Vancouver the most expensive city in North America

Vancouver expensive

Once again, Vancouver has been ranked as the most expensive city in North America (35th globally), which puts it ahead of New York City (36th globally). According to ECA International, Vancouver is North America’s most expensive location for the second year in a row. 

The majority will lay blame on the city’s high cost of housing, hence the increased push to densify outside of downtown, just look at the Oakridge Centre redevelopment plans that include a couple of 40+ floor residential towers. Those kind of proposals would have been unheard of in the past.

As the dream of owning detached home turns into a financial nightmare, many are turning to the condo life.

However, this survey looked at day-to-day goods and it seems our fair city is expensive for a lot more than just housing:

ECA International’s cost of living indices are calculated based upon surveys carried out annually in March and September using a basket of day-to-day goods and services.  The data used above refers to year-on-year movements between ECA’s September 2012 and 2011 surveys.
The data is used by ECA clients to calculate cost of living allowances for assignees. The survey covers:
Food: Groceries; dairy produce; meat and fish; fresh fruit and vegetables
Basic: Drink and tobacco; miscellaneous goods; services
General: Clothing; electrical goods; motoring; meals out
High housing costs, high prices for day-to-day goods, throw in depressed salaries, and you have the recipe for disaster. Sooner or later something will have to give.

Here is what the ECA International said about Vancouver and the Americas:

The Canadian city of Vancouver is North America’s most expensive location for the second year in a row. The city ranks 35th globally and is followed by Manhattan. The strengthening of the US dollar against major currencies has led to all of the US locations surveyed moving up the ranking in the past 12 months – despite the cost of items in the cost of living basket increasing at a slower rate than many other parts of the world.

In South America, the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, sitting in 7th position globally, is the most expensive city followed by Argentina’s Buenos Aires (47th globally). The Brazilian locations of Rio de Janeiro (64th) and Sao Paulo (69th) follow. However, both have fallen more than 40 places in the ranking in the past 12 months – largely a result of the weakening of the Brazilian real against the US dollar and other major currencies.


Image  by Maurice Li

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  • ☺ roy marvelous.

    Finally. I moved here 3 months ago and locals seemed surprised when I was shocked by the prices of food & alcohol compared with earning power. Nice weather, beautiful city, too bad I feel poorer than I ever have in my adult life 😉

  • Cloudburst77

    Dude. I don’t understand how a city that is the most expensive can have such crappy employment outlook. Young people are heading to Toronto & Calgary to get jobs…people are going to school, getting in debt and graduating. It’s way too competitive here…such few large companies and only a few positions. Ridiculous.

  • Guest

    My new employee is from Brampton Ontario and he said the exact same thing! He said he couldnt believe the price of groceries, alcohol, and tobacco.

  • Moving Soon

    Let me start this by saying I’m a very positive person.

    That being said, this city is ridiculous. I lived in NY for a year and it wasn’t as expensive as it is here. But you can expect to pay that in NY, because it is a city filled with culture, art, history, entertainment and buzzing with life. Vancouver, on the other hand… It always blows my mind how far Vancouverites have their heads up their own asses when they proclaim that this city is the most beautiful in the world. Has anyone else noticed that it rains 9 months of the year here? It’s gloomy, wet, cold, boring and OVERPRICED! Anyone who thinks Vancouver is the most beautiful or amazing city in the world has obviously never been anywhere else in the world. 
    Signed,Moving Soon

  • Mark

    Which is why I moved to LA as an audio-post guy.
    I make way more money, and expenses are much Elsa. Especially buying a house.
    A 4 bedroom house with a pool in the Hollywood hills, costs the same or less than a bungalow in kits.

  • Mark

    I agree. Very overrated. very expensive.

  • Julia

    Disagree. I’ve lived in 4 countries (Canada, France, Russia, and Japan), and visited over 50 cities in 15 nations globally. I honestly think Vancouver is one of the best. It all depends on what you’re after. I love the clean air, nature, yoga, organic lifestyle and the mild climate that this city offers. And no, I wasn’t born here, but lived here for over 12 years. Is it too expensive? Absolutely, but I’m proud to call it my home :)

  • Mark

    I’ve lived in various outré is as well. And seen opts of cities.
    I lived in Vancouver for 15 years.
    Glad to not be there anymore.

  • Mr. X

     True, but USA is not Canada (and vice versa). Me and my wife were offered +30% more salary for relocating to USA, but we chose to remain in Vancouver. This city is just one of a kind and money can’t compensate for that.

    Yet, also I agree that Vancouver is way too expensive and hope the prices will fall. Still, I do love this city, despite the expensiveness and the rain. :-)

  • I heart NYC

    Moving Soon, I couldn’t agree with you more. The only reason to ever live in this city is if you are an outdoors lover. Other than that, it has nothing on NYC! I’m going to be moving back there very soon. I mean, if you’re going to pay through the nose, it might as well be there.

  • saturno_v

    In 1999 I made one of the worst mistake of my life moving to Vancouver, one of the gloomiest cities I ever seen……yes natural beauty but that’s it.
    No culture, no business environment and perennial crappy employment outlook, no arts, very unfriendly people (polite but unfriendly, very different concept) no proper road system and an out of this world real estate market.
    Thank God I cut my losses in 2003 and very happily living in the States (if I could I would go back in Australia in a heartbeat but I have a family now here in the USA)
    I feel sorry for people living there that have no other place to go (shovelling snow in winter in the rest of Canada to get yoru car out of the driveway is not very appealing)

  • Saturno_v

    Vancouverites are seriously deluding themselves if they really think they live in one of the best cities in the world (no matter what the advertisement/propaganda surveys say).
    I realize that you have to convince yourself of this if you have no where else to go (as I said before, shovelling snow in the rest of Canada is not appealing).
    I heard many people drawing comparisons to Sydney in Australia…that means they never been in Sydney or have their heads up where the sun does not shine or both……

  • saturno_v

    Yes maybe compared to the places you described….try Australia, USA, Brazil, Saingapore, etc…

  • saturno_v

    You can love the outdoors and not have to live in Vancouver…..if you are really attracted to the Northwest go to Seattle, miles better than Vancouver.
    Inexpensive real estate, real career opportunities, arts, culture, a real road system, etc…. 

  • nooc

    Can’t wait for you to leave.

  • My name

    90% of Vancouverites don’t even know what outdoors is. They think hiking the Chief or going to Doggy park is getting back to nature lol I don’t think I would move to states due to their second amendment but if it was easy and I didn’t worry about the second amendments lol I would move to Oregon in a heartbeat. Especially the Oregon coast somewhere. People in Oregon are so friendly, dogs were allowed almost everywhere lol love love love it there! I got on a bus here (Vancouver) and I let a gentleman go ahead of me and he said ‘you are not from Vancouver are you?’. He clarified that people in Vancouver don’t do those kind of gestures.

  • Clara

    I have lived here all my life, this is so sad to see such a beautiful city becoming so poverty striken, there are so many homeless or low income earners.

    I hardly buy anything that doesn’t go on sale, because it’s just too damn expensive.  I would rather shop across the border because it definitely is cheaper there.

  • Clara

    everything is over priced and over rated! I agree 100% and don’t get me started on our pathetic 12% on taxes.

  • Marooned2012

     Moving Soon’s comment is right on !!!  Those who elevate Vancounver to the heights of civilization, are clearly in denial and don’t know anything about what constitutes a world class city. Its not just place marketing across the globe with stereotypical images of Vancouver  and  it sure ain’t having the highest amount and density of ( Chinese rather than Japanese owned) Sushi Restaurants in the world LOL. Don’t only equate beaches and outdoors to quality of life, there is so much more to life than that. Those who understand  this and have travelled abroad will appreciate cultural diversity, visible in a  cosmopolitan flair (i.e. like in NYC,London, San Francisco, Montreal) and a vibrant arts and music scene, none of which exists in Vancouver. Time to Move on to  better promising shores for all those who see Vancouver for what it really is, a provincial backwater!!

  • Charles

    Left Vancouver after living there for 25 years for Melbourne, Australia and I’m ten times better off. Better restaurants, amazing live music scene, magnificent State Gallery of Victoria and some of the most amazing beaches I have ever seen within an hour’s drive. That, and the climate is also ten times better. Multiculturally, Melbournians mix better than Vancouverites who tend to insulate into their own little groups- Sikhs over here, Vietnamese over there, Filipinos over there….Did I mention the live music? In six months I saw the Pogues, The Specials, Big Jay McNeely twice and all the big name acts roll through Melbourne regularly. Dozens of places to catch live music and nobody whines and moans about paying to hear a good band like Vancouverites do.