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Pros and Cons of Living in Toronto vs Vancouver

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Toronto or Vancouver — a question as old as time that’s plagued both city locals and international expats. As two of Canada’s most popular cities, it only makes sense to consider relocating to one of these metropolitans. But, which of these major cities is the better area to move to? In this guide, we will cover the pros and cons of living in Toronto vs Vancouver.

Where to live? Toronto or Vancouver Canada

When looking at Vancouver and Toronto, there’s a slate of things to consider before choosing where you move. The list is endless, from the crime rate and cost of living to employment opportunities and schools if you’re a parent.

If you’re having trouble choosing between the two cities, we’re here to help. We’ve compiled this Vancouver vs. Toronto guide to help make your choice, regardless of your reason for moving to Canada.

Living in Toronto vs. Vancouver at a glance

Should you live in Toronto or Vancouver

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At a glance, there isn’t much difference between these two large cities. They’re both urban, have many entertainment options, offer free healthcare, have efficient public transit, and suffer from terrible traffic. 

But, look a little deeper, and you’ll see significant differences to be settled in the Vancouver vs. Toronto debate.

Living in Toronto

Toronto is the largest city in Ontario and falls just short of the title of Canada’s largest city. Thus, it’s densely populated with a diverse range of people and is replete with fun activities and attractions. 

It also enjoys a lovely location on Lake Ontario, although it has dramatically different weather between the four seasons.

It’s the perfect dwelling for people who prefer a bigger city with excellent safety. The nightlife is lively, the food scene is eclectic, and there are many art galleries and green spaces.

Sports lovers will also find their home here, with hockey and basketball fun awaiting courtesy of the Maples and the Raptors.

The downside to Toronto is that it’s costly. Even the incredible free healthcare and education won’t be enough to shield you from that reality.

Beautiful heritage sites & galleries in Toronto: Living in Toronto vs Vancouver

Houses cost an average of $1,28 million, and a one-bedroom rental will start from $1,800. Not to mention the cost of living not associated with accommodation. 

Monthly grocery prices for one person will set you back at least $250, and the average three-course dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant is $90. Further, expect to pay around $200 for utilities, $156 for a monthly public transit pass, or $2,08 per liter on gas prices.

Living in Vancouver

Vancouver is the perfect city for those after NYC lifestyles with an endless list of outdoor activities. This metropolitan has amazing beaches, fantastic green spaces, and incredible mountain ranges nearby.

Terrible weather is non-existent as it’s moderately temperate compared to the weather Toronto experiences. Those immigrating to Vancouver can expect free healthcare, excellent public schooling, a laid-back atmosphere, efficient public transportation, and the like.

As one of the major business hubs in Canada, the city is also expensive. A one-bedroom apartment rental costs around $2,100, while a small house will cost you approximately $1,2 million.

The Granville bridge and Granville island surroundings, looking north at the Vancouver skyline.

While the cost of living here compares favorably to the Toronto cost of living, it’s still expensive compared to the rest of Canada.

A single person’s monthly grocery expenses would cost an average of $220, and a meal at an inexpensive restaurant has an average price of $18. Utilities cost north of $120, a monthly public transit pass costs $100, and gas is around $2,17 per liter on average.

Downtown Vancouver
Downtown Vancouver: Living in Toronto vs Vancouver

5 Pros of living in Toronto

The Ontario capital has a plethora of positives that would cause anyone to choose Toronto over other Canadian cities. Here are the five biggest pros of choosing to move to Toronto.

Employment opportunities are abundant

Not only is Toronto the most populated city in Canada, but Toronto’s economy is also the largest contributor to Canada’s GDP. After all, the city is the nation’s business and financial capital.

Canadian flag and Toronto city skyline
Canadian flag and Toronto city skyline

As a result, Toronto has more job opportunities than any other Canadian city. That makes it an ideal city to live in for any professional looking to advance their career. Not only do major companies have offices in Toronto, but startups also pop up daily.

Regarding diversity in the type of work, Toronto caters to everyone as the job market is incredibly diverse. Apart from its exemplary schooling system, this is also why it’s so popular for students and families across the globe. There’s always a good chance to find an internship right after graduating.

Free healthcare

Health is wealth, and this is true for just about everyone. That’s why healthcare is something you should never ignore when moving somewhere.

Luckily, that will never be a worry for you as a Toronto resident, as the city offers free basic healthcare. This extends to citizens, permanent residents, and immigrants, a luxury you won’t find in most places.

Toronto healthcare is funded by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), supported by a percentage of taxes. What’s great is that you get access to doctors, specialists, and prescription medication free of charge; you just have to apply and qualify.

Incredible safety for a major city

Compared to other major cities around the world, Toronto is exceptionally safe. The Ontario capital was recently named the second safest city in the world by the Economist Safety City Index. 

Toronto skyline at sunset with maple tree branches
Toronto skyline at sunset with maple tree branches

Sure, a bit of petty crime is inevitable, but it’s a rarity in this city. So if you’re concerned about safety, you can lay those worries to bed when moving here. You can walk around downtown Toronto, as well as other areas, without too much fear of someone trying to rob you. 

Some neighborhoods are safer than others, but these are on the city’s outskirts, where tourists and immigrants don’t usually live. As with any other city, you must be a little more vigilant at night time.

Public transport

One of the main benefits of living in Toronto is that you won’t need a car. The public transport in the city is efficient and can take you just about anywhere you want to go. It’s better to avoid getting a car altogether; the traffic congestion is bad enough as is (more on this later).

Trains in Toronto: Living in Toronto vs Vancouver

Toronto’s public transport system is operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). They have an endless number of bus, subway, and tram routes that service even the Greater Toronto Area. The GO Train can help you visit neighboring cities.

Even without any of the TTC options, downtown Toronto is easily walkable. You might also notice that every fifth person has a bicycle here, and that’s because the city is also bike-friendly.

Just beware, though, the city’s public transport system gets extremely busy during rush hour. Avoid the public transit system during this period, with e-hailers like Lyft and Uber available as alternatives.

Toronto’s diversity

Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world and is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. This is primarily due to the influx of immigrants in the last decade, and everyone lives harmoniously. 

Lots of multicultural events in Toronto: Living in Toronto vs Vancouver

So, it’s perfect if you’re looking to live in a multicultural city and learn more about the world and its people.

This diversity isn’t just reflected in the people only; Toronto also has a wide variety of neighborhoods. Each one has its own distinctive characteristics. For example, Chinatown is the place to be for mouthwatering Asian grub, while Little Italy is replete with authentic Italian delicacies.

It’s often recommended that if you’re renting, try your best to shop around in different neighborhoods to find the one perfect for you.

5 Pros of living in Vancouver

For the many positives of living in Toronto, Vancouver doesn’t lag too far behind. A ton of pros come with living in Vancouver, including the following.

Incredible outdoors

Vancouver is globally renowned for its natural beauty and landscapes. Therefore, it’s the perfect city for anyone after the global city vibe, with the outdoors within easy reach.

Lots of urban parks in Vancouver: Living in Toronto vs Vancouver

The two cities don’t compare when it comes to greenery, as Vancouver is filled with green spaces. It’s home to over 250 parks, including the impressive Stanley Park, a forest surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. The flora is an enticing draw, but there’s also an aquarium, hiking trails, beaches, and restaurants in support.

Without the many skyscrapers in Toronto, you can enjoy panoramic views of the natural landscape from afar. The mountains you see on the horizon also make for grand skiing escapades in the winter when snow falls.

Pine trees and cloudy sky reflecting in the crystal clear water of a lake on a cloudy day in Lynn Canyon Park forest in Vancouver

Healthcare

These two beautiful cities compare well regarding healthcare because both offer free medical care. This applies to citizens and residents of British Columbia, including immigrants.

Vancouver offers these benefits under the British Columbia Medical Service Plan, which you must sign up for.

Free public education

Canada’s education system has frequently been ranked among the world’s best. Best of all, Vancouver has a quality schooling system perfect for parents immigrating with kids. 

There are eleven school districts in Vancouver, so there won’t be a shortage of schools to send your kids to. Alternatively, you can send your children to private schools which also offer quality education.

Mild climate

Unlike Toronto, Vancouver enjoys a mild climate where the summer heat isn’t scorching and the winter cold isn’t freezing. The moderate weather means you won’t be limited on the fun you can have regardless of the season.

Vancouver has a mild climate: Living in Toronto vs Vancouver

The winter temperatures often go as low as 8° C and summers often have temperatures around 22° C, which are both bearable. When considering the extremes, you have beaches for cooling off in sweltering conditions. Snow won’t be an issue, as snow typically disappears within hours.

However, you will need to get a raincoat to combat the rain. Vancouver endures seemingly endless rain during winter; it’s been jokingly named “Raincouver.”

An eclectic food scene

While Toronto is home to a melting pot of cultures, Vancouver doesn’t lack in that regard either. This is perhaps best seen in its eclectic food scene, with delights from different parts of the world found throughout.

After all, this fun city has been named one of the best foodie destinations.

The Richmond Night Market has grown into the largest Night Market in North America, attracting over 1 million visitors per year (Vancouver BC)

Whether in downtown Vancouver, the city center, or the outskirts, you won’t have a hard time grabbing a bite. Food trucks are found on just about every corner, with food truck-specific events also frequently hosted.

Street food aside, Vancouver is home to dozens of luxurious restaurants with oriental, Mediterranean, and Italian influences.

3 Cons of living in Toronto

For all its incredible perks, living in Toronto isn’t all great; it also has its fair share of cons, including the following.

Accommodation is expensive | Housing prices

The biggest con to Toronto’s high standard of living is how expensive living here is, with accommodation at the highest cost. So if you’re moving from a different city, you’re most likely spending more on housing.

Row of houses in Toronto Canada

Unfortunately, accommodation costs aren’t something you can escape. However, there are a few ways to counter the high costs of renting or buying a place in Toronto.

You can avoid some of these costs by getting roommates or looking for a property in the Greater Toronto Area. In Etobicoke, the average home costs $970,000, and Georgetown apartments cost around $1,650.

High cost of living

As you may expect, Toronto has some of the highest living costs among the major Canadian cities. Yes, rent isn’t the only expensive thing here. That’s the downside of living in a great city with a high standard of living, free healthcare, and outstanding public education.

Food, drinks, internet, and just about anything is much more expensive in Toronto than in any other Canadian city. If finances are a bit of a concern, you can opt to live on the city’s outskirts, where things are more affordable.

Further, Toronto has a relatively high tax rate combining federal and provincial taxes. However, these do go towards making the Ontario capital city the great place it is, so you can’t complain too much there.

Compared to Vancouver, Toronto residents earn a little bit more, which is somewhat of a bright spot.

Highly congested

As you may expect from what’s been dubbed the “Canadian New York City,” Toronto is highly congested. This includes the number of people and the number of cars in the city.

A view of the traffic conditions in Downtown Toronto
A view of the traffic conditions in Downtown Toronto

Traffic here is a nightmare, especially in downtown Toronto during peak hours, and the city’s a consistent feature in a list of “worst traffic in the world.” Parking is also wildly expensive in the downtown area.

This congestion also extends to public transit, as subways, buses, and trams are sometimes overcrowded. This often results in long waiting times during peak hours.

3 Cons of living in Vancouver

Vancouver has incredible city life, but this doesn’t come without its issues. These are some cons to look out for before moving to this British Columbia city.

Vancouver Skyline

Incredibly expensive

Vancouver and Toronto are insanely expensive compared to the rest of the country. The two cities compare unfavorably to most Canadian cities, but Vancouver’s average cost of living is slightly lower than Toronto’s.

However, that doesn’t extend to real estate expenses. This city also has expensive rental apartments and costly houses, especially in the Vancouver city centre.

Like Toronto, though, you can save on these expenses by getting roommates or opting for the more affordable nearby areas in British Columbia. For example, New Westminster apartments start at an average of $1,810, and houses in Port Coquitlam start at an average of $935,000.

Traffic is a nightmare

Unfortunately, this is where the Vancouver vs. Toronto debate becomes dreadful, as their traffic congestion is terrible. Vancouver and Toronto have previously ranked as the first and second-worst cities in Canada when it comes to traffic.

Luckily, Vancouver does have an efficient (and less costly) public transport system that you can rely on for getting around the city. Vancouver is also bike-friendly, with dedicated bike lanes found predominantly in downtown Vancouver.

The constant fear of an earthquake

While the Vancouver crime rate isn’t something to worry about, you aren’t totally safe here. This city is situated on a massive, known fault line called the Cascadia Subduction Zone that runs from Vancouver to Northern California’s San Francisco.

This line is considered hazardous because it’s highly susceptible to an earthquake that could have disastrous damage affecting Vancouver and parts of the US west coast.

Natural Resources Canada estimates a 30% chance that a magnitude nine earthquake could hit the line in the next 50 years. This will eventually lead to a tsunami that could, at best, displace many of the city’s population.

Vancouver vs. Toronto: Which of the Canadian cities is better?

As you may have already realized, there isn’t a clear winner in the Vancouver vs. Toronto debate. The answer largely depends on what you want out of a location. 

If you’re obsessed with the outdoors, you’re better off choosing Vancouver. If you love urban city life, you’re better off choosing Toronto. 

Both these cities are iconic and are crowd pullers in Canada, and both are not the most affordable for an entry-level salary (especially if you wish to maintain a higher standard of living). 

If you are new to Canada, we recommend making a trip here first, and then making a decision – for a long-term stay! 

This guide should help you narrow your choices to whichever place best fits your life, as each city has its pros and cons. Once you’ve decided, check out this essential moving abroad checklist guide that will ensure you’re set for your travels.

Read our other guides on living in Canada

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Should you live in Toronto or Vancouver

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