Calgary vs. Toronto: 11 Things to Know BEFORE Moving

Is Calgary Better Than Toronto?

Are you weighing the pros and cons of moving to Calgary or Toronto? Anyone considering living in these two Canadian cities must first examine the respective living costs, employment landscapes, transportation, and lifestyle offerings. By examining each city's strengths and drawbacks without the fluff, you can gain the information necessary to make an educated decision in your city choice. 

Major Comparisons

  • Calgary is more affordable with a lower cost of living, more space per capita, and no provincial sales tax. Toronto is more expensive, with a higher cost of living and a competitive housing market.
  • Toronto boasts a diverse and robust economy with strengths across multiple sectors, while Calgary's economy is diversifying with growth in technology and other industries despite historical reliance on energy.
  • Both cities offer distinctive advantages for quality of life, such as Toronto's extensive public transit system and vibrant cultural scene and Calgary's proximity to natural attractions and outdoor activities.

City Overview: Toronto and Calgary

Should I Move to Calgary or Toronto?

Toronto, the capital of Ontario and Canada's largest city, is a bustling metropolis boasting a population of 2.79 million. The city is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, featuring landmarks like the CN Tower and vibrant neighbourhoods, including downtown Toronto.

On the other hand, Calgary, the biggest contributor to the Alberta economy, is known for its high quality of life, growing tech scene, cleanliness, liveability, and scenic proximity to the Canadian Rockies. With a population of 1.61 million, Calgary offers more space per capita than Toronto's densely packed area.

Cost of Living Comparison

The cost of living in Calgary is more affordable than in Toronto. It's approximately 18% less expensive to live in than Toronto, making it an attractive choice for those looking to save money. The average home price in Calgary is in the $600s, while Toronto exceeds $1.1 million. Even in Calgary's most expensive neighbourhoods, home prices rarely top average home prices in most of Toronto's communities. There are also significant differences in rent prices between the two cities.

However, the monthly grocery expenses in both cities are roughly similar—but Calgary residents benefit from only paying the 5% Goods and Services Tax, without any additional provincial taxes. While basic utility costs for a standard apartment range from $150–$250 in Calgary, miscellaneous monthly expenses like phone and internet services and gym memberships are higher in Toronto.

Real Estate Market and Housing Options

Houses in Calgary are Far More Affordable Than in Toronto

Another crucial factor to consider when choosing between Toronto and Calgary is the real estate market. Toronto's housing market is far more expensive and competitive, with the average home price at $1,043,000 and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment at $1,989 per month. In contrast, Alberta's cost of living benefits from lower home prices: the typical listing price of homes for sale in Calgary is in the $600s, and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,231.

In terms of the pace of the market, homes in Calgary typically stay on the market for 37 days, whereas in Toronto, properties average only 17 days. This indicates a faster-paced and more competitive market in Toronto.

Job Opportunities and Economy

Regarding job markets, Toronto and Calgary each possess unique strengths. Toronto's economy is diversified across the financial services, technology, life sciences, and education sectors. The city is home to major employers like CIBC, Magna International, Telus, Air Canada, and Bombardier Inc., making it an attractive destination for global tech talent.

Calgary's economy, on the other hand, has historically been centred around the energy industry. However, the city is now seeing growth in sectors like technology, agribusiness, and environmental engineering. Calgary offers significant job opportunities with major employers like Deloitte, KPMG, Amazon, and IBM.

Both major cities offer ample job opportunities, but the deciding factor may be your career goals and industry preferences.

Transportation and Commute

Public Transit Tram in Toronto

Regarding public transport, Toronto prides itself on its extensive system that features buses, streetcars, and subways managed by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). However, the average commute time in Toronto is around 35 minutes, and the city faces particularly congested roads like the DVP and Gardiner during peak hours.

In contrast, Calgary's public transportation network, also known as Calgary Transit, includes buses and the CTrain. Calgary enjoys a shorter average commute time of around 26 minutes, and the peak of rush hour is between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. Moreover, a monthly public transit pass costs $112.00 in Calgary compared to $156.00 in Toronto, adding to the city's affordability.

Entertainment and Cultural Scene

For entertainment and culture, both Toronto and Calgary have their unique attractions. Both cities host an array of festivals and events encompassing film, music, arts, and more. In Toronto, events like Hot Docs Festival, Luminato Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival draw crowds from around the world. Calgary is no less with its iconic Calgary Stampede and Calgary Folk Music Festival.

The culinary scenes in both cities are equally delightful, highlighted through events like Winterlicious, Taste of the Danforth, and the Toronto Chocolate Festival. Cultural diversity is celebrated in both cities, with Toronto's Caribbean Carnival and Pride Toronto, and Calgary's Globalfest.

Outdoor Activities and Natural Beauty

A Lush Green Urban Park in Calgary

Both cities present a variety of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. In Toronto, the waterfront, including Balmy Beach Park and the Waterfront Bike Trail, offers residents a range of activities from cycling to beach sports. The city's urban landscape also includes natural spaces such as Evergreen Brick Works, which features a park and hiking trails.

Calgary, on the other hand, is a haven for nature lovers, being just a stone's throw away from the Rocky Mountains. From river rafting on the Bow River and appreciating the beautiful waterfront homes to engaging activities at WinSport, the city provides varied outdoor pursuits. Moreover, Calgary boasts over 8,000 hectares of parkland and natural areas, each offering a variety of activities such as sports, hiking, biking, birdwatching, and picnicking.

Weather and Climate

Toronto and Calgary provide distinct experiences when it comes to weather and climate. Toronto's continental climate is influenced by the Great Lakes, with a warm season lasting approximately 3.5 months with an average daily high above 22°C. The city also experiences a muggier period lasting 3.2 months during the summer, with the highest humidity in August. 

Calgary has a semi-arid and dry climate. It experiences four distinct seasons. The city's warm season is roughly 3.3 months, with average daily highs above 20°C. Areas along the Bow River, including Calgary's City Centre, enjoy some relief during the muggy season. However, January temperatures in Calgary average around -6°C, contrasting with Toronto's January average of -5°C.

One important fact to note about Calgary's winters is the Chinook phenomenon. These warm, dry winds can significantly raise the temperature for as long as several days at a time, offering relief from winter snow.

Education in Calgary and Toronto

Schools in Calgary

Regarding education, Calgary has many public and private options spread throughout the city. These include:

  • Calgary's public schools, which provide government-funded education with a focus on academic and extra-curricular activities
  • The Calgary Roman Catholic Separate School District
  • Various private and international schools, some of which offer the International Baccalaureate programme

Calgary is also home to several universities, including the University of Calgary, the Alberta University of the Arts, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), and more.

Meanwhile, the Toronto District School Board, one of the largest in North America, operates numerous schools committed to fostering a safe and nurturing environment where students can thrive academically and personally. Higher education in Toronto offers institutions like the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and York University, all leading in research and innovation. 

Healthcare and Wellness

Both cities offer public healthcare systems. Calgary's public healthcare system is called the AHCIP (Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan), which covers doctor visits, diagnostic procedures, and hospital stays. To supplement the AHCIP, individuals in Calgary may consider private health insurance or taking advantage of employer-provided plans for more comprehensive coverage.

The city has also seen an improvement in the availability of family doctors, making health services more accessible. Personal wellness expenses, such as a gym membership, average approximately $76.78 per month. It's worth noting, though, that many of the condos in Calgary offer money-saving amenities like on-site gyms.

Toronto is home to some of Canada's leading hospitals and research institutions, including the University Health Network, which comprises world-renowned facilities like Toronto General Hospital, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and Toronto Western Hospital. These institutions are at the forefront of medical innovation.

Toronto's healthcare system is supported by a network of community health centers and clinics, providing accessible care to residents across the city. These centers offer various services, from primary care to mental health support, emphasizing preventive care and patient education.

Does Your Home Await in Calgary or Toronto?

The choice between Toronto and Calgary mostly hinges on personal lifestyle preferences and priorities. Calgary's best neighbourhoods offer relatively affordable housing, and residents benefit from no provincial sales tax. The city is well-regarded for its easy access to nature and numerous outdoor activities, contributing to a simple and active lifestyle.

On the other hand, Toronto offers an urban experience in Canada's largest city. The city boasts a diversified economy, a vibrant cultural and entertainment scene, and an extensive public transportation system. However, the cost of living in Toronto is considerably higher, which can be a significant factor for many people.

Both cities offer a high quality of life with their own unique features and benefits. Ultimately, your choice between the two depends on your personal preferences, career goals, and lifestyle choices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth moving to Calgary from Toronto?

Moving from Toronto to Calgary is worth it because Calgary offers a lower cost of living compared to Toronto, allowing you to save more. Additionally, it is a great fit for those who enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle.

Are salaries in Calgary higher than in Toronto?

Yes, salaries in Calgary are higher than in Toronto, despite the lower cost of living! Calgary's median household income slightly outpaces Toronto's. This partly reflects Calgary's plentiful high-income jobs in the energy industry.

Are you ready to move to Calgary? Call The Justin Havre Real Estate Team with eXp Realty at (403) 217-0003 to talk with a local real estate agent who can help you discover your dream Calgary home.

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