Best places to live in Florida in 2020

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Beaches, low taxes and a warm climate make a lot of areas in The Sunshine State an attractive place to put down roots. But when it comes to the best places to live in Florida in 2020, there are eight cities that stand out.

Port St. Lucie takes the top spot on our list. Located on the Atlantic side, it offers desirable traits like a relatively low cost of living, vibrant culture, high safety and a robust job market.

You’ll find other cities on this list situated along both the East and West coast, with the majority located in the lower half of the state. All of them offer sought-after qualities, but there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to each.

Whether you’re thinking about moving to Florida or already call it home, this list can help you find the best cities in Florida for your situation.

What to consider in a place to live

If sunshine and beaches are what you’re after, Florida has plenty to offer. Yet it takes some thought to figure out which part of the state is best for you. Along with subjective factors like climate and proximity to family, you’ll want to consider more objective traits like affordability, culture, job market, safety and education. It’s even important to look at how much a city is growing.

The cities on our list are some of the most populous and fastest-growing in the state. It’s important to keep in mind that there may be smaller places around these major metros that are equally or more desirable places to live, but this list of larger metros can serve as a starting place for your search.

Ito determine this list of top places in Florida, we measured:

Affordability: Here we considered housing expenses and the cost of living in each city compared to income.

Culture: Using Gallup’s research, we looked at well-being rankings for each community. In addition, we considered how each city compared in terms of activities, events, restaurants and nightlife.

Job market: Using data from the Census Bureau, we calculated each city’s unemployment rate and considered commute times.

Safety: Violent and property crime rates were measured and ranked by city using data from the FBI.

Educational attainment: Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was used to factor in the educational attainment of a city.

Net migration: Here we looked at the growth of a city using data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Here are the top eight places to live in Florida in 2020

1. Port St. Lucie

  • Affordability: 9 out of 10
  • Culture: 9 out of 10
  • Safety: 9 out of 10
  • Job Market: 8 out of 10
  • Education: 3 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Affordability/Culture

Biggest limitation: Job market

Sitting on the southeast side of the state, Port St. Lucie scores high in nearly every category. Culturally, it offers a relaxed atmosphere with plenty to do. Uncrowded beaches with free admission and free parking mark it as a top destination. But there’s also ample opportunity for outdoor activities on the water or on land, including boating, fishing, golfing and hiking. During the spring, it’s even the training grounds for the New York Mets baseball team. Though smaller than nearby Miami, the city is growing in population while maintaining a relatively low cost of living and high degree of safety. There’s also a bustling job market, making it more attractive to new residents.

2. Jacksonville

  • Affordability: 9 out of 10
  • Culture: 5 out of 10
  • Safety: 3 out of 10
  • Job Market: 7 out of 10
  • Education: 9 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Affordability/Education

Biggest limitation: Safety

Despite having one of the largest populations in the state, Jacksonville is one of the most affordable places to live, boasting reasonable housing prices and a low cost of living overall. It’s also well-educated, with a number of colleges and universities—including Florida State College at Jacksonville and the University of North Florida—calling the city home. Residents can enjoy access to waterways and outdoor activities. That’s in addition to a thriving theatre scene, an NFL football team, plenty of restaurants and a number of breweries. In terms of the job market, the Naval Air Station is one of the largest employers, but health and banking are also big industries—Bank of America, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Citi Bank and Baptist Health are all located in the area.

3. Cape Coral

  • Affordability: 8 out of 10
  • Culture: 9 out of 10
  • Safety: 9 out of 10
  • Job Market: 5 out of 10
  • Education: 4 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Culture/Safety

Biggest limitation: Education

Gulf Coast beaches, minimal crime and a low cost of living make Cape Coral one of the top places to live in Florida. This growing city in Southwest Florida offers many of the amenities you’d expect out of a beach town — watersports, boating and golf. But it also provides 400 miles of canals, several parks and numerous natural preserves. The job market is a bit lacking, but there are still a number of employers in the area for job seekers to choose from, including Lee Health, Publix Super Market, Walmart and Gartner Inc.

4. Fort Lauderdale

  • Affordability: 7 out of 10
  • Culture: 8 out of 10
  • Safety: 6 out of 10
  • Job Market: 6 out of 10
  • Education: 7 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Culture

Biggest limitation: Safety/Job market

Culturally, Fort Lauderdale has a lot to offer. White-sand beaches and 300 sunny days per year may be the main attractions, but citizens can also take advantage of nature activities, events, shopping, nightlife and an arts scene. However, there’s more than culture to Fort Lauderdale. It provides better-than-average safety and affordability with a decent job market and a high rate of educational attainment. Large employers in the area include American Express, Microsoft, Spirit Airlines and Marriott International.

5. Tampa-St. Petersburg

  • Affordability: 7 out of 10
  • Culture: 4 out of 10
  • Safety: 7 out of 10
  • Job Market: 9 out of 10
  • Education: 9 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Job market/Education

Biggest limitation: Culture

The Tampa-St. Petersburg area is a good place for job seekers. Along with being relatively affordable, it’s home to seven Fortune 500 companies, including Publix Super Markets, WellCare Health Plans and Raymond James Financial. Educational attainment is high in the area as well, with more than 50,000 students enrolled at the University of South Florida and more students are enrolled at other colleges and universities nearby. Compared with some other cities on our list, the area doesn’t get rated as high by residents for overall well-being, but that’s not to say there isn’t a decent culture. It has the amenities of a larger metropolitan area and the lifestyle of a beach town. For example, it’s possible to lounge on the beach and visit the Salvador Dali Museum  in St. Petersburg during the day and take a stroll on the Tampa Riverwalk at night.

6. Miami

  • Affordability: 7 out of 10
  • Culture: 8 out of 10
  • Safety: 3 out of 10
  • Job Market: 4 out of 10
  • Education: 9 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Education/Culture

Biggest limitation: Job market/Education

Miami is a major tourist destination and a hotbed for culture, offering residents both outdoor recreation and a vibrant nightlife. It’s a beach city, but you can also explore nearby natural areas like the Everglades and Biscayne National Park. Home to the University of Miami and Florida International University, the population is young and educated. And while the unemployment rate is relatively high compared to other cities on this list, job seekers can find several larger  companies in the area like Baptist Health and American Airlines.

7. Clearwater

  • Affordability: 6 out of 10
  • Culture: 8 out of 10
  • Safety: 8 out of 10
  • Job Market: 8 out of 10
  • Education: 5 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Culture/Job market

Biggest limitation: Education/Affordability

With miles of white-sand beaches and turquoise water, it’s not surprising that Clearwater ranks high for culture and well-being. Of course, it’s not just the Gulf Coast that makes this town attractive. Activities like boating, watersports, dolphin watching, shopping and dining add to its allure. In addition to culture, there’s a solid job market. That could be because it’s close to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, which is host to a number of Fortune 500 companies. While a bigger portion of residents’ paychecks go towards cost of living expenses in Clearwater, housing prices are slightly below average overall.

8. Orlando

  • Affordability: 5 out of 10
  • Culture: 5 out of 10
  • Safety: 4 out of 10
  • Job Market: 9 out of 10
  • Education: 8 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Job market

Biggest limitation: Safety

As you might expect, the home of Walt Disney World and Universal Studios has a booming job market, making it one of the best to move to in Florida. However, the Orlando job market doesn’t rely solely on the tourist industry. It’s also host to major employers like Darden Restaurants, AAA, Tupperware Brands and Wyndham Destinations. You’ll also find a high degree of educational attainment in this central-Florida city, with more than 69,000 students enrolled at the University of Central Florida. It gets a lower well-being score than other places on the list. Yet because it’s a major tourist destination, there’s still an abundance of things to do. Residents have the opportunity to explore theme parks, restaurants, shopping, nightlife and more.

Next steps

Once you find your best place to live, you may want to buy a home there. Mortgage rates have seldom been lower and lenders have loosened their requirements for getting a home loan. What’s more, there are state and local programs to help first-time homebuyers get a place of their own with little or even no money down. Bankrate has resources to help with every step of the homebuying process.