Airport runway

Cost of Living in Beijing – China Economics Series

Beijing-China-May-2016I have been a China observer for many years.  As you may have seen in some of my blog entries, my experience in China started as a student way, way back in 1987.  It seems like centuries ago.  In the years since then whether by living in the country or coming in on business and personal trips, I have been observing the great phenomenom of the country’s development.

There are many aspects of China’s development that are mind boggling – the pace of its growth has been very fast and of course, the changes it has brought are also impacting on the standards of living for both locals and expats alike.

In the last few years, car ownership has been growing on a very fast clip.  The local governments of Beijing, Shanghai, even smaller metro areas like Tianjin, are imposing all sort of financial barriers to rein in that rapid increase in vehicles.  The issues are multiple:

  • Huge congestion on city roads – all you need is to visit Beijing and get on the loop roads at some point in the day and you will know exactly what I mean
  • Hazy skies – you can find multiple references to that on my blog here


  • Overall cost of living imact due to high taxation to attempt to limit access to vehicles

So, what would you think is the cost of owning a car in Beijing or Shanghai?   Here are some bare bone statistics – which will make you appreciate your truck or sedan back at home even more…

  • Cost of acquiring the car itself…?  Well, even a relatively low-end (in my opinion) VW can run you in the range of RMB100K – divide this by 6.2 and you will get the price in US$…. I will let you do the math….

China-Car-Ad Advert from Beijing Airport

  • But wait, this is not everything…You have to acquire a license plate.  In Shanghai that will cost you!  What you may ask?   Only RMB80K….Again, please go ahead and divide by 6.2 to obtain the cost in US$

Amazing – isn’t it?  Of course the costs above are not all – you still need to add the annual road tax etc.

Then comes the gas bill.  Just for your reference, this week, the cost of regular unleaded in Beijing or Shanghai is around $3.60 for a gallon…

Happy Driving Everyone!   Oh, how about a bike ride to your next destination…?

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