Central Mexico Cost of Living: Apartment and House Rentals (video)


What does it cost to rent an apartment in Mexico? Or rent a Mexican house? It’s a big country with a lot of variety, so it’s not easy to give a straight answer. Where I live though, you could rent out a room in a family’s house for as little as $85. Or you could pay $1,320–the median rent price across the whole USA, including rural areas–and get something at the very top of the local market. Because of reasonable rental rates, Mexico’s cost of living is low in these areas.  

Mexico apartment rental for $700

That photo above is from an apartment currently for rent on Craigslist in my home city of Guanajuato. It’s $700 per month furnished, all utilities and high-speed internet included, and it’s around 1,000 square feet. As you can see if you click on that link and search Guanajuato, that’s fairly normal for this market. 

Prices are cheaper in the interior where I live, but even on the coasts, the median rent in Miami, which jumped to $2,850 in 2021, would get you a dream home with an ocean view in a place like Puerto Vallarta. In most of the interior of Mexico, you couldn’t spend that much if you wanted to. If you managed to find something for that price, it would probably be a mansion with a pool in the area’s wealthiest neighborhood. 

Part of the reason the cost of living in Mexico is so low overall is because it’s fairly easy to find a place to rent for a fraction of what you would pay in the USA, Canada, or Western Europe. In many cities in those countries, the minimum you’d pay for something decent is the very top end of what you would pay in Mexico, especially in the interior. The most expensive long-term rental in my Mexican city right now is $1,500 and that’s a house filled with designer furniture and great appliances. Utilities and parking are included, it has three terraces, there’s a swimming pool in the complex, and it has 24-hour security at the gate. Yet it only takes a few minutes to walk to the historic center of a UNESCO World Heritage city. Probably 95% of the other places available for rent are $1,000 or less, the majority of 1BR and 2BR ones are in the $300 to $750 range. 

Again though, this is in central Mexico. If you want to live where all the vacationing tourists are, in a place like Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, or Playa del Carmen, you will pay far more per month. You’re competing with hordes of vacationers who are also renting apartments, so being in a desirable area close to the water means the landlord is weighing what you’ll pay against what he or she can get from weekly vacation rentals instead. 

Mexican apartment rental prices are relatively similar across most cities in the middle of the country. The video further down in this article has examples from cities in three states (Michoacan, Guanajuato, and Queretaro). You can expect the same or even lower rent prices in neighboring states such as San Luis Potosi, Aguascalientes, and Zacatecas. I’ve repeatedly pulled up real estate listings in these places and found plenty of bargains, even just checking monthly rentals on Airbnb. Prices go down from there when you check Craigslist, local Facebook groups, real estate agency sites, or local classified ads. Even in the big cities such as Puebla and Guadalajara, the rents are quite reasonable. There are a few exceptions though… 

The cost of living in Mexico has actually gone down the past few years, including here in Puebla

The Expensive Outliers: Rentals in San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City

One city in central Mexico has been overwhelmed by foreigners with money–San Miguel de Allende–while Mexico City is a thriving metropolis and the commercial heart of the country. The central, most desirable neighborhoods in both of those places can cost you double what you would pay elsewhere. You may be able to find a deal, especially outside of snowbird season in San Miguel, but go in knowing there’s a premium. 

There can also be a premium on house rentals in another popular expat area of Mexico: Lake Chapala and Ajijic. It’s not as bad as San Miguel since fewer foreigners with plenty of money move there, but a lot of expats who do move there are doing it just to get a cheaper version of what they had in Texas or Arizona. So they want a detached house with a modern kitchen and a place to park their SUV. Preferably in a gated community with other gringos. So it’s a different class of housing than most of the locals are living in. In other cities, the housing is more integrated. 

If you moved to that area and lived among the locals in their neighborhoods instead, you’d find Mexico’s cost of living prices that are similar to the rest of Jalisco state away from the coast. You’ll need to look in Spanish for that though. 

You can get a general idea of what the high end is like in any of these cities by searching the monthly rentals in English on Airbnb. When I did that recently for April, I found ranges of $700 to $3,000 (4BR with a pool) in Ajijic, $606 to $3,460 (a true mansion) in San Miguel, and $886 to $3,500 (2BR, 2.5 baths) in Roma/Condesa in Mexico City. Again, this is from a vacation rental site. It’ll be less on Craigslist, less still if you look for a rental locally after arrival. Here’s some advice from a friend who lives there on renting an apartment in Mexico City

If you just want to try San Miguel de Allende out, and you don’t mind taking care of someone’s pets, you might want to sign up with Trusted Housesitters. There are often multiple openings in that city for sitters and you can stay in someone’s house for a while for free. 

The Central Mexico Cost of Living Everywhere Else is a Bargain

Once you get past those few outliers, prices drop quickly. Going back to Airbnb again, if you pull up monthly Guanajuato rentals, you’ll find prices that range from $295 to $1,602, the latter a house owned by a famous local sculptor. Nearly all the other listings are less than $1,000 per month. You see similar ranges for many of the other interior cities I mentioned earlier. 

If we go to the busiest local agency’s site though, Casa Solaris, we’ll get a better feel for what foreigners moving here are actually paying to rent for six months or a year. That agency currently has eight furnished apartments listed for $600 or less, nine more that are between $650 and $1,000. See Nallely from that agency showing off a few in this video, plus you’ll see some apartments from two other states. Watch it when you’ve got some time to kick back for a while though: it’s 25 minutes long.

It was time for me to do a new video because the ones I used to have embedded in this older post about the cost of living in central Mexico were from back in 2014, ages ago now. The people I profiled in those videos on my YouTube channel were paying $500 or less per month. Those options are still out there, especially if you look around locally with feet on the ground and the woman in one of the videos is still in the same place, paying about the same rent in dollar terms. But average prices go up over time, of course, if the local economy is improving and the demand is there.

This post is all about the price to rent a house or apartment in Mexico, away from the beaches, but rent is just one of the many expenses that will go down. Utilities are less, food is less, going out costs less, and it’s much cheaper for a bus or taxi. Any local service you spend money on is going to cost less than where you came from because wages are lower. I own my house here now and my annual property tax bill is less than $200. Plus there are a lot of things you can get for a dollar or less in Mexico

What to Expect From Homes for Rent in Mexico

“Gee Tim, those prices look really tempting compared to the fortune I’m paying every month. What’s the catch?”

Well, for every downside there’s a corresponding upside, so most people who move to Mexico think they come out way ahead in the end considering the price. As one friend who lives in the best part of Mexico city said when I visited, “There’s no way I could ever afford to live in a spacious place like this in New York where I’m from. Here, in another fantastic city, I easily can.” His bright and airy apartment costs him 1/4 what it would in Brooklyn or Hoboken, never mind Manhattan. If I spent what I did for an apartment in Tampa on a house here in Guanajuato I would get…oh never mind. I couldn’t spend that $2,100 plus utilities here if I wanted to. 

But yes, this is a different country, a different culture, so there are adjustments to be made. First of all, Mexico is really noisy. If you manage to find a quiet neighborhood with no barking dogs, crowing roosters, frequent fireworks, blasting stereos, mariachi bands, drum & bugle bands, or construction, consider yourself very fortunate. Mexicans have a very high tolerance for noise, to the point where they seem to thrive on it like it’s an energy field. 

On a related note, Mexican culture is very “live and let live,” the opposite of what you find in a highly regulated gated community with a nosy homeowners association. Laws about what you can and can’t build are fluid at best, especially outside of UNESCO-regulated historic centers. You’ll start thinking that maybe those U.S. zoning restrictions aren’t such a bad idea after all when an auto body shop or after-hours nightclub moves in next to your house. 

Mexican tile kitchen

You probably can’t drink the tap water, so you’ll get 5-gallon drinking water containers delivered or you’ll have a full-house filtration system. The plumping can’t handle toilet paper in most places: it gets thrown in the trash can instead. Internet speed is getting better all the time with more fiber going to homes every month, but you won’t find 100mbps speeds to be the norm in very many places. 

You can get beautiful custom-made wood furniture for bargain prices, but sofas and chairs all seem to be either cheap and poor quality or super expensive to get something nice. There’s no such thing as chains like Rooms to Go or Ashley Furniture here. The closest you can come is what’s on the floor at Costco. (Though Mexico City has an Ikea.) So your included furniture will be functional, but it probably won’t be great unless you’re paying an above-average rent or you drove down with your own. As I’ve said before, not everything is cheaper in cheap destinations

Overall though, most renters find that some of the other design elements, like Talavera tile and beautiful terraces, easily outweigh the negatives. If you move to the interior of this country, odds are you’ll be very happy with the Mexico cost of living. 

Ready to get started on thinking about moving abroad to Mexico or another inexpensive country? Check out the latest edition of my book A Better Life for Half the Price

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