Student accommodation costs

Hall of residence vs renting: we weigh up the costs.

Students flatting and in hall of residence.

Once you’ve settled on a course at university, you’ll have to choose where you’ll be calling home for your first year.

Should you go for a hall of residence, where you’ll live with hundreds of other students in the same boat as you, or opt for flatting, where many get their first taste of independence?

To help you weigh up the options, we’ve reviewed the cost of the halls of residence offered at universities and compared them with flatting.

Halls vs flatting

If you’ve just left home or are fresh out of high school, a hall of residence can be a no-fuss option. Most offer furnished rooms, food, power, internet and academic support – which means fewer hassles while you’re coming to grips with your new environment. It’s also a sure-fire way to meet other first year students.

At $20,000 for the university year, the most expensive hall was the University of Canterbury's College House.
University of Canterbury.

Another big plus is location: most halls are within easy walking distance of the university, saving on transport costs.

However, while halls cover the basics, don’t automatically expect everything you need will be included. You may have to fork out for laundry facilities, parking and bicycle storage.

To get a feel for the hall before signing up, your best bet is arranging a tour and talking to students who’ve lived there.


You’ll pay for the convenience of living in a hall of residence. For a university year (37 to 42 weeks, depending on institution), our comparison found it typically cost more than you would pay for rent and basic living costs (food, power and internet).

The most expensive hall was College House at the University of Canterbury. Students living here pay about $20,000 for the university year.

Halls can be cheaper than renting if you opt for accommodation where you provide your own food and do the cooking, or if you’re prepared to share a room.

Our comparison was based on median rents in each centre so costs will vary if you’re paying rent at the top end of the market. And you may need to factor in costs such as a bond and buying furniture. You’ll also likely need to budget for travel if you live further from campus. Don’t forget the cost to keep warm – you could get lucky, but cold student flats are notorious for a reason.

If you want to save coin and don’t mind living further from campus, renting in the outer suburbs could appeal. However, the savings you make on rent will need to be considered alongside what you pay in commuting to lectures.

Our comparison

We compared the cost of living at a hall of residence with the cost of flatting. Our comparison is based on the cost of halls for first-year students.

Some campuses offer accommodation for families, mature students and international students. We didn’t include these in our comparisons.

Guide to our tables

  • Cost for university year includes all mandatory fees, based on charges for the 2019 academic year.
  • Halls include food, internet, power, standard furniture and recreational facilities unless otherwise stated.
  • Flatting costs were based on a student sharing a three-bedroom house. In addition to rent, we included basic costs for food, power and internet. These costs are based on figures from, and


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Palmerston North




Will a student loan help?

You can apply for a student loan (up to $235.84 a week) to help meet living costs. However, student loans can’t be used for lump sum payments for hall of residence costs.

Student loans are also available to pay course fees and for course-related costs, such as textbooks.

Students who meet eligibility criteria can get a weekly student allowance payment to help meet living costs. Unlike student loans, this doesn’t have to be paid back. See for details.

Your rights if things don't work out

Check whether your hall of residence will refund your fees. If you discover living in a hall isn’t your cup of tea, you may be charged for breaking your contract.

If you’re flatting and have a fixed-term tenancy, you’ll have to find someone who your flatmates – and landlord – agree will take your place if you leave.

You’re responsible for paying rent for the duration of a fixed-term tenancy. This means if the tenancy agreement is for 12 months or more, you’ll have to keep paying rent after the university year is finished – unless your landlord agrees to break the agreement early. If you have a periodic tenancy, you just need to give 21 days’ notice.

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