Is It Better To Retire In Arizona Or Nevada?

A common life decision people make when they retire is to move to another state, where they can live more comfortably and have new experiences daily. When deciding where to retire, the states of Arizona and Nevada are two of the most popular choices, as both offer a warm climate with countless outdoor activities for retirees to enjoy. However, there are also some major differences between these two states that render one better than the other. 

Arizona is consistently ranked above Nevada as one of the top states in the country for retirees. This is due to its affordability, optimal weather, reduced crime rates, along with other benefits. However, despite most agreeing that Arizona is best, Nevada has some pros that might make it the better choice for some retirees. 

In this article, we will provide an in-depth comparison of Arizona and Nevada that demonstrates why Arizona is the better retirement destination based on common criteria. That being said, there will also be times where we’ll play devil’s advocate and explain why Nevada is still a fantastic place for retirees and how it can potentially trump Arizona depending on their priorities. 

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Arizona Vs. Nevada: Which is Best For Retirement?

Looking for a new state to retire in is a big decision that can greatly impact your quality of life. There are many factors that should considered before choosing the right place to settle down for retirement, including taxes, cost of living and overall lifestyle opportunities, and these are rarely consistent throughout states. 

Both Arizona and Nevada are consistently ranked in the top ten best states for retirement, so you can’t really go wrong with either choice. In some ways, such as preferred activities, environment, and climate, the choice between the two is entirely subjective. However, when you compare more logistical criteria, like taxes, healthcare options, and cost of living, Arizona reigns supreme for retirees. 

That being said, if you look at Sharecare’s 2020 Community Well-Being Index, you’ll find that Nevada actually ranks at #21 compared to Arizona ranked at #27. This index evaluates health risks across 10 domains, including essential factors like access to healthcare, community safety and pride, proximity to key resources, and more.

So, in a way, it’s anyone’s game here. To provide a clearer image of what each state has to offer retirees and why we deem Arizona the more optimal choice, we’re going to compare thembased on criteria we see most frequently for this discussion andthose we believe to be the top priorities for most retirees when making this decision. 

These criteria include:

• Taxes

• Healthcare

• Cost of living

• Average home value

• Climate• Community

• Crime

• Activities and attractions

After we’ve covered each of these criteria, you can make the ultimate decision to either agree with our statement that Arizona is the better state for retirement or to pack your bags and head off to Nevada instead.

Taxes in Arizona and Nevada

When asked why most people decide to move to another state for retirement, one of the most common responses is that their current state’s income and property taxes are far too high. If you live in the sunny states of California and Hawaii or on the bustling streets in New Jersey or New York, you’ll know this financial burden all too well. 

Thankfully, Arizona and Nevada are some of the most tax-friendly states in the nation. But which is better?

Nevada might be the better choice, in this instance, considering it doesn’t have a state income tax compared to Arizona’s reasonably low state income tax of 2.59%–8%. Nevada is also devoid of estate and inheritance taxes and has some of the country’s lowest median property tax rates.

However, Arizona wins points for having no estate or inheritance taxes as well, exempting Social Security benefits from state income taxes, and permitting all military retirement to be tax-free. Ultimately, the champion here might depend on your financial situation, but there’s no doubt that both are superb options. 

Cost of Living in Arizona and Nevada

Right behind taxes in the financial bracket of priorities usually comes the cost of living. This is particularly important to retirees because usually, they’re relying on a retirement fund or some form of fixed income, which is often limited. Therefore, they need to take care to find a new home in a state and even town where they can live comfortably on the funds they have. 

According to a Bankrate article written by Jeff Ostrowski, Arizona is ranked 16th for affordability compared to Nevada at 30. This ranking was based on the 2020 Cost of Living Index from the Council for Community and Economic Research and property and sales tax rates from the Tax Foundation’s rankings for 2020-21.

Both states have a cost of living that is below the national average, but Arizona is far more consistent with the lower cost of living state-wide compared to Nevada. Bustling tourist traps like Vegas are bound to cost residents more than smaller towns. This is why you’ll notice most rankings, like Best Places, will show Arizona with a 102.2 overall ranking of cost of living versus Nevada’s 110.5 ranking (demonstrating an 8.3% increase) because there are more regions in this state where resources simply cost more. 

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Healthcare in Arizona and Nevada

Another significant priority, especially for retired individuals, is their healthcare options. This is a major concern for those who are looking to relocate as they may not be able to receive the same level of care in their new home state.

A great way to determine the quality and accessibility of healthcare in a state is to look at their health care spending. Arizona has a healthcare spending of $7,549 per capita compared to Nevada’s $9,589, and, unfortunately, neither state ranks particularly well for healthcare nationwide. 

About 18.6% of Arizonans were deemed in fair or poor health, which is an unsettling figure when you consider the fact that there are only 65.7 doctors per 100,000 Arizonans and 1.9 hospital beds per 1,000 people.

However, according to The Common Wealth Fund, Arizona is ranked slightly below the middle of the pack at 30 on their Scorecard on Health System Performance compared to Nevada’s ranking of 49, making it nearly the worst state in the nation for criteria such as access and affordability, prevention and treatment, healthy lives, and more. This goes to show that just because Nevada might spend more on healthcare doesn’t mean it’s providing the best quality for its citizens.  

Average Home Value in Arizona and Nevada

While knowing the average home value isn’t usually the highest priority for most retirees, it’s certainly good information to know, as it gives a good indication of what they can expect to spend when purchasing a new home in this region, what their new home might sell for if they think they might move around before settling down, and how this might reflect on cost of living and other expenses. 

As it currently stands, the typical home value in Arizona is$391,730 and $404,060 in Nevada, so purchasing property in Arizona is going to be cheaper, but it will be worth more in Nevada. 

Of course, there are a number of retirees who prefer to move to a retirement or community where they don’t have to worry about the daily upkeep that comes with a private residence, making this a moot point for these people. But, if you’re looking to downsize into a smaller, cozier, or even nicer home when you retire, this is good information to keep in mind. 

Climate in Arizona and Nevada

One of the top perks of moving to either Arizona or Nevada is that these two states have absolutely fantastic climates that are ideal for most retirees, especially if they’re moving from states with particularly harsh winters, like Michigan and Minnesota.

Of the two, Arizona is more consistently ranked higher for better weather, residing in the top ten states nationwide, if not the top five. If you enjoy the sunshine, Arizona should definitely be your pick, as it is the sunniest state in America

Sadly, the downside to these seemingly endless rays is the potential for extreme temperatures. Year-round, temperatures in Arizona rarely go below 41°F, but they can peak at 105°F, which is often too high for comfort. Regions like Phoenix will definitely experience these higher than average temperatures, but if you settle in the more mountainous regions, like Flagstaff, you’ll get to enjoy more comfortable temperatures and low humidity. 

In terms of sunshine and climate, Nevada is certainly up there as one of the best states. On average, you can expect temperatures as low as 20.7°F and high as 84.6°F, which is pretty comparable to Arizona. Something people might not enjoy is that Nevada has the driest climate year-round, which can leave citizens begging for even the smallest rain shower. However, this dry climate can be extremely beneficial for individuals with allergies, asthma, and other respiratory issues, so your health can be a factor just as much as your preferences. 

Community in Arizona and Nevada

For the sake of this article, “community” will refer to the percentage of the state’s population that is over 65 years old and how many retirement communities are found state-wide. 

Arizona wins this category hands-down on both accounts. If you’re concerned about moving to a state that won’t have a large population of people your age, don’t worry. Arizona has a booming population 65+ -year-old citizens that account for 18% of the state’s population

A significant number of these citizens also take advantage of the 200+ independent living communities dedicated to retired people or they can opt for one of the many assisted living or nursing homes. 

Comparatively, Nevada doesn’t fair too bad in the community department. Individuals over the age of 65 account for 16.1% of the state’s population, and retirees can live in one of the 85 independent living facilities state-wide. While Nevada does offer a decent number of independent, assisted, and nursing facilities, you won’t find as many as you do in Arizona. 

The only area where Nevada excels here is actually in memory care. The state has 73 memory care facilities dedicated to understanding and treating Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other memory health complications compared to Arizona’s 12 or so facilities.

Crime Rate in Arizona and Nevada

Going down the crime rabbit hole is never a pleasant experience no matter where you live. Moving your entire life to a new state is hard enough without being concerned you’ll be a victim of robbery or vandalism.

Sadly, neither Arizona nor Nevada have particularly sparkling reputations in the crime department. The 2018 violent crime rate in Arizona 474.9 per 100,000 people compared to Nevada’s 541.1 per 100,000 people. Although both states saw reductions in these crimes compared to their 2017 figures, it still places them in the top ten states with the highest violent crime rates. 

Therefore, while Arizona might be the lesser of two evils in the department, in our opinion, no one really wins this one. 

Activities and Attractions in Arizona and Nevada

Let’s finish this retirement comparison on a high note by discussing what Arizona and Nevada have to offer retirees in terms of activities and attractions. 

Of all the criteria on this list, this is probably the most subjects, as both states have a wide range of natural wonders, a diverse selection of entertainment sources, cultural attractions, and no shortage of things to do. Determining which state is best will really depend on your preferences. 

For example, Arizona has a lot of national parks and canyons for retirees to explore, like walking or flying over the Grand Canyon, and is well-renowned for its golf courses. You can also venture to their largest cities like Phoenix, Tucson, and Mesa for live entertainment, fabulous restaurants, and other urban attractions. 

Comparatively, Nevada is a bit more mountainous than Arizona, thanks to its Sierra Nevada range, but it still has its fair share of national parks as well. As far as entertainment is concerned, most people flock to the casinos and live shows in Las Vegas.

While there is certainly months’ worth of experiences to be had here, retirees don’t always have to travel to the state’s biggest tourist destination for something to do. Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam or other popular attractions they can venture to, as well as taking advantage of the state’s many golf courses, wineries, concerts, and cultural events. 

Final Thoughts

So, which state is better to retire in, Arizona or Nevada? While our chips are still on Arizona after looking over all of the criteria, we’d understand if the areas where Nevada shone brighter were enough to entice you to the Silver State instead. 

In the end, this decision all relies on what you prioritize and value most in your new home for retirement. What’s necessary to give you the highest quality of life and meet your needs might not match another’s, so make sure you and your loved ones are always the central focus when making this decision.

Steven Abbey

Steven Abbey is a author for Senior Living Headquarters and owns a home in a retirement community. His wife owns a successful family business that has served tens of thousands of people. He also has a electrical technician degree.

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