When you’re looking for a new place to live, the possibilities are endless. Do you stay in the same town or head elsewhere? Should you try a different coast entirely? And how do you choose between the two?
With 50 different states all boasting their own advantages and disadvantages, it’s vital to narrow down your options. The usual metrics, along with personal preferences, come into play.
It can seem like a lot to think about but don’t worry. We ranked each from best to worst using a set of metrics explained below and selected our top ten. That doesn’t mean any others are inherently the worst states to live in; it just means that the states we present have perks that stand out for a reason.
Read on to learn what our ranking looks like!
What Metrics Determine the Best States to Live In?
Finding your next favorite place to live requires some community and economic research. To start, we ranked each of the best states according to approximately five categories:
- Cost of living
- Quality of life
- State tax policies
- Job opportunities
- Crime rates
Following these metrics, the overall score each state earned is what got them a spot on this list.
The Best States to Live In
First up is quiet, picturesque Utah. Ranking first on our list thanks to its excellent economy and fiscal stability, living here means enjoying both an urban, big city environment and the beautiful nearby mountains.
The cost of living and the rental market in Utah is competitive compared to the rest of the country. Plus, its climate is mild, and the crime rate is low.
Utah ranks seventh out of the 50 states in healthcare, fifth in education, first economically, fourth in regards to its infrastructure, twentieth in available job opportunities, first in fiscal stability, fifteenth in crime rates, and forty-sixth in natural environment.
Likewise, the state income tax has decreased over the past several years. It now falls around 4.65 percent.
Some of the local cuisine in Utah might surprise you. Be sure to try Utah scones, funeral potatoes, and pastrami burgers. You’ll dip your fries in “fry sauce,” stop for a quick bite at Cafe Rio and make the drive for raspberry shakes at Bear Lake at least once.
Outdoor recreation is where Utah shines. The best snow on the planet falls in the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Near Salt Lake City alone, skiers have the choice of Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, Deer Valley, and, of course, the largest lift-served ski area in the country: Park City.
Utah’s “Big Five” National Parks are incredible to see, too. Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Zion each draw millions of visitors each year. The desert is heaven for climbers and hikers.
- 78.7% white
- 1.2% Black
- 1.3% Indigenous
- 2.5% Asian
- 8.5% two or more races
- 6.7% unlisted
Where to Stay to See Utah
Washington State comes in second place because of its fiscal stability, stunning natural environment, coupled with a reliable infrastructure.
Washington does more than just sit on the coastline and look pretty. It comes in tenth in the overall quality of education systems in the entire country, and despite its high cost of living, boasts an excellent quality of life.
Washington boasts high-end health care and wellness care for all those who need it. Despite what you may have heard about Seattle, Washington as a whole has a lower crime rate than other parts of the country.
The state falls in a middling zone when it comes to job opportunities, so the competition may be tougher here than elsewhere. Washington’s marginal tax rate falls around seven percent.
Washington is known for its seafood. There’s a reason Pike Place Market is the most well-known fish market in the country! Walla Walla and the surrounding area is one of the best wine regions in the country, too. Really, the Evergreen State is a foodie paradise.
Speaking of Evergreen – Washington is an amazing place for hiking and outdoor recreation. Mt. Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic National Parks preserve incredible landscapes. Other highlights are Ruby Beach, Twin Falls, and Deception Pass State Park.
Where to Stay to See Washington State
Second on our list only to Utah in economics and fiscal stability is Idaho. Idaho ranks towards the top of the list for quality of life for a blend of reasons. The cost of living in Idaho is also significantly less than other states, and housing in particular is considering affordable.
Falling in the top twenty for available job opportunities throughout the whole country, securing a new gig shouldn’t be too troublesome. Industries in Idaho range from blue-collar natural resource work to tech industry, and hospitality companies.
If you need to visit the doctor, you’re in luck. Idaho scores high amidst the other states and their various healthcare policies, so you can feel reasonably confident in having your medical needs addressed.
This state also falls within a firm middle ground when it comes to education. Still, it earns itself a spot in the top ten states in the nation when it comes to low crime rates.
Idaho is known for a variety of delicious food and drink – all of which warrant a test run! Some of the best treats for a foodie traveling here are finger steaks, ice cream potato (it’s better than it sounds!), and the classic bison burger.
Since we’re on the topic of bison, what’s there to do outdoors in Idaho? You can get a dose of vitamin D by exploring Idaho’s beautiful parks and hikes, like the Boise River Greenbelt or Ponderosa State Park. If camping is on the agenda, try out Farragut State Park – you’ll make memories to last a lifetime.
Where to Stay to See Idaho
See Related: Best Things to Do in Boise, Idaho
Nebraska is a very affordable state, scoring within the top twenty in the U.S. It also boasts impressive fiscal stability, with a good score in job opportunities for residents. State income tax comes in at a marginal tax rate of approximately 4.5 to 6.8 percent.
Nebraska typically showcases lower-than-average housing costs. The median home price here is around $290K, compared to the national average of $420K. The violent crime rate in Nebraska is also low, although there is a higher property crime rate, depending on the area.
With schooling in mind, Nebraska scores seventh overall in a ranking of education in U.S. states. This is especially fortunate when paired with the state’s admirable infrastructure.
Want to get a real taste of Nebraska? While you’re here, try some classic food and drinks that all Nebraskans will vouch for. Some of the go-to local bites include raisin pie and Cheese Frenchees, along with the state-renowned Dorothy Lynch dressing.
To really get to know Nebraska, go outside and enjoy it! You should try visiting stunning Zorinsky Lake or Niobrara State Park. Another excellent choice is the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari, which doubles as a fun activity for the whole family.
Where to Stay to See Nebraska
See Related: Best Weekend Trips from Omaha, Nebraska
Minnesota scores first in infrastructure throughout the entire U.S., meaning access to all of life’s essentials, such as food, education, healthcare, and transportation, is a sinch compared to the rest. This is similarly reflected in its available job opportunities, scoring within the top ten in the nation.
Despite its fairly high state income tax compared to the aforementioned states (it changes based on your tax bracket but starts at 5.3% and reaches 9.8%), Minnesota’s overall cost of living comes in at a lower-than-average rate compared to the rest of the country, enjoying zero tax on food and clothes.
Minnesota also scores within the top twenty states in the U.S. for top-quality healthcare but falls in the middle when compared to the national crime rate average. Still, the violent crime rates throughout the state fall far below the rate of general property crime (by a whole 17.5%, almost).
To really take a bite out of Minnesota, try the local delicacies. This means building a list of must-try Minnesotan foods! We highly recommend the Juicy Lucy (or “Jucy” Lucy) and the classic tater-tot hot dish for potato lovers like myself. Minnesota’s pho scene is also top-notch.
Another great way to find out if Minnesota is the one for you is by exploring its many parks and bodies of water. Minnesota is known for its countless crystalline lakes and gorgeous natural spaces. While you’re here, you should visit Itasca State Park, Cascade River State Park, or the stunning Gooseberry Falls.
Where to Stay to See Minnesota
6. New Hampshire
Seeking a state with an average rate of crime that’s even lower than most? The Granite State is the place to be. One of the best states to live in, safety-wise, New Hampshire holds the number one spot in the country for crime and corrections. It boasts an astounding crime rate of just 12 incidents per 1,000 residents.
New Hampshire is also reliably among the top ten states in the U.S. for quality healthcare. It scores high in the economy department as well.
Albeit a more expensive state than others, New Hampshire is number one in the country for job opportunities. Its state income tax comes in at a marginal tax rate of just five percent.
This state does have a middling score when it comes to education. It’s not lower than average, but students’ performance falls within the top twenty in the nation.
As you can see, New Hampshire has a lot to show for itself, but some of its lesser-known perks lie in its food. From baked treats to creamy chowder, New England is known to provide some serious comfort snacks, and New Hampshire is no exception. Try a delicious lobster roll, a maple sundae, and some seasonal cider donuts in autumn!
One of the biggest standout features of New Hampshire is its superior air quality. Take advantage of that by exploring its natural splendor! There are plenty of beautiful places to see in, around, and outside of the White Mountains. Flume Gorge and Diana’s Baths are great trails, and Cathedral Ledge is an essential visit.
Where to Stay to See New Hampshire
Next up is a little ol’ state named Wisconsin. Falling comfortably in the top thirty range, its cost of living is lower than the national average.
It also boasts a lower income tax than its quieter neighbor, Minnesota, although that marginal tax rate does fall between 3.5% and 7.6% overall. Scoring in the top ten for job opportunities, though, means there are plenty of chances for residents to earn.
Wisconsin continues the trend of impressive standards for families with kids, as they scored sixth overall in the U.S. for their quality education system. What’s more, it sits within the top twenty states in the entire country for best healthcare initiatives in the U.S. and showcases a lower-than-average crime rate (18.59 per 1,000 residents).
Of course, Wisconsin is more than just its cheese. Nevertheless, some might be surprised to find that the state actually harbors a lot of delicious foods, including savory fish boils and Wisconsin Kringle, a dangerously delectable pastry. Still, you’ll absolutely want to try some beer cheese soup and fresh or fried cheese curds while you’re here.
Of course, Wisconsin is more than just its cheese. As outdoorsy a place as it is, there are countless parks and hikes you have to try – and it’s staggeringly beautiful any time of year. Some of the most highly recommended trails and sights include Devil’s Lake State Park, Cooper Falls, and the epic Wisconsin Dells.
Where to Stay to See Wisconsin
See Related: Best Things to Do in Door County, Wisconsin
Another one of the best New England states to live in is undoubtedly Massachusetts. It’s top three for quality healthcare in the U.S. and in education. Determining your school system is vital if you’re relocating with children, so you can rest assured here!
Massachusetts also delivers in natural environment, regularly scoring within the top three in the nation. It’s also regularly within the top four for crime and corrections. So not only beautiful, but it’s also pretty safe, with a crime rate of approximately 13.4 crimes per 1,000 residents.
It’s a bit more limited when it comes to job opportunities. On the plus side, this state has a single flat tax rate for all income, which lands its marginal tax at five percent.
You already know there’s great food in New England (thanks, New Hampshire!). Naturally, that extends to Massachusetts. There are traditional bites for foodies with a real taste for flavor and some great comfort food! Some of the highlights are tasty grilled blueberry muffins (don’t knock ’em before you try ’em), Boston baked beans, and, of course, classic clam chowder.
Like its sister states in the Northeast, Massachusetts also boasts good air quality, falling within the top ten alongside New Hampshire and Washington. Staple highlights to add to your list include the Cape Cod National Seashore, the stunning Mount Greylock State Reservation, and Halibut Point State Park.
Where to Stay to See Massachusetts
See Related: Best Things to Do in Boston, Massachusetts
Iowa ranks ninth thanks to a variety of excellent job opportunities and fiscal stability. Falling within the top three for the former and the top eight for the latter, you’ll easily be able to find and maintain a new job should you choose to move here. It showcases a marginal state tax rate of between 0.33 and 8.53%, depending on your earnings.
Health and education-wise, Iowa is middling and decent, respectively. While its healthcare system could improve, it’s still in the better 50% of the country. The education system, however, earns it a spot among the top fifteen states.
Iowa has a good, low crime rate, falling at approximately 18.7 per 1,000 residents. This ranks it in the top twenty for crime and corrections in the United States.
While Iowa may not be known for its food culture, you can find some great restaurants in the state’s larger cities. There are definitely a few must-try Iowan foods out there. If you ask us, these include Maid Rites, classic, tasty rhubarb pie, and delicious Iowa sweet corn.
One of the best ways to enjoy Iowa is by getting out in the sun. If you want to see natural beauty at its finest, Maquoketa Caves State Park, Pikes Peak State Park, and Cedar Rock State Park should be definite spots on your list.
Where to Stay to See Iowa
See Related: Best Wineries In Iowa For Tastings and Tours
Number ten lands us in Vermont – we just love the East Coast. The Green Mountain State is the perfect conclusion, as it’s one of the highest-ranking states overall.
Between its health care systems, education, economic growth, infrastructure, job opportunities, low unemployment rate, fiscal stability, crime rate, and environment, it only ranks below twenty once. Where it falls short is in fiscal stability.
Here, you can expect a great quality of life, with highly-rated education, a low crime rate (15.3 per 1,000 residents), an array of jobs, and a beautiful atmosphere. In all of these categories, Vermont scores among the top fifteen in the nation, which certainly makes it one of the best states to live in.
Did you know that Vermont actually has its own special cheese? Vermont cheese is a highly recommended must-have for foodies visiting (or living) in the state, alongside several other regional goods. Lake Champlain Chocolates, for one, will sustain you while you go hunting for the famed lake monster Champ, and Fiddleheads will fill you up!
When you’re hankering for a day outdoors, Vermont has it all and then some. A few of the state’s most popular stops include Camel’s Hump, Mt. Philo State Park, and Smugglers Notch. Set out for a day in the sun with incomparable views!
Where to Stay to See Vermont
What are the worst states to live in?
While it depends on your definition of “worst,” the general consensus finds this category to include states that are either dangerous, frequently pass inhumane laws, or otherwise engage in discriminatory behavior. The six least preferred states, in this case, include Tennessee, Oklahoma, Missouri, Louisiana, Florida, and Texas.
What are the best states to retire in?
At a glance, the best states to retire in this year are Iowa, Delaware, Arizona, Missouri, West Virginia, and Mississippi.
What are the cheapest states to live in?
These are heavily based on location, most of which exist in the Midwest. For example, at a glance, a handful of the cheapest states to live in the U.S. in 2023 include the following: Mississippi, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, West Virginia, and Iowa. They earned these rankings by their respective median household income, the cost of living index, average salary, and more.
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