We love Anchorage! In fact, we hold such a deep affection for the City of Lights and Flowers that we even created a list of the 10 reasons why we think you’ll love Anchorage, too.
But, realistically, we also know that moving to Anchorage isn’t for everyone. (And neither is living in Alaska, for that matter!) To help you decide whether Anchorage, Alaska is the right place for you, we sat down and sketched out a list of all the pros and cons of living in Anchorage. Below, we’ll lay out all the upsides and downsides for you. We think they’ll give you a pretty good sense of what it’s like to live here—and whether Anchorage sounds like the kind of place you’d like to call home.
We’ll start with one of the biggest concerns people have with moving to Alaska—the financial aspect.
Pro: Low Taxes
When you move to Alaska, you’ll immediately enjoy a financial boost in the form of lower taxes.
If you’re moving from a state with a higher personal income tax, you’ll see an immediate bump in your take-home pay in Alaska. Plus, since there’s no state sales tax and no sales tax within Anchorage, you’ll see fewer add-on costs at the register. Keep in mind, though, that some municipalities in Alaska do charge sales tax, including Bethel, Homer, Kodiak, and several others—another benefit to staying in Anchorage!
Plus, when you look at the overall tax burden for Alaskan residents, you’ll find it quite favorable. In fact when taking into account property tax, income tax, sales tax and excise tax, WalletHub ranks Alaska as #50—the state with the least overall tax burden. (Sometimes it’s good to be last!)
That said, you may find that you need to put those savings to work for you pretty quickly.
Con: The Cost of Living in Anchorage Can Be High
Like many remote places, Alaska can be an expensive place to live. In fact, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center ranked Alaska the 6th most expensive state to live in.ii
After all, almost everything has to be shipped in to Alaska, so that adds a premium on to everything you purchase. As a result, food prices can be quite high. Additionally, Alaskans pay a lot for electricity— 23.42 cents/kWh as compared to the national average of 13.90 cents/kWh.iii
However, depending on where you’re moving from, Anchorage might offer a lower cost of living. Take a look at the following comparisons to six other U.S. locations:
Anchorage Is More Expensive Than:
- Dallas, TX, where the cost of living is 10% lower than Anchorage
- Phoenix, AZ, where the cost of living is 19% lower than Anchorage
- Tampa, FL, where the cost of living is 26% lower than Anchorage
Anchorage Is Less Expensive Than:
- Seattle, WA, where the cost of living is 29% higher than Anchorage
- Los Angeles, CA, where the cost of living is 20% higher than Anchorage
- Portland, OR, where the cost of living is 11% higher than Anchorage iv
Luckily, though, there’s a nice little perk for residents that offsets some of the cost of living in Alaska.
Pro: The Permanent Fund Dividend
You’ve probably seen the headlines: “Get paid to live in Alaska!” Well, the rumors are true, although there is a bit of a catch.
Once you spend an entire calendar year as a resident of Alaska—with no immediate plans to leave—you’re eligible for a payout from the state’s Permanent Fund. The amount changes every year. Check out the payouts from the last couple of years to get a sense of what kind of money we’re talking about:
Although it won’t defray a whole year of costs, the PFD is a nice bonus you’ll enjoy once you settle permanently in Anchorage. You might also consider using your PFD the way many Alaskans do: to visit friends and family.
Cons: Travel from Alaska Can Be Expensive
In the lower 48, visiting your loved ones might be as simple as a quick drive—or a weekend road trip. However, if you leave your friends and family behind in the lower 48, you’ll find that visits from Alaska can get pricey fast.
Airplane tickets, rental cars, hotels, and other associated travel costs really start to add up. You’ll need to budget carefully and consider your visit schedule, especially if you’re close to your circle of friends and family in the lower 48. Of course, there’s always the option of inviting them up to experience Anchorage!
You’ll also want to make sure you have a good handle on your budgets where the next item is concerned.
Pro: Plenty of Shopping Options
Most people don’t move to Anchorage for the shopping. However, if having access to a lot of stores is something that’s important to you, in Anchorage, you’ll find the widest selection in the state.
In addition to names you’ll recognize—places like Cabela’s, Kohl’s, Walmart, Home Depot, and REI—you’ll also uncover plenty of local Anchorage businesses to patronize. And don’t forget Anchorage’s famous Anchorage Market, right in the heart of downtown! From mid-May to mid-September, you’ll find 200+ vendors selling locally made crafts and art, as well as food.
All that said, if you’re moving from the lower 48, the shopping options in Anchorage may feel more limited to you. That’s why this next one can be a tough realization.
Con: Lots of Places Won’t Ship to Alaska
Sometimes, it appears as a little asterisk after the shipping price. Other times, it’s spelled out in big, bold letters. No matter how they pitch it, it’s a disappointment when an online store won’t offer free shipping to Alaska—or they won’t even ship to the Last Frontier at all!
As you investigate the online ordering options, you’ll discover that:
- Some stores will ship to Alaska but tack on an extra shipping fee. (Hello, Costco.com, we’re looking at you!) These shipping fees can be small. Other times, they might be more than the entire cost of your order. (!)
- Finally, some stores will offer free shipping, but it will take anywhere from a week to several weeks to receive your items.
Either way, once you move to Anchorage, you’ll discover how to navigate the online merchants that do ship to Alaska, which include:
Then again, buying stuff online may not be high in your mind once you discover all that Anchorage has to offer.
Pro: Culture & Diversity
When you move to Alaska, you’ll have the unique opportunity to explore the culture of the Alaska Natives who first settled this land. 18% of Alaska’s population identifies as American Indian or Alaska Native, the highest percentage for this racial group in any state.v
When you arrive, make a visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage to learn about the diverse cultures that Alaska’s Native peoples represent. If you want to live your Alaska experience to the fullest, let that visit be just the start of your journey of discovery.
Anchorage Cultural Diversity by the Numbers
Living in Anchorage will also afford you the opportunity to mingle with people of diverse backgrounds. The city is home to three of the most diverse census tracts in the nation,vi and more than 100 languages are spoken in the Anchorage School District.vii Overall, Anchorage sits in the top 15 percentile for diversity in the U.S.,viii so it can offer some unique cultural opportunities as you get to know the people in your community.
Anchorage may also offer you some new experiences seasonally.
Cons: Extreme Weather
You probably already know that Alaska’s winters are cold, but are you prepared for exactly how extreme winter in Alaska can truly get? (Side note: Check out our tips on how to survive an Alaskan winter!)
Given that Anchorage has significantly developed infrastructure—and you likely won’t be living in a woodstove heated cabin in the bush—winter in Anchorage may feel tame by Alaska standards. However, if it’s your first Alaskan winter, get ready to enjoy the following in Anchorage:
Also, keep in mind that while some people celebrate living in the Land of the Midnight Sun, others find that the novelty wears off quickly. By the summer solstice, Anchorage will get 22 hours of sunlight. Some people find that the excessive sunlight throws off their natural circadian rhythm, making it hard to sleep and regulate their bodies. (Of course, plenty of people love it, so look for solstice celebrations throughout the area!)
Love it or hate it, Anchorage will offer you some extremes when it comes to weather. However, they also offer you a lot of opportunities to live your life the way you want to.
Pro: Personal Freedom
A lot of people move to Alaska to live their lives just the way they want. For some, that means living off the land in the bush. For others, it means having a home without a neighbor for miles.
For still others, it means enjoying their Second Amendment rights to carry a gun. Alaska is a shall-issue, permitless carry state. There’s no requirement to register firearms, and no permit is required to purchase firearms. Additionally both open carry and concealed carry are legal in the state, with a few minor restrictions.
If rights like these—as well as minimal government interference—are important to you, you’ll find plenty of like-minded people in Anchorage.
Con: Crime Rate
We told you we’d share the upsides and the downsides of Anchorage life, and the statistics don’t lie: Anchorage has one of the highest crime rates in the country. In fact, City-data.com puts the Anchorage crime index at 2.3 times higher than the U.S. average.x
Additionally, according to numbers crunched by Neighborhood Scout, people who live in Anchorage have a one-in-80 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime.xi All that said, keep in mind that those who live in Albuquerque, NM; Cleveland, OH; Wilmington, DE; and Memphis, TN all have a higher probability of becoming the victim of a crime.xii
Ultimately, keep in mind that Anchorage is still a city with all the amenities, advantages and risks that come along with urban life. Stay aware of your surroundings, watch your alcohol intake (which can make you less aware of those same surroundings!), and stay alert to reduce your risk.
Pro: Access to Alaska’s Natural Beauty
Of course, we had to end this one on a positive note—to remind you of all that Anchorage has to offer. Anchorage can be your gateway to all of the natural wonders that await you in Alaska—a comfortable jumping-off point that allows you to explore the state at your leisure. Did we mention that you’ll find five national parks near Anchorage alone? Denali, Kenai Fjords, Lake Clark, Katmai, and Wrangell-Saint Elias National Parks will all offer a good starting point for your Alaskan adventures.
Of course, once you move here, you’ll find your own favorite spots, all of which add up to a big checkmark in Anchorage’s pro column.
The Pros and Cons of Moving to Anchorage
No matter where you move, every spot has its pluses and minuses. Anchorage is no different, and we hope we’ve given you a good sense of what to expect when you move here. In our opinion, the trick is finding an area that’s the right fit for you—a place where the pluses matter to you and the minuses don’t.
If Anchorage sounds like that kind of place for you, we’d love to help you with the move! Just reach out to our Anchorage-based team for a complimentary quote. And if you want to talk more about pluses and minuses of the area, we’d be happy to answer any questions.
Tell us about your move!