Canada flag of canada Vs the United StatesFlag of the United States of America

New York vs. Toronto Boston vs. Montreal

“Go West, Young Man.”

That’s been a popular phrase, one which has been bandied about from time to time in American history during the expansion westward in the 1800s, and then again at the turn of the century, and once more as first San Francisco and then Hollywood established themselves as internationally-recognized cultural touchstones.  Cities like New York and Toronto, Boston and Montreal will always remain the vanguards of the United States and Canada, but since the 1950s, however, the push westward has really gained momentum.  Everything from the explosion of the film and TV industry to massive waves of immigration from East Asia and Latin America have seen the Pacific Coast absolutely explode in terms of prominence, population and importance. 

Los Angeles has emerged as the New York City of the West Coast, tying the Big Apple in terms of media presence and standing as the second-most populous city in America.  Whether you’re taking in a game at Staples Center or Dodger Stadium, catching a show at the Ahmanson, catching the stars as they cross the red carpet, or just cruising down Sunset Boulevard, you can be sure of star treatment.

 

Where should You Go: Los Angeles or Vancouver?

Vancouver by https://www.flickr.com/photos/rollanb/
Vancouver by Rollan B / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Los Angeles by https://www.flickr.com/photos/84263554@N00/
Los Angeles by Ron Reiring / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Index

 

Flights and travel

Vancouver Airport by https://www.flickr.com/photos/-jvl-/
Vancouver Airport by JvL / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Delta 747 Taking Off by https://www.flickr.com/photos/wbaiv/
Delta 747 by Bill Abbott / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Both Vancouver and Los Angeles are on the West Coast, and so both enjoy Pacific Coast time.  Which one is cheaper to travel to is going to depend on where you’re coming from—a nonstop flight on Air Canada from New York to Vancouver will take just a little longer than a comparable nonstop trip from the Big Apple to Hollywood USA on another airline.  Likewise, the airfare is likely to be similar, ranging in the middle hundreds range for both cities, depending on the airline and whether or not you’re flying nonstop.

Los Angeles does have the advantage of LAX, one of the most traveled and important airports in the entire world.

Destination

Date

Source

Flight operator

Stop(s)

Price (USD)

London to Los Angeles

Dec 1st, 2014

Skyscanner.ca

Air New Zealand

Direct

$898

London to Vancouver

Dec 1st, 2014

Skyscanner.ca

Aer Lingus, Air Canada

2 Stops

$1199

London to Los Angeles

Jun 1st,> 2015

Skyscanner.ca

Norwegian

Direct

$492

London to Vancouver

Jun 1st, 2015

Skyscanner.ca

Icelandair

1 Stop

$763

These prices were quoted on November 5, 2014 from skyscanner.ca. The flights and prices on this chart are for example only. Prices may vary and fluctuate. We are not responsible for flights or prices quoted from this chart. Please contact your travel agent or the airline if you would like to book a flight.

 

Rent

East Vancouver Apartment by https://www.flickr.com/photos/qole/
East Vancouver Apartment for Rent by Alan Bruce / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Sarah Davidson Apartment Block By User:Magicpiano (Own work) [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Pasadena Apartment by LWYang / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Make no mistake about it—Los Angeles is one of the most expensive places to live in North America.  Los Angeles County varies greatly in terms of price, and because the area’s been built up as a sort of mega-metropolis made up of interconnected cities joined together by freeways, you can live in “the Greater LA Area” and still have daily access to the main city itself. 

That being said, you get what you pay for, and the least-expensive areas of LA County are likewise some of its least populous and least popular areas.  These areas are great if you’re looking for a more laid-back experience and comparatively-inexpensive living—think $550 to $750 for a reasonable bachelor or bachelorette pad in the Antelope Valley, for example, with $100 to $1300 being closer to what you might expect for 2-3 bedroom apartment or small home for rent—but be prepared to face a longer commute if you ever want to experience the brighter lights of even satellite cities around LA.  Acton and Rosamond, for example, are two cities at the fringe of LA County which boast a great rural feel to them, with ranches and great terrain for horses.  It’s not the “real LA experience,” but it’s cheap.  Areas, such as Santa Monica, Northridge, and of course the much-heralded Pasadena—if you watch The Big Bang Theory, that would be where Sheldon, Leonard, Penny and Company “live”—will put you closer to all the glitz and glamor which make LA a world city, but be forewarned, they don’t come cheap.  $1300?  That might fly for a semi-decent one to two person apartment, and even then, you’d probably be looking at something on the smaller side.

As for Los Angeles itself, once again, it can be very glamorous…and is very expensive.  You’re also going to want to take into account the fact that different areas of LA have different cultural leanings.  South Central LA, for example, is heavily influenced by Latino culture, while Wilshire and world-famous Beverley Hills have significant Caucasian and Asian-American populations and are very upscale (with prices to match.)  East LA is far cheaper, but is also notorious among residents, and while it’s not a “stay away at all costs” situation, unless you’re feeling particularly adventurous, as a tourist, outsider, or immigrant just coming into the area, you might want to try another area of LA first.

So, after all that, what do we have to say about Vancouver?  Well, it’s less expensive, though that wouldn’t take much.  Even with that said, however, Vancouver is still expensive, and chances are, the biggest break you’ll get on rent or charges is if you have an advantageous exchange rate as an American or British citizen.

All in all, while Vancouver offers a slightly cheaper rent, it isn’t as cheap as you’d think—expatistan.com lists apartments of modest size in expensive areas in both cities at a $2,406 average—and the Greater Los Angeles Area simply has more variety, from the high-priced glitz and glamor for which the area is famous the world over to ranches and rural areas more off the beaten track.  For what it’s worth, Vancouver’s average rate for unpaid utilities is 44% lower than similar services in LA.

Apartment Size

Vancouver 

Los Angeles 

Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre

$1,283.67

$1,651.19

Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of City Centre

$890.17

$1,148.55

Apartment (3 bedroom) in City Centre

$2758.27

$2,843.75

Apartment (3 bedroom) Outside of City Centre

$1773.97

$2,100.00

Source: https://www.numbeo.com as of November 5, 2014. Exchange rate of that date was 1 USD = 1.14 CAD

 

Jobs/ employment

Now Hiring by jay / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Vancouver

Minimum Wage

CAD$10.25

Los Angeles

flag of USA

Minimum Wage

USD$9.00
Minimum Wage for servers CAD$9.00 Minimum Wage for servers USD$9.00
Average Wage (15+) CAD$24.45 Average Wage USD$24.96

The above wage information is taken from the BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, StatsCan, the California Department of Industrial Relations and the Sacramento Business Journal.

See Payscale for more info

In terms of economic opportunities, it’s a wash.  When it comes to entertainment, “there’s no business like show business,” and no substitute for making your mark in Hollywood for anyone looking to become a big-time TV or film star in North America.  That being said, Vancouver is the LA of Canada in this regard, and has a booming entertainment industry.  LA’s employment opportunities in this regard may be “worth more” classically, but it could be easier to get a start in Vancouver.  Outside of the entertainment industry which matters so much to both cities, Los Angeles has been adding jobs steadily but painfully slow since the Recession, but it is still a viable market.

Both are good choices, and it really comes down to personal choice in this regard.  Vancouver offers a better place to break into show business, LA more prominent and higher paying opportunities, and both have the benefit of a large metro area.

 

Taxes

"IRS building on constitution avenue in DC" by US Federal Govt employee - https://www.ustreas.gov/offices/management/curator/exhibitions/openspace/board_8/ezw1.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IRS_building_on_constitution_avenue_in_DC.jpg#mediaviewer/File:IRS_building_on_constitution_avenue_in_DC.jpg
IRS Building [Public Domain]

VS.

Revenue Canada By Xtabi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Revenue Canada by Xtabi / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Sales Taxes

There’s an 8.25% sales tax in Los Angeles, compared to 12% in Vancouver, though Vancouver’s sales tax drops to 10% for alcohol.  

 

Federal Income Tax in Canada in 2014

  • 15% on the first $43,561 of taxable income
  •  22% on the next $43,562 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income between $43,562 and $87,123)
  •  26% on the next $87,124 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income between$87,124 and $135,054)
  •  29% of taxable income over $135,054

Source: www.cra-arc.gc.ca

 

Provincial Income Tax in Ontario in 2014

  • 16% on taxable income of less than $41,495.
  • 20% on taxable income above $41,495 but not more than $82,985.
  • 24% on taxable income above $82,985 but not more than $ 100,970.

Source: https://www.revenuquebec.ca/en/

Before you get scared adding up tax rates, remember the basic personal amount. To give you an example by going here you can calculate your combined federal and Quebec income taxes. For an income of C$ 30,000 you get total income taxes, both federal and provincial, of C$ 5,628.90 which is an average tax rate of 18.76%. The Canadian tax year is the same as the calendar year. 

 

Federal Income Tax in the United States

The US federal income tax rules are extremely complicated and we will not go into great detail here. Below is a table of "effective" federal income tax rates in the United States, namely what you are likely to end up paying after various deductions.

 

Effective Federal Tax Rates and Average Incomes for 2010
Quintile Average Income Before Taxes Effective Individual Income Tax Rate Effective Payroll Tax Rate Combined Effective Income and Payroll Tax Rate Total Effective Federal Tax Rate (includes corporate income and excise taxes)
Lowest $24,100 -9.2% 8.4% -0.8% 1.5%
Second $44,200 -2.3% 7.8% 5.5% 7.2%
Middle $65,400 1.6% 8.3% 9.9% 11.5%
Fourth $95,500 5.0% 9.0% 14.0% 15.6%
Highest $239,100 13.8% 6.7% 20.5% 24.0%
81st to 90th Percentiles $134,600 8.1% 9.4% 17.5% 19.3%
91st to 95th Percentiles $181,600 10.7% 8.9% 19.6% 21.6%
96th to 99th Percentiles $286,400 15.1% 7.1% 22.2% 24.9%
Top 1% $1,434,900 20.1% 2.2% 22.3% 29.4%

 

California Income Tax

  • 1 percent on the first $7,582 of taxable income.
  • 2 percent on taxable income between $7,583 and $17,976.
  • 4 percent on taxable income between $17,977 and $28,371.
  • 6 percent on taxable income between $28,372 and $39,384.
  • 8 percent on taxable income between $39,385 and $49,774.
  • 9.30 percent on taxable income between $49,775 and 254,250.
  • 10.30 percent on taxable income between $254,251 and 305,100.
  • 11.30 percent on taxable income between $305,101 and $508,500.
  • 12.30 percent on taxable income of $508,501 and above.
  • 13.30 percent on taxable income of $1,000,000 and above.

 

Transportation

Never fear, however, Vancouverites—you win this category hands down.

Remember those “eternal traffic jams” from above?  LA is notorious for its gridlock.  Everyone who’s anyone travels by car in LA, and given just how many people make up the LA area, you can bet that’s a lot of cars.  Add to that the fact that any Angelino will tell you, tongue-in-cheek, that no one actually knows how to drive in LA, and the LA public transit system is infamous for all the wrong reasons, and you have a multi-layered transportation nightmare, especially compared to Vancouver.  The public transit there is far more efficient, there’s less of a problem with traffic and gridlock, and there’s a lower crime rate, for those thinking of traveling extended distances on foot (another “adventure” for those visiting LA for the first time).

Transportation
Vancouver 
Los Angeles 

One way city transit ticket

$2.75

$1.75

Monthly pass (city transit)

$91

$100

Taxi fare begins at (normal tariff)

$2.90

$3.42

Taxi 1km (normal tariff)

$1.66

$2.13

Gasoline (1 litre)

$1.26

$1.07

Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car)

$19,301.63

$19,000

Source:  https://www.numbeo.com. These prices were quoted on November 6, 2014.

 

Weather

There’s a reason the Mamas and the Papas were “California Dreaming” in the 1960s—you really might “be safe and warm if [you come to] LA.”  (Well, you’ll be warm, anyway.)  Sunshine year-round—that’s the stereotype for the LA area, and while there’s definitely some “June gloom” and plenty of overcast days as marine layers make their presence felt, it’s almost always warm, and hardly ever chilly.  The temperature (in terms of Fahrenheit) rarely gets below the 60s during the day and sometimes 50s at night.  It can get pretty hot however, especially during the summer, and while the 80s and 90s are the norm here, triple digit days occur enough that they’re not a shocker to anyone who lives in the area. 

The tradeoff here is while Los Angeles experiences pretty much stable, warm weather throughout the year—to the point a slight breeze in the low 60s sets suntanned arms shivering like the palm tree branches overhead—it likewise really only experiences two “seasons,” dry and drier.  By contrast, Vancouver experiences everything from the depths of winter to the peak of summer, and everything in between, giving you a great deal of variety and a more earthy, green atmosphere any time of the year, as opposed to the smog and haze-filled skies of LA.

As such, this one really comes down to choice, and what time of year you yourself are planning on making your trip.

Month
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Vancouver average high/low

7/1 8/2 10/3 13/6 17/9 20/12 22/14 22/14 19/11 14/7 9/4 6/1

Los Angeles average high/low

20/9 20/10 21/11 23/12 24/14 26/16 28/18 29/18 28/17 26/15 23/11 20/9

Sources: Environment Canada and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association

Month
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Vancouver

Rain (mm) 168.4 104.6 111.8 88.5 65 53.8 35.6 36.7 50.9 120.8 185.8 161.9
Snow (cm) 11.1 6.3 2.3 0.3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3.2 14.8
Hours of Sun 60.1 119.5 134.8 185 222.5 226.9 289.8 277.1 212.8 120.7 60.4 56.5

Los Angeles

Rain (mm) 79.2 96.5 61.7 23.1 6.6 2.3 0.3 1 6.1 16.8 26.4 59.2
Snow (cm) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Hours of Sun 225.3 22.5 267 303.5 276.2 275.8 364.1 349.5 278.5 255.1 217.3 219.4

 

Entertainment and Alcohol

Granville Island Maple Cream Ale By Ccyyrree (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Granville Island Brewing by Ccyyrree [Public Domain]
Gordon Biersch Brewery By BrokenSphere (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Golden Biersch Brewery © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s LA and Vancouver—need we really say more?

On the one hand, you have one of the real “world cities.”  That word gets tossed around a lot these days, but in the case of Los Angeles, that term is most definitely warranted.  LA is the home to some of the world’s finest dining, the most exclusive boutiques, world-famous theatres and stadiums alike.  If it exists, and it can be bought or sold, it’s on sale in LA (just don’t expect it to come cheap.)

The Ahmanson, the LA Opera and the Dorothy Chandler, the Mark Taper Forum…

Dodger Stadium, Staples Center, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena…

The Hollywood Walk of Fame, and all the stars and starlets of Hollywood themselves…

New stage productions in the theatre district, and a lively Latino performance community…

This is the mythologized mental picture of LA, forever sun-kissed and glamorous.

So what if the reality can’t quite live up to that tantalizing dream?  What city possibly could?

Los Angeles, as much as any city, has been built on the idea of entertainment as much as the actuality of show business itself.  One comes to LA with rational, reasonable understanding that it’s noisy, hazy, and stuck in one eternal purgatorial traffic jam, and yet, if you don’t live here, there may well be a part of you, however small, that dreams of the streets really being paved with gold and lined with stars.

And who are we to crush that dream?

No more need be said—no matter whether you’re into music, theatre, dance, TV, film, sports, or whatever else, chances are you’ll find a well-branded, recognizable version of it in LA, and chances are, you already have an inkling as to whether or not you’re interested.

As for Vancouver, all of the above is, of course, present. 

Music and dance are well-represented…

There’s a nice theatre scene…

It and Toronto are Canada’s two premier TV and film locales…

There are always the Canucks and BC Lions, if you’re into hockey or football…

Vancouver is a great place with great entertainment.

It’s just that it’s up against Los Angeles…

And when it comes to the entertainment industry, pitting Vancouver against Los Angeles is like pitting any young, hot actor or actress against a Jennifer Lawrence, or Meryl Streep, or Denzel Washington.

That young actor or actress might well be great…but they’re going up against absolute titans.

We native Angelinos have to put up with the ubiquitous presence of everything from tabloids to the paparazzi to the unofficial paparazzi of TMZ and Entertainment Tonight—call it a bias, but we’re not ceding superiority when it comes to absolute dominance of the entertainment industry.

At least not to anyone less than an Emma Thompson or Patrick Stewart—but let’s leave the battle of Screen Actors vs. Shakespearean Thespians for another day.  Point, LA.  

Drink
(All prices are in USD, include tax, and are city-wide averages. Prices are more expensive in many areas.)

Vancouver

Los Angeles

Pint Can of Marco Domestic Beer (at the store for Vancouver and at the bar for LA) $2.99 $5.00
Bottle of Marco Imported Beer (at the store for Vancouver and at the bar for LA) $2.85 $6.00
Bottle of decent Wine at the store $9.40 $10.00

Los Angeles begins this category with an early advantage, owing to the fact it doesn’t suffer from that 10% sales tax on alcohol which could leave your glass and wallet just a little drier on a trip to Vancouver.

Both cities have some great sports bars.  Los Angeles has some rather famous bars, especially in the more opulent and famous areas of town, but be forewarned—the more famous the locale, the larger the cover you may have to pay, something which isn’t such a problem in Vancouver.  In terms of imports, both have a lot to boast about.  As a port city, Vancouver enjoys plenty of advantages when it comes to imported materials, including alcohol, while LA is, well, LA—again, if you can buy it, chances are you’ll find it somewhere in the City of Angels, though you may be able to still buy it cheaper in Vancouver, even with that sales tax.

 

Groceries

Chinatown in Vancouver By Joe Mabel (Photo by Joe Mabel) [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Vancouver Chinatown by Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Ralph's Grocery Store By Los Angeles (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ralph's Grocery Store by Los Angeles / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Groceries and food prices are a commonly overlooked category, but it’s definitely an important one.  After all that talk about how expensive Los Angeles is, however, it may shock you to learn that, according to expatistan.com, everything from domestic beer and a Big Mac to more wholesome items such as cheese and milk are more expensive in Vancouver.  That being said, when factoring in the cost of other everyday items, chances are toiletries and other groceries will cost you more in LA than Vancouver, though the former, surprisingly, seems to have a marked advantage when it comes to food and beverages.

 

Time Difference

Time difference?  What time difference?

Both cities are on the West Coast, and enjoy Pacific Standard Time, so this one’s a wash.

 

Immigration


Canadian Immigration Stamp [Public Domain]
By Pmkpmk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
US Immigration Stamp by Pmkpmk / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Both are cities rightly famous and likewise rightly praised for their immigration record.  There have been spotty incidents in both city’s history regarding immigration, but then, what city or nation is free from such a claim?

The big difference between the two is one of obvious demographics.  Los Angeles is one of the major Latino centers in North America.  It has a long and rich history of Latin influence—it was, after all, founded and for many years controlled by Spain and then Mexico—and is one of the major centers of Spanish-language TV, film, music and culture in the United States.  It should come of no surprise, then, that Los Angeles is likewise one of the major centers for immigrants coming from every corner of Latin America. 

In addition, the city has proven to be a haven for many other immigrant groups as well.  America’s Jewish population have found happy homes in both LA and New York City, as both cities represent the two most prominent clusters for that community.  Arab, Persian, Indian, Bangladeshi immigrants have increased in number over the past years, and of course, Los Angeles has a vibrant Chinatown as well.

Vancouver, meanwhile, stands with San Francisco and Seattle as the great bastions of Asian immigration into the Pacific Coast and the greater North American community.  It has a proud history of being warm and welcoming towards this immigrant group in particular, and its cityscape and identity has been forged in much the same way as Los Angeles’ Latino immigrants have colored that city’s cultural being.

 

What Do You Think?

In the end, Los Angeles is definitely the more prominent city, and has more (and more expensive) cultural landmarks and commodities to offer.  Vancouver, by contrast, offers more in the way of seasons, affordability, and ease of travel.  Both score highly in terms of entertainment, but LA is, of course, the home of Hollywood—and, thus, the Land of the Stars.

 

Los Angeles to Vancouver by Car

 

Montreal vs. Boston

 

Canada vs. the US

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