Your cost of living is how much income you would need to sustain your standard of living and cover basic living expenses in another city. Although the cost of living across Canada will be different for an individual, a couple, or a family based on lifestyle choices and their needs, the most common components of cost of living will include housing, food, transportation, and childcare.
The cost of living in a city compared with the average or median income in that region can also be one of the key factors that influence where you decide to live. If you're living in a city with a very high cost of living but are not benefiting from a higher income, you may have a lower standard of living compared to living somewhere cheaper. This cost of living calculator helps you to determine how much more you would need to earn to have the same standard of living in other Canadian cities, which can help you to make a more informed decision on where to live.
Did you know that even though the city of Gatineau is a few minutes drive away from Ottawa, the cost of living in Gatineau for a family of 3 with a small child is 37% lower! Although the income tax rate in Quebec is higher, subsidized child care in Quebec and lower rents in Gatineau still make the cost of living much cheaper than in Ottawa.
You can expect to need a higher income to maintain your standard of living in larger and more dense city like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal or Ottawa, with the following rental rates as of January 2021 according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation:
|Type of Home||Toronto||Vancouver||Montreal||Ottawa|
|2 Bedroom Apartment||$2444||$2278||$903||$1517|
|Single Family Home||$4220||$4000||$2500||$3350|
This compares to smaller and more spread out cities like Winnipeg, Halifax, and London, where rental costs can be much lower:
|Type of Home||Winnipeg||Halifax||London|
|2 Bedroom Apartment||$1262||$1255||$1207|
|Single Family Home||$2025||$2260||$2275|
Part of the reason for spread out cities having lower rents is because land is more plentiful to build on, which compares to densely populated cities where space is at a premium. The cost of housing in the calculator above includes the cost of rent and utilities such as electricity and telecommunication services. If you are living alone, your housing costs may be much lower because you may only need a bachelor apartment or 1 bedroom apartment. If you have a family, the cost of renting a single family home or a 3 bedroom apartment will be much higher in not only rent, but also electricity costs.
When calculating Canada’s CPI, Statistics Canada considers the cost of owning and living a home, rather than the cost of purchasing a home. This means that mortgage rates in Canada will affect Canada’s inflation rate, as higher mortgage rates result in higher mortgage interest costs, which affects the Canada Consumer Price Index (CPI).
How much you spend on food in a month depends not only on how many people there are to feed, but also on specific diets and eating habits. Even if you are living alone but eat out every day, it will greatly affect how much your overall cost of food will be. Grocery prices within Canadian cities are fairly consistent, however restaurant prices will vary much more depending on local minimum wages, commercial rental rates, and where in the city the restaurant is located. Although the cost of living calculator does include the cost of eating out for the average Canadian, budgeting for how much you personally spend per month eating out can help you to get a clearer picture on your overall food costs.
How you choose to commute in each city will not only depend on the cost of commuting by car, but also the availability and quality of public transportation. This cost of living calculator includes the cost of commuting by car, which includes the cost of gas, car insurance, maintenance, and repairs. This means that especially for those living in cities that are denser and with strong public transit such as Toronto and Montreal, you will be able to save on your transportation costs by using public transit.
Depending on your circumstance and if you have a young child or plan to have a child at some time in your life, childcare costs can be a major expense. According to data as of March 2020 from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, childcare costs range from ~$1200 per month in Toronto, down to $179 per month throughout all Quebec cities. Childcare costs in your city can have a large impact on your standard of living, especially if costs are so high that you need to have a parent stay home to care for your child. Childcare costs depend on a city's rental rates, minimum wage, and if there are any provincial subsidies for childcare.
Although Canadian federal income taxes will remain the same throughout all major cities, provincial income taxes will vary depending on the province. Higher income tax rates reduce your disposable income levels, which lowers how much you have to use on necessities and other purchases that improve your standard of living. Below shows the median after-tax income amount for all Canadian provinces from the 2019 Canadian Income Survey, released in March 2021:
Aside from different provincial income tax rates, Canadian sales tax rates will differ by province. For example, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia have the following sales tax rates as of 2021:
|Province||Provincial Sales Tax||Total Sales Tax|
The higher the sales tax rate is in each province, the higher the cost of goods and services will be in each city with sales tax added to the purchase price. Even if the same goods cost the same price in Calgary, Alberta and London, Ontario before tax, the item would be cheaper in Calgary because of the lower sales tax rate than in London.
Although living in a city where you can have a higher standard of living to cover your needs and wants is very important, there are other factors that are important in choosing where to live. These factors can include:
All major cities across Canada offer different amenities and activities that are unique to the city. This can include the opportunity to be closer to nature in Vancouver, or being able to see a live sports game in Toronto or Montreal. For a general rule, bigger cities in Canada usually have more activities and amenities than smaller cities, however these activities may come at a higher price.
Depending on what your career plans are, living in a certain city or region may be a requirement to meet your career goals. For example, someone who wants to be in banking will need to live in Toronto or Calgary, while someone who wants to work for the government will need to live in Ottawa. Your ability to reach your career goals will be influenced by your location, meaning that you may not have a choice in where you live depending on what these goals are.
For many people, living somewhere that is close to their friends and family is one of the most important factors in choosing where to live. Especially if you do not own a car for transportation, being close to your friends and family makes it much easier to spend time with them and see them often.
The effects of inflation are felt across Canada, no matter where you live. With COVID-19 restrictions starting to lift and consumers feeling good about their economic future, many industries are seeing record demand. This comes at the same time as these same industries are struggling with supply, which leads to the potential for prices to rise across Canada. People living in high cost cities will feel the effects of inflation on their standard of living the most, with rising prices on already higher costs further reducing what they can afford and their standard of living in that city.
With the average price in Vancouver and Toronto as of May 2021 being $1,172,800 and $1,108,453, after living expenses it would take ~12 years to save for a 20% downpayment in Vancouver and ~20 years to save for a 20% down payment in Toronto. This is with the median after-tax household income in 2020 being ~$80,500 in Vancouver, and ~$77,000 in Toronto.
With many young Canadians having the goal of purchasing a home to live in, housing affordability in your city will be an important long-term factor when choosing where to live. As home prices across high-cost housing markets such as the Toronto housing market and Vancouver housing market surge, an RBC Poll from April 2021 shows 36% of Canadians under 40 have given up on their housing dream. This desire to own a home but the inability to afford one will play a key part in where many Canadians choose to live.