Cities vs. Suburbs: Deciding Where You’ll Thrive

Of course, many tenants who have to decide between city life and suburbia are conflicted. They enjoy the entertainment options that come with a major metro area, but they don't necessarily want to sacrifice the simple pleasures of a backyard or porch. The decision isn't always easy to make.

If you're feeling indecisive about where you want to live, you're not alone. Many people have found themselves in your exact position. Fortunately, you can eventually reach a conclusion if you answer a few basic questions, a sort of litmus test to determine where you'd feel most comfortable.

1. Do you rely on public transport?

You'll have access to a whole host of transportation options when you live in a city. Whether you choose to travel by train, bus, subway or taxi, you'll have no difficulty getting from place to place during your day. It saves you from the financial burden of owning and maintaining a car.

When you're living in the suburbs, you'll likely have to purchase and keep up with a vehicle, if you haven't already. Beyond the initial price of the car, the related expenses include registration, insurance, maintenance, taxes and gas. The average monthly cost of car ownership comes to a substantial $508.

2. What's your current income?

Your income is a critical consideration when choosing between the city and suburbs. As context, the average monthly rent in a suburban area comes in at $1,695, which is $50 more expensive than the urban average. While that $50 may not seem like much, it totals an extra $600 over an entire year.

Of course, this isn't universal, particularly in expensive city centers like New York and San Francisco. The price you'll pay for rent will differ depending on your chosen city or neighborhood, but evaluating the average in your specific market will give you a general idea.

As you weigh your options, give some thought to the amount of money you make every year and determine if the benefits of a suburban area justify the higher housing costs.

3. Do you feel uneasy in crowds?

In a major metro area, you may find yourself close to strangers more often than you'd like. On the subway, bus and sidewalk, you'll bump up against people you don't know. Of course, it depends on your personality and preferences, but it's potentially bothersome if you value your personal space.

You won't encounter the same issue in the suburbs. Unless you actively seek out other people in your neighborhood, you're unlikely to feel crowded or claustrophobic. It's a small, but essential consideration if you feel uncomfortable in packed areas where you're shoulder-to-shoulder, jostling for position.

4. How important is entertainment?

Among the many benefits of city living, you can expect a diverse range of entertainment options. Regardless of your interests and pastimes, you'll find a place which supports your preferences and a community of like-minded people who share them. Whether you like bookstores or nightclubs, you'll have both.

The suburbs have entertainment options, as well, but they're scaled-down versions of what you'll find in a major metro area. Even so, you'll come across a variety of clubs, organizations and social meetups in the suburbs which have a unique charm. It depends on what you're looking for.

5. What are your plans for the future?

If you're single and don't intend on having children, you may struggle to see the appeal in the suburbs. On the other hand, if you're expecting a baby soon, a neighborhood is an attractive prospect for a variety of reasons. You'll have space and privacy you need to support a growing family.

Ultimately, you should assess your short- and long-term goals within the context of your living situation. An apartment is perfect for someone who's single and pursuing their career ambitions, while the suburbs are ideal for a family-oriented individual. Where do you fall on that spectrum?

Cities vs. suburbs: It's your decision

As you work through the five questions above, you'll begin to get a better picture of your options. The city has more transportation and entertainment options, but less space and privacy. The suburbs provide more room for growth, but housing is more expensive, and the average neighborhood doesn't have the same cultural and social amenities of the city.

In short, the "right" answer changes from person to person. With this in mind, think about what's right for you, and start planning your move today.

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Holly WellesHolly Welles is a real estate writer and the editor behind The Estate Update, where she shares tips on making the most of any space. Her work can be found on, Porch and other places around the web.

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