Moving to Arizona
Arizona is famous for its desert climate and its beautiful sunsets. The northern part of Arizona features mountain ranges, pine forests and big canyons (see, Grand Canyon). Northern Arizona receives significant snowfalls, and snow has been known to fall as far south as Tucson.
Here are some things you should know before moving to Arizona.
Summer is the off-season. Moving to Arizona, especially Phoenix, Tucson and their respective surrounding areas, during the summer can considerably reduce your moving costs because it is the off-season. Winter is more expensive, primarily due to an influx of seasonal residents, making it more difficult to book moving trucks and companies.
Public transportation is available. Public transportation throughout the state is mainly covered by buses, but in Phoenix there is a 20-mile light rail, METRO, that runs from north-central Phoenix to Mesa with stops in downtown Phoenix and Tempe. The light rail is scheduled to expand further and open new routes before 2030. Tucson also features a trolley that runs from the UA to downtown.
While traffic does increase on the freeways during regular commute times, the real traffic problems are on the surface streets. Tucson is spread wide over a large area, and without an extensive freeway system the street traffic is very heavy. Interstate 8 runs from San Diego, California to Interstate 10 midway between Phoenix and Tucson. Other Arizona highways (not to be confused with the popular magazine Arizona Highways) include: Interstate 15, which runs through Arizona between Nevada and Utah, and Interstate 40, which runs through Arizona between California and New Mexico.
Beat the heat. The majority of Arizona is hot. If you are moving to Arizona and plan on relocating to the mountain areas, then the temperatures will follow more traditional patterns according to season—but the rest is hot. This cannot be stressed enough. The reason that summer is considered the off-season is due to days averaging well over 100 degrees throughout most of the state (it can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit on the hottest days). In addition, late summer also has frequent afternoon monsoons, which are powerful thunderstorms that often induce street and underpass flooding or damage from lightning strikes—not to mention those big, freaky dust storms you see on the Internet. If you choose to move to Arizona in the summer, try to confine your move time to early mornings and late evenings (and drink plenty of water).
Pack a jersey and foam finger. Phoenix is home to several professional sport teams including the Arizona Cardinals (NFL), Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB), Phoenix Suns (NBA), Phoenix Mercury (WNBA), Phoenix Coyotes (NHL) and the Arizona Rattlers (AFL).
For baseball fans, Phoenix and the surrounding communities annually host Major League Baseball’s spring training Cactus League (running from mid February through opening day of the regular season). You can visit baseball fields around the state—from Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe to Glendale, Goodyear and Scottsdale—to catch a bit of the action.
When it comes to college sports, Arizona State University, located in Tempe, is part of the PAC-12 conference—the Sun Devils are a Phoenix area favorite. Tucson is home to the University of Arizona of the PAC-12 conference and semi-pro soccer teams. It is currently hoping to lure Major League Soccer to town for a spring training agreement much like the one MLB has in the Phoenix market. Additionally, Flagstaff is home to the NAU programs that are part of the Big Sky Conference in most sports and the Western Athletic Conference in others.
Park with care. Pay special attention to street and parking signs. Many streets have restricted parking requiring permits or payment. In addition, even areas with ample free parking may have restrictions regarding days and times that spaces are available. You don’t want to start your move to Arizona with a mark on your new driver’s license! If parking seems stressful, you can always move to Oatman, AZ, where the locals opt to travel via donkey instead of car (seriously).
Change your address. To make your move to Arizona easier, consider changing your address online. It is easy to do, cost efficient, and will ensure that your mail travels to your new home with you.
Check out our downloadable planners and checklists.
Cities and Metro Areas
When moving to Arizona, there are 15 counties from which to choose. Among the many unique towns and cities AZ has to offer is Phoenix, a huge city with many suburbs, neighborhoods and urban villages.
Many towns throughout Arizona are built out, not up, and the sprawling 200-square-mile spread of Tucson is no exception.
Other notable cities include Flagstaff, Yuma, Tempe, Scottsdale and Mesa.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Arizona is going to vary greatly depending on where in the state you are moving. Obviously the larger markets will be much more expensive than those that are smaller.
In Phoenix, Arizona’s largest market, health care and general goods and services tend to run a little higher than the national average, but the overall cost of living is still on the lower side (relatively).
The cost of living index for Phoenix is 95 based on the national average of 100 and a gallon of gas is 10% lower than the national average. In Phoenix, average rent for an apartment is $1,027 (national average is $799) and the median home value is just over $258,720 (national average is $192,591).
Highways and Public Transport
Traffic in Arizona is typically congested in the larger markets, steady on major highways, and sometimes non-existent throughout the rest of the state (although the argument could be made that it is all relative). Phoenix public transportation is available via Valley Metro bus service and METRO light rail.
Other than downtown Phoenix and downtown/shopping districts of neighboring communities (Scottsdale, Tempe), Arizona’s larger cities are spread out, and not considered to be a walkable. (Phoenix get a ranking of 40 out of 50 according to Walk Score).
Phoenix is the largest city in America without an intercity train service and has not had Amtrak rail service in over a decade (Amtrak does stop in Maricopa and Tucson, both south of Phoenix). Amtrak buses are available at Sky Harbor International Airport for direct connections to Flagstaff, Arizona. However, the Valley METRO does have a light rail that runs through Phoenix and makes it more accessible for those wishing to use public transportation.
Public transportation in Tucson is available (Sun Tran and trolley), but to get across town you have to sit in the same traffic as everyone else. There are two freeways in the area, but both tend to skirt much of the city, and therefore are not the best option for many commuters. One of the best ways to get around Tucson is by bicycle. Many streets have wide, well-marked bike lanes. There are also bike paths along many of the dry creeks and riverbeds that provide riders with shortcuts through the city.
Some of the other towns and cities in Arizona have local forms of public transportation, however, many of the smaller communities do not provide it.
Public Transportation in Arizona
- Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
- Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA)
- Tucson International Airport (TUS)
If you are moving to Arizona for a promising new job, consider the location of your new employer when searching for housing.
With so many great cities to live in, finding an Arizona home near the office is not difficult to do, and it will cut down on the amount of time you have to sit in a hot car cranking the air-conditioning.
If you are searching for Arizona jobs, be sure to consider these top ten largest employers in the state (not including government, state, county, city or public schools). For the full list of large employers, visit AZCentral.com.
Weather is a big factor in moving to Arizona. Phoenix, Tucson and their surrounding areas are hot. Really hot. This is important. However, they are not the hottest places in Arizona (see, Yuma, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu). Sure, most of the areas are pleasant and warm in the spring and fall, and you might even need a jacket during the coldest days of winter (or at the least the nights), but the main thing you need to understand about Arizona is that it is hot. Don’t worry; it’s a dry heat. Even during the monsoon months (late June/early July through early September) when it rains (or at least threatens to rain) most afternoons, the humidity manages to stay relatively tolerable. Of course, the heat is a different story, no matter how dry it claims to be.
The average daytime temperature of the hotter areas in the summer (which, unlike most calendars, tends to run from May to September) is well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Well over. The spring and fall seasons average about 85 degrees, and the winter high cools down to an average of 65 degrees. The nights of all seasons cool off quite a bit from the daytime highs and range from around 45 degrees in the winter to 80+ degrees in the summertime (all temperatures Fahrenheit). These numbers can fluctuate by as much as 15 degrees from city to city.
Mountain areas of Arizona will have clearer, defined seasons and may get heavy snow throughout the winter, heat waves during the summer, and changing leaves in the fall. Spring, as you may have guessed, is lovely.
Finding the right school is one of the biggest undertakings for families moving to Arizona. It is a tough process sorting through all of the school choices Arizona offers; in fact, there are more than 30 school districts in the Phoenix area alone.
Recent changes in state funding have taken their toll on public schools, but Arizona is still full of great teachers and schools providing quality education to their students. Current school rankings (elementary, middle and high schools), campus and district zoning/location maps, information and reviews are available online for parents moving to Arizona. Arizona preschool information is also available.
There are many public universities in Arizona, including Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, and more. Many of these universities offer scholarships and affordable tuition for Arizona residents. Check out our scholarship search for more scholarship opportunities.
Want to take care of important (mandatory) tasks before moving to Arizona? Many of the items required for a move to Arizona can be found online:
- For an Arizona government overview and information on moving to Arizona, legal requirements and helpful links, visit AZ.gov.
- Register to vote at your County Recorder’s Office. If you have an Arizona Driver’s License, you also have the option to register to vote online.
- Register your vehicle and obtain a new driver’s license at the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Motor Vehicle Division (MVD).
- For tax information visit IRS.gov.
- Find your local United States Post Office online.
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