Thinking about living in New Jersey? If so, you’re in good hands.
I’ve lived in the The Garden State for the past 10 years and have definitely learned a thing or two about the honest pros and cons of living in New Jersey.
Home to a population of nearly 9.3 million residents, New Jersey is known for top notch education, natural beauty (those beaches!), old school diners and some of the worst traffic in the country. There’s so much to love (and not love) about calling this pretty state home.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, so let’s cover everything you need to know about moving to New Jersey based on firsthand experience. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, I’m here to help!
Largest Cities in New Jersey
- Population: 307,220
- Average salary: $78,400
- Median home price: $420K
- Population: 283,927
- Average salary: $86,000
- Median home price: $660K
- Population: 157,794
- Average salary: $56,700
- Median home price: $426K
Pros & Cons of Living in New Jersey
Pros of Moving to New Jersey
#1. The high quality of life
Without question, one of the best things about living in New Jersey is the high quality of life. Low crime rates, low stress and a booming job market, what’s not to love?
But don’t just take my word for it, New Jersey was recently ranked as the 5th happiest state in the country. Overall, I’d say I agree with the assessment. Living in New Jersey comes with its fair share of stressors, no doubt, but there’s so much more that brings happiness — like great entertainment, diversity, food and jobs.
I’ve had a few friends move away only to reminisce about the perks of living in New Jersey a few years later. One friend grew up in the state but moved to California for a job opportunity.
For as much as he loves California, he feels he didn’t give the state the praise it deserved while living in New Jersey. He claims the state encouraged his ambition and set him up for success in the corporate world.
You know what they say, the grass is always greener on the other side. As for me? I’m content with my yard and don’t have an itch to move yet because all my needs are met.
#2. The diversity can’t be beat
Much like our larger neighbor to the east, the Garden State is teeming with diversity, which makes living in New Jersey a joy. The benefits of diversity are numerous, chief among them is the opportunity to experience different cultures, religions, linguistics and food. Oh, the food!
You’ll be rubbing elbows with folks from all over the world after moving to New Jersey. One of my favorite things to do during a day off is to head to a new city or different part of town. You’ll find pockets of incredible culture if you leave your comfort zone every now and then.
Indeed, having an opportunity to mingle with folks from every race, religions, sexual orientation and culture makes living in New Jersey an interesting affair. There’s always something new to learn and something interesting to talk about.
#3. Great job market
I actually ended up moving to New Jersey for a job opportunity too lucrative to pass up. Like many of my coworkers, the healthy job market drew me in and will keep me living in NJ for the foreseeable future.
Home to 17 Fortune 500 Companies, you’ll find plenty of work in tech, healthcare, finance and business. If helpful, the state’s largest employers are Amazon, Wakefern Food Corp, Johnson & Johnson and PSEG.
#4. New Jersey is a foodie haven
Foodies will find much respite while living in New Jersey. The cuisines span the gamut — from quality Italian joints to phenomenal pizza, great Indian food and the most charming diners you will ever see.
It seems like quality food is not something New Jerseyans are willing to negotiate, to the benefit of us all. And there’s plenty of good restaurants to be found outside of Newark and Jersey City. For special occasions, I love visiting the the Heirloom Kitchen (Old Bridge), Brick Farm Tavern (Hopewell) and Drew’s Bayshore Bistro (Keyport)
The best part? Tourists don’t seem to know about our impressive food scene, so we don’t need to compete with long wait lists and reservations that must be confirmed 6 months out (looking at your NYC).
Granted, some of the most popular spots in town (especially in Jersey City) will require waiting in line, but take a 30-minute drive and you’re bound to find a great spot.
#5. It’s one of the safest states in the country
Here’s a fact that seems to catch newcomers by surprise: New Jersey has a very low crime rate and is considered one of the safest states in the country.
I don’t want to paint a false picture though, certain cities are more prone to crime. As such, you’ll need to do proper research prior to moving to New Jersey.
By and large, the most dangerous cities in New Jersey are Camden, Trenton, Paterson and Atlantic City. Crime rates in these cities are way too high for comfort.
#6. Beautiful natural scenery
Listen, they don’t call us the Garden State for nothing. Living in New Jersey means having access to beautiful (and varied) natural wonders year-round.
One of the best recommendations I received before moving to New Jersey was to take a road trip through the state. I was completely surprised by the stunning country roads and charming towns that rivaled my favorite spots in New England.
For nature nuts, it’s pretty easy to find epic outdoor recreation. From hiking (and skiing) in the mountains, to surfing in the sea. It’s pretty easy to bond with new friends by doing something outside, one of the most common ways I typically get to know people better is by doing a weekend hike (followed by brunch).
#7. Proximity to major US cities
With a population exceeding 300,000, Newark has “big city” amenities, but if your city-dwelling heart finds itself unsatisfied, you can easily take a day trip to some of the largest cities in the country. Big cities come with many perks, like big job opportunities, great food and never-ending entertainment.
Thankfully, those living in New Jersey have their fair share of neighbors to choose from — like New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC. All three major hubs are within a 1-2 hour drive.
In fact, with Jersey City being a mere 20-40 minute subway ride, it’s not uncommon for people to work in New York City but live in New Jersey. You’ll get all the perks of the Big Apple but the rent will be easier to stomach.
#8. Quality healthcare
Yet another thing that makes living in New Jersey a no-brainer: top notch healthcare that is often considered some of the best in the country. If fact, according to a recent study, New Jersey ranks 4th for best healthcare in the US.
And it’s true (for me, at least), the caliber of healthcare I receive leaves little room for complaint. I feel confident in the medical team whenever I find a health issue flaring up and can’t imagine living elsewhere should something terrifying happen (besides Massachusetts, of course).
#9. Top notch public schools
So apparently we don’t only have the best healthcare in the country, but we also have the best public schools as well. I have a few friends that ended up moving to New Jersey with kids in tow and they said they faced two challenges.
Firstly, affording a home in a good neighborhood (you know the drill: the more expensive the city, the better the schools). And secondly, ensuring their kids are up to speed on the criteria.
One friend mentioned that her kid entered the third grade and felt like a fish out of water because the material being covered was more advanced than expected. They ended up hiring a tutor to get their kid up to speed, so you may need to budget that into your overall cost of living in New Jersey.
#10. You won’t be pumping your own gas while living in New Jersey
No list highlighting the best things about living in New Jersey is complete without mentioning this gem: you don’t need to pump your own gas. New Jersey is only one of two US states that makes pumping your own gas an illegal affair.
The logic? Beats me. But you won’t need to leave the car in the dead of winter, which is definitely a perk of living in New Jersey if you ask me.
Cons of Living in New Jersey
#1. We have the highest property taxes in the country
If you’re moving to New Jersey in the hopes of buying a home then you should know that at 2.49%, we have the highest property taxes in the country. Not only that, but with average home prices clocking in at $471K, the housing market in Jersey isn’t affordable by any stretch of the imagination.
For reference, the national median home price is $428K, nearly $40,000 less than our median home prices. Granted, if you compare Jersey’s home prices to New York’s you’ll consider them a steal of a deal.
#2. The overall cost of living in New Jersey is high
One of the biggest complaints about living in New Jersey (from lifelong locals and newcomers) are the high taxes. You just can’t escape them. Our state income tax varies from 1.4% to 10.75%, depending on filing status and income bracket.
Here’s how it works: If you earn between $40,000 – $75,000 then you’ll be taxed at 5.525%. If you earn between $75,000 – $500,000 you’ll be taxed 6.37%.
If you earn more than $5,000,000 annually after moving to New Jersey, you’ll be expected to pay 10.75% in state income taxes (the 3rd highest rate in the country). But let’s get real — the only thing we want to know at that point is how the heck you’re bringing that in!
#4. Newark Airport is the worst (seriously)
I always joke that you can officially consider yourself a local when your stomach churns after seeing Newark Airport pop across your screen while looking for flights.
Newark Airport consistently ranks as one of the worst airports in the USA — typically snagging the first spot for this unfortunate award. But listen, anyone living in NJ long enough knows better than to act surprised because the airport really sucks.
Delayed flights and confusing directions are as guaranteed as grouchy staff and watered-down cocktails. Plus, I’m convinced the airport has been under construction since the Eisenhower administration. Why rush perfection, I guess.
#5. Moving to New Jersey? You’ll be rubbing elbows with a lot of folks
Here’s an interesting fact about living in New Jersey: This is the most densely populated state in the country. What does that mean for your daily life in Jersey? For starters, you can except traffic to be terrible, never ending construction for new housing, crazy crowds at stores (especially during holidays) and crowded commutes on the train.
Speaking from personal experience, the crowds do get to you after a while. Some days I don’t want to deal with seeing hundreds of people by 8am — there’s just too many people living on top of each other. I dream of driving down the turnpike at midnight just to feel human.
Speaking for turnpikes and traffic…
#6. The traffic is a bear
You don’t need to be living in Jersey long before realizing our traffic is some of the worst in the country. Now, before you right me off an an overly-dramatic resident, I have proof.
According to a recent study, New Jersey is the 9th worst state for driving. During the standstill traffic at rush hour, it’s estimated that Jersey residents spend an average of 86 hours a year stuck in traffic. Imagine!
#7. Summer heatwaves + winter snowstorms
Finally, we can’t wrap this list of the cons of living in New Jersey without mentioning the extreme weather conditions during the summer and winter months. Typical summer highs dance in the 80’s but you need to brace for heatwaves that well exceed the average.
If you come from hot and muggy climates (like the south), you may not find summers difficult after moving to New Jersey. But if you’re moving to New Jersey from an area with mild summers (do those even exist anymore?) our summers will be a rude wake up call.
Likewise, winter snowstorms are a considering while living in New Jersey. In terms of the climate, the northern part of the states sees an average of 40-50 inches of snow, while the southern tip gets 10-15 inches.
Retiring in New Jersey FAQ
Is New Jersey a good place to live?
Yes, New Jersey is a good place to live. Between the high quality of life, top-notch healthcare and public education and great job market, residents are considered some of the happiest in the country.
Is New Jersey a food place to retire?
Deciding on retiring in New Jersey? If you have family in the area you will enjoy retirement. But if you’re moving to New Jersey to start a fresh life, you may find the high tax burden overbearing. Even though social security doesn’t get taxed, the state income tax varies from 1.4% to 10.75%, depending on your income bracket (learn more here).
What are the most dangerous cities in New Jersey?
Overall, New Jersey is considered one of the safest states in the country, but not all cities can boast clean record. Camden, Trenton, Paterson and Atlantic City are considered dangerous cities in New Jersey because of the high crime rates.
Pros & Cons of Living in New Jersey (Post Roundup)
In sum, here’s a quick recap of the pros and cons of moving to New Jersey.
- The high quality of life
- Top notch public schools
- The diversity can’t be beat
- Great job market
- New Jersey is a foodie haven
- New Jersey is a foodie haven
- Low crime rate, safe state
- Beautiful natural scenery
- Proximity to major US cities
- Quality healthcare
- You won’t be pumping your own gas while living in New Jersey
- It’s the dirtiest state in the country
- The high tax burden of living in New Jersey
- The cost of living in New Jersey is high
- Newark Airport is the worst
- Moving to New Jersey? You’ll be rubbing elbows with a lot of folks
- The traffic is a bear
- Summer heatwaves + winter snowstorms
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