Most and Least Expensive Cities in Canada and US

Lifestyle, Toronto Real Estate News
Trip Money by bark
Trip Money by bark

Where is it more expensive to live, in Canada or in the U.S.? As surprising as it might seem, cities in neither of these countries is home to the most expensive cities in the world, at least according to Mercer’s 2011 Cost of Living Survey. Even the most costly cities here are nowhere close to the top five globally: Luanda (Angola), Tokyo (Japan), N’Djamena (Chad), Moscow (Russia), and Geneva (Switzerland). Still, it is good to know which places in Canada and the U.S. cost the most and, on the other end of the spectrum, which are the least expensive.

The greatly respected and reputable Mercer‘s survey looks at 214 cities across the globe and compares the costs of various aspects of life, such as housing, food, clothing, transport, and entertainment. The general outcomes for Canada and the U.S. are actually quite similar, with gasoline and rental prices being one of the main factors contributing to increasing prices. To find out which cities included in the survey are the most expensive ones, read on.



University of Toronto by Paul Bica
University of Toronto by Paul Bica

The most expensive city in Canada is Toronto, the survey claims. The good news is that it only ranked 59th worldwide, making Canada seem a pretty affordable place to live. Compared to 2010, Toronto has become even more expensive, however, which might well partly be due to rising rental prices. Prices of properties are not exactly low in Toronto either; as I mentioned in one of my previous articles. The most expensive condo ever sold in Canada, worth $28 million, is located in our city.

However, as Eleana Rodriguez, in charge of the information products solutions department at Mercer, rightly pointed out, “given the fact that Toronto is a global city with a multicultural population, on a relative basis, it’s not very high on the list.”


The second most expensive city in Canada and the 65th most costly city in the world is last year‘s Canadian number one, Vancouver. In the past year Vancouver has climbed ten spots — quite small compared to Toronto which has jumped up 19 spots. What is it, then, that makes Vancouver so expensive?

For one, the central street of Vancouver’s financial district, Burrard Street, is the third most costly street for office space in the whole country, according to the recent Jones Lang LaSalle’s study. The highest prices climbed to an unbelievable $61.80 per square foot, and they are expected to keep on increasing. Furthermore, as the current Housing Trends and Affordability report published by RBC Economics Research showed, Vancouver homeowners spend about 92.5 per cent of their income on the cost of home ownership.


Fireworks over Montreal by Emmanuel Huybrechts
Fireworks over Montreal by Emmanuel Huybrechts

Ranking at 79, Montreal is the third most costly place to live in Canada. The city seems to have become comparatively more expensive over the past year, as in 2010, Montreal was the 98th priciest place in the world.

Housing prices in the city can not be considered low, but compared to Toronto the difference is noticeable. For example, the most expensive condominium in Montreal was sold for a very reasonable amount: the happy new owner had to pay “only” $15 million to purchase the suite. Despite the difference in prices between Toronto and Montreal home prices, it is still among the priciest cities in Canada.


Our federal capital, at rank 114, is the least expensive large city in Canada, the survey claims. That is in spite of the fact that it climbed to this spot from 136th place last year. For such a great and important city as Ottawa, relatively low prices are a fantastic achievement.

Interestingly, the office spaces in the capital seem to be quite costly. Albert Street is actually the tenth most expensive street in North America on which to lease office space, according to a study. On average, one pays about $49.68 per square foot of office space on Albert Street. Not the cheapest price, but just look at the aforementioned Vancouver — Ottawa did better, for its residents, anyway.


New York City

Midtown Manhattan by joiseyshowaa
Midtown Manhattan by joiseyshowaa

Here is another reason why Toronto can be considered similar to New York City: both are the most expensive cities in their respective countries. However, ranking 32nd in the world, NYC is noticeably higher than Toronto in 65th place.

The most expensive residential property in the city is a lot more expensive than it is in Toronto, too. Approximately US $90 million is the price you would have to pay for the priciest place in the city. As I have stated before, in Toronto, $26.8 million is just enough to purchase the most expensive house. Housing is not the only costly side of the big apple. For example, the world’s most expensive triathlon is NYC-based as well; and there definitely are many similar instances.

Los Angeles

LA is the 77th most expensive city in the world. Thanks to moderate price increases, it has actually dropped an amazing 22 places over the year. Nonetheless, one of the most expensive properties for sale in 2011 was located in LA. Its price is truly unbelievable, at US$150 Million.

On the contrary (and this might come as a bit of a surprise), Los Angeles has only one restaurant in the top 25 most expensive restaurants in the US. Who would have guessed that? I know I would not.

Chicago and Washington

Chicago by Doug Siefken
Chicago by Doug Siefken

The third place on the most expensive cities in the US list goes to Chicago and Washington. At a worldwide ranking of 108, both cities have moved from last year‘s position. While thanks to very modest price increases, Chicago fell by 17 places, Washington was three spots higher than in 2010, mainly due to accommodation prices in the city.

Despite the mentioned moderate price rises, Chicago is not a cheap place to buy gas. This April, the price for a gallon of gasoline (US $4.27) in Chicago topped the gas prices in every other U.S. city. Washington is the most expensive U.S. city in some aspects as well. This past winter, a report released by a real estate firm, Cassidy Turley, discovered that the price of office spaces in Washington, with an average cost of US $48.96 per square foot, surpassed even NYC.


The least costly US city, ranking 197th, is Winston-Salem. Even according to Bloomberg Business Week, the city belongs among “The World’s Cheapest Cities for Expensive Living”.  For a litre of gas, you would only pay about US $0.81 (about US $3.07 for a gallon). If you compare it to gas prices in Chicago, you will see the difference immediately.

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