Cost of living in Canada: Your guide

Zorica Lončar
03.09.20
6 minute read

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.

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How expensive is Canada in comparison to other countries?

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.

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The currency

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:

  • $1000 = C$1291
  • £1000 = C$1744
  • €1000 = C$1553
  • A$1000 = C$957

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

Comparing basic cost of living1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)Meal for 2 (mid-range restaurant, three courses)Transportation (monthly pass)
Toronto, CanadaC$2,237C$90C$151.15
Montreal, CanadaC$1,290C$65C$86.50
London, UKC$3,064C$104.89C$262
New York City, USAC$4,323C$130.67C$165.95
Berlin, GermanyC$1,412C$63.78C$127.56
Sydney, AustraliaC$2,534C$96.12C$208.95

What are the most expensive and cheapest major cities?

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

  1. Vancouver, British Columbia
  2. Toronto, Ontario
  3. Montreal, Quebec
  4. Calgary, Alberta
  5. Ottawa, Ontario

What are general living expenses like in Canada?

Total Living Expenses in TorontoAverage 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 MontrealAverage 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

What are the average salaries in Canada?

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 TorontoAverage salary
cashierC$22,747
copywriterC$49,303
financial analystC$59,827
graphic designerC$45,069
mobile developerC$64,988
product managerC$84,250
receptionistC$26,646
software engineerC$78,246
teacherC$73,292
web developerC$58,372
Salary averages for MontrealAverage salary
cashierC$22,180
copywriterC$46,084
financial analystC$58,774
graphic designerC$39,985
mobile developerC$60,482
product managerC$75,995
receptionistC$24,670
software engineerC$70,828
teacherC$50,000
web developerC$51,294

How expensive is housing and accommodation in Canada?

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 MontrealAverage monthly cost
large apartmentC$1,100⁷
medium apartmentC$930
small apartmentC$730
student dorm roomC$500⁸
internetC$38
Renting in TorontoAverage cost
large apartmentC$1,900⁹
medium apartmentC$1,600
small apartmentC$1,300
student dorm roomC$750¹⁰
internetC$41
Renting in CalgaryAverage cost
large apartmentC$1,400¹¹
medium apartmentC$1,200
small apartmentC$990
student dorm roomC$600¹²
internetC$46

What about healthcare and dental costs in Canada?

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 serviceAverage cost
Doctor’s visits$0
Diagnostic tests$0
Hospital care$0
Dental servicesAvailable through an extended plan

How much does travel and transportation cost in Canada?

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 pricesAverage cost
gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)C$1.20¹⁵
monthly transport pass (Toronto)C$151.15
bus ticket, single useC$3.25
taxi tariff, 1kmC$2
2021 Toyota Corolla, newC$19,150¹⁶
2020 Volkswagen Jetta, newC$25,438¹⁷

How much does education cost?

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.

SchoolAverage yearly cost
preschool / kindergartenFrom C$450 a month¹⁸
University of Toronto tuitionC$6,100 - C$57,020¹⁹
York University tuitionC$7,037 - C$32,416²⁰

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Canada?

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 TransferWise’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!

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Sources:

  1. Numbeo
  2. Mercer’s 25th annual cost of living survey
  3. Cost of living in Toronto
  4. Cost of living in Montreal
  5. Average salaries in Toronto
  6. Average salaries in Montreal
  7. Montreal cost of living
  8. Universite de Montreal
  9. Toronto cost of living
  10. Student accommodation in Toronto
  11. Calgary cost of living
  12. Student accommodation in Calgary
  13. Canada healthcare system
  14. Health spending in Canada
  15. Canada gasoline prices
  16. Toyota Corolla
  17. Volkswagen Jetta
  18. School cost in Canada
  19. University of Toronto Tuition
  20. University of York Tuition
  21. Global News

All sources checked on September 3, 2020


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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