What is the difference between an au pair and a nanny?

Jennifer Carlson
Written by
Jennifer Carlson
Edited by
Kristen Cramer
Fact-checked by
Tom Grupa

Au pair vs. nanny

A nanny is an employee who provides in-home childcare, housework, and other services as agreed upon. An au pair is a young person from another country who lives with a host family in exchange for childcare. Nannies typically have more experience and training but cost more than an au pair.

Au pair vs. nanny comparison
Factor Au pair Nanny
Cost per month $1,400 – $2,100 $2,300 – $5,200
Age Usually 18 to 30 Any age over 18
Responsibilities Mostly childcare Childcare and housework
Hours Up to 45 hours per week or 10 per day 20 to 60 hours per week, depending on need
Connection to family Temporary family member Employee
Payment Room and board with a small stipend Must be paid at least minimum wage
Country / culture From a foreign country Resident of the host family's country
Housing Live-in Live-in or separate housing
Length Short-term depending on contract length Typically long-term
Hiring process Through an agency Through an agency or mutual friends

Cost data is from research and costs reported by TrustedCare members.

An au pair playing with two young children.
An au pair playing with two young children.

Au pair vs. nanny employment

Au pairs come from different countries to stay with a host family and learn a new language. They receive room and board and a stipend in exchange for childcare. They typically stay for 6, 9, or 12 months and are considered part of the family, like an exchange student.

In comparison, nannies are contracted employees who typically stay with one family long-term. They may become close with the family but are not normally considered temporary family members like au pairs. Full-time nannies are eligible for benefits and paid time off.

Au pair vs. nanny hours

Au pairs usually work 20 to 45 hours per week or up to 10 hours per day. Due to the nature of an au pair's employment status, the number of hours they are allowed to work is limited. Many are required to attend language courses as well.

Nannies work as many or as little hours as the family needs and work out a set schedule before starting. Most nannies work 20 to 60 hours per week, depending on whether they work part-time or full-time and whether they live with the family.

Au pair vs. nanny responsibilities

While au pairs mainly provide live-in childcare, they can also have the following responsibilities:

  • Laundry and light housework

  • Preparing meals

  • Teaching their language and culture

Nannies are seen more as employees than au pairs and typically have one or more of the following duties:

  • Childcare, including school drop-offs or pickups

  • Laundry and housework

  • Preparing meals

  • Dog-walking

  • Grocery shopping and other errands

Au pair vs. nanny experience

Au pairs are young adults between 18 and 30 years old who may or may not have experience with childcare. Some agencies provide mandatory training or require some level of experience through babysitting or tutoring. Many au pairs need help getting settled into their role.

Nannies, on the other hand, usually have advanced training or several years of experience. Some have a teaching certificate, a degree in early childhood education, or targeted training for children with special needs. Some nannies specialize in certain age groups or teaching styles.

Au pair vs. nanny cost

An au pair costs $1,400 to $2,100 per month on average, while a nanny costs $2,300 to $4,300 per month if they live outside the family's home. Live-in nannies cost $3,000 to $5,200 per month in addition to room and board.

Au pairs receive a stipend set by the agency in addition to room and board. This stipend is typically lower than a nanny's usual rate.

Au pair vs. nanny cost
Caregiver type Average cost per week Average cost per month
Au pair $325 – $480* $1,400 – $2,100*
Nanny $525 – $1,000 $2,300 – $4,300
Live-in nanny $700 – $1,200 $3,000 – $5,200

*Including weekly stipend

An au pair playing with a young child.
An au pair playing with a young child.
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Au pair and nanny pros and cons

While nannies cost more on average than au pairs, they are easier to hire and are often available to work more hours. Au pair agencies often have strict limits on hours and require a J-1 work visa to bring the au pair to your country.

Pros and cons of au pairs and nannies

Pros and cons of au pairs and nannies
Caregiver type Pros Cons
Au pair
  • Vetted by an agency
  • Potential payment plans and discounts
  • Exposure to a new culture or language
  • Set contract length
  • Can only work 45 hours per week
  • Less privacy
  • Added cost for their room and board and personal needs
  • Less experience
  • Works up to 60 hours per week
  • No legal work
  • More experience
  • Long-term care better for children
  • More expensive
  • Fewer vetting and screening options
  • Can leave abruptly if they find another job

How to find and hire an au pair or nanny

When hiring an au pair or nanny near you, be sure to:

  • Get referrals from trusted friends or family members.

  • Look for a nanny or au pair agency with several years of experience.

  • Check their credentials and qualifications.

  • Browse their reviews on TrustedCare and Google.

  • Look for an au pair agency with a large pool of au pairs and mandatory training.

  • Ask for references from other families they've worked for.

  • Schedule interviews with at least three people that match your needs, schedule, and budget.

Questions to ask

Ask the following questions to find the best possible au pair or nanny:

  • How many years have you been working with children?

  • What ages do you have experience with?

  • What qualifications or certifications do you have?

  • Are you able to enforce household rules, including screen time limits?

  • How would you handle discipline for any misbehavior?

  • Do you follow a daily schedule?

  • Do you know your way around this area?

  • Do you speak any other languages? Would you be comfortable teaching it to the children?

  • Have you ever had to handle an emergency? If yes, what happened?

  • Do you have experience caring for children with special needs?

  • Do you have experience following dietary restrictions or allergies?

  • Are you willing to perform light cleaning during the day?

  • When are you available?

  • Do you have any questions or concerns?

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