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Best Places to Live in Arizona

So Arizona is on your radar—the sixth largest state in the U.S. and home of stunning landscapes made up of deserts, forests, mountains and, of course, the Grand Canyon.

Whether you’re moving the whole family, scoping out a new young-professionals scene, or looking for your dream retirement destination—we’ll help you narrow down the best places to live in Arizona.

Best Places to Live in Arizona

As you might’ve guessed, the majority of the list goes to the Phoenix metro area. Many of the Phoenix areas we’ve included were inspired by a list that ranks the best places to live in Arizona using stats on quality schools, housing trends, crime rates, employment and access to amenities.1 We also added a handful of other popular areas located outside of Phoenix as a bonus.

See how much house you can afford with our free mortgage calculator!

Keep in mind, “best places” lists can be pretty subjective. Since there are so many different things to consider when deciding where to move, the best place to live for you might be way different than for other folks. Still, this list can inspire you along your journey. So, let’s dig into some of the most popular places in Arizona so you can compare their stats and features to see if any stand out to you.

And remember, ultimately the best way to learn about any of these local areas is to talk to a real estate agent who actually lives in Arizona. The Arizona agents we trust are local experts and can tell you everything you’d want to know about each Arizona city—including the different neighborhoods, schools, commutes and cost of living.

Phoenix

The Phoenix metro area, or the Valley of the Sun, scores a top spot as one of the best places to live in Arizona. Sure, you’d be living in a desert, which means you’d have to deal with things like the occasional dust storm blocking your visibility on the highway. And then there’s the scorching heat. Thankfully, Phoenix installs heavy-duty misting systems that keep areas cool when temps hit 110º. Plus, palm trees and cacti make for some pretty cool landscape views.

The main reason Phoenix is at the top of the list is that it has something for everyone! First, sports fans can go nuts cheering for the Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB) and Phoenix Suns (NBA).

For you outdoorsy types, South Mountain Park is one of the largest city parks in the U.S. at more than 16,000 acres—that’s about the size of 19 New York City Central Parks combined.2

Foodies will love living near downtown Phoenix where they can enjoy the wood-fired pizzas of legendary Pizza Bianco. And for something a little more on-the-go, there are local Pete's Fish and Chips scattered throughout the area.

To satisfy your artistic cravings, Northern Phoenix has the Musical Instrument Museum, which holds 8,000 instruments from more than 200 countries around the world—the biggest museum of its kind!3 And for students, Phoenix is home of Grand Canyon University.

If the Valley of the Sun is checking all the right boxes and you’re ready to start scoping out houses, work with a Phoenix real estate agent we trust.

City Population

1.6 million4

Median Household Income

$60,9145

Median Monthly Rent*

$1,4986

Median Home Price (Metro)**

$501,5007

Average Annual Rainfall

10"8

*Median Monthly Rent numbers refer to two-bedroom apartments unless otherwise noted.

**Each data point refers to the “city” itself except when called out as “metro.” Metro numbers include the city together with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.

Mesa

Mesa is on the east side of the Phoenix metro area and is the third-most populated city in Arizona, after Phoenix and Tucson. While not every part of Mesa is great, it still scores a top spot for places to live—and we’ll tell you why.

Living in Mesa gives you close access to Superstition Ranch Farmers Market—a long-standing, family-owned market known for its crazy low prices on local produce and veggies, as well as some great Hispanic, Native American and Italian specialty foods.

There’s also Organ Stop Pizza where you can stuff your belly full of pizza and ice cream while an organist tickles the ivories on a Wurlitzer theater organ—a combo you never knew you needed. The organ has over 6,000 pipes, making it the largest Wurlitzer pipe organ in the world!9 Let’s just say, you won’t be at a loss for memorable places to show friends and family when they visit you in Mesa.

For outdoor adventures, Mesa is close to Superstition Mountains where you can hike trails like Flatiron Peak and Weavers Needle. There’s also Saguaro Lake and Salt River Rafting, which are excellent options for cooling off and playing in the water.

And when you want to escape the desert sunrays, Mesa is home to the Arizona Museum of Natural History—the only natural history museum in the Phoenix metro area. The museum showcases 60,000 objects of natural history, anthropology, history and art.10

City Population

504,25811

Median Household Income

$61,64012

Median Monthly Rent

$1,63613

Median Home Price (Metro)

$501,50014

Average Annual Rainfall

11"15

Chandler

Southeast of Phoenix, bordering Mesa, is the city of Chandler. Really, this spot should go to both Chandler and Gilbert, since they’re so close together and are definitely some of the best places to live in Arizona for families. But for this list, we’ll focus on Chandler.

Like we said, Chandler is very family-oriented. It’s a nice, wholesome area where practically anyone in any stage of life would want to live. Parents can inspire creativity in their kiddos by visiting the Crayola Experience. And there’s the Arizona Railway Museum where you can relive simpler times and explore the insides of old-timey trains.

Downtown Chandler has some awesome restaurants and coffee shops. South Chandler has resort-like communities such as the Ocotillo neighborhood, which features beautiful golfing grounds. There are also 60 parks all around Chandler for you to explore.16

City Population

275,98717

Median Household Income

$85,79618

Median Monthly Rent

$1,86919

Median Home Price (Metro)

$501,50020

Average Annual Rainfall

9.8"21

Glendale

Okay, now let’s head over to the west side of Phoenix. Glendale is a popular spot if you love sports since it’s where the Arizona Cardinals (NFL) and Arizona Coyotes (NHL) play in the Westgate Entertainment District. Plus, the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers do their spring training at Glendale’s Camelback Ranch stadium.

Glendale also offers plenty of shopping opportunities with the Arrowhead Towne Center, which is surrounded by some of the best neighborhoods in the city. There’s also the Tanger Outlets where you can crush your budgeting goals by doing your discount shopping.

Glendale also has its own Six Flags Hurricane Harbor water park—complete with a lazy river, wave pool, body slides, tube slides and speed slides. So you’ll definitely have ways to keep cool when it feels like the Valley of the Sun is beating down on you.

City Population

248,32522

Median Household Income

$56,99123

Median Monthly Rent

$1,53524

Median Home Price (Metro)

$501,50025

Average Annual Rainfall

9"26

Scottsdale

Jumping back to the east side of Phoenix, our next best place to live in Arizona is Scottsdale. Scottsdale is another area that’s ideal for pretty much every stage of life. For starters, smack dab in the middle of Scottsdale is Camelback Mountain—a popular spot for hiking. The city is also known for some of the best spa resorts you’ll find anywhere.

There are a ton of incredible golf courses like the ones at Arizona’s professional golf headquarters, the Tournament Players Club (TPC). TPC offers breathtaking views, two championship courses, 36 professional-level holes and luxurious amenities that, even if you’re a casual golfer, make you feel like a PGA Tour player.27

City Population

241,36128

Median Household Income

$91,04229

Median Monthly Rent

$2,03730

Median Home Price (Metro)

$501,50031

Average Annual Rainfall

10"32

Tempe

Directly south of Scottsdale is the city of Tempe. Home of Arizona State University, Tempe is a college town and a great place to live for singles and young adults. Mill Ave near the college in Downtown Tempe has a lot of restaurants, bars and a lively nightlife.

Tempe Town Lake is a fun place to meet up with friends and go kayaking, rowing, paddle boarding, fishing, walking and picnicking. There are a ton of beautiful murals that decorate the city, which will be the perfect background for your Instagram-obsessed friends who come to visit you after you move—but they better bring a housewarming gift!

City Population

180,58733

Median Household Income

$61,29034

Median Monthly Rent

$1,74435

Median Home Price (Metro)

$501,50036

Average Annual Rainfall

10"37

Surprise

Surprise, which sits northwest of Phoenix, is one of the best places to live in Arizona for retirees and older professionals. So what’s the deal with the name? Well, on a rather comical note, city founder Flora Mae Statler is said to have named it Surprise because "she would be surprised if the town ever amounted to much."38 And no doubt she would be surprised to see how what was one square mile of farmland back in 1938 has transformed into one of the most populated cities in Arizona.

The city is known for hosting the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals (MLB) during their spring training season. Across from the baseball stadium is Surprise Community Park, which has a paved walking path, fishing pond, water slides, pools and tennis courts. Far from the bustle of Downtown Phoenix, Surprise gives you a safe and quiet community to live in.

City Population

143,14839

Median Household Income

$71,19240

Median Monthly Rent

$1,94941

Median Home Price (Metro)

$501,50042

Average Annual Rainfall

10"43

Fountain Hills

Like Surprise, Fountain Hills is another top place to live in Arizona for retirees. The town gets its name from the iconic fountain that was built in the center of a man-made lake in Fountain Park. Every hour, the fountain blasts 7,000 gallons of water per minute for 15 minutes up to 560 feet into the air—when at full capacity. On the average day, it still shoots up 300 feet—that’s as tall as the Statue of Liberty, from ground level to torch. When the fountain was built in 1970, it held the record as the tallest fountain in the world for over a decade.44 Fountain Park also includes a beautiful walking path, playground, splash pad, and is a perfect spot to take kids and pets.

City Population

23,82045

Median Household Income

$87,08046

Median Monthly Rent*

$1,44447

Median Home Price (Metro)

$501,50048

Average Annual Rainfall

11"49

*The latest data we could find on Median Monthly Rent for Fountain Hills is a little older than the other examples in this list.

Paradise Valley

Closing out our Phoenix suburbs is Paradise Valley. This town is located just north of Scottsdale and, if the name didn’t give it away, is definitely another incredible place to live. Paradise Valley is central to everything, has cool coffee shops and bars, and is about a 15-minute drive from the airport.

Mummy Mountain is central to Paradise Valley and offers impressive views overlooking the area. And remember that Camelback Mountain is in Scottsdale—so whenever you’re driving south in Paradise Valley, you get a beautiful view of that giant camel.

Living in Paradise Valley is good for those who are looking for privacy and seclusion. Throughout the town, you’ll come across custom-built luxury homes on massive lots. These tend to be people’s second homes. With people in and out of town at different times throughout the year, the area is generally pretty quiet.

Warning: Living in paradise comes with a price—this town is one of the most expensive places to live in Arizona. But if you’ve been following the Ramsey way—budgeting every dollar with discipline, living below your means, and building wealth like a Baby Steps Millionaire—then you’re ready to live and give like no one else!

City Population

12,65850

Median Household Income

$212,77351

Median Monthly Rent*

$3,15152

Median Home Price (City)*

$1.6 million53

Average Annual Rainfall

7"54

*The latest data we could find on Median Monthly Rent and Median Home Price for Paradise Valley is a little older than the other examples in this list.

Tucson

Tucson is the second-most populated city in Arizona and makes the list as one of the best spots to live in the state. The city is a two-hour drive southeast from Phoenix and around an hour north of the U.S.-Mexico border—which means you can find some of the best Mexican food around. In fact, El Charro Café is famously attributed as the birthplace of chimichangas—the deep-fried burritos now common among Tex-Mex cuisine.55

While surrounded by a colorful terrain of mountains, cacti and ranches, Downtown Tucson gives off a funky, college-town vibe as home of the University of Arizona. With all the infectious team spirit inside the area, no doubt living there will have you cheering “Bear Down!” with the rest of the Wildcats fans.

City Population

542,62956

Median Household Income

$45,22757

Median Monthly Rent

$1,38358

Median Home Price

$389,99459

Average Annual Rainfall

10"60

Flagstaff

Okay, now let’s head far north of Phoenix to Flagstaff, home of the tallest mountain in Arizona: Humphreys Peak. Humphreys Peak stretches into the sky at more than 12,600 feet.61 That’s a couple hundred feet taller than Japan’s world-famous Mount Fuji!62

Now if you’re set on living in Arizona, but don’t want to be stuck with a desert-only climate, Flagstaff might be just right for you. Being in Northern Arizona means Flagstaff experiences all four seasons. That’s right! The leaves change color in autumn and the city gets some serious snow during winter.

Flagstaff is a solid choice if you love the outdoors. It’s only an hour or two away from the Grand Canyon and there are always plenty of opportunities for fishing, hiking, camping, skiing, and embracing the lumberjack life.

Also, Flagstaff has artificial lighting policies to keep light pollution from the city’s skies at night. So just a warning that it might be harder to see under the dimmer street lights at night compared to other cities. On the plus side, that makes Flagstaff a perfect place to go stargazing. Get this: In 1930, Flagstaff’s own Lowell Observatory discovered Pluto!63

City Population

76,83164

Median Household Income

$58,68565

Median Monthly Rent*

$1,28666

Median Home Price

$669,90067

Average Annual Rainfall

26"68

*The latest data we could find on Median Monthly Rent for Flagstaff is a little older than the other examples in this list.

Prescott

The city of Prescott sits somewhat between Phoenix and Flagstaff. Many folks like to retire to Prescott because of its small, mountain-town feel. A mix of cowboys, hippies, and outdoorsy types live there. Locals like to hang out at Whiskey Row for its bars and live music—right next to the town square and courthouse building.

Overlooking the downtown area is Thumb Butte—a landmark (and hiking area) that juts out of the Sierra Prieta mountain range like a sore thumb. Watson Lake features boating, hiking, rock climbing, camping and fishing near a series of large, eroded granite boulders that have a unique lumpy, rippled appearance.

City Population

45,82769

Median Household Income

$58,56270

Median Monthly Rent*

$90471

Median Home Price

$622,31272

Average Annual Rainfall

18"73

*The latest data we could find on Median Monthly Rent for Prescott is a little older than the other examples in this list.

Where’s the Most Affordable Place to Live in Arizona?

If you’re anything like us at Ramsey, you know one of the most important things to do before moving to a new area is to make sure you can actually afford living there.  If you’re anything like us at Ramsey, you know one of the most important things to do before moving to a new area is to make sure you can actually afford living there.

The first step there is figuring out how much the actual move will cost. You may want to use a moving and storage service like PODS to help make the process super convenient and flexible. They’ll leave one of their storage containers at your current address and you can pack it up on your own schedule—that way you won’t be scrambling to find a box for your 42-inch plasma TV at the last minute.

You’ll also want to research the cost of living in Arizona. Here are some suburbs that rank high for affordable cost of living in the area:

  • Guadalupe (Phoenix)
  • Apache Junction (Phoenix)
  • Coolidge
  • San Manuel
  • Summit (Tucson)74

Keep in mind, the biggest factor that’ll determine whether you can afford living in a new Arizona city is the cost of housing. To figure out your housing budget, use the 25% rule—never buy or rent a home that comes with a monthly payment that’s more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay.

If you’re getting a mortgage, that 25% limit includes principal, interest, property taxes, home insurance, private mortgage insurance (PMI) and homeowners association (HOA) fees. Use our mortgage calculator to enter your down payment amount and try out different home prices within your budget.

If you want a mortgage you can pay off fast, talk to the home loan specialists we trust at Churchill Mortgage about getting a 15-year fixed-rate conventional loan. Any other type of mortgage will drown you in interest and extra fees and keep you in debt for decades.

Ready to Move to Arizona?

If you know the area in Arizona where you want to move, your next step is to work with a real estate agent. For a fast and easy way to find Arizona agents we trust, try our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program. The agents we recommend have earned the right to be called RamseyTrusted by always serving with excellence.

Find an Arizona real estate agent we trust!

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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Don’t navigate the housing market alone. Work with a real estate agent who cares more about helping you find your dream home than about scoring a paycheck.
Show Me Local Agents