13 Items Americans Overpay For in Contrast With Other Countries

Americans have access to affordable food and fuel compared to many high-income countries, but we’re overpaying for some goods and services. This list of 13 items shows when U.S. citizens shell out more money than our developed country counterparts.

1: College Textbooks

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The college textbooks U.S. students are required to use sell for up to 50% less in the United Kingdom. According to the publishing industry, they’re just matching local market conditions between America and the U.K. However, the disparity is concerning to Americans who are aware of it. 

2: Medical Services

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Americans spend significantly more on healthcare than other developed nations. If our standard of care were higher than that of other countries, the high price might be justifiable, but that’s not the case.

According to a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report, Americans pay more for fewer medical services. 

3: Prescription Drugs

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In 2022, researchers revealed that the prices of brand-name and generic drugs were an average of 2.78 times higher in the U.S. than in other countries. Pharmaceutical companies argue that higher prices benefit Americans because they release the latest drugs in the U.S. first, but many remain skeptical of the high prices. 

4: Internet Access

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Americans pay an average of $66.20 to access the internet, which is high compared to many other countries. In the UK, the average cost is $50, and in Russia, it’s less than $20 per month. 

5: Higher Education

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Many Americans go into debt paying for more education, which would be unheard of in other countries. In Germany, students can obtain a university education free of charge, and in Denmark, they pay their students a monthly allowance to cover living expenses.  

6: Prison Systems

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Americans vastly overspend on their prisoners compared to the rest of the world. In the U.S., we spend approximately $74 billion each year to maintain our penitentiary system. That’s more than the gross domestic product of 133 countries.  

7: Childcare

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Childcare prices in the U.S. are skyrocketing, with recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau showing childcare costs account for up to 19.5% of median household incomes per child. In Washington, D.C., putting one child in daycare costs an average of $24,243. In other countries, like Denmark and Norway, families spend less than 5% of their income on childcare.  

8: Dental Procedures

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The cost of dental procedures in the U.S. is so high that many resort to dental tourism when they need work done. For crowns, root canals, implants, and whitening, some Americans head to Mexico for a dental procedure and vacation combo, usually saving significant amounts. 

9: Public Transportation

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Many Americans own a car and choose not to rely on public transit. But those who utilize buses, subways, and other forms of public transportation often pay far more than people in many other countries.

In Europe, bus fares are often lower than they are in the U.S. and in some areas, like Spain, there are free options. 

10: Cell Phone Plans

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Americans spend a lot of money on their mobile phone plans compared to residents of other nations. In India, for example, you can get an unlimited text plan for as low as $2 per month. Of course, the minimum wage is significantly lower in India than in the U.S.

11: Brand Name Products

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A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that Americans spend $44 billion more than they need to on goods and services because they often insist on the name-brand choice. Though the study is ten years old, the ever-rising profits of companies like Proctor & Gamble suggest Americans still seek out name-brand products. 

12: Good Service 

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Polling shows 72% of Americans say tipping is expected in more places now than it was five years ago. The increase in tipping obligations could make a significant dent in the average American budget. In other countries, tipping isn’t a thing; good service is built into the menu price. 

13: Housing

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Many developed nations offer extensive homebuying programs that reduce the upfront cost of buying a house. In the U.S., purchasing your first home is difficult, not only because of housing prices but also because of other fees. 

Government Subsidies

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If you compare the U.S. to the rest of the world’s developed nations, it seems like U.S. citizens are overpaying for a lot of things. The discrepancy often comes from government subsidies. For example, in much of Europe, things like healthcare, childcare, and higher education are subsidized by government spending. 

Lower Taxes

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Americans pay lower taxes because they do not have government programs for things like healthcare or childcare. U.S. tax revenue is 27% of its gross domestic product, which is far lower than the 34% weighted average of 37 other comparable countries. 

Paying Less

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Although Americans pay far more for some things, like dental work and cell phone plans, they pay far less in other areas. America is rich in resources, which means some products are downright cheap. 


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Grocery inflation may concern many Americans, but overall, food in the U.S. is still far cheaper than it is in many countries. According to the USDA, $100 worth of bread and cereal products in the U.S. would cost $156 in Denmark. 


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Americans might complain when they head to the pump, but they’re not paying nearly as much as people in Italy, Iceland, or Hong Kong. Many governments levy high taxes on top of base fuel rates, but the U.S. federal government does not. 


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A quick glance at Levi’s website reveals prices are very different in the U.S. than they are in other countries. A $70 pair of jeans in the U.S. can cost well over $100 in the UK. 


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The iPhone15 Pro Max sold for $1,199 in the U.S., which is a lot. However, in France, it went for €1,479, which comes out to $1,604. 


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The U.S. has the second-largest automotive market in the world after China. Cars here are generally inexpensive in America compared to those in many developed countries. They’re also larger and more family-friendly. 


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Developed property may be pricey in desirable areas of the U.S., but you can still find cheap land outside city zip codes. Few countries have the vast amount of open space the U.S. has, which means land is sold at a premium in most other parts of the world. 

Putting It Into Perspective

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Americans may overpay for major things like healthcare and higher education, but they’re still wealthier than most of the world’s citizens. According to Zippia, the average global income per person is under $10,000, while the median income per person in the U.S. is $41,261. 

Quality of Life 

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While Americans pay less for many everyday things like food and gas, the things they overspend on might have a bigger impact on quality of life. Paying more for vital services like healthcare and childcare could be part of why they have a lower life expectancy than other comparable countries. 

15 Times Banks Failed American Customers

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Many Americans put their trust in banks, depositing their hard-earned money to grow their savings. But some have had the wool pulled over their eyes.

15 Times Banks Failed American Customers

How Much Money It Takes To Be in the Top 10%

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Whether you dream of being in the top 10% or think you might already be there, one thing is certain: The income a household makes to be in the top 10% club varies by state. Here’s how much you need to make to have a higher income than 90% of Americans.

How Much Money It Takes To Be in the Top 10% by State


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