7 Sneaky Costs of Moving to a New State

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When you’re moving to a new state, it’s easy to focus on the immediate costs of moving and forget to research the sneaky costs that might be awaiting you in your new state.

What are sneaky costs exactly?

Sneaky costs are those pesky, often ongoing costs of living in a certain place that are infuriatingly easy to overlook. But every state has its quirks, and the odds are pretty good the state you’re moving to has at least some sneaky costs!

So, how can you avoid sneaky-cost sticker shock in your new state?

Your best line of defense is to do a little sleuthing ahead of your move, so that you can prepare and plan your budget accordingly.

Fortunately, with this handy list of 7 sneaky costs to research before you move to a new state, you can do just that.

Happy sleuthing!

Car registration fees

Of all the sneaky costs to be wary of when moving to a new state, this one is perhaps the sneakiest! I had absolutely no clue how much cash we’d have to cough up to register our 2014 Toyota in Iowa: $600 initially and then another $250/year to renew it – which felt like highway robbery after paying $70/year in Texas! The difference is that Iowa bases their renewal fee on a percentage of the list price of the car, while Texas has a flat rate.

Depending on what the state bases their fees on and how often they collect them, car registration renewal costs vary wildly from super affordable to jaw-droppingly expensive. Some states use really elaborate formulas to arrive at their cost, basing it on the car’s weight or age, taxable value, purchase date, or any number of other factors. Most states’ car registration fees fall somewhere in the middle.

You can check out for yourself which U.S. states and Canadian provinces have the highest and lowest car registration (and title) fees here.

Homeowners insurance

Average homeowners insurance premiums are much higher in some states than in others. The states with the highest susceptibility to natural disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes also have the highest homeowners insurance rates. These states include Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. The average cost for home insurance in 2019 ranged from about $600 in Oregon to $2,000 in Florida. To find out the average cost of homeowners insurance in each state, click here.

Health insurance

Like homeowners insurance, a multitude of factors play into this sneaky cost; however, location is a primary consideration. Health insurance companies determine the policies and cost of coverage based on the state and county you live in. For example, the average monthly cost for health insurance for a 21-year-old in 2019 ranged from $180 in Utah to $426 in Alaska. Curious to see the average cost of health insurance by state? You can check that out here.

Gasoline

Gasoline prices fluctuate all the time no matter where you live. But overall prices for gasoline tend to be cheaper in southern and southeastern states and more expensive on the West Coast and in Hawaii and Alaska. In 2019, gasoline prices ranged from $2.35 to $3.77 per gallon, depending on which state you’re in. You can get up to date gasoline prices for all states here.

State income taxes

Before you move, it’s a good idea to get a handle on how much of a tax bite – if any – a state is going to gobble out of your income every year. Seven states have no income tax:  Texas, Florida, Washington, Nevada, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Alaska. 2019 individual income tax rates for the remaining U.S. states range from 2% (on interest and income dividends only) in Tennessee to 13.3% in Hawaii. You can find the 2019 income tax rates for each U.S. state here and for Canadian provinces and territories here.

Utilities

Electricity and natural gas costs also vary by state – sometimes by a substantial margin. Similar to gasoline prices, residential electric costs tend to be lower in southern states and higher in West Coast states, Hawaii and Alaska. Although there are exceptions (New Hampshire and Maine), natural gas costs are considerably higher in states with warmer climates. In 2017, Hawaii’s cost for natural gas was a whopping $38.88 per 1000 cubic feet, compared to the next-highest state rate of $21.15 per 1000 cubic feet in Florida. Both electricity and natural gas prices fluctuate, but you’ll find up-to-date costs by state for electricity here and natural gas here.

Toll roads and bridges

Like gasoline, this sneaky cost may not be as much of a concern if you don’t drive around a lot. But if you do, tolls can be steep and can add up over time, so it’s best to know what you’re getting yourself in for. I couldn’t believe my eyes recently when I saw the toll for the Golden Gate Bridge was $8.00! I remember when it was $1.00 a loooong time ago – and yeah, I know, inflation and all that, but really?! If you had to cross the bridge every workday, you’d spend $160 on tolls every month. That’s nuts! It’s also easy to forget just how commonplace toll roads have become. Only one state does not have any toll roads, and that’s Nevada. Want to check out toll roads and bridges by state? You can do that here.

Want a companion tool for your online research?

Still researching prospective locations to move? Grab the free PlaceFinding Cheat Sheet, and get a comprehensive reference list of community data points to help guide your online research.

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About the Author

I founded Your Place Finder in 2017 to help retirees and almost retirees like you anticipate and overcome the pitfalls and challenges – and reap the rich rewards – of finding the perfect location to move for retirement.

6 Comments

  1. Candace Berlin on Sep 6, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    Very concise information! I like being prepared as a move to another state takes a lot of thought. My sister and I want to move back to our hometown in Michigan next year. She lives in Oregon and I live in Florida. As we would be on the border of Wisconsin and could live across the border in the connecting town so I will have to see which state would be best for two senior citizens!
    Thank you so much for such amazing information!

    • Margaret on Sep 6, 2019 at 8:59 pm

      Hi Candace! I really appreciate your thoughts. Yes, moving to another state requires quite a bit of planning and preparation! How exciting that you and your sister are moving back to Michigan – or Wisconsin? Please let me know if there’s any way I can help you decide which state is the best fit for you. Thanks again for sharing with me!

  2. Jas on Aug 22, 2020 at 1:14 am

    This was great information that I hadn’t even thought about. I am planning to move with my sons from Texas to Washington in June/July. I’m trying to have everything set up beforehand, but it is still scary moving alone with two sons. Thanks for the information!

    • Margaret on Aug 22, 2020 at 2:50 pm

      Hi Jas! I’m so glad you found my article informative. And I’m so excited for you that you’re making the move from Texas to Washington. Moving can definitely be scary, but you got this!! All my best – and thanks for sharing!!

  3. Robbie on Aug 28, 2020 at 8:30 pm

    I am trying to decide on retirement between North Carolina and South Carolina. Is one less expensive?

    • Margaret on Aug 28, 2020 at 10:29 pm

      Hi Robbie, thanks so much for your comment! Off the top of my head, I’m not sure if North or South Carolina is less expensive. The links in this article are a good place for you to start. Look up all the “sneaky” costs listed here and compare the prices in North Carolina and South Carolina. That may tip you off as to which state is more affordable. Thanks again!

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