The world’s second largest country is home to awesome scenery, wonderful wildlife and charming cities. It is a place of universal healthcare, a high standard of living and welcoming locals. No wonder so many people choose to call Canada home.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada ranks above average in everything from housing, wellbeing and personal security, to health, social connections, environmental quality, jobs, education and skills
But if you are planning to make the move to Canada, it is important to know what your new lifestyle will cost, the money you will need to live in your chosen province or territory and how it compares to home. From renting and buying houses to groceries and eating out, how does Canada match up to the UK?
Of course, just like the UK, the cost of living in Canada varies depending on where you choose to live and cities tend to be more expensive.
Vancouver used to be the most expensive city in the country, but recent statistics have seen Toronto match it for cost of living. However, you’ll be glad to know that Canadian cities overall fell in the latest worldwide survey into cost of living.
It is not just the major cities that can be expensive. Desirable areas such as Kelowna, the British Columbian city in the beautiful Okanagan Valley wine region, is also often included in the top 10 most expensive places to live as the quality of life it offers makes it a very popular.
Also, as major cities such as Vancouver and Toronto have become pricier, more people have moved to the suburbs. Now those same suburbs have joined the cities as some of the most expensive places in the country. Burlington and Markham, outside of Toronto, are incredibly expensive, as are Burnaby and Richmond in Vancouver.
However, if you have the freedom to choose where you want to live, there are cheaper places that offer a great quality of life in Canada. If you are looking for affordability and a good job market, Ottawa, Quebec City and Hamilton come out on top, followed by Edmonton and Windsor.
When it comes to buying a house, Vancouver is by far the most expensive city in Canada, with the average property price at $1,087,500 (£641,366). However, thankfully the market is slowing and a lot of properties are languishing on the market. This is creating a bit more of a buyer’s market.
Toronto follows with an average house price of $768,400 (£543,000), while Victoria, on Vancouver Island has properties for $672,800 (£396,800) on average. In Calgary, house prices are cheaper at an average of $430,00 (£253,000), while the capital Ottawa is $390,100 (£230,000) and Montreal, $345,000 (£203,500).
How does this compare to the UK? At home, the national average house price for a detached property is £233,124, however that figure varies in major cities. A semi-detached house in London costs £580,930 on average (with flats at £421,438), a semi-detached in Manchester costs £221,594, while in Bristol it is £282,000.
So, what happens when it comes to rents? Well the average price to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver is $2,000 (£1,179), in Toronto it is $2,080 (£1,226), while in Montreal it is $1,310 (£772) and Ottawa it is $1,240 (£731).
Compare this to prices in the UK, where a two-bed rental in London is much higher than it’s Canadian counterparts, at about £1,745, while in Manchester it is £708, in Bristol it is £795 and in Birmingham it is £649.
When it comes to wages, it seems the UK and Canada aren’t too far removed from one another either.
Statistics Canada puts the average wage for Canadian employees at $952 (£561) per week, while the Office of National Statistics puts the average weekly wage for an adult in full-time employment at £569.
Off course, in Canada there are huge variations on this figure, depending on which city or province you live in, for example each province has its own minimum wage and some more remote areas will offer high wages to encourage skilled workers. Also, many expats who are transferred to Canada for work are in industries such as mining, technology and manufacturing, which all pay well.
Bills and Household Items
When it comes to utilities, your main worry will probably be heating your home during the long, cold winter. The good news is, if you are renting an apartment, often the heating and hot water are included. When it comes to internet, you should expect competitive prices similar to the UK, with mobile and internet packages a useful way to save money. However, if you live in a rural spot, as with many countries, your internet speed may be slower.
When it comes to consumer goods, you can expect to pay more in Canada. Many food items are imported and your weekly shopping bill will go up. However, if you try to buy local – Canada has a huge agriculture industry – from Canadian fruit and veg to Canadian wine, you can keep costs down. The good news is that eating out, on average, is slightly cheaper than in the UK.
There is good news if you are a permanent resident in Canada, as you are eligible for Medicare, the universal healthcare available to Canadian citizens – offered through universal public health insurance. It ensures most health issues are covered, and others, such as optometry, are low cost. It functions much like the NHS, with all its benefits (free) and pitfalls (long wait times).
However, if you are a temporary resident, you will not have the same access, so you will need to take out private insurance. The premiums can be high, so if you are being transferred for work it is worth negotiating a package with medical insurance included.
Due to the long cold winters and the vastness of Canada and its sprawling cities, you may want to consider buying a car. The good news is that petrol prices in Canada are lower than at home (about 70p a litre instead of £1.24 at home).
You will have to apply for a Canadian driving licence in order to take out insurance, which will have a minimum liability cover and can be expensive. However the good news is there is no road tax to pay. There are some other unexpected costs that differ from the UK too, such as the likelihood you will need to buy winter snow tyres. For more information on driving in Canada, make sure to check these rules.
When it comes to comparing Canada to the UK, the cost of living is more similar than you might think. Housing will be your greatest outgoing and can be incredibly pricy, so choose carefully where you want to live. If you are in a modern apartment block (condo) where heating is included, that is one less thing to think about when it comes to bills. With high grocery bills and housing, your monthly costs will be a bit higher than at home, but eating out is slightly cheaper and some might say the slightly higher cost of living is well worth the amazing lifestyle you can enjoy in Canada.
We hope you’ve found this cost of living comparison useful. For more information on living in Canada as an expat, check out more of our Canada expat guides.
You may also find our USA vs Canada comparison useful if you’re having trouble deciding which location is best suited for you. It covers topics such as obtaining a Visa, healthcare, eduation and more.