Arizona and Florida; the two “hottest” states in America. From an outside perspective, these states might seem virtually identical to one another. But there are plenty of reasons why Arizona and Florida are worlds apart, and why you might prefer living in one over the other.
Everyone is different, and what can be a selling point for one person might be a deal-breaker for another. While we can’t tell you which state you’d like better, we can help you know the in’s and out’s of each–making it easier for you to decide where you want to live.
1. Population Density
According to worldpopulationreview.com, in 2021 Florida had a population density of 353.4 people per square mile, whereas Arizona had a population density of 63 people per square mile. Arizona is a much larger state, but it has much fewer people packed into a small space. So if you want a lot of diversity and chances to meet new people, move to Florida. If you’d rather be left alone and have to interact with people less, Arizona might be the choice for you.
2. School Districts
There’s not really a competition here. According to wallethub.com, on a list of best school systems in the United States, Florida ranks 22nd place, and Arizona…well, Arizona ranks in 49th place. Out of 51 (Including the District of Columbia). If you’re planning on raising a family, either stay in Florida (where your kids will get a somewhat decent education) or go to Arizona and homeschool. Seriously.
3. Main Industries
The main industries of each state might not seem important when you’re considering moving, but they impact the job market heavily. Florida’s main “export” is entertainment. It’s a tourist capital, and the entertainment industry is constantly booming. If you want experience as an actor, singer, or if you just want to work at Disney World, Florida’s got your back.
Arizona’s main industries are aerospace and electronic manufacturing, making it easier for an engineer to find a job. But tourism is also alive and well, so if you really have your heart set on working at a tourist attraction (first of all, why?) you can always get a job at the Grand Canyon gift shop.
4. Cultural Differences
Obviously, trying to judge the culture of one state against another is like trying to compare two different ten-course meals. Each state is over sixty-thousand square miles when it comes to surface area (Florida is 65,758 mi², and Arizona is 113,998 mi²), and trying to fit a whole group of people across that big of a state into one cultural box is tricky. Just know that all the statements made here are generalizations based on our experiences in these states. But there can be (and are) plenty of exceptions.
Generally speaking, Florida has more Latin-American pride, whereas Arizona has more Native-American pride. If you’re someone who wants to learn Spanish, moving to Florida is a great incentive to do so. But the rich Native-American culture in Arizona is a great incentive to move there as well. Either way, you will end up being immersed in rich cultures full of people that speak different languages, so either one is a win.
They’re both hot. But Florida is much more tropical, which means that it stays hot all year round (except for a week or two in February, when it gets down in the 50s and 60s). Arizona tends to get even hotter than Florida. Arizona has hit a record high of 128 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas Florida’s highest heat only hit 109 degrees. But Arizona also grows cooler throughout the year, and it actually has a winter, sometimes with actual snow. Florida doesn’t know other seasons (aside from summer) exist.
Arizona is dry, but Florida is humid. Florida will be consistently sticky throughout the year, and while Arizona can get hotter, it won’t sink into your skin and make you sweat quite as well as Florida. Arizona heat will burn you on the pavement, while Florida will turn you into your own personal waterpark. They’re both pretty bad, so it’s up to you to decide which is worse.
6. Cost of Living
Both Arizona and Florida are on the more expensive end of the spectrum, but when one takes into account housing costs, utilities, transportation, health, and grocery bills (and more), Arizona is cheaper to live in than Florida. But it’s by a very small margin–and if you know you’ll have a steady source of income, then it won’t make much of a difference. After all, the amount of money you have depends on personal finance decisions, not the average cost of living.
7. Housing Market Availability
We don’t pretend to understand how the housing market works. There are so many different confusing factors that could lead to cheaper prices, or raising prices, or an entire market crash. These websites will explain the projections for Florida and Arizona housing markets.
8. State Tax Policies
Florida is one of the lowest tax burden states due to its lack of state income tax (although it is still required to pay federal income taxes) and lack of estate tax. So if you receive an inheritance or parcel of land, you don’t have to pay the state at all for what you got. Whereas, in Arizona, they require personal income taxes and estate taxes. To see more of the specifics, check out these websites for the state tax figures in 2015 for Arizona and Florida.
9. Landscape and Geography
Arizona is a wide, dry desert. That is beautiful in its own right, but everything is gray, dusty, or brown. The first thing to notice about Florida is how green everything is. Everything is alive and thriving–pros to living in a tropical climate.
But Florida is flatter than a pancake, and Arizona actually has mountains, canyons, and plateaus. So, which would you rather see–alive, lush plant and wildlife, or the silhouette of gorgeous plateaus on the horizon?
Each state gets a good amount of income from tourists, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that Florida blows Arizona out of the water when it comes to tourism. And living in Florida (especially central Florida) means that you might be overwhelmed by the number of people visiting the state every. Single. Day.
11. Crime Rates
Despite Florida’s large population and population density, Arizona still has a higher crime rate. We don’t know why this is, but according to statistica.com, Arizona has a violent crime rate of 455.3, and Florida has a rate of 378.4.
12. Political Ideology
Arizona is (generally speaking) a red state. It, more often than not, votes conservatively in presidential elections, so if you’re on the liberal end of the spectrum, you might find it frustrating. But if you are on the conservative side, it could be refreshing to live around people with similar political ideologies.
Florida is a swing state. People that live there live on all ends of the spectrum, and it evens out more so than in Arizona. It’s more likely that your voice will be heard, no matter what side you stand on. You’ll also likely meet people who think the exact opposite of you, which can be fun.
No matter what state you decide to live in, learning about other people’s opinions and trying to see their side of things can help give you empathy, even if you still disagree with them. Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you can’t love or respect them. Okay, P.S.A. over.
Florida’s got bugs, and lot’s of ’em. Mosquitos, lovebugs, ladybugs, butterflies, cockroaches, beetles, cicadas, black widows…the list goes on and on. And ANTS. Living in Florida means declaring war on all the creepy crawlies because they’ll definitely declare war on you. Don’t be surprised if you go to sleep one night and wake up with a trail of ants stealing the honey from your pantry. And the red ones love to bite.
Arizona is a desert. And as such, everything creepy and/or crawly has a much harder time staying alive there. If you are deathly afraid of bugs, then Florida might not be the best place to live. But if you want to face your fear, then go right ahead and move to the Sunshine State. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to overcome your fear. Plenty.
Both Arizona and Florida have their own unique wildlife. Arizona’s got desert and mountain creatures, such as rattlesnakes, bears, deer, and most commonly, coyotes. Arizona doesn’t have as many bugs as Florida, but they do have Tarantulas, which we think are much scarier than any bug Florida can conjure up.
Florida has, unsurprisingly, gators. But unless you get in the water, they’ll have a much harder time getting to you. Florida also has a million lizards, snakes (not as many rattlesnakes), and even panthers, although those are so endangered that the chances of running into one of those beauties are slim to none. Millions of Floridians live their entire lives without setting eyes on a panther.
But Arizona and Florida both have racoons. Yay.
Moral of the story: animals live anywhere that humans do, and living in Arizona or Florida won’t really change that. Either option is better than living in Australia. Now their wildlife is crazy.
15. Daylight Savings
This one is pretty simple. Many states have to go through the dreaded Daylight Savings. You probably know the drill–one day in Fall, the whole state (and time zone) gets to “fall behind” an hour and get an extra hour to sleep (probably). But then, in Spring, you have to “spring ahead,” and you end up losing that hour anyway. Arizona does away with this. They don’t jump ahead or behind, staying consistent the entire year-round.
Florida does participate in Daylight Savings, which has its pros and cons. The main con is the “springing ahead,” but in participating in Daylight Savings, it’s easier to communicate and organize online meetings/calls with people out of state than it is in Arizona. In Florida, everyone stays the same amount of time either ahead or behind. People in California are three hours behind Florida all year round. But Arizona is the same time as California for half of the year, but an hour ahead for the other half of the year. And in a world full of Zoom meetings with people across the country (and globe), it might be easier to stay in a state with a consistent time difference.
16. Stuff to Do
Arizona and Florida alike have heavy arsenals of fun stuff to do. Neither state is lacking in that department, so it really depends on what kind of fun stuff you’d rather do.
Arizona’s biggest tourist attractions have got to be its national parks and historical monuments. The Grand Canyon is its crown jewel, with plenty of other beautiful geographical locations to visit (such as the Saguaro National Park, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, and many more). Arizona also has terrific big game hunting, and it’s a lot easier to hike in Arizona since there are actual mountains. A hike in Florida is more like a longish walk.
Florida: where to begin? There are about a million theme parks (from Walt Disney World to Universal Orlando to SeaWorld to Legoland, and more). If tourist traps aren’t your scene, you can always go to the beach and suntan, or swim, or surf, or whatever you want. You can also visit the Everglades, or the nearest community pool when it’s too hot to do anything else. Even if you don’t live close to a huge amusement park, you can swim or fish almost anywhere. Just don’t swim in any freshwater. Gators are everywhere.
This isn’t really a competition either. Florida and Arizona both have a plethora of retirement opportunities if that’s what you’re planning to do. Honestly, they’re both great options, so if you’re planning on retiring to one of the two, we’d recommend picking the state that is closer to the rest of your family. Retirement is so much nicer when kids and grandkids are close to home.
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