The UK’s pretty diverse – and while the cost of living pinch affects everybody up and down the country, there are still a few places that are cheaper to live in than others! But where are the cheapest places to live in the UK, on average?
It’s a bit of a tricky question – as you have to consider house prices, average rates of food and drink, schooling, and more. What’s more, the cheapest places to live up and down the UK will likely change from year to year! From my research, areas such as Durham, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Bradford frequently rank low on cost scales.
As always, there’s more to this than meets the eye. Before I go through the five cheapest places to live in the UK (on average), I’ll break down some details you’ll need to know.
What makes a place cheap to live in?
When we think about ‘cheap places to live’, we probably think about house prices and rental accommodation first. It’s only reasonable – as housing takes a large chunk out of most of our incomes!
However, we also need to think about general costs of living. The cost of food, drink, clothing, schooling, everyday items and even power rates are likely to vary on location.
For example, in locations high in demand, you’re likely to find house prices and general costs are much higher than most. That generally applies to cities and surrounding areas where lots of people commute to and from.
London, as a specific location, is frequently top of the cost of living index out of all locations. According to Numbeo’s data, it’s likely to beat other popular cities such as Cambridge to the top spot.
This data also shows that London’s ‘rent index’ may be up to 50% more expensive than its leading competitor! This, again, is due to commuting and job opportunities.
It’s also not a given that cities and locations get cheaper the further up north you go. York, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Leeds and Edinburgh all frequently rank above 50 on the cost of living index.
So, while the places I’m listing below are cheap to live in, this may not always be the case – so it’s well worth checking out Numbeo’s index if you’re moving home.
How I choose my list of the cheapest places to live in the UK
I’ve carefully created the below list of cheap places to live in the UK based on data such as house prices, everyday costs, and general consensus amongst experts.
If you take a look online, you’ll probably find that you get different answers to the question ‘where’s cheap to live in the UK?’ – which is why I’ve compiled five locations below that, on average, seem to make different lists and guides come rain or shine.
Let’s dive straight in and look at why else you might want to live in these towns and cities, too!
Five of the Cheapest Areas to Live in the UK
As always, this data is subject to change – but overall, living in the following places tends to be more affordable than elsewhere in the country!
While the whole of County Durham isn’t always cheap to live in, two towns in the region have frequently made ‘cheapest’ lists. Shildon, for example, has taken Zoopla’s crown as the most affordable place to live in Britain for three years in a row.
Zoopla’s data from 2022, as a representative example, showed that the average property cost in Shildon arrived at around £71,000. Of course, this is subject to change as the years go by, and especially as the Uk continues to bounce back from crippling inflation.
Durham also plays host to Ferryhill, where Zoopla also stated in 2022 that the average house cost around £80,400. That’s followed up by Peterlee at £84,200.
County Durham’s low costs are surprising given that the area is generally desirable to visit as well as live in! It’s home to a castle and a cathedral, and its main town is also famous for its religious history and being a filming location for the Harry Potter movies.
Durham is well-connected to regions such as Teesside and Tyneside, and it’s easy to get to and from through North Yorkshire. Therefore, it may be that people can commute easily to and from York.
However, there are still expensive places to live across the region, with Barnard Castle houses normally selling much higher than Shildon’s!
Middlesbrough tends to do well in ‘cheapest place’ polls and it’s well-known for being a popular family town. It’s easy to commute in and out of some of the bigger towns and cities in the north east, with many people able to work in Newcastle and York, for example, and travel back to Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough’s also only a stone’s throw from the North York Moors, one of the most popular tourist spots in the north of England. But what is it that makes the town so affordable?
Several years ago, the suburb of North Ormesby, Middlesbrough, claimed headlines for being almost five times as cheap for housing than the national average.
Our friends at Numbeo go into even more detail. Middlesbrough’s cost of living for a family of four is likely to fall around £2,300 per month at time of writing. It’s also likely to be half as cheap to rent in Middlesbrough than it is in Leeds.
Of course, these rates will change, but there does at least seem to be plenty to move for in Middlesbrough. It’s home to a successful football club, and it’s backed by a strong history in steel (and, more recently, digital innovation). It’s also home to Teesside University, which contributes massively to the local economy and population.
Sunderland seems to take the top spot for being one of the cheapest cities in the UK, again claiming plenty of positions in ‘cheapest’ lists across the web. Its housing prices are desirable and much lower than the national average – but this comes with a caveat.
It’s suggested that Sunderland’s wages, on average, fall below the national expectation. Could this be partly why living is so cheap up here? Data from Plumplot in 2022 showed that Sunderland citizens were earning around £8,000 per year less than most people in the UK.
That said, Sunderland remains a desirable place to live for many people. While employment rates and wages may be low compared to national averages, the city has become popular as one of the safest places to live in the UK over the years.
Like Middlesbrough, Sunderland is also home to a popular football club, with a healthy rivalry against Newcastle close by. Of course, Sunderland is also desirable for people to move to if they need to work in Newcastle but don’t want to pay over the odds to live there!
Sunderland has a wide range of schools and boasts its own university – as well as being close to Teesside University and Newcastle University. It’s also home to the immensely popular Winter Gardens, and even has its own beaches that prove popular across the summer months.
Bradford is another northern city that usually scales the heights of the cheapest UK places lists, and it’s largely popular thanks to its links to other Yorkshire cities close by – as well as its famous Science and Media Museum. But, of course, that’s not all Bradford has to offer.
As city living has grown more expensive, locations like Bradford have become more desirable to move to. It’s easy to commute from Bradford to areas such as Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Sheffield and York. House prices in the area, reportedly, start from around £50,000 – but again, take this with a pinch of salt, as the economy is likely to keep evolving over time!
Much of Bradford’s low cost living comes from its array of affordable housing. The city and surrounding areas are also known for sheltered accommodation for the over 55s, making it one of Yorkshire’s go-to areas for emergency housing.
Bradford’s home to more than a few big sights and attractions. As well as the Science and Media Museum, the city also plays host to the Alhambra Theatre, and is a popular shopping destination for many people across West Yorkshire.
Bradford’s likely to be appealing to many people as, like Wakefield, it’s a city that comes without overpowering sights and sounds, but with the benefits of fantastic commuter links.
For those who really love their Yorkshire history, Bradford also offers up an industrial museum and, for literature fans, the Bronte Parsonage.
Bradford also has its own university, and isn’t far from other uni cities such as Leeds and Hull.
Aberdeen and Stirling typically make up the Scottish representatives on the ‘cheapest places to live in the UK’ lists, but it’s the former that I’m including in this list. One of the main reasons is that it’s long been one of the cheapest cities in the UK to rent in, with an average monthly apartment cost around a third of what you’d typically pay further down in London. Studies suggest the further north in Scotland you go, the cheaper the city living tends to be – particularly as both Glasgow and Edinburgh can be expensive to rent and own properties in, further south.
Those who live in Aberdeen suggest that the wider county is fabulous to walk around – with the only major caveat being that the city tends to be further from amenities and commuter links than most. Residents also claim that the area is fairly safe, and you can expect to pay low rates on water and council tax. Naturally, this will vary from suburb to suburb!
Aberdeen is famous for its amazing walks, as well as the huge Duthie and Seaton parks, its maritime museum and art gallery. While living in Aberdeen may not hold many benefits for commuters, its low housing and running costs will likely appeal to those looking to retire, or for a quieter pace of living.
Will these places remain cheap to live in?
Unfortunately, the cost of living in the UK – driven by food and energy costs – is rising at the time of writing. That means the places listed here will likely become more expensive to live in. However, it will unlikely stop them from being amongst the cheapest places in the UK to live.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to start looking at the above towns and cities to find places to buy and rent, as you may find a great value foothold that can still provide you with access to work, family, and any holidays you’d like to go on.
Do also keep a close eye on cost of living rates – as these will ultimately decide where you can and can’t afford to go!
Why is living in London so expensive?
London is considered one of the financial strongholds of Europe, if not the upper hemisphere. Rising costs tie in with job opportunities, local inflation, and proximity to the UK’s financial capital. Price increases in the London housing market, too, may be to do with increased investment from overseas.