Cost Of Living In Vancouver British Columbia For 2020
If you've been looking at moving to Vancouver, you've undoubtedly heard about the cost of living here. People almost religiously discuss how expensive everything is in Vancouver - from housing to gas. Sadly, this has an effect of turning people away from this great city, even though the reality is a lot more complicated than that. Vancouver's reputation for high prices is at least partly unfair because much of it depends on what you are looking for in terms of housing and lifestyle.
To better understand the cost of living in Vancouver, let's take a look at some key metrics and see how they stack up against similar word-class cities (specifically, Toronto, Seattle, and San Francisco). In particular, we'll be looking at ten metrics:
· Rental Prices
· Housing Prices (buying to own)
· Grocery Costs
· Dining Costs (when you want to go out instead of eating in)
· Gas Prices
· Median Income
· Property Taxes
· Sales Taxes
· Childcare Costs
Despite Vancouver's reputation for elevated housing prices, Vancouver rental prices are more affordable than some comparable markets. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver is $2,200 per month. For a two-bedroom apartment, that figure rises to $3,000 a month.
In the closest city by proximity, Seattle, a one-bedroom runs $1,900 US whereas a two-bedroom goes for about $2,500 US. In Toronto, those numbers are $2,300 and $2,850, respectively. And, of course, when compared with San Francisco, Vancouver looks cheap. There, rents are $3,690 US for a one-bedroom apartment and over $4,500 US for a two-bedroom unit.
So, while Vancouver is pricier than cheaper cities, it's certainly not the most expensive. Rent here is slightly less costly than in Toronto. When accounting for currency conversion, Vancouverites pay about the same as Seattleites. Vancouver looks like an absolute bargain to anyone in the Bay Area!
To summarize, when it comes to rents, we have high rents, but many, if not all, major metro areas have high rents. Our prices are not too bad in the big picture.
There's no doubt that Vancouver has elevated housing prices. An infographic using late 2018 data showed that Vancouver had the second-highest home price in North America. San Francisco was the highest, Vancouver second, Seattle eighth, and Toronto took the eleventh spot.
However, this infographic is somewhat misleading. Vancouver has a significant price disparity between condos and houses. There's a relatively consistent supply of condominiums, which keeps prices slightly in check. According to Zolo, a Vancouver condo sells for $811,000, whereas a Toronto one sells for $655,000. More expensive, yes, but the average detached home in Toronto is $1.3 million, whereas a Vancouver one clocks in at almost double at $2.5 million.
Vancouver is more expensive, but if you're in the market for a condo, it's not that much pricier than Toronto. Additionally, if you're willing to commute, the prices drop substantially in the suburbs like Maple Ridge or Delta. And it's still more affordable than a place like San Francisco.
Groceries are a mixed-bag for Vancouverites. Residents of this city pay more for some groceries and less for others. For example, according to Numbeo, when compared with Toronto, Vancouverites save on milk and cheese but spend more on bread and rice. According to the same site, people living in Vancouver pay a similar grocery cost to those living in Seattle, except that while a Vancouver person might pay $0.83 for a banana, someone from Seattle will pay $0.83 US for that same banana. It can sometimes be cheaper to buy groceries in Vancouver as compared with US cities, after considering the currency differences. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vancouver is pretty much always on par or less expensive than San Francisco.
Dining out in Vancouver is not incredibly expensive when compared with other cities. According to Numbeo, for an inexpensive restaurant, a person here can expect to pay about $16. For mid-range place for two-people, that number rises to $80. These figures seem reasonable.
In Toronto, those numbers are $20 and $80, respectively. So while Toronto is a little more expensive, Vancouver's pretty much on par. For Seattle, Vancouverites pay about what Seattleites pay, just in Canadian dollars instead of US dollars. A person in Seattle will pay $15 US, but a person in Vancouver will pay $16 Canadian. Of course, continuing with the trend, San Franciscans pay more in US dollars than Vancouverites pay in Canadian.
When it comes to utility costs, Vancouver's residents enjoy a break when compared with other large metro areas. Numbeo ranks utilities based off of how much a 915 square foot apartment should expect to pay. They estimate Vancouver residents would pay $90 per month versus Torontonians who would be looking at $138. Both of these figures are less than San Franciscans who pay $140 and Seattleites who pay $162 US per month.
Vancouver also enjoys relatively inexpensive electricity. A report by the Business Council of British Columbia showed that Vancouver's electricity costs were the lowest of all four metro areas at 11.42 cents/kWh on average. Toronto clocked in at 13.24 cents, Seattle at 15.02 cents, and San Francisco was a whopping 28 cents on average!
Another thing that people love to discuss is the cost of gas here in BC. At approximately $1.50 per litre, Vancouverites have the highest price of gas in Canada. However, at $1.15 per litre, Toronto is not too far behind. At approximately $3.00 per gallon ($1.03 Canadian per litre) in Seattle, Washingtonians have the least high price overall. At roughly $4.00 per gallon ($1.37 Canadian per litre), people in San Francisco have it bad stateside.
While there is no doubt that gas prices are higher in Vancouver than in other places, they are not insanely high. If you're driving to and from work every day, gas prices out here won't break your bank too much more than living in other world-class cities like Toronto or San Francisco.
Unfortunately, when it comes to median incomes, this is one area where Vancouver has some catching up. According to Statistics Canada, the median income for this city was $72,662 back in 2015, the latest year available. In Toronto, the average was $78,373.
Of course, our southern friends need to deduct extra expenses like health insurance from those salaries. Still, there's no doubt that Vancouver and other Canadian cities have some work to do to catch up to wages in other large metropolitan areas.
Vancouverites pay $2.56 per $1000 in value for property taxes. On the other hand, Torontonians pay approximately $4.50 per $1000 of property value. The US has very high property taxes by comparison as both San Franciscans and Seattleites frequently pay $10-20 or more per $1000 of property value.
Despite its reputation for being expensive, Vancouver has decent tax rates. Sales tax in BC is 12%, and there are many classes of products that are exempt from PST (like restaurant meals). Torontonians pay 13% HST. Seattleites pay 10%, and San Franciscans pay 8.5%, the lowest of all the cities.
Despite Vancouver having very high childcare costs relative to other cities in Canada, it's still the cheapest of the three other cities to which we're making the comparison. In Vancouver, childcare costs $1,400 a month per infant, which is less than Toronto. There, the average monthly cost is $1,685. Both of those numbers are less expensive than both Seattle and San Francisco, where people will pay $1,680 US and $1,955 US, respectively. While Vancouver daycare is pricey when compared to Winnipeg, for example, it's not as pricey as other large metropolitan areas.
Overall Cost of Living Assessment
There is zero question that Vancouver is not the cheapest place to live in Canada. However, when compared with three other world-class cities, it is not the most expensive, and it's not the most affordable. On average, Vancouver tends to be about the same or have a slightly lower cost of living than Toronto. When compared with Seattle, Vancouver is often less expensive when factoring in currency conversion. However, unfortunately, Vancouver salaries don't match Seattle's. Finally, Vancouver is almost always significantly less costly than San Francisco, which is not surprising considering that San Francisco is consistently rated as one of the most expensive cities to live in the world!
One of the fantastic things about British Columbia is that there are ways to make it very affordable. For example, picking a condo will give you a reasonably-priced place to live with lower property taxes. You'll then be able to take advantage of the lower electricity costs and lower grocery costs to save for your dream home (which, if you're willing to look at a suburb of Vancouver like Maple Ridge or Coquitlam, isn't as pricey).
If you're looking to move to Vancouver and are wondering about the cost of living, speak with your real estate agent today. There's a good chance that there's a way to move to this beautiful city without breaking the bank!