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Vancouver Is Canada's Most-Expensive City, But Still a Bargain on the Global Scale

July 19, 2017
3 mins
Family walking together on bridge with cityscape in the background

Vancouver has overtaken Toronto as Canada's most-expensive city in Mercer's Cost of Living survey.

The human resources consultancy annually ranks the world's cities on how affordable it is to live and work there. This year, Vancouver placed 107th in the rankings, with Toronto following as the 119th most-expensive city. Vancouver tied for 107th place along with Luxembourg and Pittsburgh.

Canadian cities, in general, rose in rankings this year, with Vancouver shooting up 35 places over last year.

The 2016 study ranked Vancouver 142nd place and Toronto in 143rd. Mercer says the gap between Vancouver and Toronto is due to rent rapidly rising in the area.

Montreal came in 129th place, Calgary came in 143rd, and Ottawa came in 152nd place – becoming Canada’s most-affordable major city on the list. Overall, the study cites the rising Canadian dollar as the main culprit for the increase in cost-of-living.

“The Canadian dollar has appreciated in value triggering the major jumps in this year’s ranking,” said Nathalie Constantin-Métral, Principal at Mercer responsible for the survey.

And the rising cost-of-living is a trend that's likely here to stay for a while; the loonie continues to soar in the face of a hike in the key lending rate by the Bank of Canada for the first time since 2010. A rising dollar makes it less affordable for businesses and individuals in other countries to relocate to Canada as the exchange rates become less favourable for them.

Canada is "relatively affordable"

While the cost-of-living has risen in Canada's major cities, all of them place fairly low on the global scale.

In North America, New York City is the costliest, coming in 9th place. Other U.S. cities also placed much-higher on the list than Canadian cities: San Francisco in 22nd place, Los Angeles in 24th, and Chicago in 32nd place.

In Europe, Zurich, Switzerland is the most-expensive city, coming in 4th in the rankings. London came in 29th place and Paris came in 62nd.

“Although the cost of living in Vancouver or Toronto may be high for locals, both cities remain attractive destinations for expatriates placed by organizations outside the country,” said Gordon Frost, head of Mercer Canada’s Career business. “Global costs give us some perspective: compared to the rest of the world, even with a strong dollar, Canada remains relatively affordable.”

The most expensive cities are in Asia

On the other end of the spectrum, Asian cities are highly-represented in the top 10 list. Hong Kong came in 2nd place, followed by Tokyo (3), Singapore (5), Seoul (6), and Shanghai (8).

Source: Mercer’s 2017 Cost of Living Survey,

According to Mercer, the world's most-expensive city is Luanda, Angola in Southern Africa. That's because, unlike many other cities, Mercer factored in the cost of hiring your own private security in Luanda, along with the general high cost of goods. The consultancy looked at the expenses of relocating to a country to do business, some of which may not be applicable to residents who already live there.

How to save money in the world’s most-expensive cities

Many of the factors weighed by Mercer, like cost of accommodations and consumer goods, can also be directly applicable to Canadian travellers who just visit these cities as tourists.

If you have plans to visit one of the places on the Mercer list but you want to save money where you can, redeem your travel rewards for discounts on flights or accommodations.

Patrick Faller

Patrick is a writer, creative media producer, and award-winning journalist with a love of technology, the arts, and design. He’s passionate about consumer affairs and helping Canadians make the best possible choices when it comes to their finances. You can find him on social media @patfaller.

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