Universal healthcare, a socially progressive government, a reputation for kindness and a 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. Whether you’re retiring, temporarily relocating or moving to Canada for good, it’s important to understand how different or similar your finances might look in the northern country.
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 in order 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, and use TransferWise to seriously cut back on fees.
Once you’ve dealt with the currency exchange, you’ll have a bank account full of Canadian dollars, typically just referred to as just as dollars or by their slang name, “loonies.” While in Canada it’s most common to denote money with just a dollar sign ($), it’s sometimes written as C$ 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$1270
- £1000 = C$1650
- €1000 = C$1460
- A$1000 AUD = C$1000
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 living||1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)||Meal for 2 (mid-range restaurant, three courses)||Transportation (monthly pass)|
|New York City, USA||$3,809.12||$94.86||$151.78|
Cities across Canada can vary widely in how expensive they are. The following table lists the top five most expensive cities to live in in Canada.
- Vancouver, British Columbia
- Toronto, Ontario
- Victoria, British Columbia
- Calgary, Alberta
- Hamilton-Burlington, Ontario
|Total Living Expenses in Toronto||Average cost|
|1 person, per month (without rent)||$1,038.73|
|1 person, per year (without rent)||$12,464.76|
|student, per month (without rent)||$879.95|
|4 person family, per month (without rent)||$3,790.91|
|4 person family, per year (without rent)||$45,490.92|
|Living Expenses in Montreal||Average cost|
|1 person, per month (without rent)||$944.66|
|1 person, per year (without rent)||$11,335.92|
|student, per month (without rent)||$675|
|3 person family, per month (without rent)||$3,481.98|
|3 person family, per year (without rent)||$41,783.76|
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 Toronto or Montreal.
|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||$550|
|Renting in Toronto||Average cost|
|student dorm room||$600|
|Renting in Calgary||Average cost|
|student dorm room||$463|
One of Canada’s major attractions is the free healthcare system, meaning you won’t pay any direct fee for doctors’ visits, the dentist, getting your eyes checked, going to the emergency room, or any other medical visit.
As with the majority of countries with this type of healthcare, it’s funded by the country’s tax system. The average person pays about C$4,222 per year to maintain the no-cost system, while a family of four pays about C$11,735. Though taxes at that level can seem pretty high to foreigners, all in all 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.
|Healthcare service||Average cost to you|
|monthly health insurance for 1 person||$0|
|labor and delivery (no insurance)||$0|
|family doctor check-up (no insurance)||$0|
|dental cleaning (no insurance)||$0|
Much like their southern counterparts in the U.S., Canadians tend to drive everywhere. That being said, the popularity of biking to work is increasing. In fact, some neighborhoods 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, buses and trains, though automobiles remain king in the Canadian commute. 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 for [country]||Average cost|
|gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)||$1.02|
|monthly bus/transport pass||$91|
|bus ticket, single use||$3.15|
|taxi tariff, 30 minutes||$16|
|Toyota Corolla, new||$21,449|
|VW Golf, new||$23,000|
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 U.S., 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||$12,204|
|private school for lower grades||$16,000|
|University of Toronto tuition||$6,400 (residents)/ $44,020 (non-residents)|
|York University tuition||$7,312 (residents)/ $22,417 (non-residents)|
Canada has always been known as a great place to live, and depending on where you choose to settle you may find the country very cheap for the relatively high quality of life. Even in the largest cities, Canada tends to be more affordable than most European cities, and they don’t even have Tim Horton’s, hockey or mounties.
No matter where in Canada you decide to live, good luck with your move!