When you think about high costs of living, you probably think of New York and Los Angeles.
But prices are rising just about everywhere these days, due to inflation continuing at a record pace in the U.S. and around the world. And a new study from Toronto-based online life insurance provider PolicyAdvisor ranking the most expensive cities across the U.S. and Canada might surprise you.
New York unsurprisingly does top the list. But other major U.S. cities like Los Angeles and Chicago don't even crack the top five. Four Canadian cities follow New York on PolicyAdvisor's ranking, suggesting that a move north of the border wouldn't necessarily ease the burden on most Americans' wallets.
Here's the top five, according to the ranking:
- New York
- Mississauga, Ontario
- Vancouver, British Columbia
- Hamilton, Ontario
The ranking examined the 10 largest cities by population in the U.S. and Canada, comparing the average prices of eight common expenditures in each of the 20 overall cities. Those expenses included the cost of a single movie ticket, a meal out at a restaurant, a bottle of water, a cappuccino, one month of gym membership, a one-way ticket and monthly pass on public transit, and monthly rent.
PolicyAdvisor's ranking reflects the combined costs of those items as a percentage of each city's average monthly net salary. Those numbers come from Numbeo, a user-generated global cost-of-living database aggregated by hundreds of thousands of contributors around the world.
According to PolicyAdvisor, New York boasts the second-highest average monthly net salaries among the 20 cities, only behind San Diego. But New Yorkers pay the highest average prices for rent, gym memberships, monthly public transit passes and meals out. (San Francisco has higher average rent prices than New York, but isn't among the country's 10 most populous cities.)
In total, the costs tracked in the ranking accounted for 57% of an average New Yorker's monthly salary.
The second-most expensive city on the list is Mississauga, a Toronto suburb where a monthly public transportation pass costs $111. Its average rent prices are less than half of New York's — just $1,626.77 per month — but its average monthly net salary is the fourth-lowest on the list.
The rest of the top 5 — Vancouver, Hamilton and Toronto — features similar dynamics. All three Canadian cities have relatively reasonable average rent prices, but much less earning power than cities like New York.
In a statement, a PolicyAdvisor spokesperson said the ranking "contains some surprising results," noting that most people might expect a suburb like Mississauga – with a population of 717,000 people – to be more affordable than a larger city like Los Angeles, which has roughly 3.9 million people. "Even though some major cities in North America might be perceived as having lower living costs, when factoring in the average salary in the area, it's not as clear cut."
Los Angeles did eventually make the list at No. 6: Residents of California's largest city can expect to pay high prices for a meal out and average monthly rent. The combined costs in Los Angeles added up to 46.6% of the city's average monthly net salary, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the least expensive city among the 20 examined by the report is Calgary, Alberta. The Canadian city of 1.3 million people offers the third-lowest average monthly rent prices of the cities tracked, helping its total costs account for just 29.3% of its average monthly net salary.
Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter