Where to rent in Toronto: downtown, suburbs or in between?

Renters in Toronto have two major decisions to make when choosing a new place to live: Where, and how much? The latter is based on your budget (here’s some tips on that) and is influenced pretty heavily by what part of the city you want to live in. But without a doubt, choosing the right neighbourhood to suit your style is the most crucial to your happiness as a renter!

In Toronto, we have a diverse downtown, we have suburbs and we have that in-between area. To help you choose, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of the three options for you; however, if you need an even more detailed breakdown (along with the average rent you’ll pay in each area), check out our neighbourhood guides for a healthy dose of what to expect from each of the Toronto neighbourhoods.

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Downtown Toronto

Best bet neighbourhoods: Fashion District, NiagaraGarden District

The pros

You’re close to everything. Groceries, restaurants, work, shopping, awesome nightlife, the subway and other services you’ll need… plus great coffee, gyms and juice bars.

Downtown Toronto has great parks and public squares, such as Yonge-Dundas Square, which has free events going on pretty much all the time.

You don’t drive? You don’t have to. Transit options, including the TTC, are literally around every corner downtown. Considering the price of gas, the amount you’ll save by taking transit could (partially) offset the premium you’ll pay for rent.

The cons

Noise, noise, noise. Ambulances, drunk hooligans, barking dogs, taxi horns and construction are staples of downtown TO living. Invest in ear plugs.

Also, parking is at a premium, so if you’re looking at apartments for rent downtown, make sure yours includes a parking spot and ask whether the stall costs extra, or is included.

Plus, your views might include the steel-and-glass facades of other high-rises.

Finally, cost and space. Living downtown can be awesome, but rents are higher here than in other parts of Toronto. And, to top it off, you’ll pay more for a much smaller space than you’d get outside the core.

The suburbs

Best bet neighbourhoods: Etobicoke, Vaughan, Pickering, Markham

The pros

Suburban living means doing away with the noise and crazy pace of downtown. With yards, more families as neighbours and less activity going on during the day, living in the suburbs could be your ticket to serenity.

You’ll also get more space. Renters will find plenty of houses available in the suburbs with several rooms, storage and maybe even a garage.

Where some neighbourhoods closer to downtown Toronto might not get an A for safety, the suburbs tend to have the security factor locked down, so to speak.

Suburbs in Toronto and the GTA are ripe with great parks, trails and natural outdoor spaces that are awesome for enjoying year round.

The cons

Without a car, getting around can be a chore with limited public transportation options. And with the car comes long commutes, especially if you work downtown, and pricey gas, repairs and upkeep bills for the car. From the suburbs, everything requires driving, even the grocery store, entertainment, sports, schools and friends.

Suburb-dwellers are usually families. If you don’t have kids, or aren’t into the “settled down” lifestyle, you might feel isolated so far from all the action.


Best bet neighbourhoods: Dufferin Grove, Riverdale, Leslieville, Davisville Village, The Junction, North Toronto

The pros

Living just outside of downtown Toronto, but not quite in the suburbs, can mean the best of both worlds. These neighbourhoods are still well-connected to transit, have great entertainment and nightlife options, there’s work nearby, diverse culture, awesome cafes and galleries, unique atmospheres and neighbours who mesh with your style.

You’ll get parks, trails, maybe beaches, and gyms and recreation centres close by.

Toronto’s in-between neighbourhoods have a balance of vibrancy without the frazzled downtown energy. It’s like an escape from the craziness without really escaping the craziness.

Living-wise, rents can be all over the map, with some neighbourhood posting very affordable average rents, while others are sky-high, giving you the option to choose what suits you. Apartments outside of downtown are usually bigger.

Depending on where you end up, you’ll either find yourself in a diverse, culturally rich area, one that’s a white, middle-class void or a low-income development intended for immigrants.

The cons

What cons? Outside of downtown and outside of the suburbs, the choice is yours when it comes to pretty much everything, from the rent you pay, to the type and size of your rental, to what your neighbours look like, to whether you walk, bike, drive or take transit to work.

Born on the Prairies, Erin Cardone grew up knowing there was more to life than canola fields and AAA Alberta Angus. So she escaped, living in Europe and Australia, white-knuckling it through plates of calf brains and raw horse meat, and learning languages she can't remember anymore. After a stint as a jaded, skeptical journalist, she changed tack and began writing rather awesome blogs and showing businesses that advertising is dead, so long live social media, with her businesses Legendary Social Media. She now splits her time between various Canadian cities, Costa Rica and wherever else the wind blows.

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