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Seattle vs. Vancouver, BC: Visting, Weather, Cost of Living, And More

Seattle vs. Vancouver, BC: Visting, Weather, Cost of Living, And More

Post created July 23, 2023

Seattle and Vancouver are the two largest cities in the Pacific Northwest. While both cities share much in common – like their beautiful natural surroundings, weather, and even political views… There are also substantial differences between Seattle and Vancouver.

So, whether you’re thinking of visiting or even considering whether to live in one city versus the other, we have the full details. Let’s dive into Seattle vs. Vancouver and help you decide which city is in your future!

Comparing Seattle vs. Vancouver, BC

Vancouver Trees in Fall with Downtown
A view of Vancouver’s downtown in Fall (jamesvancouver/iStock Photo)

Vancouver, BCSeattle, WA
City Population 662,248749,256
Metro Population 2,642,825 4,018,762
Population Density (per square mile)14,8928,775
Inches of Annual Rain (MM)46.8 inches (1,189 mm)39.3 inches (999 mm)
Annual Sunshine Hours1938 hours2170 hours
High Temperature in January (Fahrenheit) / (Celsius)44.4 degrees(6.9 Celsius) 48.0 degrees (8.9 Celsius)
High Temperature in July (Fahrenheit)72.0 degrees (22.2 Celsius)77.4 degrees (25.2 Celsius)
Median Household Income (in US Dollars, as of 2021)$62,000$110,800
Median Home Listing Price (Summer 2023 values in US Dollars)$1.0 million$840,000
Seattle population as of 2022 while Vancouver as of 2021.

The main difference between Seattle and Vancouver is that Vancouver’s downtown is much denser while Seattle is more populated when including its suburbs. When it comes to the cost of living, both cities are very expensive but housing in Vancouver costs more.

While Vancouver is more expensive, Seattle has a more robust job market with companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Costco, Boeing Commercial Airlines, Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, and more headquartered in or nearby the city. Vancouver’s economy doesn’t have as many large companies but has been buoyed by real estate, the entertainment industry, and its status as the major port on Canada’s west coast.

Seattle’s weather is slightly more pleasant, with warmer summers and less total rainfall than Vancouver’s. However, both cities experience similar climates. Now that we’ve covered the main difference between the two cities, let’s examine each in more detail.

Cityscape and Neighborhoods in Seattle vs. Vancouver

One of the biggest differences between Seattle and Vancouver is their cityscapes. Simply put, Vancouver is a denser city. It has nearly 15,000 people per square mile whereas Seattle is closer to 9,000.

A big reason for this is the urban planning of Vancouver, which put an emphasis on high-rises and mixed-use development in its urban centers. While no buildings in Vancouver are exceptionally tall, it features more than 650 high rises (buildings that exceed 115 feet). The enormous amount of high-rise condominiums has led to the nickname “Glass City.”

To be certain, Seattle also has a dense downtown. A study from RentCafe ranked Seattle fourth in terms of new high-rise construction. Areas of Seattle’s downtown like South Lake Union have seen so much development they’re unrecognizable from what they looked like 15 years ago.

Yet, Vancouver’s higher rate of people who live downtown has kept its urban core more vibrant, especially during Covid. Seattle has a higher percentage of office buildings downtown. As those workers have shifted to remote, Seattle’s downtown has felt empty. As of summer 2023 foot traffic in downtown is at just 50% of its pre-Covid levels. Foot traffic in Vancouver is down just 14.5% by comparison.

So in terms of the vibrancy of its downtown, Vancouver wins versus Seattle.

The Weather in Seattle vs. Vancouver

Seattle Rain
Both Vancouver and Seattle are famous for their rain (Image Credit: Shutterstock / Dene’ Miles)

If you drew a straight line from Seattle to Vancouver, the two cities are only about 120 miles apart. So, as you can imagine, their weather is relatively similar. Yet, the weather along Puget Sound can be incredibly variable. Some areas sit in “rain shadows” and are close to deserts while locations just a short drive away get rainforest levels of precipitation!

The biggest difference between Seattle and Vancouver is that Vancouver is slightly rainier, has less sunshine, and is generally colder. While Seattle gets about 39 inches (~1000 mm) of rain per year, Vancouver (when measured from the airport) gets 47 inches (~1190 mm) of rain.

As you can imagine, this also means that Seattle is a sunnier city. Seattle gets 12% more sunshine per year. While that might not sound like a lot, consider that it amounts to almost 20 full days more of potential sunshine per year!

Neither Seattle nor Vancouver sees much snow. If you’re looking to visit Vancouver from other parts of Canada enduring a long winter, that can make it an ideal spot! However, Seattle’s weather is slightly warmer. Seattle’s about 2 ° Celsius warmer during the winter and 3° during the summer.

One note: if you’re looking to travel in Canada and want to avoid the rain, check out downtown Victoria. It sits in a “rain shadow” and sees about half the rainfall of Vancouver!

Economic Comparison of Seattle vs. Vancouver

Starbucks Headquarters in Seattle
Starbucks’ headquarters is located near downtown Seattle and is just one of the city’s large employers (Image Credit: Seattle Travel)

An economic comparison of Seattle vs. Vancouver is one of Seattle’s greatest advantages. An analysis of Vancouver’s median household income found it to be about $82,000 CAD (~$62,000 in USD), which puts Vancouver below other Canadian metro areas like Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa.

One of the reasons is that Vancouver has few large companies. The city is a growing hub for industries like video game development, biotechnology, and software. There are several notable private companies in the city such as Dapper Labs (created NBA Top Shot), Blockstream (crypto), Trulioo (online identities), and Visier (HR analytics). Some of the largest public companies in the city are Lululemon (clothing), Telus (telecommunications), and Teck Resources (natural resources).

Other important sources of jobs in the city include the entertainment, real estate, and shipping industries. Vancouver offered tax incentives for filming in the city and quickly became known as “Hollywood North” with dozens of TV shows and movies filming in the city. Real estate has boomed in Vancouver. A big part of this boom has been from foreign buyers buying investment properties in condominiums springing up across the city. Statistics Canada estimates half of all new condominiums and 13% of all single-family homes are being purchased as investment properties (both numbers are higher than in cities like Toronto).

Seattle by comparison has a median household income of $110,800, a number that’s fueled by the incredible amount of large companies that have been successful in recent decades and call the Seattle region home. Companies headquartered in or near the city include:

  • Microsoft (Second most valuable company in the world)
  • Amazon (Fifth most valuable company in the world)
  • Costco (Third largest retailer in the world)
  • T-Mobile (Largest U.S. mobile operator by market capitalization)
  • Starbucks (Valued more than $100 billion)
  • Boeing Commercial Airlines (Employs 60,000 workers in the Puget Sound)
  • Paccar ($50 billion trucking company)

To put this in perspective, the value of the five largest companies headquartered in the Seattle area (as of summer 2023) is 33 times as large as the five largest companies in Vancouver.

($4.423 trillion for Seattle vs. $134 billion for Vancouver’s five largest, if you’re curious.)

So, if you’re comparing job prospects between the two cities there’s really no comparison. Seattle wins hands down unless you’re looking for more specialized fields like the entertainment industry where Vancouver has a leg up.

Ashleigh on ferry Island hopping.

Hi, I'm Ashleigh! Welcome to Seattle Travel, my little piece of beautiful PNW. This is home and I'm here to share all my experiences so visitors and locals alike can find the best experiences this part of the country has to offer. I started Seattle Travel in 2012 as a way to journal my experiences and over the years have been encouraged by family and friends to open up my adventures to everyone. I actively seek out the best food, activities, and day trips and give you a local perspective.  The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful areas in the world and my goal is to let you explore it to the fullest. 

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