What is the cost of living in Canada?

18 April 2024 by National Bank

If you’re planning to move to Canada, you may be wondering what is the cost of living in Canada and how much you’ll need to budget. Here’s everything you should consider before taking the plunge.  

How much should you budget for your arrival in Canada?

When you arrive in Canada, you’ll need to have enough money to support yourself before you can start working and earn an income. Border services will ask you for proof of sufficient funds. 

How do you know if your funds are sufficient? They need to meet a minimum amount calculated based on the size of your family (external link). As of April 25, 2023, this minimum amount was $13,757 for a single person and $25,564 for a family of four.

How much does housing cost in Canada? 

Housing costs are likely to be one of your biggest expenses when living in Canada. And just like anywhere else in the world, the cost of housing varies depending on the type of dwelling you choose and its location and size.

1. Is it better to buy or rent? 

The answer to this question will vary from person to person. Some people prefer to rent while they discover their new country and prepare to enter the Canadian real estate market. Others buy as soon as they arrive. Remember to ask yourself the right questions to find out whether buying or renting is the best option for you

Thinking of staying in the same place for several years? If you have enough cash to make the required down payment and your income is sufficient to cover the mortgage payments, buying a property could be worthwhile for you. But remember to budget between 2% and 3% of the property cost to cover additional expenses such as building inspections and legal fees.

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2. Why is some housing more expensive than others? 

A number of factors can account for higher housing prices. Here are a few:

  • Demand: The higher the demand, the higher the price. Remember that demand is usually higher in central areas, which puts upward pressure on prices. Real estate is also generally more expensive in cities than in the surrounding areas. 
  • Size: The more rooms a house or apartment has, the more expensive it is. 
  • Amenities and services: Housing that includes services such as access to a gym, parking space or swimming pool are usually more expensive. 

Apartment prices vary greatly from city to city. Vancouver is the most expensive city in Canada, followed by Toronto and Montreal. Prices decrease as you move away from major urban centres. 

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Pro tip: To get an idea of price ranges, browse online classified ads or real estate agencies.

3. What other costs should you consider when looking for housing? 

The cost of rent or a mortgage isn’t the only expense tied to housing. If you become a homeowner, you’ll also have to pay costs such as: 

  • Electricity and heating 
  • Insurance 
  • Maintenance and renovations
  • Municipal and school taxes 
  • Condominium fees, if you’re buying a condo 

If you’re renting, certain costs such as heating are sometimes included in your rent. And though it isn’t mandatory, good home insurance coverage is a smart idea for tenants and homeowners alike.

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How much does food cost in Canada? 

Canada’s Food Price Report 2024 suggests that it takes approximately $15,600 a year, or about $300 a week, to feed a family of two adults and two children in Canada. However, this amount doesn’t include restaurant expenses. 

Buying basic or family-sized food products can save you money, as they aren’t taxable. However, most processed food products such as ready-to-eat meals, candy and soft drinks are. Making a food budget, cooking your own meals and planning your weekly menu according to what’s on sale are all good ways to save on food costs. 

How much does clothing cost in Canada? 

Canada is a country with four distinct seasons and significant fluctuations in temperature. Your wardrobe needs to be adapted to this reality. 

For winter, you need a warm coat, a toque, gloves or mittens, a scarf, winter boots and possibly more. Set aside a few hundred dollars in your budget to make sure you’re well equipped. In the summer, as in all warmer climates, Canadians dress in lighter clothing. 

So exactly how much should you budget for all of this? That depends on the choices you make. For example, if you’re the kind of person who shops in second-hand or less expensive stores, you can keep the costs down. If you prefer luxury boutiques, however, your bill could quickly escalate. 

How much does transportation cost in Canada? 

1. How much does a car cost? 

Before we go any further, you should know that it’s perfectly possible to go without a car if you live in a major centre – though this becomes trickier when you leave the city. 

If you’re thinking of buying a new car, expect to pay at least $20,000. However, this price can quickly increase depending on the model and make you’re after: a small SUV can be up to $30,000, basic pickups go for up to $60,000 and luxury vehicles go well beyond that. 

You can also opt for a long-term lease. This allows you to drive a new car for a lower monthly cost than if you were to buy one. If you choose this option, you can either return the vehicle to the dealer at the end of your lease, which generally lasts three to five years, or buy it at its residual value. 

And why not go for a used car? It’s a more economical option. That said, it’s a good idea to have the car inspected by a specialist before you commit to buying it. 

Whether you decide to buy or lease, don’t forget to factor these other costs into your budget:  

  • Gas
  • Set of winter tires 
  • Maintenance and repairs 
  • Driver’s licence and registration (payable annually) 
  • Insurance
  • Parking fees (permit, parking meter, etc.) 
  • Parking tickets 

Good news! Highways and expressways are generally free in Canada. 

2. How much does public transport cost? 

Large Canadian cities generally have good public transport networks. There are interlinked bus, metro and commuter train networks, and some cities offer self-service bicycles and cars. Other smaller municipalities have little or no bus service. 

The usual fare for a single public transport trip can vary between $3 and $4. More economical options are available, such as monthly passes (around $90–$150 depending on the city), 10-ride passes, weekend passes, etc. In some municipalities, young children and senior citizens can travel free of charge. 

How much does telecommunications cost in Canada? 

Cell phone plans in Canada are among the most expensive in the world. However, service providers offer different options to suit your needs. 

A basic smartphone plan with 2 GB of data can cost around $40 a month. Prices can go beyond $120 per month for plans that include more data, but this doesn’t always include the cost of the handset. 

Internet can also be a major expense. Expect to pay between $40 and $90 depending on the plan you choose and the speed of your connection. Television is distributed by cable or satellite, and the price of packages vary according to channel selection, costing up to $130 per month. Basic subscriptions, however, are much less expensive. 

How much do education, health and other public services cost in Canada? 

In Canada, we’ve opted for a social system in which health care, education and other public services are free and accessible to all. In exchange, we pay taxes on purchases as well as on income. This money is then reinvested by governments into hospitals, schools, infrastructure and other services. 

How much tax do I have to pay in Canada? 

Each province has its tax system, to which federal taxes are added. As a result, the percentage deducted from your income varies depending on where you live. 

Keep in mind that in Canada, taxes are progressive and applied in “brackets.” This means that the more money you earn, the more taxes you pay to Canadian governments. Federal rates range from 15% to 33% of your income while provincial rates vary from 4% to 21%, depending on the province. 

How much tax is charged in Canada? 

The percentage of tax you pay on your purchases depends on your province of residence. However, throughout Canada, a 5% federal goods and services tax (GST) is applied.

In some provinces, such as Ontario, retailers charge only one tax, the harmonized sales tax (HST), which ranges from 13% to 15% and includes the federal GST. 

In other provinces, such as Quebec, two taxes will appear on bills: the provincial tax, ranging from 6% to 9.975% depending on the province, and the federal GST. The three Canadian territories and Alberta have no provincial tax. 

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How much does banking cost in Canada? 

When you move to Canada, you’ll need to open an account with a financial institution to deposit your salary and make transactions in Canadian dollars. Want to get a head start? Open your account before you arrive. All you have to do is confirm your identity at your home branch once you’re in Canada.

Financial institutions often charge monthly fees, which vary according to your banking needs. For example, a standard package allowing an unlimited number of transactions could cost you around $15 a month. 

Packages offering a limited number of transactions are often less expensive, and some banks even offer no-fee options if you keep a minimum amount of money in your account at all times. 

Moving to a new country requires careful planning and an understanding of the average cost of living expenses in your new home. With this information in hand, you can now prepare a detailed budget to help you manage your finances once you’re settled in Canada.

Need some assistance? Make an appointment with our specialists to learn more about budgeting, saving and investing. We’re here to answer your questions.

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