These cities in Arizona offer the most affordable places to live, with communities of at least 10,000 people. Arizona is world-renowned for its dramatic beauty, a combination of rugged mountains and vast desert landscapes. The sixth-largest state by area and the 14th largest in terms of population, Arizona is indeed beautiful–but it’s much, much more than that.
Many newcomers are surprised by the diversity of Arizona’s landscapes. Yes, much of the state is desert, but there are also high alpine forests, lakes galore, and mountain peaks reaching nearly 13,000 feet in elevation. Largely because of its diverse terrain, Arizona is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
From hiking Sedona’s iconic red rocks and backpacking the famed Arizona Trail to white-water rafting through the Grand Canyon and fishing the Colorado River, world-class outdoor recreation abounds in Arizona.
People often ask Arizonans if it’s really as hot as they’ve heard. The answer is yes—and no. Going hand in hand with the varied terrain is the varied climate across the state.
Generally speaking, southern Arizona has the true desert climate, with extremely hot and dry weather. Much of Northern Arizona, sitting at significantly higher elevations, is covered in pine forests and has much cooler weather with more rain and snow.
Arizona has also earned a reputation for is its relatively low cost of living. While costs can vary significantly across the state, it’s surprisingly affordable to live in many Arizona communities–including some of the best-known cities and college towns.
Here you’ll find the full list, along with the highlights that are top 10 best & cheapest places to live in Arizona in 2021.
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Douglas, Arizona, is a border town located in Cochise County, directly along the US-Mexico border. The Mexico border entry is called Agua Prieta, frequently referred to as “AP.” Douglas and AP have excellent relations and many locals say the Douglas community as a whole feels more small-town and family-oriented than a typical border town.
Aside from its proximity to the Mexican border, Douglas is also well known as a historically significant mining town. There are several ore mines in nearby Bisbee, Arizona, and Douglas was originally founded as a mining camp to smelt the ore. Today, ranching and mining are still strong components of Douglas’s economy and spirit.
While summers in Douglas are typical of Southern Arizona–hot and dry—the other seasons are significantly cooler and wetter than other parts of the state.
The current population of Douglas is 15,978. The median home value is $107,696, and typical rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $725 per month.
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2. Bullhead City
In 2019, Bullhead City made several “Top 10” lists for being one of the most affordable cities not just in Arizona, but in the entire country. The low cost of living in this Mohave County city attracts residents and businesses alike, and the economy is steady with lots of new homes and commercial buildings being constructed.
Bullhead City is situated directly on the banks of the Colorado River, just 90 miles south of Las Vegas. It’s also directly across the river from Laughlin, Nevada, with its glimmering casinos and lively nightlife. Many of Bullhead City’s 40,421 residents actually work in Laughlin, taking advantage of the fact that Nevada has no state income tax.
The climate in Bullhead City is classically Arizona, with nearly 300 days of sunshine each year. Between the Colorado River and Lake Mohave, there are ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, and the weather makes it possible to enjoy these activities year-round. Local favorites include fishing, boating, hiking, and even scuba diving in the lake.
Bullhead City’s median home value is $121,700, and the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $949.
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Coolidge is located about an hour southeast of the Phoenix metropolitan area and has a population of 12,503. It developed primarily as a cotton farming community and is still composed of mostly small farms and ranches.
The community has an authentic small-town feel, with a quaint downtown area and several parks. There’s almost no light pollution in Coolidge, making it a fantastic area for stargazing and astrophotography. The surrounding landscape is quite rugged, so it’s popular for hiking, off-roading, and other outdoor pursuits.
One of the things Coolidge is best known for is being home to the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. According to the National Parks Service, the ruins are “one of the largest prehistoric structures ever built in North America.” Today, visitors can explore the ruins and learn about the area’s history from interpretive signs.
Central Arizona College is also in Coolidge and has been serving Pinal County for over 50 years. Many Coolidge residents work in education, either at the college or in the Coolidge Unified School District.
The median home value in Coolidge is $177,964, while the average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is $935.
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4. Casa Grande
Like many other southern Arizona cities, Casa Grande was originally established as a mining town in the 1800s. It has a population of 57,232 and is the second-largest city in Pinal County, behind San Tan Valley.
Casa Grande is a diverse and rapidly growing area, with agriculture and mining still significant parts of its economy and lifestyle. In recent years, new home construction has led to the building of retail centers, outlets, and shopping malls, and the town has become a local shopping destination. Casa Grande Regional Medical Center is the only hospital serving the region, and many residents work in the medical field.
To keep busy, Casa Grande residents enjoy 25 city parks, several golf courses, and an extensive trail system running through the Casa Grande and Sacaton Mountains. The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in nearby Coolidge is just 20 minutes away.
Weather in Casa Grande is identical to that of the Phoenix area, with mild year-round temperatures and very little rain. Summers get quite hot.
Casa Grande’s median home value is $187,400, while the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $998 per month.
With year-round warm weather and over 8,000 miles of coastline, it’s no wonder Florida is a prime vacation destination. Filled with wildlife, beaches, lakes, rivers, amusement parks, diverse entertainment options and much more, the population of Florida is growing with people that want to call Florida “home,” soak up the sun…
Yuma is located almost exactly halfway between Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California. It holds the Guinness World Record for the sunniest city in the world, getting well over 300 days of sunshine a year.
Despite that, Yuma has mild weather overall, rarely getting extremely cold, and cooling down at night even on the hottest days. It’s also exceptionally dry, getting less than three inches of precipitation annually.
There are two military bases in Yuma: the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground. The community of 97,908 people has a military spirit, with a family-first focus and several military-themed events throughout the year.
Yuma also has surprisingly diverse nightlife and dining options, with barbecue and Mexican restaurants among the most popular choices.
Agriculture is also a large part of Yuma’s culture–particularly lettuce, citrus, broccoli, and cauliflower. In fact, Yuma produces more than 90% of the United States’ citrus and lettuce crops. The median home value in Yuma is $194,140, and rent for a two-bedroom apartment costs $985 on average.
Geographically, Oregon boasts dramatic Pacific coastlines as well as volcanic mountain ranges. Its climate spans from rainforests along the coast to semi-arid conditions in the central and southeastern regions. The Beaver State is home to both Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S., and Mount Hood, the second-most-climbed mountain in the world…
6. El Mirage
El Mirage, which was once considered outside of the city, is now a far-west Phoenix suburb. This town with a population of 35,670 is situated adjacent to Sun City and Sun City West, two tremendous retirement communities. New-construction homes here are interspersed with older houses on several acres of land, evidence of El Mirage’s past as a cattle ranching town.
There are plenty of shops, parks, and schools in El Mirage itself, and people who live here also have easy access to amenities and attractions in nearby cities. Luke Air Force Base is in Glendale, and the Challenger Space Center is in Peoria, both just minutes away.
Baseball fans love that the Cactus League holds spring training throughout the valley, and there are four stadiums within a 15-minute drive. The Arizona Cardinals and Arizona Coyotes, the local NFL and NHL teams, also have home stadiums in Glendale.
For those who prefer the great outdoors, the White Tank Mountains and Thunderbird Conservation Park offer hiking and biking as well as wildlife viewing opportunities.
El Mirage’s median home value is $217,302 and the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,290.
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With a population of 545,975, Tucson is by far the largest city on this list. This southern Arizona city has earned a reputation as something of a hidden gem, offering spectacular natural scenery, a vibrant culture, and affordability.
Tucson is situated one and a half hours south of Phoenix and one hour north of Nogales, a large city on the Mexico border. The climate is certainly hot and dry, but its higher elevation means Tucson is typically several degrees cooler than Phoenix.
The University of Arizona, located right in downtown Tucson, is a major employer in the area. Aerospace engineering and defense are also prominent, with branches of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin located in the city. Tucson is also home to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Phoenix claims the nick “The Valley,” but Tucson, too, is surrounded by mountain ranges. There’s even skiing on 9,159-foot Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Tucson is home to Saguaro National Park, which protects thousands of the giant cacti that are so iconic to the Southwest.
The median home value in Tucson is $232,666 and the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment is $999 per month.
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Florence, a town with a true Old West aesthetic, is located about an hour southeast of Phoenix and about an hour northwest of Tucson, in Pinal County. With a population of 26,419, Florence is a small town with easy access to big-city amenities. It was founded in 1866 and preserves its history with over 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Nestled close to the Superstitions and the San Tan Mountains, Florence is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The classic rugged southern Arizona landscape provides peace and quiet outside the city, but there’s still plenty to do in Florence proper.
Florence is home to several parks, golf courses, the Florence Aquatic Center, a community fitness center, the Florence Library and Community Center, and even a winery. The long-running Arizona Renaissance Festival is held in adjacent Gold Canyon.
The median home value in Florence is about $252,790. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is around $2,000 per month, but one-bedrooms average only $975.
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9. Apache Junction
Considered a Mesa suburb, Apache Junction lies in the extreme southeast valley about 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix. Interestingly, it straddles both Maricopa and Pinal counties. “AJ,” as locals affectionately call it, is a storied mining town at the base of the famed Superstition Mountains. About 41,739 people call Apache Junction home.
The Superstitions attract explorers, treasure hunters, and nature enthusiasts from all over the world, so Apache Junction is, unsurprisingly, a hub for outdoor recreation. Hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, camping, and backpacking are all particularly popular pastimes.
In addition to the Superstitions wilderness itself, there’s Lost Dutchman State Park, with an extensive network of well-maintained trails. The Lower Salt River runs through Apache Junction and offers opportunities for kayaking, fishing, and tubing. If you’re lucky, you may even spot the famous Salt River wild horses.
Nearby, the Goldfield Ghost Town gives a glimpse into AJ’s history as a gold mining community. Visit the museum, ride the narrow-gauge railroad (the only one still operational in Arizona), watch a staged gunfight, or pan for gold.
The median home value in Apache Junction is $264,500 and a 2-bedroom apartment costs about $1,050 to rent.
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Many of Arizona’s most affordable cities are located in the southern portion of the state, but Prescott is an exception. It’s located in north-central Arizona’s Yavapai County, conveniently within a few hours of Phoenix, Flagstaff, Sedona, and even Las Vegas.
Pronounced Press-kit, not Press-cot, the town sits at an elevation of 5,367 feet, a bit higher than Denver, Colorado. As such, Prescott enjoys four distinct seasons and much more mild summers than its southern Arizona counterparts.
Prescott is home to numerous lakes, including Watson, Willow Creek, Lynx, and Goldwater, as well as the massive Prescott National Forest. At 1.25 million acres, the stunningly beautiful forest covers Sonoran Desert terrain, as well as high alpine mountain landscapes.
With nicknames including “everybody’s hometown” and “Arizona’s Christmas City,” Prescott has a tremendous amount of community pride. The town retains its historical gold mining significance with a charming and well-preserved downtown square and Whiskey Row.
There are also three colleges in the town of 43,314 people: Yavapai; Prescott; and Embry-Riddle, one of the most highly regarded aviation and aerospace universities in the world.
Prescott’s median home value is $283,500 and two-bedroom apartments cost an average of $1,325 per month.
Now you know the 10 most affordable cities in Arizona and their unique characters. Please share this article on your Facebook page so others can benefit from it as well. Thanks!
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