Do you want to see clear blue skies, rust-colored mesas, and golden sunsets sweeping across a cactus-filled landscape? Then, the State of Arizona is the place for you. A late bloomer, Arizona did not become a state until 1912. Hot summers, low population, and wide-open spaces characterize this frontier landscape, and residents are still just as fiercely independent as they were in earlier pioneer days. Almost an afterthought nationally, Arizona has a much lighter impact than you may be accustomed to on the west coast. It contributes only nine congressional seats compared to California’s 53.
Once lacking the resources to support a large population, the state has turned things around in the past few decades. Now with a robust infrastructure in place and new investments from leading technology and manufacturing firms, Arizona enjoys one of the fastest growing economies in the country. As you plan your move from California, say goodbye to old familiar congestion and burdensome regulations, and prepare yourself for the adventure of western-style living in the Grand Canyon State.
What to Know When Moving from California to Arizona
Aside from Arizona’s abundant opportunities, there are some other things you ought to know about before you move.
Prepare to Embrace the Heat
Temperatures are scorching during the summer. Smack in the middle of the state, Phoenix set its record for heat on June 26, 1990, when the thermometer reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Miles away in Lake Havasu, the temperature rose to 128 degrees one June day in 1994. Though tolerable for most of the year, unbearable heat blankets the entire region through the summer months every year. Average summer temperatures usually hover around the 106-degree mark.
The shape of the geography is the major contributor to the excessive temperatures. Mountain ranges in California catch the cooler air from the ocean as it moves east across the continent. By the time weather patterns reach Arizona, they are devoid of moisture. Arizona’s plateaus sit lower in altitude allowing dry, stagnant air to sink and increase atmospheric pressure.
Though still hot, the situation is a little better in the northern regions of the state. At a higher altitude, Flagstaff gets cold enough for snow in the winter, and thunderstorms drop instant downpours of rain filling rivers and reservoirs.
Tip for new residents: Always stay hydrated. Keep bottled water with you wherever you go and pack a few extra water containers in your vehicle.
There’s Limited Availability of Private Land
Native tribes control a sizable portion of the land in Arizona. The federal government recognizes 21 official tribes throughout the state, and they possess over 27% of the territory. Tribes use much of their land for agriculture. Arizona has more Native American farmers than anywhere else in the country.
Arizona also has many state and national parks for outdoor recreation. Protected forests and national monuments also restrict development. Sometimes, conflicts arise between these different government entities, and hikers in remote areas occasionally stumble into restricted tribal territories.
With the state chopped into so many different territories controlled by varying government bodies, only about 18% of the land is privately-owned. City developers must plan carefully, and the locations for new growth is often limited.
Tip for new residents: When planning a vacation, check ahead to see whose land you will be traveling through and know any special rules before you arrive.
Get Ready for Gun Culture Shock
Hollywood filmmakers love pretend violence, and California’s actors dazzle audiences with flashy scenes of fantastic gunplay. In Arizona, you’ll see the real thing. Living westerners still carry their guns with them everywhere they go.
At age 18, residents may strap on a loaded firearm openly in public. At 21-years old, Arizonans can carry a concealed weapon. Arizona liberally issues concealed permits to residents, though these documents are not required. The state participates in a reciprocity program allowing Arizonans to bring their concealed weapons into 37 other states including neighboring Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico.
State law does restrict access to firearms for dangerous individuals and prohibits weapons near airports, schools, and hospitals. Shannon’s Law prohibits the discharge of a gun randomly into the air. The law’s name honors a 14-year old girl killed by a stray bullet in 1999.
Tip for new residents: Though not mandatory, take a firearms safety training class before carrying a weapon.
Embrace a Lower Cost of Living
California has one of the highest costs of living in the nation. While Arizona’s prices are still slightly higher than average, you should notice an overall decrease in your expenses. A typical home will set you back a little over $239,000 if you plan to buy. Renting, surprisingly, is much more affordable than across the rest of the country.
Unexpectedly high utility bills might catch you off guard. Arizona is a desert. It lacks water and generating power is harder in the dry heat. The average monthly electricity bill is about $120. Expect it to double or even triple during summer when everyone’s air conditioning units are blasting away.
Water is scarce, and Arizona shares the reservoir of Lake Mead with California and Nevada. This overworked resource supplies 40% of Arizona’s drinking water, and the doomsayers across the state predict shortages and rationing by 2020. Though water utility costs are reasonable for now, don’t be surprised if prices climb in the coming years.
Tip for new residents: Avoid living in a home with west facing windows and sliding glass. Heat from the setting sun drives your interior temperatures sky high.
Arizona Has Varied Industries and Jobs
Though not as robust as the Simi Valley in California, the Phoenix area earned the nickname of “the Silicon Desert.” Tech giants manufacture computer hardware in factories sprinkled throughout the region. Aerospace manufacturing also keeps plenty of highly skilled workers employed.
Historically, Arizona’s economy depended on mining, with copper serving as the most valuable resource extracted from the ground. Today, there are still over 30 copper mines in the state. This industry supplies more than half of the copper used in the US and keeps construction, transportation, and industrial workers busy.
Tourism is one of the largest sectors of the Arizona economy. The state has many national parks, forests, and attractions, and visitors depend on Arizona’s residents to support travel and leisure activities. Arizona also has a vast collection of desert resorts and golf clubs where tourists and snowbirds enjoy the temperate weather through the winter months.
Tip for new residents: Employers often need the unique skills of out-of-state workers. Negotiate for assistance with your move.
There’s Plenty of Fun for Everyone
Despite the hot, desert climate, outdoor recreation is still popular with Arizona residents. If you love geology, there are hundreds of natural land formations to explore. World famous features like the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley, and the Painted Desert are just a day trip away.
Unlike in California, nighttime light pollution in Arizona is limited. There are 30 observatories throughout the state for the astronomy lovers. Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson is on a mountain top where visitors may look through sun telescopes during the day while waiting for the stars and moon in the evening.
Arizona also has a robust collection of professional teams playing throughout the year. The NFL’s Cardinals, MLB’s Diamondbacks, NBA’s Suns, and NHL’s Coyotes all play in the Phoenix area. Due to its climate, Arizona hosts more off-season training camps than any other state.
Tip for new residents: To avoid traffic jams, know when significant events take place and learn alternate routes.
The Best Places to Live in Arizona
Phoenix is the largest city in the state, and most of the action takes place in the surrounding suburbs. There are a few notable exceptions. Here are the best places to put down your cactus roots in the desert:
Chandler is one of the fastest-growing communities and a vanguard of the Silicon Desert. In 2017, Intel solidified Chandler’s importance as a tech hub by announcing its plans to build a new factory expected to employ up to 3000 workers. Located south of Phoenix, the city also has some of the best golfing, dining, and shopping in the state.
- Population – 253,458
- Median Household Income – $75,369
- Average Home Price – $275,400
- Property Crime Rate – 24.86 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Violent Crime Rate – 2.25 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Major Employers – Intel, Rogers Corporation, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chandler Regional Medical Center, PayPal, Verizon Wireless
- Colleges – Chandler-Gilbert Community College where students may earn credits to transfer to the Arizona State University
- Something to Try: Take a morning horseback ride through the desert over at KOLI Equestrian Center.
This small community is just north of Tuscon in the southeastern corner of the state. It has a growing economy driven by aerospace and health care companies, and it proudly boasts one of the best public education systems in Arizona. It is also close to natural recreation spots like the Coronado Forest and Santa Catalina Mountains. Here, incomes are high, living expenses are reasonable, and crime remains comparatively low.
- Population – 44,350
- Median Household Income – $75,966
- Average Home Price – $281,700
- Property Crime Rate – 14.92 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Violent Crime Rate – 0.66 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Major Employers – Ventana Medical Systems, Sanofi-Aventis, Honeywell Aerospace, Oro Valley Hospital, Hilton El Conquistador Golf and Tennis, Town of Oro Valley, Amphitheater School District
- Colleges – University of Arizona, Pima Community College, and Pima Medical Institute
- Something to Try: Check out a show and see local performers at the Gas Light Music Hall.
This suburb sits just to the east of Phoenix and has some of the best housing options in the metro area. It offers a robust services-based economy and provides plenty of shopping, dining, and recreation opportunities for residents as well as its many visitors. Public schools are excellent, and Scottsdale enjoys one of the highest graduation rates in Arizona. It’s within driving distance to the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and the Arizona State University’s main campus.
- Population – 249,950
- Median Household Income – $76,543
- Average Home Price – $405,500
- Property Crime Rate – 23.10 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Violent Crime Rate – 1.50 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Major Employers – GoDaddy, Food Services America, General Dynamics, Nextiva
- Colleges – Arizona State University-Skysong, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts
- Something to Try: Make the easy hike along the Lost Dog Wash Trail during the spring to see desert views and cactus blooms.
South of Phoenix and East of Chandler, you will find this planned desert community. It has a comparatively high population density and low crime rate for the Phoenix area. It also has excellent schools and is a short drive to other area attractions. Gilbert is one of the best places in Arizona for families, and many services focus on children and youth.
- Population – 242,354
- Median Household Income – $85,581
- Average Home Price – $264,700
- Property Crime Rate – 14.20 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Violent Crime Rate – 0.84 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Major Employers – Walmart, Banner Health, Gilbert Unified School District, GoDaddy Software, Fry’s Food Stores
- Colleges – Pima Medical Institute of the East Valley
- Something to Try: Go birdwatching at the Water Ranch’s Riparian Preserve.
Tourists love to pass through Paradise Valley, and celebrities often visit during the winter to escape their seasonal blues. This tiny community hides just north of Phoenix next to Scottsdale. It’s famous for its luxury golf courses, fine dining, and shopping.
- Population – 14,293
- Median Household Income – $173,487
- Average Home Price – 1.33 Million
- Property Crime Rate – 16.16 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Violent Crime Rate – 0.63 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Major Employers – Camelback Inn, Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa, The Scottsdale Plaza Resort, Sanctuary at Camelback, Paradise Valley Country Club
- Colleges – University of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University, Arizona State University
- Something to Try: Take a break from luxuriating at your favorite spa to stroll through the Barry Goldwater Park and learn about one of Arizona’s most influential political figures.
Located to the north of Phoenix, Peoria benefits from the region’s sunny weather and easy access to good jobs and affordable housing. The four high schools in the city’s district enjoy a higher than average graduation rate. Interstate 17 is close by, providing quick access to outdoor recreation throughout the Prescot and Coconino forests.
- Population – 168,181
- Median Household Income – $66,163
- Average Home Price – $208,200
- Property Crime Rate – 22.59 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Violent Crime Rate – 2.13 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Major Employers – Peoria Unified School District, Walmart, Younger Brothers Components Inc, The Antigua Group, Arizona Medical Clinic
- Colleges – Trine University’s Arizona Regional Campus
- Something to Try: Watch the major league ballplayers train for the upcoming season at the Peoria Sports Complex.
This smaller community sits between two national forests and offers convenient access to outdoor recreational spots. Watson Lake and Willow Creek Reservoir are right next to the town with public park access to the water. The historic downtown district, known as Whiskey Row, features classical western saloons with drinks and live entertainment. Though still hot in the summer, the slightly higher elevation provides residents with some relief from the scorching heat experienced by those closer to Phoenix.
- Population – 42,731
- Median Household Income – $48,259
- Average Home Price – $283,500
- Property Crime Rate – 21.95 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Violent Crime Rate – 4.05 annual crimes per 1000 residents
- Major Employers – Yavapai Regional Medical Center, Prescott Unified School District, City of Prescott, Walmart, Chelton Avionics, Fann Contracting, Fortner Aerospace Manufacturing
- Colleges – Yavapai College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott College
- Something to Try: Participate in Prescott Frontier Days every summer, the nation’s oldest rodeo show.
Moving to Arizona Checklist & Tips
When you’ve made up your mind your ready for the desert life, it’s time to pack up and head east across the Colorado River to your new home.
Step One – Downsize
To start, get rid of as much of your unwanted and unnecessary things as possible. Downsizing reduces your overall moving workload, and you might even earn some extra gas money while you are at it.
As soon as you know you are going to move:
- Inventory your belongings and decide which items you don’t want.
- Place online ads and notices to sell as many things as possible.
- About a month before your move, host a garage sale and invite visitors to make offers.
- Locate donation centers and give away clothes, appliances, and old furniture you couldn’t sell.
- Responsibly dispose of toxic or dangerous items like old refrigerators and paint cans.
Do yourself a favor at this stage and be as ruthless as possible. You can always replace many of your everyday items once you settle back down in Arizona.
Step Two – Pack and Plan Your Haul
Decide if you want to do the work of moving yourself or if you prefer to hire a cross-country moving company. Start researching rental equipment and movers right away. Give yourself a few months to evaluate options.
Moving companies offer several levels of service depending on your needs:
- Basic Haul – Movers arrive and load your things into their truck. After driving to your new residence, they unload for you.
- Partial Pack and Haul – Movers help you pack up certain rooms or items to save you some time and effort before transporting your things.
- The Full Service – Never lift a finger. Professional movers use their supplies, tools, and equipment to pack and move all your belongings.
- Specialty items like pool tables, pianos, antiques, and landmark art displays may require custom packaging and transportation arrangements.
Always make your plans early and reserve the truck, equipment, and services you intend to use well in advance to avoid unexpected delays.
Ask your moving company about insurance coverage for your belongings. Fully licensed and qualified movers must carry limited liability insurance. This coverage protects against business-related issues but does little to help customers.
If you can afford it, the full value insurance usually offers the best protection. For budget shoppers, ask about release value insurance. This second option isn’t nearly as comprehensive, but it’s better than nothing.
Step Three – Notifications
Tell everyone in California about your plan to move. It’s just a basic courtesy for the friends and family members, but other formal notifications are essential:
- Provide your current landlord with at least a 30-day notice before vacating.
- Tell employers no less than two weeks before leaving a job.
- Inform your bank, creditors, and insurance providers as soon as you know your new address.
- Update your medical records with your new location and transfer prescriptions.
- Transfer school records for children and get copies of your college transcripts.
- Return library books and cancel or transfer your memberships to clubs and subscriptions
- Submit a change of address with the US Postal Service. You can do this online, and many of your contacts receive notices by mail. Double check anyways to be sure.
Step Four – the Drive
Driving towards the east from California, you have three options for getting across the Colorado River. In the north, you may travel along Interstate 40 towards Flagstaff. The very southernmost route of Interstate 8 runs along the US-Mexico border towards Tucson. In the middle of Arizona, Interstate 10 connects with Phoenix and is the most direct route from Los Angeles.
Take extra precautions for the heat. Extreme temperatures in the summer put excessive wear on your vehicle, and an unexpected breakdown can leave you stranded in a hot, dangerous desert.
Service your vehicle a few weeks before the drive:
- Have the engine cooling system flushed and inspected for leaks.
- Check the condition of your tires and replace the set if worn.
- Make sure your spare tire and roadside tools are ready if you need them.
- Test the battery and charging system.
- Service your vehicle’s air conditioning to make sure it’s charged at the correct level.
- Flush the brake fluid and update your pads and rotors to prevent heat-related brake fade.
- Perform an oil change with a high-quality lubricant that performs at high temperatures.
- Stock up your vehicle with emergency water, shades, and sunblock.
- Never overinflate your tires. The heat increases the pressure and might push the tires beyond their safety limits. The high temperature also stresses the rubber compounds leading to faster wear and potential damage to the sidewalls. Check your tire’s load rating and avoid overpacking your vehicle.
Step Five – Get Settled In
After you arrive and unpack, it’s time to sort out a few particulars.
- Make sure your mail comes at your new residence and follow up with any missing contacts.
- Enroll in school and get the schedules for classes.
- Double check your prescriptions and transfer your primary care provider to a local hospital.
- Drive around and get familiar with the area, so you know the major roads and directions.
- To combat the heat, many towns in Arizona have emergency water locations. Check to see if there are any present in your community. Know where to go and what to do should you fall victim to a heat-related illness.
- Get your Arizona driver’s license from the Motor Vehicle Division of the Arizona Department of Transportation right away. You can begin the application online, but you must go to one of the local offices for a vision test and photo. If you already have a California license, you may not need to take the written test, but study materials are available to download if necessary.
- You must register your vehicles immediately after establishing residency, and cars should undergo an emissions inspection. Depending on the county, vehicle age, and circumstances, your vehicle may qualify for an exemption, but you will still need to meet the state’s minimum auto insurance requirements.
Step Six – Get involved
Enjoy the sunshine and meet your new neighbors. With more than 300 days of sun a year, you have plenty of opportunities to get out and start making connections.
Great Guys Moving hopes this guide helps you plan your move from the Golden State to the Copper State. If you’re looking for moving quotes from reliable, cross-country movers, be sure to fill out the quote form! We offer free quotes from licensed, insured moving companies who can make your move easy.