Last year, we found that Surrey was the cheapest place to rent a flat and commute into London, with Kent not too far behind.
With London's beleaguered tenants receiving a reprieve from the ever-increasing costs of renting after the first drop in rental prices in six years, we decided to find out if it's got any more economical to live outside the capital and commute.
Last time we looked at one bed and studio flats, so to keep things consistent we're doing the same again. We've searched for a self-contained studio or one-bed flat across the entire county less than a mile from a train station, then looked at the cost of commuting to zone 1 from that property. We haven't included utility bills or council tax. We also calculated the average rent for the county based on the most expensive and cheapest properties on Rightmove as a comparison.
Once again, we had to spend an unnecessarily long time trying to work out which of the 'studio' and 'one-bed' flats were actually single rooms masquerading as self-contained flats. Seriously, letting agents, try to be a little less sneaky about your advertising. Trust us, no-one who's looking for a one-bed self-contained flat will be tricked into a house share.
Colchester housed our cheapest rental this time, with this studio flat 0.8 miles away from Colchester Town station up for £415 pcm (£96 p/w). A monthly season ticket will cost £569.90, and the journey time is about one hour 15 minutes.
Cost to rent and travel: £984
Average Essex rent: £1,058
Percent change from 2015: 1.5% decrease
This super-cheap studio in Dover is just 0.3 miles from Dover Priory station and comes in at £325 pcm (£75 p/w). The journey time is the kicker though - most of the direct trains seem to take two hours plus to get into Victoria unless you prefer to change at St Pancras International. A season ticket is £659 per month.
Just for fun, we decided to check how long it would take to get to Paris instead. The answer is a shade under three hours but the season ticket is likely to be trop cher for most of us.
Cost to rent and travel: £984
Average Kent rent: £1,246
Percent change from 2015: 3.7% increase
If Essex and Kent don't float your boat, we have another studio flat, this time in Redhill, at a slightly more expensive £550 pcm (£127 p/w) and 0.4 miles from the station. The town is on the Southern route so you might find your journey taking longer than the 40-60 minutes timetabled. The property might be pricier, but the cost of a monthly season ticket brings it into the realms of the affordable at £332.60.
Cost to rent and travel: £883
Average Surrey rent: £1,792
Percent change from 2015: 1.6% increase
From one of last year's most expensive, to one of this year's cheaper rentals, this studio is a mile away from Reading station and will set you back £450 pcm (£104 p/w). Great Western will bring you into Paddington in 30-40 minutes which is one of our quickest commutes. A monthly season ticket costs £482.40.
Cost to rent and travel: £932
Average Berkshire rent: £1,579
Percent change from 2015: 17.3% decrease
Despite a bit of a dearth of studio flats in Bucks (apart from the one which was in an actual shed), we came across this one in Aylesbury which is just 0.4 miles from the station and costs £550 pcm (£127 p/w). It's £418.60 to get you into Marylebone and the journey takes about an hour.
Cost to rent and travel: £968
Average Buckinghamshire rent: £1,100
Percent change from 2015: 3% increase
Bricket Wood near St Albans is the place to be for our cheap flat in Herts. Though at £500 pcm (£115 p/w) this studio isn't all that cheap. It is at least 0.6 miles from Bricket Wood station which is on the London Midland line. In other Bricket Wood trivia, the station was used to film 1957 horror film Night of the Demon. A season ticket won't cost you your soul, but it will cost you £364.10 to get to King's Cross every day.
Cost to rent and travel: £864
Average Hertfordshire rent: £900
Percent change from 2015: 17.4% decrease
What's the upshot?
Last year's most expensive home counties to live in and commute from were Berkshire and Hertfordshire. Both have seen the biggest percent decrease of just over 17% each. Have those areas seen the effects of a possible post-Brexit wobble or were they due a correction in price? Whatever the reason, it's still not much cheaper to live outside London, especially if you're on a low wage.
Homelet's September figures give the average London rent as £1,555 and the UK's average as £910. Our cheapest county average was Hertfordshire at £900, and the most expensive was Surrey at £1,792. Obviously, there's some variances involved, but despite large drops in some areas, living in the south east is still a pricey option.
You'll probably want to know how the numbers for 2016 stack up against last year, not to mention a chart comparing the cost of renting a two bed to that of buying one. Of course you do. Here's a couple we prepared earlier.
|Monthly cost 2015||1000||950||869||1127||939||1046|
|Monthly cost 2016||985||985||883||932||968||864|