Where should I live?

Whether you’re looking for nightlife or a reasonably priced apartment, we’ve got you covered

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Where are you moving to?

Aerial view of a residential area with yards and trees

Deciding where to live is a major decision that requires careful thought and some analysis. Key factors going into the decision might include budget, schools, environment and more. Ultimately, choosing where to live is a personal decision that depends on your preferences.

Are you a beach person? Do you love the hustle and bustle of city life? Are you looking for outdoor activities for the family? Is affordability your biggest priority? Read on to learn more about some of the best places in the U.S. and what to consider before taking the plunge and moving to a new area.


Key insights

Where you choose to live is a very personal decision.

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Deciding factors may include affordability, proximity to public services, school quality and more.

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While some cities are known for their nightlife, others are better suited for families and low-key living.

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There are several options for where to live based on your preferences, but this guide will help you narrow it down.

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How to choose where to live

Laura McHolm, co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company, suggests differentiating between essential needs versus wants when deciding where to live.

“When evaluating your essential needs you will want to consider things like proximity to schools and work. You should research crime rates and safety in the area. And, consider factors like commute times, access to public transportation,” McHolm told ConsumerAffairs. We think the quality of schools in the area is another essential need if you have kids.

McHolm also suggests making a separate list of your wants, like outdoor activities and weather, then combining your lists of needs and wants and ranking items based on importance to help you zero in on the perfect place for you and your family. There are several key factors to consider when deciding where to live.

For some, there is a No. 1 reason for moving. Others may have several factors to consider. We’ll split up some ideal places to live into a few different categories:

Where to go for great K-12 schools

If you have children, their education is probably high on your list of concerns. Some cities and states are better than others in this regard.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Not only is Florida known for sunshine and warm weather, but it’s also famous for its top-notch school districts. Fort Lauderdale and surrounding suburbs like Weston and Parkland are great places to live if public education is your top priority.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte and its suburbs have top-rated elementary, middle and high schools. If you want to avoid the business of Charlotte proper, consider a suburb. Fort Mill, South Carolina, is an option that’s across the state line but less than 20 miles from the city center. It features excellent access to education, green space and warm weather.

Where to go for affordability

Housing costs continue to rise nationwide. Still, some places are less expensive than others.

Youngstown, Ohio

The Youngstown metro area has a population of about 540,0000, classifying it as a midsize city. It’s a Rust Belt city once dominated by steel manufacturing positioned halfway between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

It’s a little over an hour by car to both destinations. Youngstown is in the middle of a renaissance of sorts, so economic and cultural opportunities are growing. The median sold home price in Youngstown is $130,000, according to Realtor.com.

Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville is a college town, home to the University of Tennessee, located on the scenic Tennessee River. The downtown area is filled with unique shops and historical sights. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Knoxville is $1,736, according to RentCafe.

Not only is Knoxville affordable, but it’s also close to major highways where you can easily get to larger cities like Nashville and Atlanta.

Where to go for small-town charm

Small towns have pros and cons. Compared to larger cities, small towns often have fewer things to do and less access to public services, but they also tend to have reduced traffic and lower crime rates. Here are a few small towns we suggest checking out:

Taos, New Mexico

Taos has a population of only 6,500. Its location is stunning — at an elevation of 6,969 feet — as it’s set between the desert and snowy mountains. It’s a popular destination for artists and writers.

Whitefish, Montana

The town of Whitefish will likely appeal to fans of snowboarding, skiing, hiking, mountain biking or all of the above.  It’s a small, family-friendly town with a significant amount of tourism due to its natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

Where to go for nightlife

If the hustle and bustle of city life is your top priority, consider a larger city that’s known for its nightlife.

Miami Beach, Florida

This Florida beach destination has a vibrant party scene that comes alive at night. In Miami, there’s no shortage of lively bars, clubs and lounges to choose from.

New York City, New York

Nightlife is central to New York City, also known as “the city that never sleeps.” The city is huge, with plenty of opportunities for cultural enrichment, public services and after-hours activities.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in NYC is $3,781 and the average home price is $764,000, according to the New York City Comptroller, so if you are looking for a more affordable, close-by option, consider living in an affordable suburb, like Cedar Glen West or Yonkers, or even across state lines in Maplewood, New Jersey, and take the train into the city to take advantage of its top-notch nightlife.

Where to go for family-friendly fun

Midsize cities are generally a good option for families because they tend to have good schools, low crime rates and family-friendly activities.

Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville boasts a high average salary and a relatively low cost of living, so having a family there is affordable. Plus, the weather is warm and there’s low risk of natural disasters. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Huntsville is $1,191, according to RentCafe, and the median sale price of a home there is $327,865, according to Redfin.

San Jose, California

The San Jose metro area has solid schools, but it can be expensive to live there. If you want to be in the general area but are looking for a more affordable town, consider living in Sacramento or Vallejo and commuting into San Jose when needed.

The median sale price in San Jose costs about $1.4 million, according to Redfin, while homes in Sacramento and Vallejo are $502,500 and $531,000, respectively. Sacramento is about a two-hour drive from San Jose. Driving from Vallejo to San Jose will take you about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Where to go for warm weather

Sunny, warm weather is a mood-booster, which is why so many of us flock to warm destinations for our vacations.

Miami, Florida

Miami is known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant culture, lively nightlife and tropical climate. The city is a great landing spot for people who are looking for year-round warm temperatures in combination with access to water activities and cultural enrichment. Those looking for a more lively area should head to South Beach, while people looking for a peaceful environment should consider living somewhere outside the busy metro area, like Aventura or Coconut Grove.

Los Angeles, California

Warm weather is a constant in Los Angeles, where the average temperature is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Expect hotter temperatures in the summer and slightly cooler ones in the winter (though it rarely gets colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Los Angeles also has an active nightlife, a diverse culinary scene and quality schools.

Where to go for cold weather

Cold weather locations have several benefits — there are often fewer people; they offer an escape from the heat; they’re often scenic areas; and there’s plenty of opportunities for winter sports. Whether you want to escape the heat or ski year-round, our favorite chilly locales are in Maine, Alaska and Minnesota.

Bangor, Maine

Situated in the most northeastern corner of the contiguous United States, Maine features a rugged landscape with scenic views and no shortage of nature. Bangor sits near the coast, along the Penobscot River. It offers a robust arts and dining scene. Be prepared for winter temperatures potentially dipping down to 7 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, and know that the area gets an average of 66 inches of snowfall per year.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks is cold, but that’s not the only reason you should live there. Fairbanks, and Alaska in general, offer stunning natural scenery, and you may even catch the Northern Lights. The community is tight-knit and there are ample opportunities for outdoor recreation year-round, including hiking, skiing and snowshoeing.

Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth is North America’s most inland seaport. Located along the north shore of chilly Lake Superior, Duluth is no stranger to cold temperatures. Thanks to its stunning natural environment, the city’s tourism industry is growing.

Where to go for renters

If you’re not ready to purchase a home, renting is an alternative that gives you flexibility in terms of where you live and allows you to try out different places more easily than buying. Rent prices tend to decrease as you head inland and away from large metro areas, but doing so may come with certain tradeoffs, like fewer activities and fewer economic opportunities.

Austin, Texas

Austin is an ideal place for renters because of its value as a city. The capital of Texas, Austin features a plethora of restaurants, cultural enrichment opportunities and lots of outdoor activities. Austin also features quality public transit, which makes exploring the city quick, easy and affordable.

Cleveland, Ohio

The average rent price for a one-bedroom apartment in Cleveland is $1,233. The city is growing and economic opportunities are plentiful, making it ideal for young professionals, families and entrepreneurs alike. It’s also home to several colleges, including Cleveland State University and Ohio Technical College.

Where are you moving to?

FAQ

What is the best way to adjust to a new city or town?

The best way to adjust to a new city or town is to get out and enjoy what the area has to offer, whether that means spending time outdoors or indulging in a local favorite bar or restaurant. Making new friends is another great way to adjust.

Should I move to a new city with a friend?

Moving to a new city with a friend is a good way to ensure that you’ll have someone to spend time with once you move. Just make sure you’re on the same page about what you want in a city before you take the plunge.

What is the best place for singles?

As of publishing, New York state tops our list of places to be for singles.

What is the most bike-friendly city in the U.S.?

Provincetown, Massachusetts, is the most cyclist-friendly city in America, according to PeopleForBikes. You can bike from one end of the city to the other in under ten minutes.

Bottom line

Deciding where to live is personal. Ultimately, the choice depends on what lifestyle factors are most important to you and your budget. While some cities have lively nightlife and cultural enrichment opportunities, others may be more affordable and better suited to families. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each area before packing your bags.

» READY TO GO? Best moving companies


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. Census Reporter, “Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA Metro Area.” Accessed May 2, 2024.
  2. Apartments.com, “Rental Market Trends in Cleveland, OH.” Accessed April 28, 2024.
  3. U.S. Climate Data, “Climate Bangor - Maine.” Accessed April 27, 2024.
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