Tucson vs. Phoenix

City Guide / Phoenix

Tucson vs. Phoenix: Which City Is Right for You?

By Bri Hand | Feb 28, 2022

In 2021, Arizona ranked in the top 10 among states experiencing the greatest influx in new residents. Fleeing inclement weather and dense populations, people are moving seemingly en masse from places like the northeast to the sunny blue skies of Arizona. 

And when you consider everything the state has going for it—like stunning geographical features and enviable weather—it’s easy to see why!

The state’s two most populous cities, Tucson and Phoenix, are popular locations for new residents, and each offers a distinct take on the Arizona lifestyle. But which city is right for you? Let’s look at Tucson vs. Phoenix when it comes to: 

  • Cost of living
  • Quality of life
  • Job market
  • Entertainment and leisure

Let the competition begin! 

Tucson vs. Phoenix: Cost of living 

As a whole, the state of Arizona has a cost of living that’s just slightly more expensive than the national average. But the state also has a robust economy and a thriving job market that helps keep the cost of living manageable.

That said, not all cities in Arizona require triple-digit incomes to get by. When it comes to Tucson vs. Phoenix, which city is more affordable?

Cost of living in Tucson

Although Arizona might be more expensive than other states in the country, the cost of living in Tucson sits comfortably below the national average—6% lower, in fact. 

The truth is, most of the common expenses of life are more affordable in Tucson:

  • Housing expenses are 20% lower than the national average.
  • Utilities in the Tucson area will run you about 10% less than the national average.
  • Transportation costs are about 3% lower compared to the national average.

That said, groceries are slightly more expensive in Tucson compared to the national average by about 3%. 

Cost of living in Phoenix

Phoenix is home to over a million more people than Tucson, which is reflected in the cost of living. That said, Phoenix still sits below the national average in many key areas:

  • Housing: The average cost of housing in Phoenix is about 5% below the national average and only 1% higher than in Tucson.
  • Utilities: Although utilities are much more expensive in Phoenix than in Tucson, they’re still about 4% cheaper than the national average.
  • Groceries: Despite Phoenix’s large population, food costs work to be about 3% less expensive than the national average. 

Tucson vs. Phoenix: Quality of living

By most measures, life is pretty grand in the Grand Canyon state. Not only does the state boast an economy that rivals those of entire countries (hello, Finland), but its climate is known to be a balm for several physical and mental ailments, from asthma to arthritis to depression.

When it comes to choosing between Tucson and Phoenix, though, what it comes down to is not so much the quality of life you’re after, but the types of activities you want to spend your life doing.

Quality of living in Tucson 

For a medium-sized city, there’s a lot to do in Tucson. You’ll have no trouble staying active in the city, which offers plenty of ways to take advantage of the great weather.

Tucson residents love going for long walks or bike rides along The Loop, which features over 130 miles of paved trails that circle the city and surrounding areas. 

And when it comes to staying healthy, Tucson residents are pretty satisfied with the healthcare they receive, reporting above-average satisfaction when it comes to things like the competency of medical professionals, the accuracy of tests and reporting, and the availability of medical equipment.

If you want to get around quickly and easily, you’ll want to make sure you have a car. That said, Tucson does have a small public bus system that services select areas at specific times of day.

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Quality of living in Phoenix

According to Numbeo.com, residents of Phoenix are even happier with their healthcare than their Tucsonian cousins. But that could be due to all the sunshine: Phoenix, a city known for its great weather, boasts an average of 330 sunny days every year. 

When it comes to getting around the city, most residents find that owning a car is helpful. However, Phoenix does offer a modest public transportation system that includes:

  • Valley Metro Rail System: This public rail system runs from the airport to downtown Phoenix. You can also use it to get to popular Phoenix attractions like the Phoenix Art Museum and Chase Field. And at only $2 a ride, it’s a bargain.
  • Phoenix Transit Bus: The public bus services much of the city’s metropolitan locations, with transfers to rural lines. 

Tucson vs. Phoenix: Job market 

Unemployment rates in both cities are about the same as the national average, which is good news for Arizona residents. 

Which city is right for you might come down to which city is more amenable to the specific industry in which you work, so let’s look at the job market in both cities.

Job market in Tucson 

The bad news about the Tucson job market is that the average salary is $49,110 per year, which is below the national average. The good news is that the city has been experiencing healthy industry growth over the past several years.

Some of the area’s most popular employers include:

  • The University of Arizona
  • Raytheon
  • Davis-Monthan Air Force Base

The leisure and hospitality industries also make up a healthy portion of the job market in Tucson. 

Job market in Phoenix 

As the largest city in Arizona and the fifth largest (by population) in the United States, Phoenix attracts many visitors. That’s part of what makes the hospitality industry a huge part of the local economy.

Phoenix has also positioned itself as a burgeoning center for technology in the 21st century in recent years. Among others, the city has attracted the likes of such big-name tech companies as:

  • Apple
  • ZipRecruiter
  • Waymo
  • Yelp

Healthcare and the financial sector are also well-represented fields in Phoenix. 

Tucson vs. Phoenix: Entertainment and leisure 

Phoenix is a big city with big-city options for entertainment and leisure. On the other hand, for a city less than half its size, Tucson has a lot to offer as well. Here are some of the shenanigans you can expect to get into in both cities.

Entertainment and leisure in Tucson 

Tucson might be smaller than Phoenix, but that doesn’t mean there are still a host of entertainment and leisure activities to help you kick back and enjoy the city.

From art fairs to the annual Tucson Jazz Festival, summer is a great time to get out and about in the city. Other ways that city residents get the most out of the city include:

  • Hiking 
  • Horseback riding in the desert
  • Exploring nearby caves and canyons
  • Visiting Saguaro National Park
  • Visiting the Tucson Botanical Gardens

Although Phoenix might be the Arizona city most associated with vibrant nightlife, Tucson is not without its thrills. Its proximity to the University of Arizona means that the city is rife with nighttime hotspots. Whether you like low-key dive bars or rowdy dance clubs, Tucson has something for you. 

But the beating heart of Tucson’s leisure options might be its world-famous food scene. This city was listed by UNESCO as one of the most important culinary locations in the world, which means you’ll never get tired of sampling the city’s fantastic food options. From authentic Mexican cuisine to dishes inspired by the area’s indigenous history, Tucson stands out from the crowd. Check out the 23 miles of Mexican restaurants along 12th Street for the best the city has to offer.

Entertainment and leisure in Phoenix

Because of the great weather (did we mention all the sunlight?), Phoenix is home to an array of annual festivals that offer residents a good time, including music festivals, film festivals, food fairs, and flea markets.

And, no matter where you are in Phoenix, there’s sure to be a great bar, club, or live music venue nearby. The most popular neighborhoods for enjoying the Sedona desert nightlife include:

  • Central Phoenix
  • Downtown Phoenix
  • Old Town Scottsdale
  • Downtown Tempe 

Phoenix is a big city with a dining culture to match. The city’s residents enjoy world-class dining options featuring cuisines from all around the world. 

Find your perfect destination with Landing

There are many reasons that both Phoenix and Tucson are two of the best places to live in Arizona. But the best part about both of them is that Landing is already there. At Landing, we’re changing the way people live, offering fully furnished apartments and infusing the entire rental process with simplicity, flexibility, and convenience. 

When you live with Landing, you enjoy access to our nationwide network of rental properties and some of the most flexible, short-term leasing options available. Then, when you’re ready, you can easily transfer to another Landing in our network. Ready to live where you want, when you want? Join Landing today.

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About the author

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.