For people who look for the most affordable and beautiful states to live in, Colorado usually one of the top 10 candidates. With an average of 300 days of sun a year, residents and visitors alike love spending time in Colorado’s great outdoors.
Colorful Colorado is also known as a favorite vacation destination – travelers love to come here for the stunning mountains and all the activities they provide, from skiing in the winter to hiking, camping and rafting in the summer.
With the legalization of marijuana in 2012 (one of the first states to do so), and a reasonable cost of living, there’s been a sharp increase of people moving to the Centennial State.
Housing prices continue to rise (as of September 2020), especially along the Front Range, from Fort Collins, Denver, Castle Rock and into Colorado Springs. The popular ski mountain towns are also well above $400,000 in median housing prices – it’s not uncommon to see million-dollar homes in prestigious areas.
But given the outdoors benefits – the cost of living in Colorado is still one of the best values in the country. Here are the most affordable places to live in Colorado, taking into account the cost of living, median housing price, average crime rate and other factors which make a place unique.
Top 10 Cheapest Cities to Live in Colorado.
Table of Contents:
- 1. Aurora
- 2. Colorado Springs
- 3. Brush!
- 4. Fountain
- 5. Fruita
- 6. Fort Lupton
- 7. Dove Valley
- 8. Milliken
- 9. Lamar
- 10. Firestone
- Important Things to Consider About Living in Colorado.
Aurora is on the eastern side of Denver and near the international airport, longtime considered to be an unsafe area of the big city. But things are changing in Aurora. It has the thriving CO Film School, rated as one of the top 25 film schools in the country and a part of Aurora Community College, with an affordable price tag.
Students from around the U.S. are coming here and now a large, major film studio is being built nearby. Aurora also has a thriving Korean community with shops, restaurants and a traditional Korean Bath House.
Aurora is the second most affordable place to live in the Denver Metropolitan Area, with a median house price of $350,000. The snow-topped mountain range is on the western horizon. It takes about an hour to get into the mountains from Denver; a little more for residents in Aurora. Downtown Denver is only 20 minutes away with a vibrant performing and visual arts scene, large museums, parks, and the popular VooDoo Donuts.
The Denver area is growing in population much faster than most of the country, increasing by almost 20% from 2010 to 2018. It’s no wonder; it rates as the second-best place to live in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report (2019). Here’re 7 key factors you should know Before living in Denver Colorado…
2. Colorado Springs
The second largest city in the state with a population of 464,474, Colorado Springs has been voted one of the Best Cities to live in the U.S. The growing town is yet small enough to have diverse, friendly, neighborhood communities.
Tucked in the sloping foothills of majestic Pike’s Peak, America’s “purple mountain majesty,” this town has the most dramatic mountain view along the Front Range. It takes only 30 minutes from the East side of town to be in the mountains.
Culturally, it has an eclectic mix of both left and right, with over 80 Christian organizations headquartered in town, a strong military presence with the Air Force Academy (and the new Space Force), Fort Carson Army Base and Peterson Air Force Base, as well as a growing performing and visual arts scene, weird, fun metaphysical enclaves and everything in-between, including cowboys and rodeos.
Median housing cost is $350,000 and gradually rising, but there is still a wide range of housing types and costs in the various areas of the city, including Fountain, to the South.
Brush! is an hour and a half drive northeast of Denver into the plains, nestled in the greenwood area which follows the original Texas/Montana Cattle Drive trail along the South Platte River.
This rural agricultural community of 5,386 has added an exclamation point to their name, and unlike other towns in the mostly dry plains, boasts several reservoirs and waterways, woods, wildlife and recreation including swimming pools and a golf course.
Their median housing cost is $153,200, with a median income of $45,144. It’s also ranked one of the safest towns in Colorado.
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Fountain, with a population of 30,000, is just south of Colorado Springs, but has a small-town culture of its own. You might come across a live rodeo in its quaint city park, which you can enjoy for free as you visit with neighbors. The wide Arkansas River runs through this cowboy town, and the median housing cost is around $300,000, with a wide variety of housing types and prices.
Fountain was named an “All-American City” by the National Civic League in 2002, and hosts the Pikes Peak International Raceway.
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Located on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains near the Utah border (4-1/2 hours west of Denver), Fruita (population 13,390) started as a fruit-producing region – Colorado’s famous Palisade Peaches are grown in this area of the state.
Today, Fruita is better known for outdoor sports like mountain biking, hiking, camping and white-water rafting in the summer, snowboarding and skiing in the winter. It’s close to the Colorado National Monument and has many unique annual festivals – many of our mountain towns have unusual festivals!
Most Colorado mountain towns which boast ski resorts and hot springs have flown high in housing price and cost of living (think Aspen, Vail, Glenwood Springs), but Fruita has a median house price of only $315,000. It’s surrounded by huge national parks and thick forests, yet close to the city of Grand Junction (population 63,374).
Fruita is “not too big and not too small,” the perfect size with a friendly community and low crime rate. Wild horses live near this area of Colorado in protected spaces.
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6. Fort Lupton
Fort Lupton, with a population of 8,022, is only 40 minutes northeast of Denver and less than a half-hour drive from Denver International Airport, giving ready access to big city amenities, nightlife and international and domestic flights. This town along the Platte River is close enough to showcase views of the stunning mountain range—one of our favorite things about Colorado!
Established as one of the earliest forts in northern Colorado, Fort Lupton has a rich history. It also provides easy access to both the city and mountains, and it’s one of the safest towns in Colorado. Its median home price is $210,800 and the average income is $63,548.
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7. Dove Valley
Dove Valley is a well-kept secret; it’s the most affordable and best place to live in the Denver Metropolitan Area. A southeast suburb of Denver, the median home prices are only $300,000. It’s been listed as #12 in Best Places to Raise a Family in Colorado. Being on the east side means it’s not far to the airport, to downtown Denver or to the mountains. It’s highly rated in public schools, nightlife, diversity and housing.
Dove Valley is also close to Cherry Creek Reservoir and State Park, which boasts one of the best swimming beaches in Colorado, as well as camping, fishing and boating activities.
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Milliken (population 6,773) is an undiscovered gem, hidden among the high-end, up-and-coming towns (with $500K+ homes) in Loveland, Longmont, Windsor and Fort Collins, north of Denver. In the middle of them all, with access to city life and the mountains to the west, median home price in Milliken is only $232,800 with a median income of $72,101.
Also along the Platte River, Milliken is an hour’s drive from Denver and the airport and surrounded by rich vegetation following the river’s path through the plains from the mountains. Milliken was built as a trading post in the 1860s along the Denver, Laramie and Northwestern rail line. In addition to the river, this farming and ranching town is close to two lakes for plenty of outdoor fun.
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One third of Colorado is blanketed with the Great High Plains to the East. Lamar is a small plains town about 3 hours east of Pueblo and southeast of Colorado Springs. It is voted #1 Most Affordable Town in Colorado as well as one of the Safest Cities in the state. With a population of 7,606, its median housing cost is only $87,500, with a median income of $37,554.
Lamar is steeped in history as it surrounds a restored 1907 train depot, along with a train engine and a 100-year-old windmill and vintage water tank. It is known to be one of Colorado’s best birding spots and offers a variety of outdoor recreation, including one of the Colorado’s most challenging golf courses, the Lamar Loop.
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Firestone (population 13,109), about midway between Fort Collins and Denver, has a more average cost of living with median home prices at $350,000. But Firestone is listed as one of the safest towns in Colorado, and with its close access to big city life and the spectacular mountain views to the west, it’s ranked as one of the best places to live in the state.
Firestone is enough in the plains to offer large open spaces and a plethora of outdoor recreational fun, and close enough to the mountains for all the rugged adventure they offer.
Founded in 1908, Firestone had the first saloon, first post office and first lumber store in the area. Today it’s been recognized in Money Magazine as one of the “Best Places to Live,” with access to 18 parks and 5 miles of trails, connecting to both the St. Vrain Legacy Trail and the Front Range Trail System.
Important Things to Consider About Living in Colorado.
If you have plan to live in one of cheapest places in Colorado, here are top 11 key things you should consider:
Colorado has a flat 4.55% income tax rate. Some localities, such as Denver, also collect payroll taxes. The state has a 2.90% sales tax rate. Local sales taxes can add up to 8.3% to that amount, resulting in an average combined sales tax rate of 7.77%. Groceries and prescription drugs are exempt. The median property tax rate is $505 per $100,000 of assessed home value.
According to Kiplinger.com, Colorado ranks as one of the 10 most tax-friendly states for retirees. Those 65 and older can deduct all of their federally taxed Social Security income, and the state does not impose inheritance or estate taxes.
B. Job Market/Pay
In January 2022, the minimum wage in Colorado rose to $12.56 an hour. Denver’s minimum wage increased to $15.87 an hour in 2022, making its minimum more than double the federal minimum wage.
According to the Business Economic Outlook report from CU Boulder, Colorado is expected to make a full economic recovery to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, regaining 73,000 jobs. Some of the industries that are expected to grow the most, like leisure and hospitality, may still take a few years to fully recover. Other areas of projected growth are natural resources and mining, finance and business, and construction.
With Denver and Colorado Springs growing larger, their average commute times have increased. Colorado Springs has only recently begun to have heavy traffic during hour traffic, and the average commute there is still only about 25 minutes. In the Denver metro area, though, the average commute has risen to around 45 minutes.
Many workers are now choosing to live in the more affordable Colorado Springs and commute to Denver for work. It takes around 90 minutes to drive from the Springs to anywhere in the Denver area, including the Denver International Airport or nearby towns like Boulder. And the mountain view along I-25 is gorgeous.
D. Childcare Costs
According to Brightwheel Connect, Denver’s full-time daycare and preschool costs average $1,575 per month. The World Population Review lists Colorado in the top ten states with the highest childcare costs, with an average of $15,325 per year.
Colorado’s educational climate is thriving, with many options driven by creative parents and school districts. Besides traditional public schools, in some cities you can find Montessori schools, charter schools, and unique and traditional private schools. Some – both public and private – offer homeschool-hybrid options.
Colorado is home to the well-known University of Colorado in Boulder, which had additional locations in Denver, Colorado Springs and Aurora. According to U.S. News and World Report, Colorado is known for its large research universities, but there are many mid-size and smaller college options throughout the state.
Some of these are Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University in Fort Collins and Pueblo, Regis University, the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado College, Western Colorado University, Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction and more.
There is also a robust community college system throughout the state. Colorado Film School, recently ranked as one of the top 25 film schools in the world, is a part of the Community College of Aurora.
With the increasing city populations, crime has risen in Colorado. According to CPR.org, crime in almost all categories began to rise even before the pandemic. Violent crime rose 17% between 2019 and 2021, and murder rose 47% in that time. Illegal drug dealing and abuse is an increasing cause of concern in the state.
Property crime rose 20%, and auto theft jumped up 86% between 2019 and 2021. Cities have passed laws making it illegal to leave your car running unlocked and unattended (such as while warming it up in cold weather).
Colorado is a true Western state, with vast areas of high desert plains covering the eastern third of the state and the rugged Rocky Mountains massing over the rest.
Denver’s International Airport is a hub for international and domestic travel, but travelers are increasingly finding comparable fares to fly out of the small, quaint Colorado Springs Airport.
The Front Range is lined with major cities, from Fort Collins in the north down through Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo.
On the Western Slope are smaller towns, such as Grand Junction. Wild horses and burros still roam on that side of the state,
The plains and mountains are dotted with small towns, natural hot springs, parks and trails. Bears and mountain lions roam the ranges, as do large elk and bighorn sheep. Wolves and moose have been reintroduced, and coyotes can be heard yapping out in the wild.
Colorado is known for its weather’s tendency to switch at the drop of a hat. Smart residents wear layers all year round and keep emergency jackets or blankets in their vehicles. With the altitude and dry air, people carry water bottles with them all day.
The mountains get far more rain and snow than the Front Range and plains areas, where the wind is sometimes very strong. Sometimes you’ll need shorts in January, or a sweater in June!
The gardening-growing season (as well as the outdoor pools) runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Colorado has cold and snow usually by Halloween, but most of the snowfall comes during the springtime months – even late in May sometimes. Hail occasionally falls in June and July.
It rarely gets too hot over the summer, often cooling off when the sun sets. With the lack of humidity, the cold days feel less cold – especially with the warm sun shining – and the hot days feel less hot than in humid states.
When the weather is healthy, brief afternoon showers fall during the summer. But with climate change, the state has been experiencing drought and its effects, including increasing forest and grass fires.
Colorado has around 300 days of sunshine a year, and many residents spend time hiking, cycling, skiing and otherwise enjoying the outdoors.
I. State Motto/Emblem
Colorado, the Centennial State, also goes by the nickname “Colorful Colorado.” Its motto is “Nil sine numine” (Latin for “Nothing without providence”). The state flower is the Colorado Columbine.
On the state flag, the gold circle represents the state’s abundant sunshine, the white stripe reflects the snow-capped mountains, and the blue stripes symbolize the vast, clear, blue mountain skies. The red “C” represents the color of much of the state’s soil, and the red surrounding the gold symbolizes the state’s dramatic sunrises and sunsets.
Colorado has always had a sense of rugged individualism, starting with the pioneers, gold miners, cowboys and ranchers, and continuing to this day. Once considered a swing state, Colorado has recently become a more blue-leaning state. This is due to the rising percentage of young, college-educated, suburban and unaffiliated voters in the metropolitan areas.
Colorado Springs is a study in contrasts: It has a conservative military presence and substantial conservative Christian population, right alongside growing mystical/pagan/spiritual and liberal populations. The annual Pride festival has grown in both Colorado Springs and Denver.
K. Notable History
Around 500 AD, the Anasazi (“Ancient Ones”) culture developed in Colorado. You can still see and tour many of their adobe villages and structures today. In the eastern plains of Colorado lived the Comanche, Apache, Cheyenne, and Arapaho native tribes. In the mountains the Ute peoples roamed.
In 1821 the Santa Fe Trail opened — a commercial highway connecting Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1848, the U.S. acquired western Colorado from Mexico after the Mexican-American War.
In 1858, gold was discovered near Pike’s Peak, and that discovery — along with other factors — sparked the Colorado Gold Rush. Denver and many other cities and towns began as wild, lawless settlements full of miners. There are many ghost towns dotting the mountains today, and wild burros still roam, descended from those set free by departing prospectors.
In 1861 the Colorado Territory was established, and in 1876 it became a state.
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