I’ve noticed that many prices seem to be lower here in the United States than in Canada. Am I imagining it? With the help of my Canadian friend Annette (an experienced shopper), I decided to find out.
I selected a basket of 20 common retail items (food, alcoholic beverages, and fuel), and compared the prices for these items in Vancouver, Canada (my home) and San Antonio, Texas (my location when this crazy idea struck me). Annette and I gathered regular retail prices (not sale prices) not including sales taxes from comparable retail outlets (to the extent that they are available in both cities) within a few days of each other. The American prices were converted to Canadian dollars at the current exchange rate. Where quantities or package sizes differed, the prices were adjusted to equivalent volumes.
The table below shows the items we checked, the U.S. price, the Canadian price, and the percentage difference of the Canadian price compared to the U.S. price.
|Frosted Flakes (760g box)||$3.92||$7.23||84.6%|
|Cheerios (396g box)||$2.90||$5.02||73.3%|
|Milk (3.78L = 1 gallon)||$4.32||$4.56||5.4%|
|Eggs (12 Large Grade A)||$1.71||$2.63||53.5%|
|Coors Light beer (24×355 ml cans)||$20.39||$43.99||115.7%|
|Corona Extra beer (12 x 330 ml bottles)||$13.25||$25.69||93.9%|
|Yellowtail Cabernet Sauvignon (750 ml bottle, Australia)||$5.07||$12.99||156.2%|
|Woodbridge Merlot (750 ml bottle, California)||$8.64||$13.99||61.9%|
|Coca Cola (12 cans)||$3.04||$5.97||96.4%|
|Coca Cola (2 Litre bottle)||$1.41||$1.87||32.9%|
|Chicken thighs skin-on, bone in (per pound)||$5.04||$4.98||-1.2%|
|Ground beef (85% lean, per pound)||$3.25||$6.28||93.0%|
|Ground beef (89% lean, per pound)||$3.79||$7.98||110.3%|
|Ground beef (93% lean, per pound)||$5.08||$9.88||94.5%|
|Bananas (per pound)||$0.49||$0.58||18.5%|
|Fuji Apples (per pound)||$1.70||$1.19||-30.1%|
|Yellow Onions, medium (per pound)||$2.43||$1.28||-47.3%|
|Russet Potatoes (per pound)||$0.90||$0.48||-46.5%|
|Gasoline (regular, per Litre)||$0.91||$1.34||47.9%|
|Diesel fuel (per Litre)||$1.01||$1.41||39.4%|
Vancouverites are paying a lot more!
Of the 20 items on the list, 16 were more expensive in Canada. 3 produce items were significantly cheaper in Canada (apples, onions, & potatoes), and there was a trivial difference in the price of chicken thighs. All other items were between 5% and 156% more expensive in Canada.
The price differences were the biggest for wine and beer (61% to 156% higher). The probable reasons for this are: a government monopoly on alcohol distribution in British Columbia, high government taxes on alcoholic beverages, and restrictions and tariffs on importing alcohol into Canada.
Grocery items (other than the few that were cheaper) were between 5% (milk) and 110% (ground beef) more expensive in Vancouver, with the remaining 9 items between 18% (bananas) and 96% (Coca Cola) more expensive.
Vehicle fuel was priced 47% higher in Canada for regular gasoline and 38% higher for diesel fuel. This is due, in part, to higher taxes.
I recognize that this was a very limited sample size (20 items, 2 stores, 2 cities, none of which were randomly chosen), and so few general conclusions can be drawn from these results. But it does confirm my suspicions. In my experience, groceries, alcohol, and fuel are consistently more expensive in Canada than in the United States.
Why is this the case? What can Canadian consumers do about it? Stayed tuned for more on this topic.