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Toronto vs Calgary Which city is cheaper to live in

Toronto vs Calgary: Which city is cheaper to live in?

Living expenses depend on one’s lifestyle. And in this case, Toronto is more fast-paced than Calgary, while the latter offers a more laidback way of life.

Both cities have their ups and downs, and here’s what you need to know if you’re choosing between them! 

Is it cheaper to live in Calgary or Toronto?

It’s cheaper to live in Calgary than in Toronto. Calgary triumphs in terms of affordability in housing, transportation, consumer prices and average salary, allowing you more opportunities to save more money.

Basic UtilitiesTorontoToronto’s climate is warmer than Calgary’s.
FoodCalgaryEven with rising prices in the country, Toronto still charges more for food than Calgary.
HousingCalgaryAlberta doesn’t have a land transfer tax.
TransportationCalgaryTTC charges the most expensive monthly pass in the country.
HealthcareTiedBoth cities have healthcare insurance plans.
EducationCalgaryToronto charges almost double the fee for international students.

1. Calgary vs Toronto: Basic Utilities

Calgary vs Toronto Basic Utilities

If you plan on moving to a different city, you need to know about the monthly cost of basic utilities to let you budget your paycheck. 

Temperature varies on the region you are in. In some Canadian provinces, winters can be harsh, especially in the Prairies.

The good thing is Ontario has a warmer climate. Meanwhile, Alberta tends to have a harsher temperature, with the coldest months (January and February) falling to around -30°C to -40°C (-22°F to -40°F).

Calgary is a sunny city, so expect the temperature to reach around 30°C (86°F) during summer. But get ready for winter, which can be extremely difficult if you’re not used to cold temperatures.

Winter Season

It can drop as low as -1.4°C (29.5°F) during the winter season, with the coldest months in January and February.

In fact, Calgarians faced extreme cold for ten days in 2021, with the lowest temperature recorded in the city dropping to -30.8 °C (-23.44°F) on February 11.

Meanwhile, Toronto’s lowest temperature record in 2021 reached -13.5°C (7.7°F). Although it’s still pretty cold, it’s definitely not as intense as Calgary’s!

Because of this, basic utilities can be more costly in Albertan cities. Can you even imagine the heating expenses?

To give you a better look at the differences in the monthly basic utilities between Calgary and Toronto, we’ve gathered the data from Numbeo as of December 2022.

Basic utilities*$255.73$175.62
Internet (60Mbps or more, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)$86.82$74.50
Prepaid Mobile (1 minute, tariff, local)$0.27$0.42

*electricity, cooling, heating, water, garbage for an 85 sq mt apartment

Our Verdict: 

We think it’s safe to say that Toronto won this round.

You won’t have to worry about high heating costs for months! Also, the more tolerable weather definitely trumps Calgary’s heavy snowfall and threatening wind chills. 

2. Calgary vs Toronto: Food Prices

Calgary vs Toronto Food Prices

Living in Canada means expecting an expensive lifestyle. It isn’t cheap living in the country, especially with rising food prices.

Canada’s different seasons massively affect farmers. In addition, climate change has impacted the weather, making it more extreme.

In 2021, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires severely devastated Canada’s farmers. As of October 22, 2022, many lands were categorised as Extreme Drought.

These abnormal weather conditions negatively impact farming, resulting in rising food prices, and that’s on top of inflation.

On August 2022, Statistics Canada reported that grocery prices had risen the fastest since 1981. As a matter of fact, store costs rose to +10.8% due to extreme weather changes and supply chain disruptions.

Canadians have been warned to brace for higher costs for dairy, meat, fish, fruits, bakery products, non-alcoholic drinks, and spices. Basically, everything you buy on your weekly grocery trip.

According to Numbeo, grocery costs in Toronto are 3.06% higher than in Calgary. Below is a price comparison table between the two cities on the usual market food Canadians buy.

Market FoodCalgaryToronto
Regular milk (1 litre)$2.33$3.43
Fresh white bread (500g loaf)$2.94$3.45
White rice (1 kg)$3.47$3.96
Regular eggs (1 dozen)$3.92$4.03
Local cheese (1 kg)$14.68$15.81
Chicken fillet (1 kg)$14.18$16.01
Beef round (1 kg)$18.71$17.65
Potato (1 kg)$2.98$3.72
Onion (1 kg)$3.53$3.43
Tomato (1 kg)$5.10$4.67
Apple (1 kg)$5.19$4.36
Banana (1 kg)$1.97$1.68
Bottle of wine (mid-range)$15.00$16.00

Many families have seen the need to stretch their grocery budget too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like we can return to what we were used to.

Sadly, around 75% of Canadians have changed how they purchase food. Some have resulted in using generic brands and buying those with near-expiration dates.

On a brighter note, Statistics Canada reported that farmers slowly recovered in 2022 from the effects of 2021’s drought, which can help with the supply and demand. Wheat production even saw an increase of about 80.1%.

Our Verdict:

Alberta also has a higher median income after tax than Ontario. Mix that with the cost of living, and any Albertan city will win against Ontario’s capital city.

Although Calgary still sees rising food prices, it’s far from Toronto’s overall rates. In this category, the Ontario capital loses to Calgary’s more affordable prices.

3. Calgary vs Toronto: Housing Costs

Calgary vs Toronto Housing Costs

Calgary defeats Toronto when it comes to house and rent prices. In fact, the province of Alberta has one of the most affordable housing prices among Canada’s urban hubs. 

For $230,000, you can get a condo in Calgary, which will cost you $740,000 in Toronto.

Another example is for $700,000, you can get a detached home in Calgary. Compared to Toronto, that’ll take you back a whopping $1.4 million! (that’s double the price!)

Also, Alberta doesn’t have a land transfer tax, which adds to the affordability of moving.

But Ontario has a land transfer tax where a tax bracket system is applied to the price of your property. To add to that, Toronto has a separate land transfer tax, which uses the same marginal tax rates of the province.

Those taxes add a tonne to the property price when you decide to purchase. That’s something worth thinking about when moving.

So, make sure you’re purchasing a good house! That’s because you’ll need to add repairs and other necessary expenses when you decide to move or if you find issues in your newly-purchased home.

Our Verdict:

Calgary wins this round because of the overall cheaper housing prices in Alberta and its lack of land transfer tax.

4. Calgary vs Toronto: Transportation Costs

Calgary vs Toronto Transportation Costs

Calgary has cheaper transportation costs than Toronto. Ontario’s capital uses the Toronto Transit Commission, also called TTC, which has one of the most expensive monthly passes in the world.

In 2019, Statista recorded Toronto as the 8th most expensive public transit monthly ticket price. And in 2020, it remains in the top ten.

In 2020, Picodi’s data revealed that Torontonians spent $117.49 for a monthly ticket. That’s just behind New York at $127!

Not only that, but Toronto has the highest monthly pass in the whole country. But you’ll be shocked that Calgary actually takes the second spot.

Calgarians spent $109 for a monthly pass in 2020, with Winnipeg and Vancouver following behind. But now, Calgary Transit increased the rate to $112.

Moreover, Toronto experienced an increase in monthly passes too. The residents spend $156.00 to go around the city.

Here’s a table from Numbeo to compare the public transportation in Calgary and Toronto to give you a better idea.

Monthly pass (regular price)$112.00$156.00
One-way ticket (local transport)$3.60$3.25
Taxi start (normal tariff)$4.00$4.47
Taxi 1 km (normal tariff)$1.93$1.75
Taxi 1 hour waiting (normal tariff)$35.00$31.00
Gasoline (1 litre)$1.69$1.92

Data gathered by Numbeo as of December 2022

That’s a tonne of money to take from your monthly paycheck. Torontonians also have to worry about everyday TTC battle commutes due to dirty stations, stained seats, and many delays.

If you ask us, we’d be stressed too if we were paying so much money for a migraine before even reaching the office.

Also, Toronto’s population is almost 3 million compared to Calgary’s 1.3 million. That’s a lot of people that need to use the public transit system.

Our Verdict:

We think it’s crystal clear that Calgarians spend less using public transportation than Torontonians.

5. Calgary vs Toronto: Healthcare System

Calgary vs Toronto Healthcare System

One of the most vital factors when moving to a different city is nearby hospitals and healthcare systems.

The provinces of Alberta and Ontario have insurance plans for their residents: the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) and the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). 

Residents who want to have coverage for the insurance plan must apply and get approved to be eligible for the services.

Once you get your health card, make sure to show it to your hospital visit to get coverage.

Both cities’ health insurance plans don’t cover cosmetic procedures and laser eye surgeries. But they both cover full or partial for many medically-necessary services.

For easier access, we’ve made a table to compare the services and their coverage.

Hospital visits and stays*Coverage for standard-level roomCoverage for standard-level room
Diagnostic testsCoverage for medically-required testsCoverage for medically-required tests
Podiatry servicesCoverage depending on the service in Alberta onlyCoverage for visits and x-rays
Ambulance servicesCoverage for inter-facility transfers on AlbertaCoverage depending on the case
MedicationCoverage only for medication administered in hospitalCoverage for in-patient and some for out-patient home use
Dental services**Coverage depending on the serviceCoverage depending on the procedure
Optometry servicesCoverage depending on the age and conditionCoverage depending on age and condition

*includes meals

**for procedures performed in hospitals only

For both cities, it’s recommended to get supplemental insurance for services not covered by your primary health plan, especially since procedures outside of hospitals aren’t usually included.

Our Verdict:

We’re going to say they’re tied for this one due to the almost same health insurance coverage.

6. Calgary vs Toronto: Education System

Calgary vs Toronto Education System

Another critical factor when moving to a different city is the school system to ensure your child’s getting high-quality education.

Besides that, parents need to review the tuition to see if it fits their budgets. But it’s a plus that Canada has a good school system!

For young children, here’s the data from Numbeo as of December 2022 to compare Calgary and Toronto’s childcare fees.

School categoryCalgaryToronto
International primary school**$16,028.57$27,194.62

*private, monthly fee for one child 

**yearly fee for one child

That’s just for primary school and it’ll cost you more for quality undergraduate studies.

US News reported that Canada ranked 4th (same ranking in 2021) worldwide for the best education system. The survey included 17,000 people from all over the world.

According to Statistics Canada, the majority of Canadian students enrolled in public school for the school term 2019/2020. That leaves just 7.8% in private or independent schools, and 0.7% chose to homeschool.

Many international students choose to study here, too, due to Canada’s school reputation. 

But the quality education’s going to cost you. So, get ready if you have children.

According to Statistics Canada’s report, Toronto saw a small increase for the undergraduate term 2020/2021 at $7,843. That’s because the government decided to freeze the tuition fee for the third year in a row.

Still, Toronto is higher than Calgary at $7,342. That’s despite the increase in the whole province of Alberta.

However, it isn’t quite affordable for international students in Ontario because they pay a staggering amount of around $42,000 a year.

Meanwhile, Alberta charges an average of $28,000. That’s almost double, quite shockingly!

On the bright side, the University of Toronto was 25th as the best university in the world in 2021. Many students choose to go there because of its undoubted reputation and chances for better job opportunities.

Our Verdict:

Calgary wins when it comes to affordable education. It’ll cost you an arm and a leg to pay to study in Toronto.

Conclusion: Which city is better?

Calgary is cheaper overall than Toronto. Many aspects of the Prairies are more affordable, from food to education.

Calgary also offers many job opportunities. If you combine high wages and a lower cost of living, Calgary is definitely the cheaper city to live in.

FAQ about the Living Costs in Calgary and Toronto

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