Everyone has heard of this fabulous place in Southwestern Canada, and despite the cost of living in Vancouver, half the world wants to live here!
From our snow-capped mountains to the crystal-clear waters surrounding the city, Vancouver is a visual paradise. The old maxim of being able to ski in the morning and swim in the ocean in the afternoon is actually true in Vancouver, although you might find the water a bit colder than you expected!
All the beauty comes at a price though. Just like New York and San Francisco in the United States, Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in North America. However, I won’t blame you if you brush the high cost of living in Vancouver aside once you get here. Living in Vancouver is addictive, and once you get here, you won’t want to leave!
Monthly Housing Costs in Vancouver, Canada
Most young people living in the city centre rent, with many choosing to live with roommates for years beyond the usual early 20’s timeline. An average one bedroom apartment in the city can range from $1900 to $3000 per month, with a two-bedroom averaging $2500 -$3500 per month. Expect to pay at the high end in the downtown core.
Housing costs may be your biggest budget line item when you live in Vancouver. With the relatively recent boom in the housing market, most millennials fear they won’t be able to buy a home in the city they grew up in.
Many homeowners develop secondary suites in their basements into rentals. These basement apartments can sometimes be had for 20-30% less, depending on the area.
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If you’re looking to buy in Vancouver, a one-bedroom apartment will cost you more than $600k and the prices only go up from there.
Buying a house in Vancouver will require a very healthy bank account, with prices starting at $1.6M in the less-preferred neighbourhoods. It’s not unusual to hear about a typical family home selling for upwards of $3M.
Many are drawn to the international vibe of Vancouver, with its many ethnic restaurants and eateries, excellent coffee and engaging music scene. Vancouver nightlife is mostly confined to the downtown core so many prefer to live closer to their favourite scene.
Cost of Housing Outside of Vancouver
Cities around Vancouver are marginally less expensive with home prices averaging 20-40% less than in the city. Prices dropping the further away you get.
Although many city-dwellers choose to leave Vancouver seeking less expensive housing, the trade-off is the addition of a rather dreadful commute. Choosing to live in Surrey (20 kilometres from Vancouver) will certainly reduce your housing costs but will add up to 3 hours to your day in the form of commuting time.
Whether you’re using public transportation or a car, the time is just about the same. There are no freeways or expressways in Vancouver – the closest freeway starts just as the city ends – so all driving in the city is usually through heavy traffic. Freeways into the city have been improved in recent years but still result in significant daily gridlock.
Utility Costs in Vancouver
Some rental accommodations in Vancouver include the cost of utilities in the rent, and this helps a bit in reducing your anxiety when you look at the numbers!
Renters of a 2 bedroom apartment can expect to pay $120-$150 per month in utilities. This would include heating, gas and electricity. Monthly internet would add $60-$70. If you haven’t yet cut your cable, expect to pay $50-150 per month for the privilege, depending how the depth of your sports obsession.
Homeowners pay additional utilities including water and garbage pick-up that works out to another $70 per month. If you own an apartment, monthly maintenance fees add $400-$500 to your regular expenses.
Transportation Costs in Vancouver
Formerly a car-centric city, Vancouver is becoming more easily navigable by public transportation. More rapid transit lines have been built in recent years and as new lines are added, development rapidly follows around each new station.
A monthly pass on Metro Vancouver one-zone transit pass in Vancouver will cost you CAD 100.25 per month, with pay-as-you-go pricing at $3.05 per ride.
If you’re driving, gas prices at the present time are $2.25 per litre but this price is wildly variable and has recently been as high as $2.58 per litre.
As Uber and Lyft are now legal in Vancouver! There aren’t many cars yet and they are currently limited to the city itself, but this is a huge improvement over previous years.
If you’re looking for a taxi (good luck with that, as taxi’s are often hard to find), expect to pay $1.89 per kilometer, plus $3.50 to start.
Many Vancouverites love car-sharing services, and they are especially useful in the downtown core and central areas of the city. Modo and Evo are popular choices with the price ranging from $.41-45 per minute or $13-15 per hour
You’ll find designated car-sharing parking in many popular Vancouver locations.
Cost to Dine out in Vancouver
Due to the high cost of housing in Vancouver, Vancouverites typically live in smaller homes, making them less likely to have enough space to entertain their friends. As a result, eating out is almost a spectator sport in Vancouver.
Vancouver has a huge variety of restaurants to choose from, with ethnic restaurants being a top choice for many. The ethnic places are usually less expensive and have tastier food too. It’s a rare Vancouverite that doesn’t know his Bao from his Banh Mi.
A typical meal in an inexpensive restaurant will cost an average of $15. Fast-food restaurant meals will run you $10-13 per meal.
If your choice is a mid-range restaurant, expect to pay $80 per couple for a typical 3-course meal of appetizer, dinner and dessert. Add on more if you have a few drinks. A cocktail might set you back $15, but a beer or glass of wine costs less at $6-$8, more if its imported.
The sky’s the limit if you’re dining in high style. Vancouver is still sadly lacking a Michelin star restaurant but there are still many fine establishments that would be happy to see you part with $200 for a meal for two with wine.
Grocery Shopping in Vancouver
Many Vancouverites favour organic, locally-sourced food for their weekly grocery shop. Farmer’s Markets are wildly popular in Vancouver – you’ll find one in every corner of the city throughout the growing season. The winter farmer’s markets are very popular too.
Costs at farmer’s markets in Vancouver vary widely, but most items fall within local norms. A family of 2 pay $600-$800 per month for their groceries if they cook at home regularly. Budget-conscious shoppers who regularly watch the sales might save as much as 25%.
If not farmer’s markets, most Vancouver shoppers patronize large chain grocery stores.
Entertainment Costs in Vancouver
Vancouverites are famous for leading healthy and active lifestyles and that is reflected in what most city denizens do to entertain themselves.
Running, cycling, walking, skate-boarding, roller-blading and skiing are popular local pastimes. Many belong to clubs that organize events for members on weekends.
You’ll find yourself fighting for space on the Stanley Park Seawall or other popular trails on sunny days, what with all the other cyclists, runners and walkers wanting to increase their fitness levels too.
Movie tickets in Vancouver cost $13-$15 per person, although a national theatre chain also offers VIP seating at more than $20 per ticket, albeit with comfier seats and chair-side service.
Local professional NHL hockey (Go Canucks Go!) is a popular choice for Vancouverites and prices have recently gone down (January 2020). They can be quite pricey ranging from $100-$400, but some tickets for upper bowl seats can be had for under $50. If the Canucks make the playoffs, expect city-wide pandemonium and increased ticket prices?
Vancouver is the home of a beloved minor league baseball team – the Vancouver Canadians. The Canadians home is Nat Bailey stadium, often viewed as the prettiest stadium in baseball. Ticket costs are very reasonable starting at $10 and going up to $22.
Most of the big acts come through Vancouver on national tours, and ticket prices for these shows (Shawn Mendes being a recent example) can range from $132 to $250 and up.
What I Love About Vancouver
Vancouver is home for me.
Despite traveling widely all over the world, nowhere else I’ve been ever feels the same as Vancouver. It’s not until I leave and come back that I realize (again) why Vancouver is so special.
*all prices are in Canadian dollars.
The beauty of Vancouver strikes every new visitor as well as every returning resident.
About the Author:
Lesley is a native Vancouverite and the brains behind Freedom56Travel. She is a travel enthusiast, grandmother, avid motorcyclist and aspiring retiree! She blogs about all things mid-life travel at https://freedom56travel.com . Follow her on Facebook
(@Freedom56travel), Instagram (@freedom56travel) and Pinterest (@freedom56travel).