Should you move to the suburbs?

Community resources, access to nature and affordability are all key factors to consider

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Where are you moving to?

aerial view of a residential area

A single-family home with a green lawn and white picket fence, to some, is the definition of the American Dream. This dream was born sometime around 1945, after the end of World War II, when Americans began flooding suburban areas en masse to escape crowded neighborhoods, find affordable housing and discover new economic opportunities.

Before the war, only 13% of Americans lived in the suburbs. By 2010, that number jumped to more than 50%. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 drove this number even higher, with many Americans moving to the suburbs in search of open space, safety and affordability.

Today, the suburbs are more racially diverse than ever. There have been major investments in infrastructure and continue to be compelling economic opportunities. On the flip side, suburban life may come with longer commutes and social isolation. The decision to move is difficult and comes with several considerations.


Key insights

The city and the suburbs each have their pros and cons; the right fit for you depends on your and your family’s needs and preferences.

Jump to insight

Whether or not you should move to the suburbs is a complicated question that requires thoughtful research.

Jump to insight

Consider crime stats, education opportunities, population density and diversity when choosing the right locale for you.

Jump to insight

Pros and cons of living in the suburbs

Like with any major life decision, moving to the suburbs has its pros and cons. While suburbs are full of green spaces and relatively affordable housing, they aren’t ideal for people who appreciate the hustle and bustle of city life.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Quiet
  • Access to nature
  • More space
  • Good schools
  • Safe
  • Family-friendly
  • Community

Cons

  • Reliance on cars
  • Fewer cultural activities
  • Longer commutes
  • Limited access to public services
  • Bigger environmental impact
  • Less nightlife
  • Social isolation
  • Increased home maintenance

Pros of suburbs

  • Affordable: You can find lower rent and monthly mortgage payments in the suburbs. Plus, you can cut costs on things like parking.
  • Quiet: Suburbs are often quieter and less congested than cities, making them more peaceful living environments.
  • Access to nature: You’ll have more outdoor space and have access to activities like gardening in the backyard to connect with nature.
  • More space: There’s more space and privacy in the suburbs, meaning your kids might have their own rooms and you’ll have space for things like a grill and a swing set.
  • Good schools: While it’s not always the case, most suburbs are often home to top-rated schools and other educational opportunities.
  • Safe: Suburbs tend to have lower crime rates than cities, making residents feel safe and secure.
  • Family-friendly: If you have kids, the suburbs can be a haven. They often cater to families, offering plenty of events and activities for all ages. There’s no shortage of playgrounds and sports facilities in the suburbs.
  • Community: The suburbs typically feature tight-knit neighborhoods with amenities like shopping centers, restaurants and community centers.

Cons of suburbs

  • Reliance on cars: You’ll need to rely on your car or public transportation to get from place to place. Compared with urban areas, suburbs are often more spread out and not as walkable.
  • Fewer cultural activities: Suburbs typically aren’t as diverse as cities. Cultural activities, including museums and ethnic restaurants, might be limited.
  • Longer commute times: Depending on where you work, your commute might be longer if you live in the suburbs. Suburbs often have less transportation infrastructure than cities, leading to increased traffic congestion, especially during commute times.
  • Limited access to public services: Public services like health care, social assistance and education may be limited in suburban areas. If you live in the suburbs, you may need to travel farther to access these essential services.
  • Bigger environmental impact: Habitat loss, increased energy consumption and increased greenhouse gas emissions are negative environmental impacts often associated with suburban areas due to sprawl and the reliance on cars.
  • Less nightlife: Businesses tend to stay open later in cities than in suburban areas. Activities and events in cities typically also run later than in the suburbs.
  • Social isolation: Unless you already have friends there, moving to the suburbs often comes with social isolation, and you will need to travel farther to visit friends.
  • Increased home maintenance: Extra space means extra maintenance — mowing the lawn and making occasional repairs are practically unavoidable, especially if you own your home.

How to know if you should move to the suburbs

Because there are pros and cons to living in the suburbs, making the decision to move there can be challenging. Before you pack up and go, consider whether the suburbs are right for you.

You might consider moving to the suburbs if you:

  • Spend more time outside the city
  • Feel more at peace outside the city
  • Can afford it
  • Crave convenience
  • Aren’t enjoying the city like you used to
  • Have researched it a lot
  • Want more outdoor space
  • Want your kids to have access to good public schools
  • Want a bigger place or yard
  • Have a growing family

Jim Gray, a New York-based real estate professional and performance coach at Agent Advice, told us there’s no universal rule. “It really boils down to your unique needs and priorities for this season. If having top schools, space to roam and a quieter setting tops your list, the suburban pros may hit harder than the cons. But if easy walkable amenities, shorter commutes and car-free living are more your jam, sticking with the city could be the move,” he said.

If having top schools, space to roam and a quieter setting tops your list, the suburban pros may hit harder than the cons."
— Jim Gray, real estate professional in New York

Gray’s biggest piece of advice is to research and spend time exploring the suburbs you’re considering before making a decision. Talk to community members, study commute times, look into resources, and consider working with a real estate agent to find the perfect spot to call home.

What to consider when moving to the suburbs

If you’re considering moving to the suburbs, there are several key things to take into account. And if you decide you’re ready to take the plunge, finding the perfect suburb for you and your family can be another challenge full of important considerations.

Finding the right town requires forethought. Consider things like:

  • Diversity: Are there opportunities for cultural enrichment, social cohesion and multicultural education?
  • Politics: Will this community be accepting of you and your family?
  • Walkability: Can you walk to work or school comfortably?
  • Crime rate: Will you and your family feel safe?
  • Community resources: Can you access things like health care services, libraries and community centers?
  • Population density: Will you have peace, quiet and privacy?
  • Social life: Are there opportunities to spend time with and make new friends?
  • Affordability: Can you afford to live comfortably there?
  • Schools: How do schools in this area rank?

How to know if you want to stay in the city

To know if you want to stay in the city or move to the suburbs, weigh the above pros and cons. Think about whether you can afford the space you need in the city and if you can find the right schools for your kids.

If you love the perks of the city, including its walkability, restaurants and cultural activities — and you can afford it — then it makes sense to stay.

Where are you moving to?

FAQ

Do you need a car in the suburbs with so many bike and scooter rentals available?

While you don’t necessarily need a car to live in the suburbs comfortably, it’s extremely beneficial. Since everything is more spread out in the suburbs than in the city, it’s likely the places you need to go in one day are miles apart. Not having a car is inconvenient.

How do you adjust to living in the suburbs?

Adjusting to life in the suburbs can be challenging. The best way to adjust is to get out of the house to see what the town offers and to make new friends and connections in your community.

Will I make friends in the suburbs?

Making friends in the suburbs can be hard but not impossible. The best ways to make friends are to get involved in community activities, explore local hangouts and reach out to neighbors.

Bottom line

If you can afford living in the suburbs and are ready to trade in the subway for running errands in your car, then moving to the suburbs is a good choice. Remember, weigh the pros and cons before you decide, and use this guide to help inform your choice.

» MORE: Moving checklist


Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. U.S. Census Bureau, "1950 Census Records: A Window to History." Accessed April 11, 2024.
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