Calgary AB vs. Vancouver BC: 10 Things to Know BEFORE Moving
Choosing between Calgary and Vancouver for your home is a big decision. The city of Calgary, known for its vibrant energy sector and cowboy culture, offers a unique lifestyle. On the other hand, Vancouver, with its stunning oceanfront and mountain views, presents a different appeal. Both cities boast diverse attractions and a range of amenities, but each has its distinct advantages. This comparison will guide you through the key aspects of living in Calgary and Vancouver, helping you decide which city aligns best with your preferences. Explore the distinctive features of Calgary vs. Vancouver to make an informed choice for your new home.
Is it Cheaper to Live in Calgary or Vancouver?
The cost of living in Calgary is generally lower than in Vancouver. A 2023 survey found that Vancouver was the second-most expensive place to live in Canada behind Toronto. Calgary was the least expensive of the five major Canadian cities. One of the primary reasons for this is the higher cost of housing in Vancouver. It's worth noting, however, that the cost of living in either city can vary significantly depending on individual circumstances and lifestyle choices.
Cost of Living
Calgary's cost of living is 16% above the national average, while Vancouver's is roughly 40% higher. Housing is a significant factor in Vancouver's higher cost of living due to limited space and high demand.
According to WOWA, Vancouver's median sale price across all property types is around $1.2 million, compared to homes for sale in Calgary with a median price of $540,000. Apartment-style condos are the most affordable property type, averaging around $800,000 in Vancouver and $315,000 in Calgary. Townhomes are a bit pricier, with an average cost of $1.2 million in Vancouver and $418,000 in Calgary. Single-family homes see the biggest price difference, with an average cost of $2.1 million in Vancouver, which is roughly three times the average cost of $730,000 for homes for sale in Calgary.
Rental prices in Vancouver are also higher than in Calgary, with a one-bedroom apartment averaging around $2,800 compared to $1,800 in Calgary.
Calgary’s relative affordability is one of the biggest reasons that homebuyers choose to move to Calgary vs. Toronto, and Vancouver is in a similar boat.
Typical Salaries & Income
Calgary's average salary is around $69,000 annually or $33 per hour. Vancouver has a similar average salary of around $73,000 per year or $35 per hour. There are, however, differences in the median household income for each city. In Calgary, that figure is approximately $98,000, while in Vancouver, it's around $82,000.
When it comes to the minimum wage, both cities have similar rates. As of 2023, Vancouver's minimum wage is $16.75 per hour, and Calgary's is $15 per hour. Unemployment rates are the same, with both cities reporting a 5.9% unemployment rate.
As for income taxes, it may be more beneficial to live in Alberta depending on your income stream, as the province has a flat tax rate of 10% for taxable income up to $142,292. In comparison, British Columbia's income tax brackets range from 5.06% to 20.5% for taxable income over $240,716.
How's the Weather in Calgary vs. Vancouver?
Vancouver has a mild and rainy climate, while Calgary experiences cooler and drier weather with more distinct seasons. These climate differences can significantly impact the activities and lifestyles of residents in each city.
For those who don't mind low temperatures in the winter, Calgary can be a great place to live. With more snowfall and sunshine hours than other major Canadian cities, it offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and skating. However, it's worth noting that Calgary's weather can change from one extreme to the other on the same day, with temperatures dropping to -20 degrees Celsius in the morning and rising to 20 degrees Celsius if a Chinook (warm winds from the west) sweeps in.
Vancouver's milder winters and warm summers, on the other hand, make it an excellent place for year-round outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and exploring its beautiful parks and beaches. Although the weather has fewer extremes than in Calgary, it experiences significant rain showers and foggy days, particularly in the winter.
Which is Bigger, Calgary or Vancouver?
Population size impacts various aspects of living, such as traffic, job opportunities, and access to services and amenities. Vancouver has a larger metropolitan population of 2.6 million residents compared to Calgary's 1.4 million residents. However, both Calgary and Vancouver are major cities in Canada, offering world-class facilities and distinct cultural experiences. If you’re simply looking for the presence of big-city amenities like a thriving nightlife, you’ll be pleased by either city.
Finding a Job in Calgary vs. Vancouver
Looking for a job in Vancouver or Calgary can be a unique experience depending on the worker's industry. Both cities have thriving economies, and job-seekers usually don't have much trouble finding employment opportunities in either one.
That said, each city's job market and opportunities are quite different for skilled and entry-level workers. For instance, Calgary is well-known for its energy and oil sector, making it a more attractive location for job seekers looking for work in that industry. Other popular industries in Calgary include pharmaceuticals, aerospace and logistics, financial services, agribusiness, and a growing technology sector.
On the other hand, Vancouver offers job opportunities in several industries, such as technology, film, and tourism. Education, finance, and a growing green economy also contribute to the diverse employment landscape in Vancouver.
Getting Around in Calgary vs. Vancouver
Calgary and Vancouver boast thousands of kilometres of cycling paths, robust public transit options, and well-planned road infrastructure designed around their unique geographies. That's not to say pedestrians and commuters should expect the same level of bike friendliness, walkability, and traffic in each location. Here’s a detailed comparison of transportation options between Calgary and Vancouver.
Public transportation is a popular and convenient option for commuters in both Calgary and Vancouver. Calgary has a comprehensive system known as Calgary Transit, which includes over 250 bus routes, the C-Train (light rail transit), and Access Calgary for riders with disabilities. Vancouver, on the other hand, has TransLink, a vast public transit network that operates buses, trains, and ferries and serves greater Vancouver.
The public transportation system in Vancouver is more established and integrated than Calgary's. As a result, commuters in Vancouver may find it easier to navigate through the city. Vancouver's annual ridership is significantly higher than Calgary's, taking into account the population size. Vancouver reported 194 million trips per year, while Calgary had 56.9 million. In addition, Vancouver's SkyTrain system has 79.6 kilometres of track and is fully automated, while Calgary's C-Train covers 60 kilometres. A three-zone monthly pass in Vancouver costs $189.45, while adults pay $115 for a monthly pass in Calgary.
Driving & Traffic
Compared to Vancouver, Calgary enjoys less traffic congestion and easier access to parking. The city's well-connected traffic infrastructure includes major roads like Deerfoot Trail, Macleod Trail, and Highway 1. Stoney Trail, also known as Ring Road, encircles the city, making it relatively easy to get around. On average, it takes about 13 minutes to travel a distance of 10 kilometres in Calgary, according to the TomTom Traffic Index. The average commute time in Calgary is around 24 minutes.
In Vancouver, it can be challenging to drive due to limited parking and high traffic during peak hours, despite the city's robust public transit options. Highway 1, Kingsway, Marine Drive, and Granville Street are some of the busiest roads in the city and can often experience heavy traffic congestion. TomTom reports 23 minutes to travel a distance of 10 kilometres in Vancouver. Additionally, finding parking spots in popular areas like downtown Vancouver can be quite tricky, which makes driving in the city a bit of a hassle at times.
Does Calgary or Vancouver Have Better Things to Do?
Both cities provide numerous opportunities for entertainment, but there are some notable variations in terms of culture, climate, and amenities. Calgary has a more business-oriented atmosphere and is renowned for its cowboy culture, while Vancouver is more relaxed and focused on nature. Let's delve into the outdoor activities, arts and culture, and food and nightlife scenes of each city.
Calgary offers endless outdoor activities, from hiking and biking in the nearby mountains to kayaking on the Bow River. Calgarians take advantage of the winter months to enjoy some of the best skiing in the country, with the "Big 3" ski resorts and beautiful Lake Banff nearby.
During the warmer months, Calgary's parks and green spaces come alive with picnics, festivals, and outdoor concerts. The city is also home to the annual Calgary Stampede, a world-famous 10-day rodeo that attracts visitors from all over the world. Other popular outdoor activities in Calgary include snow tubing at Mount Norquay, ice skating at Bowness Park, and exploring Prince Island Park, where many of the city's festivals and events take place.
Vancouver, for its part, is a hiker's town. Mountains and evergreens surround the city, providing ample opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the area's natural beauty. Popular outdoor destinations in Vancouver include Stanley Park, Capilano Suspension Bridge, and Grouse Mountain, among others.
Arts & Culture
When evaluating which city has the better arts and culture scene, it's important to consider factors such as the number and quality of museums, theatres, art galleries, music venues, festivals, and other cultural events.
Calgary has over 80 annual festivals, from music and dance to theatre and visual arts. The Glenbow Museum, Calgary Zoo, and Heritage Park Historical Village are some of the popular attractions in the city. Each offers a glimpse into its rich history and diverse cultural heritage. This is also evident in vibrant neighbourhoods such as Kensington and Chinatown, where residents experience a range of languages and cuisines from around the world. GlobalFest, the Calgary International Film Festival, and the Lilac Festival are some of the most highly attended annual events in the city.
In comparison, Vancouver's arts and culture scene boasts 22 museums and art galleries, including the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver Art Gallery, and Science World, among other popular destinations. Over a dozen major festivals happen throughout the year (with an abundance of smaller celebrations), including the Cherry Blossom Festival, Dine Out Vancouver, and PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. Neither city will leave you wanting when it comes to things to do!
Food & Nightlife
Both Vancouver and Calgary have distinct culinary scenes with unique traditions and specialties. Ultimately, the decision between the two depends on personal preference and taste.
Calgary's food scene typically revolves around meat and barbecue. The city is famous for serving Alberta beef, which is raised on nearby ranches and can be found in many restaurants across Calgary. There's also a thriving craft beer scene in the city, with many breweries and brewpubs offering a variety of local beers. Live music venues and bars are concentrated downtown, with popular spots like Betty Lou's Library and the Blues Can.
Vancouver's culinary scene offers a wide range of international cuisines. The city is particularly famous for its seafood, with fresh fish and shellfish caught off the coast of British Columbia. Fusion cuisine is also popular, combining flavors and ingredients from different cultural traditions. Some of the best nightlife spots in Vancouver include Moose's Down Under Bar on Granville Street, The Cambie Pub in Gastown, and the Sandbar Seafood Restaurant on Granville Island.
Calgary vs. Vancouver: Which City is Right For You?
Deciding whether to live in Calgary or Vancouver may be a tough decision—or an easy one, depending on what you want out of a new home. Calgary offers a dynamic, energy-driven community with a touch of traditional charm, while Vancouver provides a scenic, culturally rich environment. Both cities cater to a variety of lifestyles and preferences, making them desirable choices. Reflect on what you value most in a city—whether it's Calgary's spirited ambiance and affordability or Vancouver's picturesque setting. Understanding the differences is key to finding your ideal home.