One decision can have a major impact on your daily life – living in the city or in the suburbs.
Both have their own set of pros and cons to consider, so give more thought to what type of wine to order with dinner (although this is still important).
City vs. suburb: what’s the difference?
Cities and suburbs vary widely by size and scope.
Cities are territories within an urbanized area that are also within a major city, such as Los Angeles or Atlanta. Of course, some cities are not as big as these, so whether or not it is a small, medium or large city depends on the population.
Suburban areas, however, are the territories outside of a main city, but which are always inside an urbanized area. The suburbs also vary in size. For context, a small suburb has less than 100,000 inhabitants, but a large suburb has more than 250,000 inhabitants.
Suburbs are also considered low density areas. So they can have a population similar to that of a city, but it is spread over more land. Commercial and residential areas are thus separated, unlike cities, where they can literally overlap.
Advantages and disadvantages of renting in the city
There are many songs devoted to singing the praises of city life, and many people would shudder at the thought of moving to “burbs”.
While the possibility of getting a 2 a.m. churro may not be on our top three perks list, it’s still up there. It’s not all sun and roses though, so take a look at these pros and cons of living in the city rather than the suburbs.
City pro: closer to the action
The convenience factor is huge for city dwellers, especially if you live, work, and play there. While cities have their fair share of chains, restaurants are often locally owned and operated. Thus, they are more unique.
Entertainment, from bars and clubs to museums and other cultural facilities, is also more varied than in the suburbs. There are more employers (this density issue, again), so you are more likely to find or keep a job that is nice and close to you.
City pro: tons of variety
City life comes with a multitude of choices. Whether it’s choosing between three amazing local pizzerias or three amazing local hospitals for this upcoming surgery, urban areas simply have more options than the suburbs.
Cities are also more culturally diverse than their suburban counterparts, a trend that is likely to continue ever since. 70% of American cities are more racially diverse now than in 2010. So if you want to surround yourself with a wide variety of people and cultures, city life is probably the way to go.
City pro: transport advantages
People who don’t want to waste their lives commuting in congested road traffic often opt for a city residence.
While some people prefer to have their own wheels, in some cities public transportation is so great that you don’t even have to own a car! So, whatever premium you pay for a city apartment is compensated for at least a little because you save on paying for a car, gasoline, and insurance.
Incidentally, the best cities for public transport are New York, San Francisco and Boston.
City con: noise levels
All of these people crammed into a relatively small area of land can make things quite noisy. Traffic noise is the biggest culprit, with 80% of urban noise pollution due to cars, trucks, emergency vehicles and others.
As electric and hybrid vehicles become more affordable and mainstream, we hope that starts to decline. But don’t count on it.
City con: more expensive
Rental prices are generally (but not always) higher in the city than in the suburbs. A Forbes Report 2017 found an average price difference of $ 600 per month, with some major cities even more than that! It’s a big change for most people.
Even though some of that is offset if you don’t need a car, there’s still the cost of public transport to factor in.
City con: Air pollution
Air pollution in cities poses a major health risk, especially for sensitive groups such as those with allergies or asthma. Poor air quality is also linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. This is particularly a problem in low income cities.
Advantages and disadvantages of renting in the suburbs
Suburbs sometimes get a bad rap, but there are millions of people who swear by living in (comparatively) wide open spaces. There are some pretty significant advantages to commuters that escape city dwellers, but there are also tradeoffs.
Pro suburbs: more space
Everything is bigger in the suburbs. There is simply more land to walk per person, so apartments, houses, restaurants, roads, green spaces and more are bigger, more abundant and often better.
If you’ve ever driven an SUV down a city side street, you’ll appreciate this distinction.
Pro suburbs: less crime
Cities are noticeably higher in crime than suburbs, although activity in both types of areas is fortunately in decline.
In 2014, the rates of violent victimization for women and men, respectively in urban areas, were 9.4 and 9.3 per thousand people. This, against 7.8 (men) and 6.0 (women) in the suburbs. Theft of property and other types of crime are also more common in cities than in the suburbs.
Pro suburbs: your dollar goes further
There’s no proof that you won’t always spend as much money in the suburbs as living in the city, but you get more for your money. Most things usually cost less the further you get from the main city, like gas, food, taxes, and rent.
If you’re okay with paying more with less to show it off (other than convenient city access), city life is fine. Otherwise, the suburb is a better choice.
Suburbs con: Travel time between home and work
A long and tiring commute is often the price people pay for living in the suburbs. Unless you’re lucky enough to find a job nearby, the city (or closer to it) is where employers are.
According to the US Census Bureau, the average travel time is 26.9 minutes, or almost an hour in either direction. Sure, some areas are lower than that, but many are actually higher. Yikes!
Suburbs con: less eclectic
Many suburban neighborhoods are more likely to take away. They feature many of the same styles of home / apartment, businesses, restaurants, etc. Although suburbs are becoming more and more culturally diverse, they still don’t measure up to cities.
Suburbs con: Car required
You may be able to get to a place or two safely from your apartment, but the vast majority of the suburbs will be out of reach without a car. This means that a working vehicle, insurance and funds to maintain / refuel the car are not only advisable but mandatory.
City vs suburbs: the choice is yours
As long as you clearly understand your own situation and priorities, the choice between city and suburb will be clear. Don’t worry about other people’s opinions, either. Everyone’s circumstances are different, so make the decision that’s right for you!