The cost of living in Canada

The cost of living in Canada in 2021

From its people’s world-renowned positivity to its natural beauty, Canada has plenty to offer new residents. Whether you’re planning to retire in a tranquil setting or study in one of Canada’s diverse, modern cities, it pays to understand the cost of living. 

What does the cost of living mean?

A simple way to understand the cost of living is to ask: “How many goods and services does 1,000 CAD purchase in a certain location?” In other words, does 1,000 CAD buy you more groceries in Manitoba or Ontario?

The cost of living will influence your choice of job or home. It will influence your ability to buy or rent a car, to pay off debts, and crucially, how often you can send money to family overseas

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How much is the average salary in Canada?

According to the salaryexplorer website, salaries in Canada range from 30,200 CAD (£17,680) to 534,000 CAD (£312,600). Expect these figures to vary based on your occupation (skilled or unskilled), your location and your contract. 

According to workandmoney.com, the national minimum wage in Canada is 15.20 C$ (£8.86) per hour. That figure means Canada’s minimum wage is one of the highest in the world.  Although the national minimum wage is not linked to the cost of living, it’s important you know this figure before starting a new job.

If you’re working while studying, the minimum wage applies unless you’re younger than 18 years old. If you’re under 18 and work fewer than 28 hours a week, your minimum wage will be 13.40 C$ (£7.84) per hour. 

Did you know? Multinational companies use the cost of living data to assess expatriate salary packages for international employees.

How much does it cost to live in Canada’s major cities?

The cost of living in Canada in 2021

Canada attracts many people from the likes of Thailand, the Philippines, China and beyond. The most popular destinations for expats include Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Montreal, and Edmonton. 

These cities offer more employment opportunities, modern transport, and better healthcare and education. But what is the cost of living in these cities? 

To give you an idea, we’ve compared the price of 12 regular sized eggs. 

Same quantity, different city – and as you’ll see, different prices. According to ‘cost of living experts’ Numbeo, the price of a dozen eggs varies by city: 

  • Toronto = 3.32 CAD. 
  • Montreal = 3.29 CAD.
  • Vancouver = 4.20 CAD.
  • Calgary = 3.55 CAD.
  • Winnipeg = 3.38 CAD.

While egg prices don’t tell you everything you need to know about costs in Canada, they do give you an idea of the differences. We’ve used additional Numbeo data to produce the table below.   

City1-bed apartment (city centre)1-bed apartment (other)Monthly basic utility billsMonthly travel passRestaurant meal for two
Toronto1,954 C$1672 C$172 C$156 C$83 C$
Montreal1,296 C$895 C$94 C$87 C$75 C$
Vancouver2,020 C$1,617 C$90 C$100 C$75 C$
Calgary1,245 C$1,052 C$198 C$109 C$78 C$
Winnipeg1,060 C$962 C$182 C$103 C$65 C$

*Some figures have been rounded up to the closest Canadian dollar (CAD/C$)

Did you know? You can open a Canadian bank account before you get there. Kick-start your move to the Great White North by reading our guide to setting up a bank account in Canada

Where is the best place to live in Canada?

The cost of living in Canada in 2021

That depends. If you’re looking for job opportunities and world-class universities, Vancouver or Toronto may be to your liking. If you speak French, you may feel at home in Quebec.

As recently as 2019, three Canadian cities ranked in the top ten of The Economist‘s annual ‘liveability’ index. The list compared 140 cities based on their:

  • Economic stability.
  • Healthcare system.
  • Culture and environment.
  • Education.
  • Infrastructure.

Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto came in fifth, sixth and seventh respectively. While the ranking doesn’t take the cost of living into account, some cities stand out for their affordability and suitability for migrant workers. 

For example, Toronto and Winnipeg have large Filipino communities. Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and British Columbia, meanwhile, have large Pakistani communities.

More recently, the Nigerian immigrant community in Canada has been growing at an incredible rate. The recent US bans on travel mean that many Nigerian expats have opted for Canada instead, relocating to provinces such as Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

No matter your choice, Canada is tolerant of all races and religions. In fact, Islam is the second-largest faith in Canada.

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What is the cost of living in Canada for international students?

Canada’s international student population has tripled over the past decade to 642,000 in 2019. Studying in Canada provides access to premier education and cross-cultural experiences. 

For international students, admission to university and college in Canada requires serious financial investment and planning.

Applying for a study permit costs 150 CAD. University fees in Canada will vary depending on the university and your country of origin. For example, the University of British Columbia charges undergraduate Canadian students 70.50 CAD and international students 118.50 CAD. You may be able to get this fee waived if you are an international student from a developing country.

Regardless of where you study, Canada can be pricey for overseas students. As well as tuition fees, you’ll need to pay for your flights, moving costs and health insurance. However, as investments go, a qualification from one of Canada’s top-rated universities can open many doors. 

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