RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – If you want to buy a McDonald’s McMeal on the cheap, go to Caracas. Three fast food combos in the Venezuelan capital will cost about what you’ll pay for one in Raleigh.

But if you don’t eat them fast, they might be stolen. Caracas has the second-highest crime rate in the world. And transportation to the Golden Arches is considerably more expensive there as well. The sticker price of a Toyota Corolla is about 40 percent higher in this South American metropolis than in North Carolina’s capital city.

That’s the kind of information – useful or not – you’ll find on Numbeo.

Check out this chart from Numbeo
Nuebo chart

A quality fo life chart from Nuebo ranks Raleigh and Charlotte highly.

It’s a free crowdsourced website touted as the world’s largest database of user-posted information about cities and countries. Numbeo says it has more than 423,000 contributors and provides over 5 million consumer prices, along with other information, on 8,861 cities around the globe.

From the data it collects, the website also periodically assembles an international quality-of-life index based on eight indicators: purchasing power, safety, health care, cost of living, property price-to-income ratio,  traffic commute time, pollution, and climate.

Though the data are updated continuously, Numbeo publishes periodic “stop-time” and historical versions of its findings. And by that measure, it has ranked Raleigh the world’s third-best place to live in 2019. Charlotte is close behind at number 10. Caracas, in spite of its bargain-basement McDonald’s deals, is dead last out of the 226 cities in the index.

Numbeo says the rankings are its “best guess of average expenses in a given city for a four-person family.” Raleigh has a higher average monthly wage than Charlotte ($4,282.45 versus $4,093.88). Yet its consumer prices, rent and restaurant dining range from 8 to almost 15 percent lower than the Queen City.

But forget about all that if you’re a connoisseur of imported beer. Then you’ll want to head to Greensboro, which isn’t ranked in Numbeo’s most recent quality-of-life index. There, the cost of a 12-ounce bottle of your favorite exotic beverage averages $2.99, $1.06 cheaper than Raleigh and a heart-stopping $1.34 less than Charlotte. Go figure.

A bit Austin-tatious to boot

Austin, Texas – often a competitor with the Research Triangle for life science companies – falls well short of both Raleigh and Charlotte in the quality-of-life category. It’s a respectable 18th on the Numbeo list, but reports higher consumer prices, rent and restaurant charges than both North Carolina cities. The good news for Texans is that milk is cheaper in Austin. And so is imported beer, by the way. But if you have to trek to the store to buy those items, your leather business shoes are going to cost you about 10 percent more than in Raleigh, even with all those cows out there.

It’s not a stretch to question Numbeo’s accuracy. Much like Wikipedia, its users in cities around the world randomly enter data on which Numbeo bases its assumptions. And some cities and countries receive a higher number of contributor responses than others. That has an impact because more contributors usually mean more accurate evaluations. It’s the old “garbage in, garbage out” thing.

But Numbeo says it relies on data from a variety of other sources as well – supermarket and taxi company websites, governmental agencies, currency exchange sources and newspaper articles among them. The site also uses filters to discard outlier information that could skew results.

Regardless, if you’re planning a vacation anytime soon — or thinking about relocating to another city or country — Numbeo is a useful tool. It can help you figure out how much it will cost to live abroad, or the amount of cash you’ll need to bankroll your next ski trip. And there’s also the imported beer budget to consider.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center