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A man is crossing a busy street in Washington, D.C., on a summer day. In the background, the U.S. Capitol can be seen above the trees.

Pros and Cons of Living in Washington, D.C. — Is the Nation’s Capital the Right Place for You?

Washington DC

by Matt Lyons Posted on May 14, 2024

Washington, D.C., may be most popular for its government influence and historical significance, but there’s so much more to the nation’s capital that makes it one of the best cities to reside in the nation. Filled with young professionals, families, and retirees alike, there are plenty of reasons why you may be considering a move there. But just like any city, there are pros and cons of living in Washington, D.C. Here, we’ll take a look at some of these pros and cons to help you decide if a move to D.C. is the right move for you. 

Planning a move to D.C.? Start by getting a quote from PODS.

Fun Facts You Should Know About Washington, D.C.

Fun Facts You Should Know About Washington, D.C.

The reasons to live in D.C. are plenty, but there are going to be some downsides that are important to consider, as well. Before you make the big move, take a look at these top pros and cons of living in Washington, D.C.

A man’s silhouette is seen between two massive columns at the entrance to the Lincoln Memorial during sunrise.

The National Mall is where most of Washington, D.C.'s, attractions are located, including the Lincoln Memorial (pictured).

Pro: D.C.’s Architecture Is Unique and One of a Kind

Although the National Mall in D.C. consists of a lot of things, it’s not actually a real mall! Instead, it's a national park that’s home to various notable landmarks, like the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol building. Into photography? You’ll definitely get some amazing shots here!

Con: The High Cost of Living Can Be Overwhelming

Out of all the pros and cons of living in Washington, D.C., you may find that the high cost of living is one of the most difficult to adjust to. With a cost of living index score of 151.9, the cost of living in Washington, D.C., is more than 50 percent higher than the U.S. average. And when looking at other nearby cities like Baltimore and Richmond, their costs of living are much lower than D.C., coming in at 92.6 and 95.2, respectively.

Living in D.C. is still more affordable than other cities in the Northeast, though. When comparing living in D.C. vs. NYC, for example, NYC has a higher cost of living score of 172.5, coming in at over 70 percent above the U.S. average and more than 20 percent above D.C.’s. To put it in perspective, a single adult could live comfortably off around $70,000 before taxes in NYC, compared to just around $50,000 before taxes in D.C.

Pro: It’s Not Hard To Fall in Love With the City’s Charm

Living in D.C. means you’ll reside in a place that has lots of character. You can see the Greek and Roman influence in the architecture of The National Mall, for example, along with the various government buildings in the area. Or you can admire the unique row houses that date back to the 1800s along cobblestone streets in Old Town Alexandria. And that’s just scratching the surface!

Con: The Summer Weather Is Not Always Pleasant

The city experiences hot and humid weather during the summer, with temperatures reaching over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Thunderstorms are also common due to the combination of the heat and humidity.

There is also a high likelihood that you will encounter a few bugs during your time in D.C. — especially during the summer — such as ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, and bed bugs. In fact, the area has actually been named the seventh most bed bug-infested city in the country!

A woman with a bicycle is about to board a metro train in Washington, D.C.

D.C.’s subway system is more reliable and cleaner than that of other major cities in the U.S.
(Source: Metro Forward via Facebook)

Pro: Public Transportation Is Not Hard To Come By

Although smaller than New York City's subway, D.C.'s subway system is more reliable and cleaner than that of other major cities in the U.S. If you live in either Arlington, VA, or D.C. proper, you can still walk to the nearest station using the city's six metro lines. If you're in the center of the city, you'll likely be around a 5-minute walk away from the nearest station.

Besides the subway system, numerous bus routes connect the central and outer portions of the city. 

And with major cities close by, such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, and NYC, you have plenty of options if you‘re in the mood for a road trip. 

  • Commute to Baltimore: 1 hour
  • Commute to Philadelphia: 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Commute to NYC: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Con: There Are Safety Concerns in a Big City

Unfortunately, the crime rate index in Washington, D.C., is a 4. That means it’s only safer than 4 percent of other cities in the U.S. (100 is the safest), according to NeighborhoodScout. There are 60 crimes per 1,000 residents, which is among the highest in the nation. Residents also have a 1 in 24 chance of becoming a victim of either property or violent crime. If you’re thinking about making a move to the D.C. area, you’ll definitely want to keep this in mind when looking for a safe place to settle down.

Pro: There Are Job Opportunities Everywhere

The D.C. area has a wide variety of employment opportunities in various fields. As the nation's capital, the federal government is, unsurprisingly, the largest employer in the area, and it offers positions in public service and policy-making. In addition to being a major financial center, D.C. also boasts a flourishing healthcare sector, as well as an expanding tech community with numerous firms and startups. Needless to say, D.C. is an appealing location for individuals seeking professional growth and advancement.

Con: You May Face Some Stiff Competition in the Workforce

In D.C., there is a lot of competition in the workforce. Long hours are standard, and people are always striving to be better than their counterparts. This type of environment can easily burn you out, if you’re not focused on having a good work/life balance.

A delicious display of Maine Lobster and caviar arranged on a plate of ice chips at Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, D.C.

Some of the city's most prominent dining establishments include Old Ebbitt Grill (pictured) and Ben's Chili Bowl.
(Source: Old Ebbitt Grill via Facebook)

Pro: Foodies Will Enjoy a Vibrant and Diverse Food Scene

Washington, D.C., has a vibrant and diverse food scene that includes places that serve traditional American dishes as well as international cuisines. Whether you're craving a quick bite or a fancy dinner, there is something for everyone! Some of the city's most prominent establishments include Old Ebbitt Grill and Ben's Chili Bowl.

Con: D.C. Noise Pollution Can Be Disruptive

The vibrant and bustling urban center of D.C. is known for its noise pollution, which is caused by various activities such as construction sites, traffic, and nightlife venues. Residents living in certain parts of the city have undoubtedly become accustomed to these excessive noise levels, but they can certainly have an effect on your well-being and quality of life. To minimize the impact of the noise pollution, you may want to seek out a quieter neighborhood and implement sound-mitigation measures.

Pro: You Can Embark on Plenty of Outdoor Adventures

The District of Columbia has plenty of outdoor spaces to enjoy. Some of these include Rock Creek Park, which spans more than 1,750 acres, and the C&O Canal Towpath, which is a popular trail for joggers and cyclists. Other green areas in the region include the National Arboretum and Kenilworth Park. The Potomac River is also used for a wide range of water sports, such as canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. 

The view down an icy thoroughfare toward the U.S. Capitol on a snowy day in Washington, D.C.

The city's famous monuments add a bit of magic to the area's wintry landscape when they're covered in snow.

Con: Winter Weather Can Limit Outdoor Activities

Even though D.C. is famous for its vibrant winter season, the weather can still get very harsh, at times. The area experiences snow, ice, and very low temperatures. Because of this, it can be hard to conduct daily activities, and residents exercise caution when out and about. The silver lining? The city's famous monuments add a bit of magic to the area's landscape when they're covered in snow! Also, the city tends to be much less touristy during the winter months. 

Pro: You Can’t Go Wrong With the Amazing Neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.

What is it like living in Washington, D.C.? Well, you’ll have your pick of vibrant and unique neighborhoods that are full of character and charm. You can also always expect to find plenty of shopping, entertainment, and dining options nearby, and you can choose from an array of diverse communities that provide a sense of belonging. Basically, there's a neighborhood for everyone, whether you're looking for a more laid-back vibe or an urban setting.

Located north of Dupont Circle and downtown, Washington, D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood is an ideal area for young professionals. It's known for its vibrant nightlife and is home to some of the city's best brunch spots.

This neighborhood features a variety of architecture, and there are several historic townhouses with varying styles and colors, as well as new construction homes and apartment complexes. The area's central corridor, 18th Street, is where most of the neighborhood's nightlife takes place. There are plenty of bars and restaurants, as well as international eateries, falafel, and pizza spots.

In addition to being one of the best neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., Georgetown is another top neighborhood that is also one of the most beautiful areas in the city. This neighborhood features old-timey architecture and a view of the Potomac River. Check out the Georgetown Waterfront Park for some amazing panoramic views!

A row of colorful brick row houses in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

The average home value in D.C. is approximately $622,000. However, in more expensive neighborhoods like Burleith and Georgetown (pictured), the average jumps to nearly $1.5 million.

Con: Home Prices Might Not Match Your Budget

With an average home value of around $622,000, it may be difficult to find a home that suits all of your needs and also aligns with your budget. Rent prices in D.C. are also quite high, with a monthly average of around $2,400 for a one-bedroom apartment. 

If you’re looking to find the best deals on homes, you may want to look in a city nearby like Baltimore, which offers much more affordable rates overall. The average home value in Baltimore, for example, is just around $187,200. 

Pro: Cars Are an Advantage But Not a Necessity 

Even some cities with public transit still require a car to get around (we’re looking at you, West Coast), but that’s not the case in D.C. In addition to its transit options, Washington, D.C., is also very walkable and bikeable. In fact, the city is home to the Great American Rail-Trail, along with over 150 miles of lanes and trails. Don’t own a bike? You can rent one through Capital Bikeshare for $8 for a day pass. There are over 6,000 bikes and 600 stations in the city!

Con: Using a Car Comes With the Price of Dealing With Traffic

If you do want to have a car in D.C., you should know that the city has been ranked the third-most congested city in the U.S. — and it gets worse during the tourist season. You might want to consider living in a neighborhood that’s close to your workplace. That way, you can avoid the rush-hour traffic and get around efficiently. Public transportation is also more reliable and efficient than using a car.

Pro: You’ll Never Be Bored in D.C.

Washington, D.C., has a wide variety of culture and heritage that people can enjoy, and music and literature are also quite popular. Notable musician Ruth Brown came to D.C. to further her music career, for example, and later won both a Grammy and Tony Award.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but the White House is one of the most prominent attractions in Washington, D.C. People can tour the Visitor Center and see exhibits about its history, including a model of the house. In addition, you can take a guided tour of the Capitol building to learn about its operations and history.

Tourists gather around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., to admire the cherry blossoms.

The arrival of the cherry blossoms in March is a time for celebration, as tourists from all around the world come to see the trees bloom.

Con: Tourists Can Make Navigating the City Challenging

Out of the top pros and cons of living in Washington, D.C., the cherry blossoms are a natural charm hard not to fall in love with! The arrival of the cherry blossoms in March is a time for celebration, as tourists from all around the world come to see the trees bloom. And although it's not predictable exactly when the blossoms will appear, it's usually around the last week of March and into the first week of April. 

The National Mall is one of the most prominent spots where you can view the blossoms, but it can also quickly become one of the most crowded spots. The spring and summers get especially hectic with the typical tourism in D.C., as well.

Pro: Students and Young Professionals Have It All

D.C. has some of the country’s most prestigious schools and colleges, including Howard University, Georgetown University, and American University. There are numerous job opportunities in Washington, D.C., for young professionals and students looking to expand their careers, and the city has various sectors that are open to candidates, such as government, non-profit, private, and business.

There are plenty of bars in the area of Dupont Circle that are great for a night out (Old Glory is one of the best rooftop bars you can choose from!). In addition, there are plenty of music events happening at spots such as the Capital One Arena and the 9:30 Club.

Families raising young children within the D.C. area can also rely on top-notch public school districts, including Washington Latin PCS, E.L. Haynes PCS, and KIPP DC Public Schools.

Con: Wealth Inequality Is Certainly Apparent

Despite the abundance of job opportunities in the D.C. region, the cost of living remains high. A lot of wealthier residents do live in the area, but there is still a high number of lower-income individuals, as well. From one area to another, people living in the same block may come from completely different walks of life. Make the most out of the opportunities provided by the city and settle down where you feel most comfortable!

FAQs About Living in D.C.

Q: What are the downsides of living in D.C.?
A:
High cost of living, crowded streets, and humid summer weather are some of D.C.’s major downsides. 

Q: Is Washington, D.C., good for living?
A:
With plenty of charming and safe neighborhoods to choose from, Washington, D.C., is a great place for people at any stage of life to call home.

Q: What salary do you need to live in D.C.?
A:
According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, singles should make about $50,000 before taxes annually to live comfortably in D.C.

Q: What is the quality of life in Washington, D.C.?
A:
You can have a great quality of life in D.C., with access to a variety of top-notch jobs, museums, historical activities, and more. 

Washington. D.C., is truly the land of opportunity, encompassing an area surrounded by all walks of life. Whether it’s because of the historical significance, educational opportunities, walkability, or diverse cuisine — to name a few perks — it’s hard not to fall in love with the city, even after weighing all the pros and cons of living in Washington, D.C. 

A family of four is closing the door to the loaded PODS portable moving container in their driveway.

PODS will deliver a portable moving container right to your driveway for convenient packing and loading. Once you’re ready, PODS will pick it up and deliver it to your new D.C. residence.

Moves to Washington, D.C. Are Done the Right Way With PODS

Figuring out a moving plan can certainly be stressful, but PODS can help you get the job done easily and efficiently. Once you’ve considered all of the pros and cons of living in Washington, D.C., and decided to make the move, you can have a portable moving container delivered right to your driveway, where you can pack and load your belongings on your own time. And once you’re ready, PODS will pick it up and deliver it to your new D.C. residence. An added bonus? PODS City Service is also available in Washington, D.C., so you won’t have to worry about driving through the crowded streets and dealing with parking! 

Editor’s note: For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.

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