Moving to Phoenix, AZ: What You Need to Know Before Relocating

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Discover the Valley of the Sun

Situated on the picturesque Salt River in the shadows of Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak, the Valley of the Sun has a deep history and a bright future — if the throngs of newcomers have anything to say about it.  

Nearly a quarter of a million people have moved to Phoenix since 2010 — 56,831 residents in 2022 alone — giving surrounding Maricopa County the largest population gains in the country that year. Some of the capital city’s new arrivals have come for the warm desert air. Others, for jobs in the booming economy. But many of Phoenix’s recent transplants were simply enticed by the city’s big personality and bold cultural appeal.  

Now the nation’s fifth-largest city, Phoenix is a stand-out in more ways than one. This major American metro has serious Southwestern charm, with exciting annual festivals, incredible restaurants and resorts and access to spectacular natural wonders, like the Grand Canyon. Phoenix is also one of the most affordable big cities to live in in the United States, so those looking to make a career move have little to worry about when it comes to stretching their dollars.  

If the Sonoran Desert is beckoning you, learn more about living in Phoenix and the state of Arizona below.   

Why are People Moving to Arizona?

Desert Climate Allure

Not all 240,000+ new Phoenix residents moved for the weather, but the dry desert air is a real draw, especially if you dislike freezing winters. Phoenix boasts an average annual temperature of 75°F, but summers sizzle with highs over 90°F from May to September, reaching suffocating levels of 110°F and higher. The Sonoran Desert offers little relief, with scant rainfall of an inch between April and June and less than eight inches annually. 

Due to low moisture, dust storms, or “haboobs,” pose a significant climatic threat. These massive dust fortresses can block out the sun and everything in sight. Follow warnings on travel and air quality during these events. 

Affordable Living

Phoenix may be more expensive than the average American city, but it certainly pales in comparison to the nation’s coastal giants. And, with the nation’s fifth-largest city population, Phoenix offers many of the benefits of cities like L.A., New York City, San Francisco and San Jose at a fraction of the price.  

More than 1.6 million now live in Phoenix proper, and the metro area has more than 5 million residents. This popularity has driven real estate off the charts in some suburban areas, but within the city itself, the median home value averaged $340,200 in 2022. While this is barely $50,000 more than the national average, it’s modest compared to NYC, whose residents who shell out more than $732,000; or LA residents, who are paying $822,600; and Phoenix pays less than a third of what San Franciscans do, where half of all homes now cost $1.3 million or more.  

Renters in Phoenix save big, too, with their monthly median averaging only $1,322, compared to the $2,526 dollars San Jose residents pay. As far as income levels go, Phoenix residents aren’t far off the national average with their median of $72,092 per month. San Franciscans only make slightly more, but their $76,244 doesn’t go nearly as far in the Bay Area as it would in the Valley of the Sun.  

But housing isn’t the only major household expense, right, so how does Phoenix shape up? Well, residents of the city do spend slightly more on personal insurance and healthcare, and their transportation expenses are roughly the same as other Americans’, but Phoenix spends less on food and all other items than the average U.S. resident.  

Robust Economy and Job Market 

Although there has been a slight downturn in employment trends of late, the unemployment rate in the Phoenix metro area — which stood at 3.4% in December 2023 — was below the U.S. and Arizona averages.  

Phoenix has a large nonfarm civilian workforce, with 2.4 million workers across a highly diverse range of industries. The metro area’s leading sector is trade, transportation and utilities, which employs 468,000 individuals and saw nominal growth in 2023. Professional and business services also held steady, employing 406,000 residents. Education and health services expanded notably, gaining 5.2% to employ more than 246,600 workers, while government, leisure hospitality, and financial activities — each of which employs more than 200,000 people — also expanded between 2022 and 2023. Only the information sector took a substantial hit, falling 7.3% for the year.   

Whether you have a career in medicine, engineering, design or aerospace and aviation, Phoenix residents have dozens of top corporations — including several Fortune 500s — to work for. Avnet, a high-tech electronics company, is the biggest revenue-earner in town, followed by mining megalith Reliance Steel & Aluminum. But there are plenty of corporate household names in Phoenix, like Southwest, Carvana and American Express, along with hospital systems like Banner Health and major tech care providers like Asurion.  

Urban Living for Every Lifestyle 

You’ll find nearly everything under the sun when it comes to housing in the Valley of the Sun, from rural artsy estates to suburban neighborhoods and cosmopolitan condos. 

In Glendale, northwest Phoenix (pop. 252,236), is a pro-sports center with the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium and spring training for the Dodgers and White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Glendale offers luxury resorts alongside down-to-earth attractions like Tolmachoff Farms. Similar demographics to Phoenix, Glendale has slightly lower income levels and housing prices, offering a variety of homes.  

On the opposite side of Phoenix lies the city of Scottsdale, a less diverse suburb with higher income and education levels, boasts a median home value of $651,800. Downtown Scottsdale features historic, arts, and waterfront districts, offering upscale dining and entertainment, all near prized wilderness areas.  

Nearby Arcadia is similarly idyllic, offering mountain views, posh resorts, and walkable neighborhoods. Breakfast joints like Bread & Honey House and hotel restaurants like Mowry + Cotton add to the appeal. 

Farther north, Paradise Valley (pop. 12,606) offers an exclusive enclave with country club amenities and steep real estate prices, with a median home value exceeding $2,000,000. 

In Southeast Phoenix, Chandler (pop. 280,711) is a lively, diverse, family-friendly community with affordable housing, attractions like the Crayola Experience and Arizona Railway Museum, and easy access to parks, aquatic centers and the Chandler Museum. Commuting from Chandler to Phoenix takes about 30 minutes by car, but public transportation may require around two hours. 

Note: If you’re thinking of moving to Phoenix, it’s important to thoroughly research neighborhoods or areas in the city you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to live, make sure you understand the area’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information. 

 A Heaven for Outdoor Lovers 

Phoenix is most definitely a work hard/play hard kind of town, so when you’re off the clock and want to get off the grid, Phoenix makes it easy to leave the working world behind.  

Two national parks are within driving distance of the city — Grand Canyon National Park and Saguaro National Park. Many people make a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to see the Grand Canyon, but you’ll be able to see it over and over, in every season. Some access roads will be closed in the winter, but visiting the South Rim in January and February can be a great chance to see the landscape blanketed in snow along with elk and mule deer ensconced in their thick winter coats.  

If you’re looking for great hiking and mountain biking closer to home, South Mountain Park and Preserve is a mini-mountain oasis in the middle of town. No kidding — you can see Ikea from the summit. Equestrians are also welcome to use the trails but be warned that both horse and rider may be driven mad by the aroma of Ikea’s Swedish meatballs wafting in from the base of the peak.  

For a leisurely urban escape, try the Desert Botanical Garden in Tempe, where you can learn about how to manage a water-conserving vegetable garden, see an astonishing array of desert wildflowers and blooming cacti and learn about sustainable, indigenous land practices that have been around for centuries and are still in use today.  

Another great in-town destination: the S’edav Va’aki Museum (formerly the Pueblo Grande Museum) — an archeological park that provides a thorough and fascinating history of the region. 

Arizona may not be coastal, but that doesn’t mean the city is bereft of water-based outdoor activities. Kayakers and tubers, alike, will enjoy a float down the Salt River, where you can take in the spectacular rocky vistas while you picnic and paddle.  

The Phoenix metro landscape would feel naked without its resorts, many of which cater to the business set and have top notch golfing and spas. If you’re looking to hit the links, Desert Mountain sets the Sonoran standard for excellence with its courses designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus. In Mesa, Las Sendas Golf Course offers the enchantment of both the Usery Mountains and the city skyline — this backdrop will either enhance your victory or cushion the blow of your defeat.  

Cultural and Entertainment Highlights

Let’s be honest, though — in a city as hot as Phoenix, you will also need a long list of indoor activities to keep your family happy, and — happily — Phoenix does not disappoint.  

The hottest place to start is the Hall of Flame Museum, where new and vintage fire trucks, fire helmets, fire alarms and firefighting machinery do indeed spark joy.  

If your child’s delight is kindled more by building up than breaking down, then the LEGOLAND Discovery Center is sure to be their happy place. You will likely attend many birthday bashes at this palace of plastic bricks, where you can see miniature Arizona landmarks, build and race your own vehicle and even zap trolls to save the LEGO princess! 

With exhibits that inspire, educate and delight, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix is a great place to set your child’s imagination free. Kids can burn off some steam exploring The Climber or build their STEAM muscles in the Building Big room, where forts are the focus and teamwork makes the dream work.  

For even more STEAM-powered fun, head to the Arizona Science Center, where kids can plumb the depths in the OceanXperience, feel the shift of plate tectonics in the immersive Forces of Nature film or get wired on electricity by building their own circuit.  

Phoenix also has plenty of attractions for grown-ups, too. Take in the city’s art scenes during the First Friday Art Walk. You can go gallery-, bar- and boutique hopping in RoRo (the Roosevelt Row Arts District), where you’ll find artist-run spaces like Eye Lounge and street art masterpieces everywhere you step. Or visit the Phoenix Art Museum, where in just one afternoon you can see work by contemporary artists, like Manjari Sharma, paintings by Frida Kahlo and the famous Thorne Room miniatures. 

The Heard Museum provides an immersive experience in American Indian art and culture, showcasing beautifully curated exhibitions of historical works and those of modern and contemporary artists like Leon Polk Smith and Brenda Mallory.  

Efficient City Transportation

Valley Metro, Phoenix’s public transportation tackles the challenge of serving one of the nation’s most populous cities with its light rail, streetcar, circulators, and various bus services. Despite its efforts, the city’s expansive layout poses difficulties. 

The single light rail line covers an awkward 28-mile route with 38 stations from North Mountain Village to Mesa. Traveling end to end takes 90 minutes, excluding transit to and from the station. In contrast, St. Louis, six times smaller than Phoenix, boasts two lines covering 48 miles, taking just 1 hour and 22 minutes for the entire route. 

To compensate, Phoenix relies on rapid bus transit, efficiently covering more areas without extensive rail infrastructure. Valley Metro offers affordable fares—$4 for a day pass and $2 for a one-way ticket. 

Biking is hugely popular in this desert town, with hundreds of miles of lanes and pathways. Biking to train can enhance commuting, providing a faster and more enjoyable experience. 

Prepare for Your Move to Phoenix 

Have you decided that you’d like to move to the Valley of the Sun? A professional moving company like United Van Lines can help take the stress out of your relocation. Get a moving quote for Phoenix.  

United Van Lines can assist with your relocation to Phoenix from anywhere in the U.S. As America’s #1 Mover®, we can help make your cross-country move to Phoenix a seamless experience, and our customized, full-service moving packages can be tailored to your needs. Our long-distance movers can handle the packing and unpacking of your belongings, shipping your car, removing packing debris, storing your belongings and more.  

Planning a local move within the Phoenix area or moving to Phoenix from another city in Arizona? United Van Lines’ interstate Arizona movers can work with you to provide independent local moving services under their own businesses and brands. 

Tackling the move to Phoenix on your own? United Van Lines’ helpful moving resources can help you avoid the pitfalls of DIY moves, whether you’re moving cross-country or locally.

For an insider’s perspective on the Grand Canyon State, turn to our Moving Guide to Arizona, where you’ll find all the information you need about life in Arizona and the southwest. 

 Get a quote today on moving to Phoenix. 

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