The Top 10 Worst Arizona Cities for Retirees

RETIREMENT - RETIRED LIFE
Discover which Arizona city could drain your retirement savings faster than the desert sun.
Updated April 11, 2024
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senior couple on bench in arizona

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Arizona is an appealing option for retirees who want a warm place to live. But there are downsides to some places in the Grand Canyon State.

Whether you plan to retire early or later in life, some Arizona cities may be better suited for your golden years than others.

Here are a few cities you may want to avoid and why they might not be a great place to call home.

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Phoenix

Andy/Adobe arizona phoenix skyline during day time

Phoenix can be a great option if you’re looking for a big city, but it also comes with the negatives of living in a metropolis.

The crime rate is higher in Phoenix than in other Arizona cities, and housing can be expensive.

According to the American Lung Association, the air quality in Phoenix places it among the top 10 most polluted U.S. cities. The city’s desert location also makes it prone to dust storms, so you might want to factor that in if you have breathing issues.

It also can be crowded in the winter months, as other retirees flock to Phoenix during that season.

Scottsdale

tim/Adobe camelback mountain and downtown phoenix

Scottsdale is a beautiful town with plenty of resorts and many activities for retirees. For example, you can enjoy a round of golf or venture out into nature.

But Scottsdale also has a high cost of living that could quickly eat up your retirement savings.

The median sale price for a home in Scottsdale was $780,000 in July, according to real estate website Redfin. That makes it an expensive option.

Glendale

Douglas/Adobe state farm stadium from outside

Like Scottsdale, Glendale is outside of Phoenix but still close enough that you can drive to the city to enjoy events or entertainment.

But Glendale is also home to State Farm Stadium, where the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals play. Traffic can be bad on normal days but even worse on game days, so make sure you have a car if you move to the city.

Glendale also has a relatively high crime rate. And you will need a car because Glendale is not very walkable.

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Tucson

Jacob/Adobe tucson cityscape with mountains during day

Tucson might be appealing because of its lower cost of housing. The median sale price for homes in July was $333,000, which was lower than the sale price for the entire state of Arizona, which was $434,300 for the same period.

However, if you move here, you will have to compete with other snowbirds during winter months, as well as students at the University of Arizona.

Green Valley

mdurson/Adobe green valley arizona with mountains

You might think a city with an inviting name like Green Valley would be a great place to call home but do your research before you go.

Green Valley has been noted for sometimes having poor air quality due to its proximity to Tucson. Dust also can sweep in from the desert.

The city’s high temperature can also hover around 100 degrees in the summer, causing you to spend a lot of your fixed income on high air conditioning bills.

Coolidge

Scott Griessel/Adobe couple hiking on trail in woods

Coolidge is southeast of Phoenix and has an affordable housing market. According to Redfin, homes sold for a median price of $312,495 in July.

But the city also has some knocks against it, such as its crime rate, which is higher than other places in Arizona.

The city is also prone to flash floods or desert sand storms due to its location, which may be a problem for some retirees.

Tempe

tim/Adobe tempe arizona cityscape with mountains

Tempe’s housing prices are slightly above the median price for the entire state. A home in Tempe would have cost you a median of $447,450 in July, compared to $434,300 for the entire state.

Tempe is not a very walkable city. And even where you can walk, it will be scorching in the summer, a fact of life in many cities in Arizona.

Snowflake

Brocreative/Adobe senior woman hiking with dog

It sounds cool, but don’t be fooled: Snowflake’s temperature can still get hot during summer.

Even if you like the appeal of a small town — the population is less than 6,000 residents — be aware that Snowflake might be too isolated for what you want in a retirement community. It’s almost three hours to Phoenix, the closest big city.

Sedona

nikolas_jkd/Adobe man hiking on devil's bridge trail

Sedona might be a good option if you want to live in Arizona but without the added heat. It’s a bit cooler here due to the higher elevation.

But there are other aspects of the city that work against it, with the cost of housing being one of the biggest issues. 

The median sale price for a home in Sedona was more than $1 million in July, according to Redfin. That cost represents a 6% increase compared to the median sale price a year earlier.

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Flagstaff

Matt Gush/Adobe historic downtown district of flagstaff arizona

Flagstaff will also set you back if you want to buy a home but live on a fixed income. The median home price in July was a hefty $675,000, marking a 3.9% increase compared to a year earlier.

But traffic can be an issue in the city, and it’s a major tourist destination throughout the year.

Flagstaff also has an elevation of almost 7,000 feet above sea level, which might make it a difficult place to live if you have breathing issues.

Like other cities on this list, you might want to grab one of the best travel credit cards and book a trip to this city before deciding whether it’s the right place to call your new home.

Bottom line

Brocreative/Adobe women hiking red rock canyon together

Arizona can be a good destination for retirees, but some cities might not be a great place to spend your golden years.

Instead, reduce your money stress by looking for places that match your lifestyle and aren't too expensive.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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