Cost of living in Canada
Universal healthcare, a socially progressive government, a reputation for kindness and geography perfect for hikers, skiers, sailors, photographers and urbanites alike. It’s easy to see why so many people from around the world have considered moving to Canada.
If you’re among those who have decided to take the plunge, one of the first steps is figuring how much it will cost to move, and how much it will cost to live once you get there.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about the cost of living in Canada, so you’re ready to settle down in any of the country’s six time zones.
One of the first things you’ll have to consider when it comes to your finances is the exchange rate. How much the money from your home country will amount to in Canadian dollars and how far that gets you, but also what types of fees you might pay to convert your money.
This becomes especially pressing if you’ll still be earning income in your home currency, as you’ll be faced with currency exchanges on a pretty regular basis.
Unfortunately, most banks and money exchange services tend to markup the exchange rate to increase their profits. By making money on the rate, they’re able to keep their conversion fees low.
This sneaky method can trick you into believing you’re getting a good deal, but is ultimately pretty expensive. When you’re converting your funds make sure to check a currency converter for the current, real mid-market exchange rate.
Once you’ve dealt with the currency exchange, you’ll have a bank account full of Canadian dollars, typically just referred to as dollars or by their slang name, “loonies.” While in Canada, it’s most common to denote money with just a dollar sign ($), which is sometimes written as C$ or Can$ to distinguish it from other dollar-based currencies. It’s also sometimes written as CAD.
The list below shows the approximate value of Canadian dollars at the time of writing, compared to a few major currencies:
Additionally, the following chart compares some basic costs (in Canadian dollars) across Canada and four major countries, to give you an idea of general pricing for day to day expenses.¹
|Comparing basic cost of living||1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)||Meal for 2 (mid-range restaurant, three courses)||Transportation (monthly pass)|
|New York City, USA||C$4,323||C$130.67||C$165.95|
Cities across Canada can vary widely in how expensive they are. The following table lists the top five most expensive cities to live in Canada.²
|Total Living Expenses in Toronto||Average cost|
|1 person, per month (without rent)||C$1,242.83³|
|1 person, per year (without rent)||C$14,904|
|Student, per month (without rent)||C$879.95|
|4 person family, per month (without rent)||C$4,517.95|
|4 person family, per year (without rent)||C$54,215.4|
|Living Expenses in Montreal||Average cost|
|1 person, per month (without rent)||C$1,049.19⁴|
|1 person, per year (without rent)||C$12,590.28|
|student, per month (without rent)||C$675|
|4 person family, per month (without rent)||C$3,836.28|
|4 person family, per year (without rent)||C$46,032|
With the cost of living in mind, the other major financial consideration is how much you’ll make. Depending on where in Canada you choose to settle, your salary could differ massively as employers compensate for the cost of their city. If you’re not planning to keep your job back home, the following tables will give you an idea of what kind of salary you can expect in your industry in Toronto⁵ or Montreal⁶.
|Salary averages for Toronto||Average salary|
|Salary averages for Montreal||Average salary|
No matter where in the world you move, rent is always going to be one of the biggest items in your budget, typically taking up 35% to 50% of your monthly expenses. The following tables detail rent prices across three of Canada’s biggest cities.
|Renting in Montreal||Average monthly cost|
|student dorm room||C$500⁸|
|Renting in Toronto||Average cost|
|student dorm room||C$750¹⁰|
|Renting in Calgary||Average cost|
|student dorm room||C$600¹²|
One of Canada’s major attractions is the free healthcare system, meaning you won’t pay any direct fee for doctors’ visits or going to the emergency room.¹³
As with the majority of countries with this type of healthcare, it’s funded by the country’s tax system. According to the 2019 data, the average person pays about C$7,068 per year to maintain the no-cost system.¹⁴
Though taxes at that level can seem pretty high to foreigners, Canadians mostly agree it’s not too much to pay for the relatively limitless healthcare system, as they’re able to maintain relatively good health.
However, it’s important to note that the free healthcare system is currently available only to Canadian citizens and those with a permanent residence permit.¹³
Here are some healthcare services and their average cost;
|Healthcare service||Average cost|
|Dental services||Available through an extended plan|
Much like their southern counterparts in the US, Canadians tend to drive everywhere. That being said, the popularity of biking to work is increasing. Some neighbourhoods in Halifax, Vancouver, and Quebec City see 20% of commuters getting to work by bike, though this statistic dips significantly through the cold winter months.
In major cities, it’s also fairly common for residents to use public transport but the automobiles are still the most prevalent option. It’s also worth noting the prevalence of air travel, as Canada is a large country and cars and trains don’t suffice for some longer trips, especially coast to coast.
|Transportation and vehicle prices||Average cost|
|gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)||C$1.20¹⁵|
|monthly transport pass (Toronto)||C$151.15|
|bus ticket, single use||C$3.25|
|taxi tariff, 1km||C$2|
|2021 Toyota Corolla, new||C$19,150¹⁶|
|2020 Volkswagen Jetta, new||C$25,438¹⁷|
Like most other countries, Canadians enjoy a free public school system for children up to age 18. For higher education, prices in Canada are relatively low compared to universities in the US, though they’re somewhat less affordable than European countries where universities are often subsidized by the government.
The following table will give you an idea of education costs in Canada.
|School||Average yearly cost|
|preschool / kindergarten||From C$450 a month¹⁸|
|University of Toronto tuition||C$6,100 - C$57,020¹⁹|
|York University tuition||C$7,037 - C$32,416²⁰|
Everybody has a different standard when it comes to being financially comfortable. Most Canadian citizens believe that C$250,000 per year before taxes, could offer them a more comfortable life. People planning a retirement consider that C$398,347 per year could offer them the right financial comfort.²¹
However, it’s important to note that these prices are far from what most Canadians earn.
All in all, Canada has always been known as a great place to live. However, the cost of living in Canada could be higher than what you were typically used to in your home country. Household costs will take-up about 50% of your salary so it’s important to come well prepared.
Make sure you’re getting the most out of your money by using Wise’s Borderless multi-currency account to send money to and from Canada. There’s no exchange rate markup and no hidden fees. No matter where in Canada you decide to live, good luck with your move!