Calgary vs. Vancouver: Which Should You Live In?

Is Calgary Better Than Vancouver?

Are you contemplating moving to Calgary or Vancouver? Each city offers distinct advantages, from Calgary's lower cost of living and proximity to the Rockies to Vancouver's mild climate and the Cascades. Whether you favour wide-open spaces or a sight-filled coastal setting, Calgary and Vancouver are both dynamic and thriving places to live. Get ready to explore the best Alberta and British Columbia have to offer.

Main Takeaways

  • Calgary and Vancouver offer distinct lifestyles influenced by their unique geographies, with Calgary near the Rockies and Vancouver by the Pacific Ocean; both have different amenities, cultural scenes, and outdoor activities.
  • The cost of living is significantly higher in Vancouver compared to Calgary, including housing prices, transportation costs, and daily expenses, with Vancouver ranking as Canada's second-most expensive city.
  • Both Calgary and Vancouver have wide-ranging job markets, with Calgary traditionally influenced by the oil and gas sector but now diversifying, while Vancouver boasts varied industries like technology, film, and tourism.

Calgary and Vancouver: A General Overview

Nestled in Western Canada, Calgary and Vancouver are among the major Canadian cities offering a unique blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication. With a population of approximately 1.3 million, Calgary sprawls over a significantly larger landmass, while Vancouver, with about 660,000 residents, is more densely populated. Despite their contrasting urban landscapes, both cities are known for their unique attractions and quality of life, as seen in other Canadian cities.

Calgary's Unique Features

The distinct vibe in Calgary largely stems from its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, which provide a scenic backdrop that permeates the city's landscape and lifestyle. The Rockies offer the residents of Calgary a stunningly beautiful city view and a rich array of outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking close to the city neighbourhoods. The breathtaking vistas of the Rockies even impact the city's real estate, escalating the value of properties that offer a clear mountain view.

The presence of the Rockies instills a city-wide sense of adventure, serving as a constant reminder of life's grander challenges and adventures. This influence counters everyday work and consumerism, offering opportunities for connection to nature. Whether you're standing atop a mountain peak or exploring the vibrant cultural scene in Calgary's City Centre, its unique features create a lifestyle that celebrates freedom, exploration, and the outdoors.

Vancouver's Unique Features

Conversely, Vancouver presents a unique charm of its own. Its coastal location, surrounded by water on three sides, makes it a stunningly beautiful city. Its mild maritime climate, cooler temperatures, and higher precipitation levels contribute to a high quality of life that many find appealing.

Notably, Vancouver's proximity to the ocean and the mountains provides various outdoor activities. From kayaking along the coast to hiking up Grouse Mountain, there's something for everyone. Add to this the vibrant cultural scene, with art galleries, music festivals, and a bustling downtown core, and it's clear that downtown Vancouver offers a lifestyle that caters to a diverse set of preferences and interests.

Cost of Living: Calgary vs. Vancouver

Is Calgary Cheaper Than Vancouver?

Cost is often a critical determinant when deciding on a place to live. Here, Calgary and Vancouver present a noticeable contrast. Overall, the cost of living in Calgary is approximately 25% lower than in Vancouver; Calgary ranks as Canada's 18th most expensive city, while Vancouver is in the top two for expensive cities. This substantial difference in living costs significantly influences lifestyle choices and opportunities in both cities.

Housing and Rental Prices

Vancouver's average home price is over $1 million, while homes for sale in Calgary average in the $600,000s. Rental prices, too, are significantly higher in Vancouver. Here are some average rental prices for different types of apartments in Calgary and Vancouver:

  • One-bedroom apartment in Calgary's city centre: $1,918.53
  • One-bedroom apartment in Vancouver: $2,769.43 (44.4% higher than Calgary)
  • Three-bedroom apartment in Calgary's city centre: $2,781.09
  • Three-bedroom apartment in Vancouver: $5,162.89

Transportation Costs

When it comes to transportation, Vancouverites also face higher costs. The city is known for its persistent traffic congestion, which lengthens commutes and increases fuel costs, especially during rush hour. Moreover, public transportation and fuel costs are higher in Vancouver than Calgary.

Calgary's public transportation, also known as Calgary Transit, is more affordable, with discounts on monthly passes and special fares for youth and seniors. This cost advantage, combined with Calgary's expansive geographical spread, makes owning a car or using public transportation more economical in Calgary.

Groceries and Daily Expenses

Groceries and daily expenses also reflect the marked cost difference between the two cities. The price of groceries in Vancouver is 13.0% higher than in Calgary, including basic items such as milk, bread, and eggs. Dining out also costs more in Vancouver, with restaurant prices 5.1% higher than in Calgary.

Moreover, personal care items are 19% more expensive in Vancouver compared to Calgary. In terms of monthly expenses, Calgary residents require about $3,947.50, while Vancouverites need approximately $4,700. These figures clearly show the considerable cost differences between the two cities.

Job Opportunities and Industries

Job Market in Calgary vs. Vancouver

Aside from the cost of living, the availability of job opportunities and the prevalence of certain industries play a crucial role in deciding where to reside. The oil and gas industry traditionally dominates the economy in Alberta, but Calgary, in particular, has been diversifying with emerging sectors like technology and renewable energy. On the other hand, Vancouver's economy is driven by diverse industries such as technology, film and television, tourism, and real estate, providing a wide spectrum of job opportunities.

Calgary's Job Market

Calgary's job market has seen growth in sectors such as utilities, manufacturing, trade services, and transportation and warehousing. However, there have been notable job losses in agriculture, natural resources, and construction. As of December 2023, the city's unemployment rate stood at 5.9%, marking a decrease from the previous month.

Despite this, Calgary still offers a wealth of employment opportunities. With an average salary of $61,400.00 as of 2021, Calgary indicates a healthy job market.

Vancouver's Job Market

Vancouver's job market, on the other hand, is more varied. Key sectors like tech, construction, and film and TV production are central to the city's economic development. In fact, Vancouver is the third-largest film and TV production hub in North America and the number one visual effects (VFX) and animation hub in the world.

Furthermore, the green economy in Vancouver has seen significant growth, with green jobs increasing by 87% from 2010 to 2020. This reflects the city's commitment to environmental sustainability and offers a range of employment opportunities in this growing sector. These factors, combined with ongoing business in construction and professional, scientific, and technical services, indicate robust economic activity and a healthy job market.

Climate and Weather: Calgary vs Vancouver

Is Calgary Warmer Than Vancouver?

The climatic conditions of a city also play a significant role in the decision to make it your home. Calgary is known for its cold winters and warm summers, while Vancouver is recognized for its mild, maritime climate, with cooler temperatures and higher precipitation levels.

Calgary's Climate

Calgary's climate is characterized by cold winters and warm summers. However, Calgary's winter chill is occasionally broken by the Chinook winds—a warm and dry wind that brings significant warmth to the city. These Chinook winds can cause temperature increases up to 20°C, often melting snow rapidly and providing a much-needed break from the winter cold.

These winds are so integral to Calgary's climate that they've become a part of the city's identity. Known as the 'snow eater,' the Chinook is a reminder of nature's unpredictability and majesty, and the warm reprieve they provide contributes to Calgary's status as one of the best cities in Alberta. Whether it's the allure of a winter landscape transformed overnight or the thrill of an unexpected warm day in the middle of winter, Calgary's climate offers unique experiences for its inhabitants.

Vancouver's Climate

Vancouver's climate, on the other hand, is generally cooler and milder year-round. Influenced by the nearby Pacific Ocean, Vancouver has a moderate maritime climate with warm summers and mild winters. This city experiences a high number of rainy days, averaging 168 days of precipitation annually.

While Vancouver's climate might seem damp and cool compared to Calgary, it contributes to the city's lush greenery and appeal. Vancouver's climate is perfect for those who prefer milder temperatures and don't mind the rain.

The city's climate supports a diverse array of flora and fauna, making it a haven for nature lovers.

Lifestyle and Amenities

Things to Do in Calgary vs. Vancouver

Both Calgary and Vancouver offer a plethora of lifestyle options and amenities. Both cities boast a range of cultural attractions and amenities, ensuring residents and visitors can enjoy a diverse selection of recreational activities. Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast, a foodie, a culture vulture, or a night owl, Calgary and Vancouver have something to cater to your lifestyle.

Outdoor Activities and Natural Beauty

Outdoor enthusiasts will find no shortage of activities to enjoy in Calgary and Vancouver. Calgary's proximity to the Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park means that hiking, mountain biking, and winter sports are just a short drive away. Calgary's best neighbourhoods are dotted with plentiful parks and recreational spaces, such as Edworthy Park and Fish Creek Provincial Park, offering amenities like hiking trails, playgrounds, picnic sites, and historic gardens.

North Vancouver, meanwhile, offers a different set of outdoor experiences. The city's oceanfront and mountainous settings allow for popular activities like kayaking, suspension bridge walks, skiing, and snowshoeing. Attractions such as Stanley Park and Grouse Mountain provide opportunities for exploration and adventure amidst stunning natural scenery.

Cultural Attractions and Events

Culturally, Calgary and Vancouver are vibrant. Some cultural events and attractions in Calgary include:

  • The annual Calgary Stampede rodeo
  • The Calgary International Film Festival
  • The National Music Center
  • Canada's Sports Hall of Fame at Canada Olympic Park in West Calgary

These events and attractions attract thousands of visitors each year.

Vancouver, on the other hand, is home to numerous cultural attractions like the Museum of Anthropology and the Vancouver Art Gallery, with its international exhibitions. The city's cultural scene is enhanced by events such as the Vancouver International Film Festival, showcasing its status as a leading hub for film and TV production.

Nightlife and Entertainment

When the sun goes down, both Calgary and Vancouver come alive with a vibrant nightlife. In downtown Calgary, venues range from large nightclubs to unique theme bars and over 20 casinos, while the famous Red Mile district is the go-to for nightlife during NHL playoffs.

Vancouver's nightlife scene is equally exciting, with venues like:

  • Pat's Pub & Brewhouse for jazz
  • The Blarney Stone for Irish music
  • Lanalous for a rock 'n' roll vibe
  • Guilt & Co. for intimate performances

The major city also offers unique entertainment settings in the city centre for a variety of tastes.

Education and Healthcare

Education and Healthcare in Calgary vs. Vancouver

Lastly, Calgary and Vancouver provide convenient education and healthcare services. Calgary's public education system benefits from extensive government funding, ensuring schooling at an affordable cost. Similarly, healthcare in the city and throughout Calgary's best suburbs encompasses a wide range of services, supported by modern technology and skilled healthcare professionals.

Calgary's healthcare infrastructure includes the Foothills Medical Centre, one of Canada's largest hospitals, and the Alberta Health Services system provides coverage for many basic medical services. This comprehensive coverage, along with the city's robust education system, ensures that residents of Calgary have access to services that support their well-being and lifestyle.

Meanwhile, Vancouver residents are served by the Vancouver School Board, which enrolls almost 50,000 students every year. The city has a world-class healthcare system, so Vancouverites can access well-equipped health and education services.

Living in Calgary vs. the Vancouver Lifestyle

Calgary and Vancouver, each with unique charm and offerings, present potential residents with a difficult choice. Where Calgary offers a lifestyle that seamlessly blends urban amenities with a love for the outdoors, Vancouver captivates with its coastal charm. And while driving in Calgary is made easier by the lower population density, Vancouver's smaller geographic area puts the entire city within easy reach. Ultimately, the choice between Calgary and Vancouver will depend on your preferences and lifestyle aspirations. Whether you choose the majestic Rockies of Calgary or the scenic coast of Vancouver, rest assured that both cities offer a lifestyle experience that is uniquely Canadian and truly unforgettable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why move to Calgary from Vancouver?

Moving to Calgary from Vancouver can be beneficial due to its affordability, lower taxes, and cheaper rental market compared to Vancouver and Toronto. Additionally, Calgary offers a thriving technology and entrepreneur scene.

What are the unique features of Calgary?

Calgary's unique features include its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, offering residents access to outdoor activities and impacting the city's real estate market.

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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