The cost of living in Canada: A guide to 9 major cities

Cost of living in Canada: person looking at the view of Chateau Frontenac castle and the St. Lawrence river

From Toronto to Vancouver, Canada boasts some of the most livable cities in the world. In fact, Canada came in first on our list of the most popular countries for people interested in moving abroad. But the overall cost of living in Canada may be higher than the cost of living back home—especially in its major cities.

Whether you’re visiting Canada temporarily or moving there permanently, knowing what to expect when it comes to rent, transportation costs, and other living expenses can help you plan ahead.

Let’s take a look at the cost of living in Canada overall, as well as the average cost of living in major Canadian cities. 

This data is the most recent available as of this article’s publication, and costs can change rapidly in the current economic climate. For the costs of a specific property or service you are considering, it’s best to contact the provider or company directly.

What’s the cost of living in Canada?

Every city and province in Canada uses the Canadian dollar (CAD), which comes in the form of paper banknotes and coins. It’s denoted with the same symbol ($) as other dollars, like the U.S. dollar (USD), but it typically trades at less value than the USD.

We’ll talk more about exchange rates later in this article, but for now, keep in mind that all the figures mentioned in the article are in CAD unless otherwise specified.

Here’s what you can expect for living expenses in four key categories.

Housing costs

The cost of housing in Canada can vary widely depending on whether you live in a large city or small town and how close you are to the city center. 

According to Teleport.org, a medium apartment in Montreal costs around $1,179 CAD per month, while a similar unit in Toronto would cost $2,028 CAD per month.

That’s cheaper than in New York City, where the monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment can be as high as $4,000 USD or around $5,200 CAD, as of this writing.

However, rent in Canada may be higher than the cost of rent in many U.S. cities with a lower cost of living

Housing affordability is a growing concern in Canada, and it’s common for single people to save money by sharing a house with other tenants, rather than renting a one-bedroom apartment on their own.

If Canada’s major cities are outside your price range, other cities to consider include St. John’s, Newfoundland—located in the northeast—and Saskatoon, which is located in the prairie province of Saskatchewan.

Healthcare

The cost of health insurance in Canada is lower than in many other countries. In fact, if you’re a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, healthcare is free. Many Canadians still choose to get private health insurance or receive it through an employer.

Dental care isn’t covered by Canada’s universal health care system, but is an option with many private insurance plans. 

Transportation

Some of Canada’s cities are known for their bike-friendly infrastructure, while others can be hard to get around without a car. 

If you drive your own vehicle, gas prices can be as high as $2 CAD per liter, with a national average of $1.94 CAD per liter as of July 2022, and a low of $1.31 CAD per liter over the past year.

Public transport is also an option in some cities. In Toronto, as of this writing, a single subway fare costs $3.25 CAD, while a monthly pass costs $156 CAD.

Although Canada has a cross-country rail network, the distances between cities are so extensive that it’s often cheaper to fly.

Average salary and income tax

One of the most important things to consider when moving to a new country is what the average salary is in your region and how much you’ll have to pay in taxes.

Canada might have a higher tax rate than some other countries, but that rate pays for the universal healthcare system and high quality of life. Individuals are taxed a percentage of their earnings according to income levels.

The federal minimum wage in Canada is $15.55 per hour as of this writing, while the Canadian Income Survey reports that “the median after-tax income of Canadian families and unattached individuals was $66,800 in 2020.” 

The 2020 report was released in early 2022 and represents the most recent dataset of its kind; keep in mind that the pandemic may have affected these numbers in the years since.

The cost of living in Canada’s major cities

Woman closing her jacket while walking

Canada’s high quality of life makes it an attractive option for migrants from all over the world. But what’s the actual cost of living in Canada’s major cities

Let’s assume you rent an average-sized apartment and commute to work by public transit. According to the most recent data available from Teleport.org, here’s your expected monthly cost of living in specific regions of Canada.

1. Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver, BC, is known for its mild winters and access to the great outdoors. It’s one of Canada’s most expensive cities, but also one of the most livable.

  • Median rent for a medium apartment: $2,155
  • Monthly transit costs: $105

2. Toronto, Ontario

Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world, with a population of 2,794,356 people and hundreds of languages spoken.

  • Median rent for a medium apartment: $2,028
  • Monthly transit costs: $139.44

3. Montreal, Quebec

Montreal is located in Canada’s bilingual province, where both French and English are spoken widely by its 1,762,949 residents.

  • Median rent for a medium apartment: $1,179
  • Monthly transit costs: $79.86

4. Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa is Canada’s capital and fourth-largest city. Its central location in the Northeast means it’s easy to reach both Toronto and Montreal by train.

  • Median rent for a medium apartment: $1,394
  • Monthly transit costs: $113

5. Winnipeg, Manitoba

Located in the Canadian Prairies, Winnipeg has a more reasonable cost of living than other major cities—but it’s known for having some of the harshest winters of all the Canadian provinces.

  • Median rent for a medium apartment: $1,154
  • Monthly transit costs: $84

6. Quebec City, Quebec

Quebec City is one of the most affordable cities in Canada, with median housing prices ranging between $697 and $1,077 per month—but residents can expect lower-than-average salaries compared to other cities.

  • Median rent for a medium apartment: $887
  • Monthly transit costs: $89

7. Calgary, Alberta

Calgary’s remote location contributes to its high living costs—but its proximity to the Rocky Mountains makes it a popular choice for nature lovers.

  • Median rent for a medium apartment: $1,521
  • Monthly transit costs: $105   

8. Edmonton, Alberta

Edmonton is further north than any other big city in North America and maintains a full calendar of festivals, such as the Edmonton International Fringe Festival.

  • Median rent for a medium apartment: $1,394
  • Monthly transit costs: $91.27

9. Halifax, Nova Scotia

With only 439,819 residents, Halifax is a small city, but it’s a major regional economy due to its fishing industry and natural resources.

  • Median rent for a medium apartment: $1,394
  • Monthly transit costs: $76

Canadian currency and exchange rate

The Canadian dollar is one of the most frequently traded currencies of the world—and like any currency, its value goes up and down over time. Due to its close economic ties to the U.S., the Canadian dollar can be influenced by the value of the USD, but there are plenty of other factors that determine its value relative to other currencies.

To get the best exchange rate when converting another currency into CAD, you’ll need to look up the latest exchange rate for that currency pair. Even a small difference in the exchange rate can have a big impact on how much CAD you receive.

Once you’ve arrived, don’t forget to obtain proof of address and open a bank account in Canada, so you can transfer money more easily.

How to send money from Canada to other countries

Person getting a bill from a wallet

The stronger the Canadian dollar, the more money your friends and family will receive when you convert it into your home currency. But the exchange rate isn’t the only thing that matters. You’ll also want to avoid money transfer services with high fees, since these reduce the amount of your funds even further.

Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Since 2011, over 5 million people have used our secure mobile app to send money home with peace of mind. 

Visit the homepage, download our app, or check out our Help Center to get started.

Further reading