Calgary and Toronto are two of the biggest cities in Canada. Calgary is emerging as a tech center in Western Canada, while Toronto is the capital of the eastern province of Ontario. In this guide, we break down what living in each city is like to help newcomers determine which may be the better option and will provide the strongest opportunities for their future. Here's what to know about living in Calgary vs. living in Toronto.
Calgary Economy vs. Toronto Economy
Some major differences between Calgary and Toronto come from the cities' sizes. Calgary has a population of around 1.61 million, while Toronto has the largest population in all of Canada, with 2.79 million residents. This massive size difference between the two cities impacts the types of jobs and the overall cost of living between the two areas.
Real Estate Prices
One of the most significant differences between living in Calgary vs. Toronto is the average price of buying and renting a home. In Calgary, the average home price is around $500,000, while in Toronto, that same home can go for over $1 million. Townhomes for sale in Calgary average in the mid-$300s and over $1 million in Toronto. Condos for sale in Calgary average in the high-$200s and the high-$700s in Toronto.
In Toronto, the most expensive communities are Bridle Path, Rosedale, Forest Hill South, and Yorkville. West Humber-Clairville is a more affordable option for Toronto residents, while Deer Ridge and the Evanston neighbourhood are less expensive for those moving to Calgary.
Taxes in Alberta and Ontario are different, so it's essential to consider these factors as you examine each area's overall living expenses. Taxes, on average, for Ontario residents are about $2,369. In Alberta, the same individual would pay around $3,338.
It's about 18% less expensive to live in Calgary than in Toronto. The average cost of living for one person in Calgary is about $1,900 and about $4,600 for a household of four. In Toronto, an individual needs approximately $2,300 per month, while a home of four needs about $5,200. The food costs between the two cities are about the same, but transportation and utility prices are massively different.
Housing and rent prices are the most significant difference in the cost of living. Entertainment costs for each city are about the same for meals at restaurants and drinks out.
Top Industries & Biggest Corporations
Calgary's major industries are energy, technology, and agribusiness. Some of the biggest employers in the area include Deloitte, KPMG, Amazon, Accenture, and IBM.
Toronto has a massive aerospace sector— the city has the second-largest aerospace cluster in Canada. Other top industries include design, the largest in Canada and the third largest in North America; education; and more artistic industries like event planning, fashion, and film. Major Toronto employers include CIBC, Magna International, Telus, Air Canada, and Bombardier Inc.
Understanding an area's major industries and job opportunities helps people understand what they can expect when they move to a new place. The economy is one of the most, if not the most, important factors to consider when making a big move, as it impacts the cost of living expenses, real estate options, and potential career paths.
Calgary Commutes vs. Toronto Commutes
Another vital thing to know about moving to a new area is what to expect with your daily commute. Rush hours, major streets, and public transportation options all impact how quickly one can adjust to living in a new area and how quickly one can travel around their new city. When moving to a new location, consider these factors carefully and plan your move accordingly.
Calgary Rush Hour vs. Toronto Rush Hour
Rush hour occurs between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. in Calgary. However, the average commute time for a Calgary resident is about 26 minutes, which is much lower than most metropolitan areas and cities in North America. This is partially due to public transport and the arrangement of the major streets in the area, including Highway 2, Highway 201, Alberta Highway 1, and Highway 8.
The busiest time in Toronto is between 8:15 and 9 a.m., when all subway lines, traffic lanes, and buses are in service and full. However, Toronto's afternoon rush hour is harder to determine. The busiest roads include DVP, Gardiner, and TCC. When these roads are packed during the morning rush, it can significantly slow down commute times, which average 35 minutes.
Calgary Transit vs. Toronto Transit
Mass transit systems in Calgary have helped reduce residents' average commute times, making it easier for them to get around the city. Calgary Transit buses and CTrain light rail services help travellers navigate the city and are used by nearly half of the area's commuters. Monthly passes for the light rail are about $112.
TCC is Toronto's public transit utilizing buses and a subway system, which connects different areas of Greater Toronto. Subway passes are about $156 per month.
Best Areas in Each City for Short Downtown Commutes
Calgary has many local neighbourhoods and suburbs close to its downtown, one of the closest being the Haysboro community. This quiet, residential area is about 15 minutes from downtown Calgary and connects to the CTrain.
Vaughn offers many schools and residential activities for those wanting to get out of the immediate Toronto area. It's about 45 minutes from downtown Toronto, which helps it avoid some significant traffic caused by the Greater Toronto Area. While driving takes about 40 minutes from Vaughn to Toronto, public transportation has a direct route for less than a 30-minute commute.
Calgary Climate vs. Toronto Climate
Calgary is in the prairie region of Canada in Alberta and experiences hot summers and cold winters, meaning more sunlight for those who want to soak up the sun and enjoy the natural benefits of sunny days. There is also less rainfall as the climate is relatively dry.
Toronto's weather is more steady, with less fluctuation for warm and cold periods. Summers are typically warm, with 26° C temperatures and winters averaging about -9° C. Toronto also gets more rain than the prairie region, with regular rainfall throughout the year. Residents and visitors typically consider autumn the best time to be in Toronto.
What to Do in Calgary vs. What to Do in Toronto
Both Calgary and Toronto offer many activities and entertainment options. As some of the largest cities in Canada, there is an abundance of things to do to keep any new residents busy and ensure they can enjoy themselves and integrate with the local community.
When it comes to the outdoors, Calgary is hard to beat. This city is close to the Rocky Mountains for campers and hikers, and there are several Calgary parks to explore. The winter months are also packed with outdoor activities like skiing, dog sledding, and snowshoeing.
Toronto also has beautiful outdoor vistas, with nearby Lake Ontario providing water access and Niagara Falls, one of the most stunning waterfalls in the world. Many public parks within the Toronto area offer green spaces, sports fields, picnic areas, and walking trails.
Calgary has many sports teams, including the Calgary Stampeders for the CFL, the Calgary Flames for the NHL, and the Calgary Surge basketball team. Other sports in the area include cycling, professional wrestling, and a major pro rodeo center for bull riding competitions.
Toronto's major sports teams include the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL team, the Toronto Raptors basketball team, and the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. Other teams include the Argonauts for the CFL and Toronto FC for MLS.
Calgary and Toronto have major nightlife centers to keep you entertained all night long. Residents and visitors will find everything from wine bars to dance clubs and everything in between.
Calgary's 17th Avenue, Beltline neighbourhood, and International Avenue are major nightlife centers with something for everyone. In Toronto, Bambi's, Lob, The Drake Hotel, and El Convento Rico are all popular nightlife hotspots offering drinks, dancing, and more.
Live Your Best Life in the City Meant for You
Choosing between major cities is a big decision, especially when you are still learning about each area. Whether you find your home in Calgary or Toronto, either city can provide you with what you need to live your best life.