We've done a lot of "worst" lists about Canadian cities and towns here at Immigroup:
- Worst Cities to Settle in Canada
- Worst Cities by Crime Rate
- Worst Cities Based Upon Violent Crime
- Worst Cities Based Upon Drug Crime
- Worst Cities Based Upon Property Crime
- Worst Places by Remoteness
- Even the Worst Neighbourhoods in Toronto
But we've never done a worst cities list based upon cost of living. So we've finally decided to do that. Here's
Where Not To Live in Canada by Cost of Living
This list is based on Numbeo's Cost of Living Index for North America 2018. The guide to the numbers is as follows: 100 is the value of money in New York City, so the costs are in relation to that. All the numbers are crowd-sourced averages. So, take the 10th most expensive city in Canada, Calgary, for example:
- Calgary's average Cost of Living including Rent is 54.7% of New York City's
- Calgary's average Cost of Living not including Rent is 76.44% of New York City's
- Calgary's average Rent is 31.37% of New York City's average Rent
- Calgary's average Grocery Bill is 75.23% of New York's average Grocery Bill
- Calgary's average dollar purchases 46.39% more than New York's average dollar
Got it? Good.
The Top 10 Most Expensive Cities in Canada
10. Calgary, Alberta - 54.7 Cost of Living Including Rent
- What: Calgary is Canada's fourth largest city and the largest city between Toronto and Vancouver
- Where: Calgary is located in southern Alberta, only about 90 minutes from the Rocky Mountains
In 2018, Calgary is the 61st most expensive in North America, just outside the top third. If rent is factored in, Calgary drops to the 77th most expensive city, which should tell you that the rent in Calgary is relatively affordable but the rest of the city less so. In Canada, it is the 8th most expensive city until you factor in rent, which makes it 10th.
Groceries are comparatively more affordable than some of the other cities its size in Canada, as Calgary ranks as the 13th most expensive for groceries among major cities in Canada.
But restaurants are not cheap: Calgary has the 6th most expensive restaurants, on average, in Canada.
It's purchasing power that's the main reason to live in Calgary, as Calgarians' average salaries purchase more than any other salaries in Canada.
- 76.44 Cost of Living
- 31.37 Rent
- 72.97 Groceries
- 75.23 Restaurants
- 146.39 Purchasing Power
9. Burlington, Ontario - 54.97 Cost of Living Including Rent
- What: Burlington is one of the many suburbs of Toronto; it has long battled for "Most Expensive City in Canada" with Markham, ON, another Toronto suburb.
- Where: Burlington is about 30 minutes west of Toronto at the end of Lake Ontario, between Oakville to the east and Hamilton to the west and south.
Burlington was once considered the most expensive city in Canada. The only thing keeping it from #1 on our list may be the lack of information in the Numbeo database. But let's assume for a moment that the information is correct...
According to Numbeo, Burlington is only the 14th most expensive major city in Canada if you exclude rent. Looking at rent though, it's extremely pricey, at the 6th most expensive major city in Canada.
But groceries are relatively affordable - certainly cheaper than Calgary's - as Burlington has only the 22nd most expensive groceries in Canada. But you will have to buy all your food at home because Burlington is the most expensive major city in Canada for restaurants, which should not be a surprise given that it has often been considered Canada's most expensive city.
Your dollar doesn't go as far in Burlington as it does in Calgary, but it's still a better value than just about anywhere else in the country.
- 74.32 Cost of Living
- 34.2 Rent
- 68.68 Groceries
- 82.63 Restaurants
- 137.47 Purchasing Power
8. Thunder Bay, Ontario - 55.08 Cost of Living Including Rent
- What: Thunder Bay is the largest city in northern Ontario and the largest city between the Quebec-Windsor corridor and Winnipeg
- Where: Thunder Bay is located at the head of Lake Superior, slightly less than 8 hours by car east of Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Thunder Bay is approximately 15 hours by car from Toronto.)
In addition to being remote, Thunder Bay is expensive. If you don't include the dirt cheap rent, Thunder Bay has the third highest cost of living of a major city in Canada. Fortunately, of the major Canadian cities to make this list, Thunder Bay has the 10th cheapest rent.
Because of its remoteness, groceries are quite expensive, and Thunder Bay has the 9th most expensive groceries. And for reasons I can only guess at, Thunder Bay's restaurants are also quite expensive.
All of this means that your dollar does not go as far in Thunder Bay as it does in Calgary or Burlington.
- 81.98 Cost of Living
- 26.2 Rent
- 77.76 Groceries
- 74.63 Restaurants
- 84.87 Purchasing Power
7. Mississauga, Ontario - 55.23 Cost of Living Including Rent
- What: Mississauga is the largest suburb of Toronto which borders directly on Toronto.
- Where: Immediately west of Toronto, just east of Oakville and Burlington, and directly south of Brampton
Mississauga's appeal used to be that it was cheaper than Toronto. That's still true, but it's far from the cheapest option surrounding Toronto now.
Mississauga is the 18th most expensive major city in Canada, which makes it cheaper than Toronto, as well as the Toronto suburbs of Brampton and Burlington, and the city of Barrie, which is too far to be a suburb but still included in some versions of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). But it's more expensive than every other suburb.
Mississauga's rent prices have increased with its popularity, making it the most expensive city in the GTA to rent in aside from Toronto.
One advantage is that groceries are significantly cheaper than anywhere in the GTA except Hamilton. And the stigma of being a suburb means that restaurants remain more affordable than they are in Toronto and the ritzier suburbs.
The Mississaugan's dollar doesn't go that far, but it goes further than a number of cities.
- 72.54 Cost of Living
- 36.65 Rent
- 68.46 Groceries
- 67.15 Restaurants
- 106.67 Purchasing Power
6. Kelowna, BC - 55.52 Cost of Living Including Rent
- What: Kelowna is the third largest metropolitan area in BC and the largest city not located in the Lower Mailand or on Vancouver Island
- Where: Kelowna is located in the famous Okanagan Valley, home to Canada's best wine region, 4 hours east of Vancouver
Without including rent, Kelowna is the 13th most expensive major city in Canada, though it's the 22nd largest metropolitan area. Rent is oddly expensive - the 5th most expensive average rent of a major city in Canada - perhaps because it is the biggest city in its region or perhaps because much of the land around the city is parkland or to steep to be built on, or both.
Kelowna is in the top third for most expensive groceries, but just barely. Though located in an agricultural region, it's a region only suited to certain types of agriculture. Fortunately restaurants are about in the middle of the pack for the 30 Canadian cities to make the Most Expensive list.
Though an expensive place, to live, there's more bang for your buck in Kelowna than a lot of the other cities on this list.
- 74.78 Cost of Living
- 34.84 Rent
- 77.54 Groceries
- 68.9 Restaurants
- 109.95 Purchasing Power
5. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - 56.27 Cost of Living Including Rent
- What: Saskatoon is the largest city in Saskatchewan and 17th largest metropolitan area in Canada
- Where: Saskatoon is right in the middle of the Prairies, 8 hours northwest of Winnipeg and 6 hours east of Calgary.
Despite its size, Saskatoon is the 4th most expensive major city in Canada, when not accounting for rent. The only thing that bumps it down to 5th overall is that rent, which is closer to average for the Canadian cities that made the expensive list. Why is Saskatoon so expensive? Maybe it was the resource boom which drew in many people over the last decade or so.
The real culprit might be the groceries: Saskatoon has the 4th most expensive groceries in the country, despite being located in an agricultural region. Restaurants are relatively more reasonably priced somehow, as Saskatoon's restaurants rank 10th.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Saskatoon's dollar doesn't purchase much.
- 81.02 Cost of Living
- 29.7 Rent
- 82.39 Groceries
- 72.78 Restaurants
- 99.63 Purchasing Power
4. Halifax - 56.61 Cost of Living Including Rent
- What: Halifax is the largest city in the Maritimes and the 14th largest in Canada
- Where: Halifax is located in central Nova Scotia, a 10 hour drive from Quebec City, the nearest larger city
Halifax used to be known as a cheap place to live. In fact, for years, a friend of mine who lives there would tell me I should move there to take advantage of it; it was cheaper than where I lived, he said, but also had most of what you would want in a big city.
Well, in the ensuing years, something as happened; not factoring in rent it's somehow the second most expensive city in the entire country. Halifax has always been the most in-demand place to live in its entire region of Canada but this is ridiculous.
Fortuantely, rent is still much cheaper than the other major cities in Canada, though it has the most expensive rent of a major city in the Maritimes.
For reasons we can only guess at, groceries are very, very expensive in Halifax, and restaurants, though not quite as bad, are somehow worse than Toronto. The problem is the purchasing power; your dollar does not go far enough here.
For those of us who live in bigger cities in Canada, the appeal of the Maritimes is usually the scenery, the cost and the people. But now that Halifax is expensive, the appeal may have disappeared.
- 82.03 Cost of Living
- 29.33 Rent
- 88.57 Groceries
- 75.91 Restaurants
- 95.7 Purchasing Power
3. Victoria - 58.36 Cost of Living Including Rent
- What: The capital of British Columbia is the largest city on Vancouver Island and the 15th largest metropolitan area in Canada
- Where: Victoria is the largest city in Canada on an island, meaning that to get to the rest of the country, you have to take a ferry or a plane
Victoria's cost of living has gone way up, recently, though you wouldn't know it looking at it in relation to other cities on this list. It's the 11th most expensive city in Canada if you do not factor in rent.
Rent is brutally expensive compared to other cities of its size - 3rd most expensive in the country - and you end up paying rent prices that are more in line with Toronto or Vancouver.
You should expect groceries to be more money in a city on an island; everything that can't be grown or raised on the island comes by boat or plane and you pay for that.
At least the dollar goes pretty damn far in comparison to these other cities. No if only you could afford the rent.
- 75.47 Cost of Living
- 40 Rent
- 79.13 Groceries
- 112.52 Purchasing Power
2. Toronto - 61.58 Cost of Living Including Rent
- What: Canada's largest city is the capital of Ontario and the centre of The Golden Horseshoe which, in its broadest definition, contains 21% of Canada's population and 55% of Ontario's
- Where: Toronto is located on the north side of Lake Ontario, a 5.5 hour drive from Montreal and a 4.5 hour drive from Ottawa, as well as 90 minutes from the US border
You would expect the largest city in Canada to be the most expensive and it is if you factor in rent. The main difference between Toronto and the most expensive city on this list is that Toronto has a lot of land and is more centrally located. If you don't factor in rent, Toronto is only the 12th most expensive major city in Canada, something that seems utterly shocking to me, as I live here.
So though rent is unbelievably expensive in Toronto - you don't want to know what I pay each month, you really don't - it's still cheaper than the most expensive city on this list.
Groceries are reasonably priced compared to much of the rest of the country, because most things have to come through Toronto to get to the rest of Ontario and, in some cases, the rest of the country.
High-end restaurants are notoriously expensive but there remain many cheap places if you know where to look.
There's also slightly more bang for your buck than you would have guessed, which is how people can still manage to afford living here. Barely.
- 75.22 Cost of Living
- 46.94 Rent
- 70.65 Groceries
- 70.56 Restaurants
- 106.83 Purchasing Power
1. Vancouver - 64.94 Cost of Living including Rent
- What: Vancouver is the third largest metropolitan area in Canada - the city itself is only 8th due to its small geographical size - and the largest metropolitan area in Canada west of Toronto
- Where: Vancouver is located on the "Lower Mainland," a flat portion of BC at the mouth of a river, surrounded by mountains and across the water from Victoria.
When Canadians think of expensive they think of real estate in Vancouver and it's been that way for a very long time. In 2010, someone created Crack Shack or Mansion, an online game in which you try to figure out whether or not this terrible piece of property you're looking at sold for over CAD$1 million. Things have only gotten worse in the meantime.
Is there good news? Um, I guess so. Groceries are cheaper than on Vancouver Island! That's...something! In fact, if you forget about rent, Vancouver is less expensive than Halifax, Thunder Bay, and Calgary, among other places. Restaurants are slightly cheaper than in Toronto!
But salaries have not increased along with housing costs, meaning that it's harder here than anywhere else in the country.
- 75.59 Cost of Living
- 53.5 Rent
- 78.26 Groceries
- 70.12 Restaurants
- 96.77 Purchasing Power
Don't agree with our list? We got this information from Numbeo, a crowd-sourced website. Go to Numbeo to input prices and fix the rankings.
Best Bang for Your Buck
The list of cities we drew upon for this list was limited to 160 or so cities from Canada, the US and Bermuda, so the below cities are not the cheapest cities and towns in Canada, but they are the cheapest major cities in Canada.
The Cheapest Major Cities in Canada in 2018
- Gatineau, QC
- Quebec, QC
- Moncton, NB
- Kitchener, ON
- Hamilton, ON
- Windsor, ON
- London, ON
- Montreal, QC
- Winnipeg, MB
- Nanaimo, BC