When it comes to places to retire in the United States, Florida and Arizona tend to top peoples’ list of considerations. Whether you’re excited about the sunshine state’s tropical climate and lack of income taxes or are more interested in the dry weather and desert landscapes of Phoenix, Arizona, each state has plenty to offer those considering retiring there.
Read on for a complete breakdown of what living in either Florida or Arizona could mean for you once you’ve retired.
When it comes to overall cost of living, Arizona tends to be more expensive, but not by much. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) compiles a cost of living index annually to compare overall living costs across all 50 states.
In 2022, the average cost of living in Arizona scored a 105.8 on the 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.
Vague generalizations are all well and good, but it would be probably be helpful to get a more specific breakdown of exactly what you should expect living expenses to be in Florida vs Arizona.
Estimating average housing costs is a dangerous game. How much a home costs to purchase and maintain will vary wildly depending on its size, location, and amenities. Home prices tend to be higher in metro centers compared to rural areas, and the more space you need the higher price you will ultimately pay.
The point is, take these numbers with a healthy dose of salt — they’re valuable in that they give a general sense of the market in each of the states we’re discussing, but don’t assume they’ll predict housing prices in the specific market you want to buy in for the size of home you plan on purchasing.
Here’s the breakdown of the average home prices in each state:
The median Arizona home price in early 2023, according to Zillow, was just under $410,000. That’s quite a bit more expensive than the national average, which around the same time was about $334,000.
Having said that, averages fluctuate significantly depending on where in Arizona you want to buy. If you want to live in Phoenix, for example, the median price jumps up to $435,000. Tucson, on the other hand, is quite a bit cheaper. The median home price there is actually under the national average, at $313,000.
Renting in Arizona tends to be cheaper than average. According to RentCafe, the average US rent in early 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.
Overall, Flagstaff tends to be the most expensive Arizona cities to live in, with homes averaging over $500,000 and rents just under $2,000 per month.
Sierra Vista rounds out the lower end of the spectrum, with median home prices hovering around $230,000 and apartments readily available for under $1,000 per month.
The average home price in Florida is $383,000. That means homes there are generally cheaper than those in Arizona, but still higher than average in the US (which, again, was $313,000 in early 2023).
Again, however, prices vary significantly depending on where you’d like to live. Homes in Miami cost over $530,000 on average, whereas Orlando’s are $366,000. Certain areas of Florida are significantly lower than average, however. Gainesville, for example, has a median home price of $285,000, and Jacksonville’s go for $295,000 on average.
Renting tends to be more expensive in Florida, relative to national averages. In Miami, for example, 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.
There are plenty of expensive places to live in Florida, but Palm Beach is the king of that hill with an average home price of just under $2 million and average rents over $10,000 per month.
The cheapest place to live in Florida, on the other hand, is Dade City, with average home prices under $240,000 and rents of $1,440 per month.
What you can expect to shell out for various taxes definitely changes depending on which state you live in. Here’s our breakdown of the taxes you’ll end up paying in Florida compared to Arizona.
Florida has a 6% sales tax, whereas Arizona’s is 5.6%, which 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.
Unfortunately, property tax rates are quite a bit more complicated than income and sales tax rates. So, for this comparison, we’ll be looking at effective tax rates, which basically take into account all the deductions, exemptions, and credits that often get applied to the value of the property being taxed.
Using effective tax rates as a comparison point, Florida is quite a lot more expensive when it comes to taxes than Arizona is, though both are below the average nationally. 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.
Again, this is a gross oversimplification of the myriad and complex rules governing how property tax is assessed anywhere, and all of the numbers change depending on which county you live in. As a general rule, however, Florida is a more expensive place to own a home than Arizona is.
Both Florida and Arizona are known for their warm weather (which probably has something to do with their popularity as retirement destinations). Despite this, there are some interesting nuances in climate worth noting between the two states.
Temperatures in Florida are, overall, more consistent than those in Arizona. Lows in Florida tend to average out in the 60s, and highs are usually in the 80s (as an average). 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 a whopping 12.6″ of precipitation per year on average. Florida, on the other hand, gets 54″ on average.
Of course, those numbers change significantly depending on where in each state you end up. In the Arizona desert, you should plan on basically no rain whatsoever, however in some of the mountainous areas, you can actually get some snow.
In Florida, the panhandle area gets much more precipitation than anywhere else in the state.
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.
Side note: If you don’t know, dew point is a way of measuring humidity that describes the temperature at which dew would form, given how much moisture is in the air. So, because warm air holds more water, the higher the dew point, the more humid it feels. The Florida Climate Center published a scale to help understand dew point, with anything over 70 feeling “oppressive.”
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 the most humid state, 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
Despite what you might expect, given that both states are popular retirement destinations, 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 requires you have 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.
So, if you’re a person who has high medical expenses, it may be better to live in Florida where more of those expenses will be subsidized by the government.
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.
While wandering around an amusement park may not be the thing you want to spend your retirement years doing, it is nice to know that you’ll never be at a loss for activities when your grandkids come to visit.
One thing Florida does have the most of is golf courses. There are over 1,200 in the sunshine state, more than any other in the US. 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.
So, whether you want to hike the Grand Canyon, fish Lake Havasu, or gaze up at some of the most pristine night skies the US has to offer, Arizona wins the outdoor recreation game for sure.
In case that was a bit too much information to process all at once, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a few handy charts you can use to compare some of the benefits of retiring in Arizona and Florida.
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