Tuscaloosa, Alabama Read Guide >
Apartments are plentiful in every area of Tuscaloosa, and many offer similar amenities, so target your neighborhood first and your apartment second. Tons of cheap ($500-$600) rentals can be found within walking distance of campus, but don’t expect to be blown away by their size or amenities. A bit further from campus is the mixed-use Midtown Village area, where some chic, spacious lofts have sprung up in recent years, offering a viable alternative for students who appreciate a bit more leg room and quietude in their living quarters.
Of course, not everyone in Tuscaloosa is a student (a variety of manufacturing, industrial, automotive, and healthcare job opportunities continue to draw a diverse workforce to the city), and many residents prefer to stay as far from the Crimson craziness as possible. Fortunately, neighborhoods like Hillcrest, Woodcrest, and the rural areas surrounding Lake Tuscaloosa serve up a variety of quality rentals as well.
This is an obvious enough task, but something to keep in mind when calculating your monthly expenses is that Tuscaloosa is hot and humid from roughly late April through early October, meaning tenants inevitably rack up some steep A/C bills during these months ($80-$120 a month, depending on just how arctic you prefer your temperatures). Crime is generally mild in the city, but campus area apartment dwellers are occasionally victims of petty theft, so we recommend investing in renter’s insurance (which costs less than $20 a month) to protect your belongings (like those Lady Gaga CDs you’ve been hiding from your friends out of sheer embarrassment) in case of theft, fire, flooding, or spontaneous combustion.
With credentials, that is. Apartment managers in Tuscaloosa typically require a good faith move-in deposit (usually equivalent to the first month’s rent) as well as proof of income and banking info. Chances are, you’ll have to fill out a list of previous residences on your leasing application, although property managers these days rely more on background/credit checks than the information you provide anyway. If you’re a student with no source of income, no bank account, and no credit (we’re going to go out on a limb and say you’re not exactly lighting the lamp in the girlfriend department, either), you’ll need a co-signer to help score your dream pad.
Or just a regular hat will be fine. Or no hat at all. In fact, just forget about hats. Headwear is beside the point, T-Towners. What we’re getting at is, Tuscaloosa is a bona fide Party Central (yep, with capitals) that’s habitually ranked among the nation’s top party cities. The Strip on University Dr. near campus is dotted with bars, while the downtown district features a smattering of sports pubs, live music venues, clubs, and other assorted watering holes. Whether you’re a keg-chugging college student or a martini-sipping sophisticate, you’ll find more than a few late night hotspots that suit your tastes.
Living in Tuscaloosa means spending a lot of time outdoors (and not just on the Quad on game day). The city is home to numerous art, music, and ethnic festivals and parades during the summer and autumn months and also boasts a 60-acre arboretum and multiple lakes, parks, and trails. As for the occasional rainy day, you can always hit up one of the numerous history or art museums the city has to offer.
The university operates an efficient (and free) shuttle system that transports students and faculty all across the vast ‘Bama campus, while a few of the pricier apartment complexes offer complimentary shuttle service to tenants as well. Unfortunately, the city’s public transportation system is far less advanced and consists of a meager (at best) bus/trolley service that hardly anyone uses. Like most cities, Tuscaloosa sees its fair share of rush hour traffic (game days are particularly horrific for gridlock), but after a while, you should be able to figure out (as long as you’re not too hung over from all those cherry bombs at the Houndstooth the night before) which roads to avoid and which offer the best shortcuts.
Property managers generally do their best to make sure your new digs are in top-shape before handing you the keys, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t missed something. Before moving in, check your appliances, pipes, showerheads, sinks, and toilets for leaks and drips and make sure your water pressure is adequate. Check to see that your windows and doors lock properly, your light switches and outlets function, and your ceilings and walls are free of watermarks and blemishes. Also, turn on your furnace and air conditioner to verify they work properly. If something major is wrong, don’t move anything in until the issue is resolved.
The best way to find out whether or not a neighborhood and an apartment complex is a good fit for you is by visiting it yourself and seeing with your own eyes if you’re comfortable with its atmosphere and amenities. Tuscaloosa is generally a safe city, and violent crime is rare (especially around campus), but, like any city, Tuscaloosa has its problem areas. Certain areas of southern Tuscaloosa have seen an influx of crime in recent years, so especially if you’re moving to this area, scope it out in advance to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Different property managers have drastically different rules regarding pets, roommates, visitors, and whether or not Auburn fans are allowed to rent there, so read your lease carefully before signing it. Remember that once you sign a lease, you’re locked into it for its duration (as long as your landlord doesn’t violate his/her part of the agreement), so don’t sign your John Hancock until you’re completely sure you’ve found the perfect place.
Even in the 21st century, a lot of outsiders still believe Alabama is populated by a bunch of overall-wearing, tobaccy-chewing, shirtless tee-shirt-sporting bubbas who blare “Freebird” from the speakers of their dirty pickup trucks all day then go home and watch Dukes of Hazard reruns all night. Such stereotypes might make for a good bit of Blue Collar Comedy humor, but they don’t reflect what life’s really like in Tuscaloosa in the slightest. Just saying.
And now it’s time to scour the Yellowhammer State for the most dynamite apartment deals on the market. So happy hunting, welcome to Tuscaloosa, and “Roll tide, baby!”
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