in other cities.
To better highlight the cost of living differences, below is a list of American cities with cost of living there compared to other Mexican locations.
Portland, OR: Americans have 100% more purchasing power in Mexico
Housing prices in Playa del Carmen are 52.4% lower, making it a more budget-friendly choice for homeownership. While the average price of a home in Portland is approximately $556,000 in 2023 according to NAR, Playa del Carmen offers more accessible and reasonably priced housing options where you can find a home near the famous 5th Avenue with access to the beach for less than half that amount in Portland.
While you’re enjoying that affordable condo in Playa you’ll surely find a moment to grab a crisp, refreshing domestic beer… also at half the price ($3.17 vs $6.50 in Portland).
Overall consumer prices in Cancun are 43.8% lower than in Austin, excluding housing expenses. Housing prices in Cancun present a significant advantage, being 77.4% lower than in Austin. Similarly, restaurant prices in Cancun offer savings, with costs approximately 49.5% lower compared to Austin. Grocery prices in Cancun also contribute to the overall affordability, being 40.5% lower than in Austin. Grab 3 beers for the price of one to share with your new friends in Mexico where a domestic pint is just $2 (vs $7 in Austin).
As for housing, while the average cost of a home in Austin is around $470,000, a two bedroom condo just minutes from the beach in Cancun for under $200,000.
Honolulu, HI: Housing Prices are 300% Higher than in Cancun
How does one compare two paradises? Money isn’t everything but it does go a lot farther in Cancun, as you might imagine.
Consumer prices in Cancun are 58.0% lower than in Honolulu, excluding rent. Housing prices in Cancun present an appealing advantage, being 75.1% lower compared to the notoriously expensive Honolulu.
To put things into perspective, the price of a home in Honolulu as of Q1 2023 exceeds 1 million dollars ($1,090,000, but who’s counting!) while in Cancun, housing options are considerably more accessible where you can often obtain a single family home for under $250,000. If all of that doesn’t convince you, it’s also a significantly shorter plane trip from Cancun to the continental US.
Tampa, FL: Consumer goods are nearly half price in Mexico
Playa del Carmen stands out as a more affordable alternative to Tampa for future retirees concerned about cost of living. With consumer prices 49.6% lower and housing prices 58.4% lower compared to Tampa, Playa del Carmen allows your dollars to go farther.
The average price of a home in Tampa is about $390,000 but in a place like Playa Del Carmen you can get a home near the beach for under $250,000. Even the price of a Coke or Pepsi is about half in Mexico where you can find a refreshment for $1 (vs >$2 in Tampa).
Mexico City proves to be a budget-friendly haven with its significantly lower cost of living. When it comes to consumer prices, Mexico City offers a whopping 44.8% savings compared to Raleigh, without even factoring in rent.
Housing prices in Mexico City 61.0% lower, giving you the opportunity to find affordable and comfortable living spaces. And let’s not forget about groceries! In Mexico City, you can fill your pantry with 40.4% less strain on your wallet compared to Raleigh.
Now, let’s talk homes. The price of a home in Raleigh is around $420,000. In Mexico City, you’ll find more affordable housing options such as condos under $200,000. So, if you’re looking to embrace an affordable and vibrant city, Mexico City beckons with its lower cost of living and a plethora of exciting experiences.
Colorado Springs, CO: Dinner for 2 in paradise–for half the price in Cancun
Prices in Colorado Springs are a whopping 79.2% higher than in Cancun, without considering rent. That means that everyday items will cost significantly more. A Coloradan’s trip to the department store in Cancun might bring some sticker shock… in a good way!
The average price of a home in Colorado Springs is approximately $445,000. In Cancun, you can get a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo near the beach for under $250,000, which might make a lot more sense for some retirees or digital nomads (or anyone, really!)
And if you’re planning to grab a bite at a restaurant, get ready to shell out double the amount you’d pay in Cancun. In Colorado Springs, a visit for two people would cost around $80, compared to a more wallet-friendly $40 in Cancun.
Boise, ID: Pay less for utilities and other bills in Mexico
Though Boise, ID may be an affordable place to live compared to say, Seattle, WA– Playa del Carmen shines as an affordable oasis, offering significant cost advantages over Boise. Consumer prices in Playa del Carmen are 44.0% lower than in Boise, making your everyday expenses much more manageable. Housing prices in Playa del Carmen are also a steal, being 42.4% lower compared to Boise.
Basic necessities like electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage come at a fraction of the cost, with an average bill of only $71.93 per month in Playa vs almost $300 per month in Boise.
The average price of a home in Boise is about $440,000, while in Playa del Carmen, you can find stunning beachside properties for under $300,000. So, if you’re yearning for a more budget-friendly and tropical lifestyle, Playa del Carmen awaits with open arms and sunny beaches.
Sources & Further Reading