When it comes to places to retire in the United States, living in Florida vs Arizona tends to top peoples’ list of considerations. Certainly there are pros and cons to life in either state.
You may be excited about the sunshine state’s tropical climate, but nervous about the chances of being blown away by a hurricane. Perhaps you’re more interested in the dry weather in Arizona, but nervous about the intensity of the summer heat.
If the question of Arizona vs Florida living in retirement is keeping you up at night, get ready to sleep easy. We’ve got a complete breakdown of what your quality of life could look like living in either state.
When it comes to overall cost of living, Arizona’s tends to be slightly higher.
In 2022, the average cost of living in Arizona scored a 105.8 on the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center cost of living index, which means living in Arizona is about 5.8% more expensive than the national average. Florida, on the other hand, scored a 102.5.
Given that the average annual household expenses in the United States tally to about $61,334 (according to World Population Review), Arizona residents spend an extra $3,557 per year. Floridians, on the other hand, spend an extra $1,717 per year.
Here’s the breakdown of the average home prices in each state. Just keep in mind these are averages. While they give a vague, general idea of cost comparison, they’re unlikely to accurately predict your actual housing costs.
The median home price in Arizona as of July, 2023 was just over $420,000. That’s quite a bit more expensive than the national average, which around the same time was about $349,000.
Renting in Arizona tends to be cheaper than average. According to RentCafe, the average US rent in 2023 was around $1,700. In many Arizona cities, however, you can rent for much less than that. Phoenix rents average out to just over $1,500 per month, and in Tucson the average is about $1,200 per month.
The average home price in Florida is $391,000. That means homes there are generally cheaper than those in Arizona, but still higher than average in the US.
Renting tends to be more expensive in Florida, relative to national averages. In Miami the average apartment costs nearly $2,400 per month. Even in Gainesville, where buying a home is about 10% cheaper than average, you’ll still pay over $1,600 per month for an apartment, which is only 3% below average.
Florida has a 6% sales tax, whereas Arizona’s is 5.6%. This difference is fairly negligible. If, like the average American, you spend $32,000 per year on goods and services (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), you’re only spending an extra $128 per year living in Florida instead of Arizona.
Florida has no state income tax whatsoever. Arizona, on the other hand, has a flat 2.5% income tax for all residents.
That means, if you make the US average $69,000 per year, you’ll be spending an extra $1,725 to live in Arizona as opposed to Florida on state income tax alone.
Florida is quite a lot more expensive when it comes to property tax rate than Arizona is. Both are below the average nationally, though.
Florida’s average effective tax rate is .91% compared to Arizona’s .51%. The average in the US is .99%.
What does all that mean? If you own a property worth $300,000 in Florida, your annual property tax bill would be $27,300. In Arizona, however, a house with the same value would only owe $15,300.
Disclaimer: this is a gross oversimplification of the complex rules governing property tax assessment, and all of the numbers change depending on which county you live in.
Temperatures in Florida are more consistent than those in Arizona. Lows in Florida tend to average out in the 60s, and highs are usually in the 80s. The year-round average temperature in Florida is usually in the low 70s.
In Arizona, however, there is much more fluctuation. Lows in the winter months can get down to 19° in Flagstaff, while summer highs in Tucson regularly exceed 100°.
Arizona gets 12.6″ of precipitation per year on average. Florida, on the other hand, gets 54″ on average.
Florida is much more humid than Arizona. In fact, Florida is the most humid state in the nation. The average dew point in Florida ranges between 55 and well over 60, depending on where in the state you are.
Arizona, birthplace of the phrase “it’s a dry heat,” is…well, dry. Especially by comparison to Florida. Average dew points in Arizona tend to stay under 40, though they may get up to 60 or so in summer months.
The basic takeaway here is that if you decide to retire in Florida, you’re going to have to be comfortable being sticky (or stay inside with air conditioning most of the time).
Not only is Florida humid, it’s also the hurricane capital of the United States. More hurricanes and tropical storms impact Florida than any other state, with over 500 in total making landfall there since records started in the mid-1800s.
Since 2017, there have been 3 severe hurricanes (category 4 or 5) that have impacted Florida.
Arizona, on the other hand, doesn’t get any sort of extreme weather to speak of. It does get very hot in the summer, and heat advisories are fairly common.
A heat advisory isn’t going to knock your house over, though, and so if weather-related safety is of concern, Arizona is going to be a better bet than Florida.
When it comes to healthcare spending and access, Florida and Arizona are fairly similar, however there are some important differences.
Quality of care
Both Arizona and Florida rank fairly low when it comes to the quality of healthcare provided in the state.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality compiles statistics on over 250 different healthcare related quality measures and ranks the states in terms of the quality of care provided.
According to their most recent assessment (2018), Florida ranks in the bottom 10 states for overall quality of healthcare provided, whereas Arizona is in the middle 31.
So, if you have a condition that necessitates access to consistent, excellent medical care, you might be more likely to find a suitable living situation in Arizona than in Florida.
Overall, Florida spends a greater percentage of its budget on Medicaid than Arizona does (31.3% compared to 24%), however only 54% of physicians in Florida are accepting new Medicaid patients, compared to 79.9% in Arizona.
These differences exist despite the fact that an uncannily similar proportion of residents in each state are on either Medicare or Medicaid (34.6% in Florida and 35.6% in Arizona).
So, depending on where you live in either state, it might be more difficult to find a doctor as a new patient in Florida than it would be in Arizona.
The cost of healthcare is greater in Florida than Arizona, from a per capita perspective: Florida spends $8,076 to Arizona’s $6,452.
However, those numbers don’t account for patients’ out-of-pocket expenses, which are actually higher in Arizona than in Florida. Patients in the sunshine state spend on average $1,200 per year on medical expenses, whereas their counterparts in the Grand Canyon state spend $1,700.
All things considered, there’s lots to love about living in Florida and Arizona. Here’s a breakdown of some of the highlights of each state:
When you think of the state that has the most theme parks overall, you probably think of Florida. (It’s actually California, but Florida is a close second.)
Central Florida is home to Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, and many more of the best-known theme parks in the world.
There are over 1,200 golf courses in Florida, more than any other state. So, if golf is an important consideration when you imagine your retirement, know that you’ll basically always be able to find a course in Florida to play on.
Because they live on a peninsula (and in a state with over 30,000 lakes), Floridians have easier access to water-related recreation than basically anyone else in the US. Florida’s coastal areas are dotted with beautiful beaches that make it easy to enjoy the abundant sunshine for which the state is named.
We actually wrote a whole blog about cool places to retire in Arizona, so we’re not going to harp on the subject here. One thing worth highlighting again, however, is the overabundance of outdoor activities one has access to in Arizona.
While Arizona doesn’t enjoy Florida’s access to beaches, there’s still plenty of amazing outdoor activities one can engage with in the state. From exploring the Sonoran Desert to hiking the Grand Canyon, Arizona residents have access to some of the most iconic nature available in the US.
What’s more, even though the state is landlocked, Lake Havasu provides access to a wide variety of water sports if that’s something you’re interested in. In fact, Lake Havasu is quickly developing a reputation as one of the best fishing lakes in the US.
Overall, it’s going to cost you a bit more to live in Arizona than in Florida. Both states, however, are above the national average when it comes to cost of living.
While both states enjoy warm weather, Arizona’s climate is much drier than Florida’s. Florida may be the most humid state in the nation, but its temperatures are more consistent than Arizona’s. Florida does, however, contend with an inordinate amount of severe weather events, whereas Arizona has basically none.
Arizona ranks higher than Florida in terms of overall quality of healthcare, though neither state made it into the top half of the rankings. Cost of care does tend to be cheaper in Florida though.