Home Articles Cost of Living Is the #1 Reason Expats Live in Mexico

Cost of Living Is the #1 Reason Expats Live in Mexico

Couple resting on a sailboat
Credit: Spotmatik Ltd | Shutterstock

Cost of living is the #1 reason expats live in Mexico. Our new Expats In Mexico 2022 Survey reveals that when asked to choose why they make Mexico their home, nearly one-quarter of all expats who participated in this year’s study chose low cost of living as the main reason, although the Mexican lifestyle and climate also scored well.

Mexico has long been known as a low-cost haven for American and Canadian retirees and continues to rank among the least expensive countries to live. With most of the world caught in an inflationary spiral, cost of living is upper most in the minds of many expats who live here, or aspiring expats from other countries who may be planning or considering a move to Mexico.

Because of the cost of living pressures being experienced by most of us, this year’s study looks at several different cost of living expenses, including overall monthly living expenses, rent, food bill and healthcare costs.

Monthly Living Expenses

Terry Baumgart
Terry Baumgart

The majority – about 64 percent of respondents – say they live on a monthly budget of $40,000 pesos or less (about US$2,000 at a 20-to-1 exchange ratio).

Here is a more detailed look at monthly expenditures by budgets:

  • $20,000 pesos or less (20 percent of all respondents)
  • $20,000 to $30,000 pesos (22 percent)
  • $30,000 to $40,000 pesos (22 percent)
  • $40,000 to $50,000 pesos (13 percent)
  • $50,000 to $60,000 pesos (6 percent)
  • $60,000 to $70,000 pesos (6 percent)
  • More than 70,000 pesos (11 percent)

And yes, there are high-roller expats living in Mexico. Nearly 4 percent say they live on a monthly budget of $100,000 pesos or more a month, or about US$5,000 a month or more.

Monthly Rent Payments

Nearly 40 percent of expats living in Mexico rent their home and the majority pay less than $20,000 pesos a month, or US$1,000. A rule of thumb in Mexico is you will pay a premium for renting a home in an international resort area with high appeal and lots of demand like Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos and also large cities that attract many corporate expats, like Mexico City.

Here is a breakdown:

  • Less than $10,000 pesos (33 percent of all expat renters)
  • $10,000 to $20,000 pesos (44 percent)
  • $20,000 to $30,000 pesos (14 percent)
  • $30,000 to $40,000 pesos (5 percent)
  • $40,000 to $50,000 pesos (3 percent)
  • More than $50,000 pesos (1 percent)

If you live in Puerto Vallarta, as I do, you will pay about US1,500 (a bit more than $30,000 pesos) a month for a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home with about 2,000 sq. ft. of space and most likely a pool in a good neighborhood. But, inflation is driving up rental prices in some areas.

Monthly Food Costs

Credits: jkraft5 | Adobe Stock images

Mexico has an abundance of wonderful local markets for the majority of your food shopping needs. They are generally lower in price and higher in quality than most of the supermarket chains and big box stores like Walmart and Costco.

Expats in Mexico have this to say about how much they spend each month on food:

  • Less than $5,000 pesos (about 20 percent of all expats)
  • $5,000 to $7,500 pesos (35 percent)
  • $7,500 to $10,000 pesos (22 percent)$10,000 to $12,500 pesos (13 percent)
  • $12,500 to $15,000 pesos (5 percent)
  • More than $15,000 pesos (5 percent)

Monthly Healthcare Expenditures, Including Medications

One of the benefits of living in Mexico is low cost, but very good, healthcare, including low prescription prices compared to the U.S.
An added bonus is that many medications can be filled without a prescription from your doctor. Our study finds that about three-out-of-four expats spend less than US$150 a month for all their healthcare needs.

Here is a more detailed view:

  • Less than $1,000 pesos (38 percent of all expats)
  • $1,000 to $2,000 pesos (23 percent)
  • $2,000 to $3,000 pesos (13 percent)
  • $3,000 to $4,000 pesos (9 percent)
  • $4,000 to $5,000 pesos (4 percent)
  • More than $5,000 pesos (13 percent)

The study also finds that both hospitals and doctors receive generally high satisfaction levels from expats. A majority – 62 percent – say hospitals in Mexico are excellent, very good or good. Just 3 percent rate hospitals as not very good or poor. Interestingly, over one-third of expats have never used a local hospital.

Doctors in Mexico fare even better in our study. About 86 percent of expats give medical doctors a vote of confidence by rating them excellent, very good or good. Less than 2 percent view them negatively and just over 11 percent had no experience with doctors in Mexico.

Expats also have a wide range of health insurance, with nearly one-third telling us they were covered under U.S. Medicare, and another 5 percent say they have Canadian Medicare. Additional coverage carried by expats include private health insurance from their home country (17 percent), Mexican health insurance (14 percent) and 11 percent have international health insurance policies. Many had a combination of these options or no coverage at all.

Considering that 80 percent of the respondents to this survey are retired, healthcare costs and coverage and the overall cost of living are of paramount importance to their daily lives. But not all expats in this survey say cost of living is the main reason why they make Mexico their home.

The Mexican lifestyle is a close second, with 21 percent responding that the laid-back life of this country is what makes it home. Another 16 percent loves the climate of Mexico where they live. The warmth of the Mexican people and their rich culture are also highly-valued by expats in Mexico. About 18 percent chose those two options. Healthcare is singled out as a reason for living here by less than 2 percent, followed by a wide variety of other reasons and combinations of the most favored reasons.

This year’s study also asks a number of questions that provide a profile of who these 364 expats in Mexico are.

Where Expats Live

Colorful wall in Ajijic, MexicoExpats from all areas of Mexico responded to our survey, but those living in Puerto Vallarta – a top destination for expats as we have reported in our previous EIM surveys of aspiring expats – were the most enthusiastic. Nearly a quarter of all survey respondents are from the Bay of Banderas and nearby towns.

Ensenada, one of the oldest expat communities in Mexico, had the second highest number of respondents, followed by Guanajuato and Mazatlán tied for third and Mérida fifth. But about 30 percent of expats are scattered about Mexico in many different locations, not just the usual suspect cities where we expats tend to congregate, which we list in our Cities section.

Do Expats Live in Mexico Full-Time or Part-Time?

A little over 77 percent of respondents say they are full-time residents of Mexico and the balance are part-timers, which include a large number of “snowbirds” who come to nest from late fall to early spring.

The majority – 63 percent – hold permanent resident visas or temporary resident visas, 22 percent. Not surprisingly considering the number of “snowbirds” among expats, about 15 percent live in the country on tourist visas, which requires holders to return to their home country after 180 days before re-entering the country on a new tourist visa.

Over three-fourths of expats in Mexico say they plan on living here for more than 10 years, and another 14 percent say they will live in Mexico for at least 5 to 10 years.

As mentioned earlier, 60 percent of respondents say they own their home and the rest rent. About 78 percent of both owners and renters live in Mexico full-time with 22 percent listed as part-timers.

Concerns About Living in Mexico

Expats living in Mexico know that media in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere often focus on personal security in Mexico, headlining the latest cartel activity. But only 17 percent of expats in this study say personal security is an issue for them. Most live uneventful lives in cities and towns throughout Mexico, much the same way they would live in their home countries. Very interestingly, their greatest concern is their lack of Spanish language skills. Nearly 39 percent are worried about learning and using the language. Another 16 percent are concerned about the quality of healthcare in Mexico and the balance, about 28 percent, have a variety of other concerns.

Are Most Expats in Mexico Retired?

Moving to Mexico
Credit: Harriet Murray

The majority of respondents in this survey are retired, about 80 percent, but we are seeing a trend toward more younger people moving to Mexico because they can participate in the digital nomad world, a world of online work from a place they choose to live.

About 6 percent of survey respondents say they work full-time and over 4 percent work part-time. Nearly 7 percent own their own business and an additional 3 percent are a combination of the above. Many who work, work from home online, either for a company in their home country or other countries. Some have their own online business.

If you are interested in previous Expats in Mexico surveys, you can find them here.


  1. Another reason many of us “expats” live in MX is its proximity to the US, especially true for those of us in Baja and perhaps Mazatlán. For better or worse, Baja is quite “Americanized” and relies heavily on English-speaking tourists’ and residents’ economic contributions.

  2. A lot of expats comment on new people flocking to Mexico regions and complain that they are moving there because it is cheap….or less expensive…or whatever they want to call it. They act like people are jerks for wanting to move somewhere more affordable and that the culture may not be their #1 priority. I always want to remind them that most people moving to the United States are not coming for the culture, they are coming for the economic opportunities.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here