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Cost of Living in British Columbia Things You Should Know

Cost of Living in British Columbia: Things You Should Know

British Columbia is the third-largest province by area and the most populous province after Ontario and Quebec in Canada. It’s booming with job opportunities, education, businesses, culture, and demographic.

It’s no surprise that the cost of living in British Columbia is high, especially in the major cities of Vancouver and Victoria. The cost of food, transportation, and other goods and services is always within the top five.

The average cost of living for one person can add up to $3,005.47 and $4,861.6 for a family of three to five. Plus, with the continuous inflation increase, it’s expected that prices will continue an upward trend throughout the year.

However, British Columbia is a beautiful province with lots to offer to residents and visitors alike. The province has a diverse landscape with mountains, forests, beaches, and lakes. It also has a strong economy and a high standard of living.

So, is it expensive to live in British Columbia? Here are things you should know to give you a better idea of the cost of living in British Columbia, and decide for yourself!

Rental fees in British Columbia are high

Rental fees in British Columbia are high's Hompeage
Image Source: Unsplash 


British Columbia has the highest average rental fees in Canada with $2,550 and places 3rd with the highest annual growth of 10%, according to a July 2023 national rent report by Rentals.ca.

Cities like Vancouver and Burnaby rank 1st and 2nd, as the most expensive rentals in Canada, with $2,945 and $2,578 average rent fees, respectively.

If you’re looking to rent in British Columbia, you should be financially and mentally ready for the costs, especially if you’re moving from a different province.

With the increasing demand for housing and apartments, landlords and developers have relatively raised their asking prices. The demand also stems from the number of immigrants, students and young professionals opting to live and have a career in British Columbia.

Here’s a table showing the average rental cost in British Columbia and the top 5 cities with the highest rental fees:

Province/CityOne-bedroomTwo-bedroom
British Columbia$2,297$2,788
Vancouver$2,945$3,863
Burnaby$2,578$3,314
Victoria$2,071$2,663
Surrey$1,954$2,449
Kelowna$1,932$2,635
Data retrieved from Rental.ca.

Vancouver ranks as the most expensive rent in both British Columbia and Canada, with an annual growth of 18.1% for one-bedroom apartments. Vancouver, Burnaby, Victoria, Surrey and Kelowna, all belong in the top 20 cities with the highest rentals nationwide.

As you can see, the housing and rental market in British Columbia is in a state of flux. It has been rising steadily in recent years, making it difficult for many people to afford to buy or rent a home. 

The rental market is also tight, with many people competing for a limited number of properties. This has led to higher rents and longer wait times for rental properties. 

In addition, the provincial government provides rental assistance to address the housing crisis, especially for low-income working families with children and low-income seniors. But more needs to be done to make housing more affordable and accessible for all.

Utility bills could be kept at a low

Utility bills could be kept at a low's Homepage
Image Source: Vecteezy


The utility costs of one to two people living together in British Columbia is an average of $243.57. The items included are electricity, water, internet plan and gas.

A family of three to five may incur an average of $401.58 for monthly utility costs.

Unlike rental fees, you have more chances of cutting down your utility costs by conserving water and energy usage.

There are many ways to save energy and water, such as switching off the lights when not in use, putting a timer on your heater or air conditioning, unplugging or properly turning off idle appliances, and being conscious of the water for bathing and washing.

Here’s a list of monthly utility expenses for one to two people and a family of three to five:

Utility item1-2 personFamily of 3-5
Electricity$43$103
Water$41$123
Internet (50mbps + 1 mo unlimited data)$64.7$64.7
Gas$94.87$110.88
Total $243.57$401.58
Data retrieved from BCHydro, Vancouver.ca, Fortibc, LivingCost.org.

If you live in a one-bedroom apartment, it will be easier for you to reduce your bills and come up with a plan to conserve water and energy. For a family of three to five, more discipline should be put in place to reduce your monthly expenses.

It’s not too late to create a budget plan and start saving. The amount you can save up can be used for emergencies, vacations, business ventures, and other things you’d like.

Expect an increase on food and grocery prices

Expect an increase on food and grocery prices' Homepage
Image source: BBC


The average cost of food in British Columbia for one adult person is $360 and about $1,357.33 for a family of four. This includes the cost of groceries, eating out, and food prepared at home.

According to Canada’s Food Price Report 2023, all provinces, including British Columbia, are expected to have a 7% increase in food prices due to rising costs of inputs for food and transportation costs.

Food is a basic necessity for us, and it bites a large piece of your budget or disposable income. In fact, it’s usually your second or third most expensive expense — and all of us know eating out with friends or loved ones can put a dent in your wallet.

You can definitely save on food costs since it depends on the type of food, the location, and the season. For example, fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive in the winter than in summer. 

Food is also more expensive in urban areas than in rural areas.

Here’s a list of ways to reduce food expenses:

  • Cook at home more often. Eating out is often more expensive than cooking at home.
  • Buy food in bulk. This can save you money in the long run.
  • Compare prices. Look for sales and coupons.
  • Grow your own food. It’s free and gives you access to fresh, healthy food.
  • Eat seasonally. Fruits and vegetables are cheaper when they are in season.
  • Use coupons and loyalty cards. To maximize your grocery budget.
  • Donate food that you don’t eat. This can help others and reduce food waste.

To help you get a better idea of the grocery prices, here’s a list of common grocery items and their prices:

ItemPrice
Milk (regular), (1 liter)$          2.70
A loaf of fresh white bread (500g)$      3.20
Eggs (regular) (12)$      4.10
Local Cheese (1kg)$    14.00
Water (1.5 liter bottle)$      2.30
Chicken breasts (skinless and boneless) – (1kg)$    15.00
Apples (1kg)$      4.80
Oranges (1kg)$      4.60
Potatoes (1kg)$      3.20
Lettuce (1 head)$      3.10
Rice (white) (1kg)$      4.20
Tomato (1kg)$      4.90
Bananas (1kg)$      1.90
Onions (1kg)$      3.20
Beef Round (1kg)$    18.00
Pears (1kg)$      5.80
Cucumber (1kg)$      2.70
Sausages (1kg)$    25.00
Cottage cheese (1kg)$    13.00
Data retrieved from HikersBay.

Note that these prices are bound to change or fluctuate depending on brand, location, and other factors. You can look into affordable places, discounts, and coupons online, to help you on your next grocery run.

And as you can tell, planning a healthy diet with affordable groceries can help you save a lot for your monthly expenses. Plus, you could always look for cheap eats that’ll satisfy your cravings.

Convenient transportation options are available

Convenient transportation options are available's Homepage
Image source: Railway age

The most common transportation system in Metro Vancouver or the Lower Mainland is TransLink which has an adult monthly pass costing $104.90. 

On the other hand, for the rest of British Columbia, there’s the BCTransit, with an average adult monthly pass of $85.00. 

Both transits have discounts and lower fares for senior citizens, students, children and special needs individuals.

Depending on where you are in British Columbia, you’re most likely to ride the TransLink or BCTransit. 

The transit systems provide service to most major cities and towns in the province, as well as some smaller communities. 

Public transportation is a great way to get around British Columbia, and it is a sustainable and affordable option.

That said, it’s best to check out the different passes, discounts and fares, according to your age or if you’re a student. This way, you won’t have to pay for a regular adult pass. 

And it’s common for children under the age of 12 to ride for free — best when accompanied by a paying passenger.

Let’s take a look at the fare prices of the transit systems:

BCTransitFareTransLinkFare
ADULTCASH FARES CASH
CASH FARE$2.50PASS TYPE1-ZONE
10 TICKETS$22.50Adult$3.15 (+$0.05)
DAYPASS$5.00Concession$2.10  (+$0.05)
MONTHLY PASS$85.00CONTACTLESS PAYMENT FARES TAP TO PAY
SENIOR (65+)PASS TYPE1-ZONE
CASH FARE$2.50Adult$3.15 (+$0.05)
10 TICKETS$22.50STORED VALUE COMPASS CARD
DAYPASS$5.00PASS TYPE1-ZONE
MONTHLY PASS$45.00Adult$2.55 (+$0.05)
YOUTH (18 OR UNDER)Concession$2.10  (+$0.05)
CASH FARE$2.50MONTHLY PASS COMPASS CARD
10 TICKETS$22.50PASS TYPE1-ZONE
DAYPASS$5.00Adult$104.90  (+$2.35)
MONTHLY PASS$45.00Concession
STUDENT (POST-SECONDARY)DAY PASS COMPASS CARD/TICKET
CASH FARE$2.50PASS TYPEALL ZONES – ALL DAY
10 TICKETS$22.50Adult$11.25  (+$0.25)
DAY PASS$5.00Concession$8.85 (+$0.20)
CHILD (6 TO 12)FreeChildren 12 and under ride free
CHILD (5 AND UNDER) Free when accompanied
HANDYDART
PASSENGER$2.50
FRIEND$2.50
10 TICKETS$22.50
ADULT MONTHLY PASS$85.00
YOUTH/SENIOR MONTHLY PASS$45.00
ATTENDANTFree
Data retrieved from TransLink and BCTransit.

Public transportation is pretty much a necessity, especially if you need it to go to work or school. That’s why it’s a key factor for the overall cost of living.

Inflation rates are quite high

Inflation rates are quite high's Homepage
Image source: CEPR

According to BC Stats, the 12-month average index for all items in British Columbia was 148.8, a 6.0% inflation than the previous average.

Within British Columbia, consumer prices increased in both Vancouver (+4.0%) and Victoria (+2.9%) when compared to twelve months ago.

It’s important to factor in the effects of inflation on your costs of living, from food to energy and housing to transportation — it plays a crucial role in how much of our disposable income we can maximize.

Many forces influence the inflation rate, such as the rising cost of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer and pesticides. The war in Ukraine is also having a significant impact on the price of food, as Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of wheat and other grains.

The rising cost of living is putting a strain on many households in British Columbia. You can also expect the costs of your goods and services to increase faster than in many other parts of Canada since they are one of the top provinces with the highest inflation.

Inflation rates are quite high
Data retrieved from BC Stats

Our Final Verdict: Is it expensive to live in British Columbia?

To sum up, British Columbia is one of the most expensive provinces in Canada. When it comes to the prices for rentals, food, transportation, and utilities, BC or one of its cities is usually amongst the top five.

Let’s take a look at the estimated monthly cost of living in BC:

FactorsOne personFamily of 3-5
Rental fees$2,297$2,788
Utility bills$243.57$401.58
Food and groceries$360$1,357.33
Public transportation$85 – $104.9$255 – $314.7
Total $3,005.47$4,861.6

As you can tell this is only the average, given all the factors and sub-items included, which means everything is subject to change. Inflation is also bound to fluctuate every month, so it’s best to be flexible with your budget, and adjust as needed.

With British Columbia being a great place for job opportunities, education, businesses, and a shot at quality living, it consequently raises the bar for the cost of living, too. Plus, there are always pros and cons in living in BC.

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