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15 Things to Know Before Moving to Phoenix

By: Susan Finch
April 14, 2021

Living in Phoenix comes with a healthy job market, low cost of living, and plenty to see and do year-round. Before you head to the Southwest, here’s what to know about moving to Phoenix.

1. What it's Like Living in Phoenix

Phoenix is the most populous city in the state and the fifth-most populous in the US. There are currently 1,680,992 people living in the metro area, including a diverse demographic with a robust Hispanic population. You can hear Spanish widely spoken, among other languages spoken by visitors from around the world.

The area was settled in 1867 near the Salt and Gila Rivers as an agricultural community. Its canal system led to economic growth and rapidly increased settlement. Phoenix experienced a population boom after the city built dams in the 1900s, and it eventually became a city known for manufacturing and electronics.

Despite being a desert, Phoenix still receives up to 15-inches of annual rainfall per year, making it one of the wettest deserts. The results of this rain are spring wildflowers, which create a unique desert backdrop. It's easy to see why "snowbirds" flock to Phoenix during the winter months, contributing to the 22-million visitors to the area.

Phoenix continues to draw urban lovers looking for an affordable cost of living. The metro area accounts for more than 80% of the state's recent population growth without any signs of slowing down. If you're thinking about joining the crowd, there are many things to expect from living in Phoenix.

2. Cost of Living in Phoenix

People often wonder,

Is it expensive to live in Phoenix?

Living in Phoenix has a low average cost of living without compromising on urban amenities. According to Payscale, the cost of living in Phoenix is 5% lower than the national average. The price of housing is also 5% lower than the national average.

Here's an idea of how much things cost when moving to Phoenix, as reported by Payscale:

  • Energy bill: $161.12
  • Loaf of bread: $3.24
  • Doctor's visit: $108.16
  • $2.39 for a gallon of gas

In a living cost comparison, rent prices are more affordable in Phoenix than most metropolitan areas but will probably command most of your budget. The average rent in Phoenix rose to $980 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,196 for a two-bedroom apartment. Like most urban areas, rents are rising again as pandemic conditions ease. To live comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment in Phoenix, you should have an income of at least $29,400 a year or $14.70 / hour. For a two-bedroom apartment, you'll need to earn at least $35,880 a year or $17.94 / hour.

The median income in Phoenix is currently $57,459, as reported by the Census Bureau in 2019. By comparison, the median income is $59,945 in the rest of Arizona.

Those median income figures are different from the basic living wage. Living above the poverty threshold in Phoenix requires $15.76 an hour for a full-time employed single individual. You'll need a higher salary if you want to take advantage of recreational opportunities, nightlife, and the dining scene around Phoenix.

3. Who’s Moving to Phoenix?

The population of Phoenix is quite diverse with a mix of college students, families, and retirees moving from various backgrounds. According to Apartment List's most recent migration report, the highest percentage of people moving to Phoenix are from Los Angeles, Chicago, or Tucson.

Renters who currently live in Phoenix are either considering moving or presently searching for apartments in Flagstaff, Tucson, Los Angeles.

Learn more about how to move to a new state.

4. Jobs In Phoenix

Growth is on the rise in Phoenix thanks to the strong job market and economy. Commercial real estate investors are planning on aggressive investing in Phoenix, which signals that the local economy should grow within the next few years. Surveys show retail real estate investors ranked Phoenix as a Top 10 target among America's metros and jumped five spots to number 4.

Phoenix’s reputation as a developing tech hub is on the rise as well. The reasonable cost of living and warm climate could be appealing to techies relocating from San Francisco or Austin.

Beyond the tech sector, Phoenix has a robust financial industry. Some of Phoenix’s largest employers include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and American Express.

5. What Type of Climate Does Phoenix, Arizona Have?

Living in Arizona, you can expect hot weather.

Phoenix is known as the Valley of the Sun for a reason. Located in the Sonoran Desert, the warmest desert in North America, the summers get notoriously hot. Be prepared to increase your utility budget to accommodate Phoenix temperatures, which can soar past the 105-degree mark during the day. Swimming pools and central air conditioning are the norms around Phoenix.

Beyond the heat, there are seasonal monsoons and dust storms. You might hear locals talk about haboobs or intense dust storms that roll in like a weather front. If you hear of one coming, stay indoors and wait for it to pass.

6. Does Phoenix Have Good Public Transportation?

Like the rest of Arizona, Phoenix has a deep-rooted car culture. You need your own set of wheels to make the most of the city. You can also take advantage of Phoenix's "park-and-ride option" or drive to a Valley Metro public transportation station. Many locals hop on the light rail or bus system to beat the traffic, picking up their cars at the end of the day.

With some determination, it's possible to ditch the car with the help of the bus system, Uber, Lyft, bikes, or the Phoenix light rail. Fares run $64 for a monthly pass on a local bus and light rail. For an express pass or rapid pass, the cost rises to $104. Phoenix also offers short-term car rentals through companies like Zipcar.

7. What Are The Best Neighborhoods To Live In Phoenix?

Phoenix neighborhoods are trendy, tranquil, and everything in between. Here are some of the most popular communities in Phoenix.

Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix is packed with restaurants, pubs, art, and culture. It's the perfect place to live, work, and play, where walking and biking is a viable alternative to driving.

Roosevelt Row Arts District

Creatives live in the Roosevelt Row Arts District in modern apartment complexes with top-tier amenities. Within the neighborhood, you’ll find lively bars and popular attractions, such as the Hard Museum of Native Cultures and Art.

Downtown Scottsdale

Downtown Scottsdale boasts 330 days of sun per year with a median temperature in the low 70s. Bike paths and horse trails are plentiful, as well as trendy restaurants and an artistic vibe. Scottsdale is also one of the safest places to live in Phoenix.

Central Phoenix

Central Phoenix or "CenPho" encompasses several neighborhoods spanning from Downtown to Uptown. The area skews towards upscale living with scenic neighborhoods and luxury apartment buildings.

Paradise Valley Village

Paradise Valley is known as the "jewel of the desert" and sits nestled between three mountain ranges. It's a quiet reprieve for commuters looking for more tranquility.


Encanto features a historic vibe with urban living and has many retail shops sprinkled along the Park Central Mall area. It is also the perfect spot for LGBTQ-friendly nightlife.

Warehouse District

The Warehouse District was once home to horse-drawn wagons and historic buildings. Today, the area offers bars, restaurants, creative spaces, and Arizona State University's School of Art.

Learn more about the best neighborhoods in Phoenix here.

8. Best Things To Eat In Phoenix

The food and drink scene in Phoenix is renowned for its Southwestern, Mexican, and Native American-inspired cuisine. The city is full of award-winning restaurants and is a leader in the restaurant industry, leaving a positive impact on the food system and sustainability efforts.

You can make the most of Phoenix's culinary delights at the annual Devour Phoenix event. Phoenix foodies indulge in the valley's most sought-after restaurants, sample tantalizing dishes, and enjoy prix fixe menus.

9. Phoenix Outdoor Activities

Despite its reputation as a blistering hot town, Phoenix offers incredible outdoor recreation opportunities. Heading out in the morning, evening, or after summer winds down can help you beat the heat.

South Mountain Park and Preserve features over 16,000 acres and is one of the country’s largest municipal parks. On "Silent Sundays,” the park is closed to vehicle traffic at the one-mile mark so that residents can enjoy biking, walking, and hiking.

Papago Park offers views of red butte formations, including an iconic Hole-in-the-Rock trail. You can also fish in the lagoons, learn about indigenous tribes and their historic roots as a fish hatchery during the Great Depression.

Salt River is the largest tributary of the Gila River and spans 200 miles. The river flows over salt deposits, and locals enjoy tubing down the mountain-stream waters.

You can take in the vast Phoenix desert landscape in hot air balloon rides. Flights with companies like Rainbow Ryders last up to 3.5 hours, perfect for those looking to check off a ride on their bucket list.

Phoenix also draws locals and visitors alike year-round to its award-winning golfing. As of today, there are over 200 public golf courses in the metro Phoenix area.

10. Phoenix Nightlife: What To Do In Phoenix After Dark

There's always something going on in Phoenix after dark. Expect to find curated cocktail lists, craft brewers, speakeasies, and bottle service in the city's trendiest neighborhoods.

For cocktails, try Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour or the upscale speakeasy-style bar at Highball. A few of Phoenix’s best dive bars include Shady's Fine Ales & Cocktails, Sizzle Inn, and the Bikini Lounge.

Phoenix is the perfect town for beer lovers with spots like Helton Brewing Company, Wren House, and State 48. For nightclubs and live music, try Crescent Ballroom, The Churchill, or Culinary Dropout at the Yard.

11. Best Places To Explore In Phoenix

Phoenix is full of cultural opportunities. Take a trip to see the Arizona Opera Company or Ballet Arizona. Arts are on-demand around the city with places like the Phoenix Art Museum and the ASU Art Museum.

Pack a picnic of fresh olives, bread, and vinegar from the Queen Creek Olive Mill. Visit the Historic Arizona State Capitol museum and learn about Arizona's roots. If you’re feeling active, head out to some of Phoenix's outdoor adventures like Camelback Mountain or the Desert Botanical Gardens.

12. Best Things to Do In Phoenix With The Family

Phoenix offers plenty of nightlife and culture for all ages but is also family-friendly. There are plenty of fun things to do in Phoenix with kids!

Plus, the cost of living makes hitting attractions like The Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens even more affordable. The Arizona Science Center offers hands-on exhibits for enriching learning and fun.

One unique place we highly recommend checking out is Butterfly Wonderland. This one-of-a-kind experience is both educational and whimsical, providing visitors with a deep knowledge of some of the world's most colorful butterflies. The OdySea Aquarium is the perfect spot for marine lovers looking to get up close and personal with the largest aquarium in the Southwest.

13. Best Annual Events In Phoenix

Celebrate the best of Phoenix with festivals, cultural events, and live music. McDowell Mountain Music Festival attracts thousands to downtown Phoenix for a nonprofit music festival that gives back to the community.

The Phoenix Film Festival celebrates feature films over 11 days with 300 movies. Screenings take place at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 theater and showcase some of the industry’s best filmmakers.

Phoenix Flea is a modern market selling handcrafted and vintage items. You can also find art, fashion, design, and food at the market. Stop by and outfit your apartment or pick up a keepsake from your new city.

14. Phoenix Sports

Phoenix is a serious sports town with teams representing every franchise you can imagine. The Phoenix Suns (NBA) play at the Phoenix Suns Arena in downtown Phoenix, along with the Mercury (WNBA) and Arizona Rattlers (IFL).

The Arizona Cardinals (NFL) play at the State Farm Stadium, and the Arizona Coyotes (NHL) compete at the Gila River Arena.

Baseball fans enjoy the Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB) at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. And Phoenix Rising FC (USL) delights spectators at their new home at Wild Horse Pass.

15. Colleges and Universities in Phoenix

Phoenix is a university town with plenty of options for higher education. Arizona State University, one of the top universities in Phoenix, AZ, is probably the most well-known. Although it has an excellent reputation for academics, it's also a party school that attracts newcomers to its campus.

Grand Canyon University and Phoenix College sit nearby for those looking to expand their horizons.

Final Thoughts - Is Phoenix a Good Place to Live?

Ready to move to Phoenix or Arizona and enjoy the best the Valley of the Sun has to offer? Learn about the cost of living in Arizona. Sign-up for Apartment List to find your Phoenix apartment.

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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