Looking for somewhere cheap to live in Ontario?
As the cost of living continues to rise throughout Canada, many are responding by moving away from expensive cities and finding smaller, more affordable towns to live in.
If you’re already living in Ontario and looking to cut costs, or you’re about to move to Ontario, this post is for you.
Below, I’ll share some of the cheapest places to live in Ontario, so you can consider your options and find the city or town that best fits your needs.
Ontario is the largest and most expensive province in Canada. With over 14.7 million residents, the province serves as the economic hub for the entire country. Toronto is home to some of the country’s most notable billionaires and recently surpassed Vancouver as the most expensive city in Canada.
Ontario has a wide range of living costs. While Toronto often captures headlines with its dynamic urban appeal and high living expenses, the province is much more than just this metropolis.
There are still plenty of affordable places to live in Ontario. You just have to be willing to live outside of major cities and expensive neighbourhoods. If you don’t mind a slightly slower, quieter pace of life, you’ll have no problem adapting.
From small lakeside towns to city suburbs, Ontario has plenty of affordable cities and towns to live in. The places mentioned below generally have lower rent, and the cost of buying a house is more affordable than in Toronto and other large cities.
I’ve arranged them in order from the lowest to the highest average rent prices.
1. Rainy River
- Average Rent: $1,100
- Population: 2,826
Rainy River is a very small town located on the banks of Rainy River on the southern border of Ontario. On the other side of the river is the US state of Minnesota.
This small riverside town isn’t exactly an economic hub. Rather, it’s a small, quiet town where most people mind their own business and enjoy the peace and quiet provided by nature.
However, it is a popular destination for hunting, fishing, and boating. There’s also a small community college here, which provides some teaching positions.
Most of the inhabitants here are either retired or commute long distances for work.
- Average Rent: $1,141 per month
- Population: 71,594
Located a one-hour drive west of London, Sarnia is a growing port city that sits on the southernmost bank of Lake Huron.
The St. Clair River runs directly through the city and connects Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair. Given its central location, Sarnia is a logistics hub for the shipping industry, and there’s ample employment at the port.
The rent in Sarnia is incredibly low, with apartments in the city centre going for around $1,141 per month. If you want to save even more, you can find apartments right outside of the city for as cheap as $1,098.
One of the best reasons to consider living in Sarnia is that it’s also a border town that sits on the edge of Ontario. The US city of Detroit is just an hour’s drive southwest of Sarnia, which is a popular destination for Sarnia residents looking for a bit of fun and nightlife.
Sarnia’s economy is heavily based on manufacturing and research, and the city has invested a lot of energy into growing these sectors in an effort to bring in fresh talent. In my opinion, Sarnia shows massive potential for growth over the next decade.
3. Thunder Bay
- Average Rent: $1,225 per month
- Population: 121,596
Thunder Bay is a city located towards the southern border of Ontario, on the banks of Lake Superior. Compared to cities in Northern Ontario, Thunder Bay is relatively warm. Fishing, boating, and other watersports are very popular in the summer here.
If you go just outside of the city, you’ll have plenty of nature trails and forests to explore as well.
The city has a population of around 121,596 people, making it one of the largest cities in the region. As such, it serves as a major economic and transportation hub.
The cost of living in Thunder Bay is relatively low compared to similar-sized cities in Ontario, which makes it a great option for those looking to cut down on their cost of living.
It has a diverse economy, with jobs in healthcare, manufacturing, and education, which makes it a good place to settle down and find a decent-paying job.
Additionally, the city is home to Lakehead University and Confederation College, which provide various educational and research opportunities for the academically inclined.
The few times I’ve visited Thunder Bay, the city has always seemed to have a strong sense of community. People here are generally friendly, and there’s a diverse community.
Overall, living in Thunder Bay is very balanced. On the one hand, there’s plenty of nature to see and explore. On the other hand, there’s a bustling (if small) city centre with some good food, cheap activities, and public parks.
- Average Rent: $1,256 per month
- Population: 47,845
Situated along the St. Lawrence River, Cornwall offers a mix of affordability, safety, and employment opportunities.
The city’s diverse economic landscape offers jobs in key industries like logistics, manufacturing, forestry, fishing, construction, local retail, and hospitality.
Cornwall has a lower cost of living compared to many other cities in Ontario, making it financially attractive for newcomers. Compared to the rest of Ontario, Cornwall’s cost of living is 27% lower, which makes it an ideal city for those trying to budget and save.
Cornwall is a relatively small city. Traffic isn’t bad, and it has a friendly small-town vibe. However, it’s very close to both Ottawa and Montreal, which are both popular weekend destinations that are about an hour-and-a-half drive away.
Recreation-wise, there are plenty of fun things to do. From water sports on the St. Lawrence to cycling along the Waterfront Trail, there are plenty of opportunities to get out and enjoy south central Ontario’s great summer weather.
The local art scene is also vibrant and growing, with galleries, theatres, and local cultural festivals that are great family-friendly activities.
5. North Bay
- Average Rent: $1,258 per month
- Population: 51,553
Located on the northern shore of Lake Nipissing, North Bay is a busy railroad town and logistics hub. Unlike other towns of similar size, North Bay has its own small airport, which was once home to an important missile defence post maintained by the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Cold War.
The closest city to North Bay is Sudbury, which lies just over an hour west of North Bay. The town is fairly quiet but is also welcoming and friendly. There’s a small town centre for those looking to grab a bite to eat, socialize, or take a walk in the park.
With this in mind, North Bay is better suited to outdoor enthusiasts, as there are plenty of natural parks and trails surrounding the city. I hear that the lake offers some great fishing too.
The main industries in North Bay are manufacturing, aviation, and healthcare. However, North Bay also hosts a number of festivals and athletic meets throughout the year thanks to its central location and large open spaces.
- Average Rent: $1,342 per month
- Population: 161,531
Sudbury is a mid-sized town located in central Ontario close to Ramsey Lake. Thanks to its strong local economy, low cost of living, and good education system, it’s become a destination for families and those looking to start a family.
There may not be a huge nightlife or club scene here, but there are some decent spots to eat downtown. There are also lots of fun activities surrounding Sudbury. Ramsey Lake is a popular hangout spot during the warmer summer months, and there are lots of trails to ride if you’re into mountain biking.
Interestingly, Sudbury has one of the highest concentrations of French speakers outside of Quebec. In fact, around 38% of the city’s inhabitants are bilingual.
- Average Rent: $1,355 per month
- Population: 217,188
Windsor is the province’s southernmost city and the third-largest city in southwestern Ontario, with a population of just under a quarter-million residents.
It has a diverse cultural community, including those of Italian, French, and Lebanese descent, which is reflected in the city’s festivals, events, and the local food scene. The city also has a strong arts scene and is home to a symphony orchestra, a ballet company and several notable museums and galleries.
The Riverfront Festival Plaza regularly hosts concerts, festivals and other events. Additionally, the city is located near several major attractions, such as Point Pelee National Park.
Windsor is also located on the south bank of the Detroit River. During the warm summer months, paddleboarding, kayaking, and jet skiing are very popular.
The one downside of Windsor is that it doesn’t have the best local job market. With an 8.2% unemployment rate, you may have trouble finding work locally. That being said, it’s the perfect place to live if you work remotely!
If you ever get tired of Windsor, you can take a quick bus ride (or drive) to Detroit, Michigan – one of the most iconic cities in the US. Windsor also has its own airport, which is good if you travel frequently.
- Average Rent: $1,500 per month
- Population: 87,013
Located in the GTA just an hour-and-a-half northeast of downtown Toronto, Peterborough is a manufacturing hub that’s also home to Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and McCain Foods plants. These are some of the city’s largest employers.
Although Peterborough has historically been an industrial city, it recently started to develop into a destination for small start-up businesses and other entrepreneurial ventures.
Thanks to the affordable cost of living and the general proximity to Ontario’s largest (and wealthiest) city, it’s a great place to start a small business designed to cater to the GTA’s ever-growing community.
Peterborough has also developed a good arts scene and hosts the annual Peterborough Folk Festival and the Kawartha Lakes Winter Carnival – both of which offer plenty of fun for the family.
Overall, Peterborough is a great place to raise a family in, thanks to its growing job market, affordable cost of living, and proximity to Toronto
- Average Rent: $1,521 per month
- Population: 158,967
Kingston is just a three-hour drive east of Toronto, which makes it a good option for those who don’t want to stray too far from the city. Additionally, it’s just 30 minutes away from the US border and New York City, which is a great way to spend a weekend off.
Overall, the city is very friendly and has a diverse population, so most Canadians will have no problem fitting in. Sports are a big deal here, and you’ll find tons of local sports pubs to watch your favourite matches in. Cycling and bike riding are very popular here as well.
Kingston has a growing economy too. Although the city has historically relied on public sector jobs, a growing number of small start-ups and restaurants indicate that entrepreneurship is strong here.
- Average Rent: $1,533 per month
- Population: 104,316
With a blend of safety, affordability, job prospects, and recreational/cultural activities, Chatham is definitely worth putting on your list of affordable cities to look into.
Located about an hour southwest of London, this town has a low crime severity rate and a slower, more rural pace of life. A number of the town’s residents work in London’s professional sector, taking advantage of high-paying jobs while also enjoying the affordable cost of living and low housing prices in Chatham.
Despite its rural feel, Chatham has a fair local job market, with abundant jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, and healthcare.
The city offers a range of parks, hiking trails, and golf courses for those who enjoy outdoor activities. The nearby Thames River is a popular retreat for boating, fishing, and kayaking.
- Average Rent: $1,583 per month
- Population: 110,042
As the cost of living in Toronto has skyrocketed, the smaller cities and towns surrounding Toronto have seen healthy growth. Ajax is one of these suburbs and lies just 40 minutes east of the big city.
It’s positioned on the banks of Lake Ontario and has a scenic waterfront park for residents to sit and enjoy nature. The neighbouring town of Pickering also offers a small beach, which is a great place to sit back and read a book or tan during the warmer months.
For the most part, life in Ajax is calm and quiet. There’s a small town centre with a few good restaurants, shops, and parks. However, it’s mostly a commuter city for people who work in the GTA.
The one downside of Ajax is the traffic congestion here. The highways heading into downtown Toronto are packed Monday through Friday and are especially bad during rush hour. Because of this, many residents choose to take the train into Toronto rather than deal with the traffic.
- Average Rent: $1,823 per month
- Population: 383,822
Located two hours from downtown Toronto, London is one of the largest cities in southwestern Ontario. Compared to some of the other cities on this list, London has a higher cost of rent (at least in the city centre). However, considering the size of the city, $1,823 really isn’t that bad.
The cost of rent right outside of the city is significantly cheaper, and you can find a one-bedroom apartment for around $1,500.
London is a busy college town and is home to the University of Western Ontario – one of the largest universities in the region.
The labour market in London is pretty good as well. While some of the other cities on this list are suffering from higher-than-average unemployment rates, London is actually going through a labour shortage.
Here, you’ll find plenty of jobs in the entertainment industry, professional sector, and education. Given London’s larger size and population, it’s also a good city for those in the gig economy. Food delivery services like DoorDash and SkipTheDishes are very popular here, as well as ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.
- Average Rent: $1,849 per month
- Population: 1,017,449
Despite being Ontario’s capital, Ontario offers a relatively low cost of living compared to larger cities in the province. Its proximity to Montreal and Toronto, both within a few hours’ drive, makes it a central hub for manufacturing, logistics, and other core industries.
Ottawa serves as both the province’s and the country’s political centre. As a result, numerous government agencies, non-profits, and international organizations are headquartered here, offering a diverse range of employment opportunities.
Beyond the public sector, Ottawa has a thriving technology industry, often referred to as “Silicon Valley North,” with significant job potential in fields like software development, telecommunications, and biotechnology.
Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the city’s extensive bike paths, the Rideau Canal, which is perfect for skating in the winter and kayaking in the summer.
Overall, Ottawa is a multifaceted city that’s ideal for professionals, students, and families alike.
- Average Rent: $1,850 per month
- Population: 31,009
Orangeville, Ontario, is a charming city that combines the tranquillity of a smaller community with the convenience of being close to major urban centers like Toronto and Brampton.
Located just about an hour’s drive from downtown Toronto, Orangeville is an excellent option for those who may work in the city but prefer a quieter, more peaceful lifestyle.
Orangeville’s downtown is dotted with unique shops, cafes, and public art installations, including an impressive array of utility box art.
The local job market in Orangeville is diverse, with opportunities in healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and public services. The city is home to the Headwaters Health Care Centre, which employs over 700 local residents, including 160 doctors.
- Average Rent: $1,889 per month
- Population: 141,434
Barrie has a vibe that’s very similar to Ajax. This small city is a suburb of Toronto and is located just over an hour north of the big city. Like Ajax, Barrie is a lakeside town that sits on the banks of Lake Simcoe. This means that there’s ample opportunity for boating, fishing, and other watersports.
Although rental rates in the city centre have increased significantly over the past few years, you can save a bit by moving towards the outskirts of Barrie, where rent is around $1,594.
The manufacturing sector here is the largest, but there’s a growing job market in healthcare, hospitality, retail, and education.
Like other suburbs of Toronto, the main drawback of living in Barrie is the sheer amount of traffic during rush hour. Although local traffic isn’t much to complain about, the highways are a completely different story.
Employment Opportunities in Ontario
Ontario’s economic landscape is as diverse as its topography. While globally recognized urban centers like Toronto and Ottawa dominate in sectors such as finance and technology, there are other cities and towns that hold significant promise for job seekers.
Places like Thunder Bay, Sudbury, and London, for instance, are not just pockets of affordability but also hubs for various industries ranging from manufacturing to healthcare and education.
However, a note of caution; some regions, like Windsor, despite their cost-effectiveness, might pose challenges with higher unemployment rates. It underscores the importance of choosing a region in Ontario that not only meets budgetary constraints but also complements your career goals and trajectory.
What are the top 5 most affordable cities in Southern Ontario?
The cities of Windsor, Sarnia, Chatham-Kent, Brantford, and St. Catharines consistently rank among the most affordable in Southern Ontario. They offer a blend of urban conveniences and suburban charm, making them appealing to both families and single residents.
Which city in Ontario has the lowest cost of living?
Among the cities in Ontario, Windsor frequently emerges as having the lowest cost of living. This city provides a balanced lifestyle with somewhat affordable housing, transportation, and daily expenses.
The cheapest places to live in Ontario tend to be small, isolated towns with fewer than 10,000 residents, which isn’t very conducive to raising a family or finding a good-paying job.
However, mid-size cities like Sudbury, London, North Bay, and Windsor provide a good mix of job opportunities while still offering a relatively low cost of living compared to Toronto.
Are you ready to buy a house in Ontario? Check out my guide to saving for your home down payment next!