California and Florida have a LOT in common – miles of uninterrupted coastline, fantastic beaches, warm climates, and a shared love of all things Disney and Harry Potter. So, it comes as no surprise that many CA residents ultimately make a move to FL.
Many people confuse the Golden State with the Sunshine State, and it’s understandable with all their similarities. However, there are significant differences between the two states that can make a huge difference in your quality of life. With the shortest distance between CA and FL at 3,000 miles, it is a decision you should fully explore before you go quitting your job. We’re here to help!
Should I Move to Florida? What to Know Before Relocating
Here are some of the things you should know about before moving from the Golden State to the Sunshine state:
Climate & Natural Disasters
At first glance, the weather in both places might seem similar. After all, these two states are both known for their sunny beaches. However, California tends to have a drier, sometimes cool climate that feels more refreshing than the wet humidity of Florida’s tropical environment. That humidity also makes Florida highly temperamental, with fierce storms making a fast appearance most afternoons. Florida’s more southerly location does ensure balmy temps nearly year-round, while California, with its mountain ranges and valleys, can become incredibly cold in the winter.
The two different climates also attract two very different kinds of natural disaster. While California has been dominating the evening news with its searing wildfires, Florida welcomes another type of storm that strikes much more often – the hurricane. Both states have seen incredible damage from their respective natural disasters just in the last year.
Given Florida’s extreme storms, it might be difficult for Californians to trade one natural catastrophe for another. However, the state is typically well-prepared when storms do strike. As Florida resident, Ron Stack of Zeus Press writes about 2017’s Hurricane Irma, “FPL’s preparations for the storm were impressive, and its effort to restore power were successful and amazingly fast.” And besides, with Californians accustomed to random earthquakes striking with seconds, there’s a lot to be gained by a hurricane’s advanced tracking, even if they hit more often.
Cost of Living
Florida may not be the very cheapest state, but with California ranking as the second most expensive place to live in the United States, Florida’s lower cost of living emerges as the clear winner in this contest.
For starters, Florida does not assess a state income tax, which provides a huge relief when compared to California’s 13 percent tax rate. Florida’s property taxes are a touch higher (1.06 percent compared to California’s 0.81 percent), but Floridian governments have been regularly praised for their transparency in billing and taxation, itemizing important details and state plans on each customer’s bill. Finally, Florida’s sales tax is much lower at 6 percent, compared to California’s sales tax of 8 percent and climbing.
Florida is not only more affordable, but work is more plentiful on the East Coast as well. Florida surpasses California regarding employment rates (in FL the unemployment rate is just 3.8% compared to CA’s 4.2% as of November 2018). Many job seekers are fleeing the Golden State in search of work and more affordable living.
The cherry on top? Not only does California charge way more in taxes and spend more on its highway department, but its roads are much worse than those in Florida. Regarding road conditions, Florida comes in at 11th in the country, while California came in near last. You can look forward to a smoother commute to a better job in an affordable paradise.
Those smooth Florida roads also provide convenient access to several quick, same-day getaways, while an in-state trip in California could still translate to a pricey flight.
Prefer to drive? Gas is more expensive in California too. Gas averages around $3 per gallon, compared to Florida’s average $2.31 per gallon rate. Florida also does not require any annual emission checks, and while that should be a concern, surprisingly the air is much cleaner than that in California.
And there’s plenty to do! Florida offers Disney, the Everglades, the Keys, Kennedy Space Center, Miami’s Little Havana, and the Daytona International Speedway – all within state lines. Because of this, it’s no surprise that Florida tourism soars from year to year, encouraging a flourishing local economy.
Both Florida and California are part of an elite club called the Mega-States by the National Center for Education Statistics due to their large size. According to NCES, these mega-states “now serve more than half of the nation’s English language learners (ELL), as well as some of the largest concentrations of children from lower-income families.” Immigration is also higher in these states, contributing to climbing population numbers. California has 1.5 million ELL students, more than double the amount of any other state, mega or otherwise. That gives Florida educators more resources than a state stretched as thin as California.
Both Florida and California are revered for their educational programs, but California universities are considerably more affordable than Florida colleges. In the 2018 ranking of Best High Schools, California earned second place while Florida trailed in fourth. That’s a far cry from a 2015 Forbes article, which spotlighted K-12 education in several states, including California and Florida. Florida’s standardized test scores hover around average, while California’s scores fell significantly below average. California had the worst scores of all five states surveyed. California also had the highest ratio of teachers to students, and yet, California boasts a 78 percent graduation rate, which Florida trails at 75 percent.
Health & Crime
Health care is slightly better in Florida, but the states are almost neck and neck when it comes to crime rates, with California placing marginally better than Florida.
California exercises more restrictions on guns than Florida. Florida, meanwhile, does not require the registration of firearms, and assault weapons are entirely legal for its residents. The state only prohibits illegally owned, fully automatic weapons and machine guns. The NRA shows that Florida less restrictive gun laws unless it’s regarding an adult who is “a convicted felon, a domestic abuser, drug addict, alcoholic or mentally incompetent.” California, on the other hand, is significantly stricter in their gun laws, among the toughest in the country, banning all assault weapons and certain rifles and magazines. For those who support the 2nd amendment, Florida may be the place for you.
Both Florida and California share many similarities in their relaxed, beachy lifestyle, so it’s easy to how people can make the jump from the West to East Coast. Since Florida’s cost of living significantly lower than California, most find that the arduous move is well worth the reward. Florida’s warmer weather and moderate waters year-round promote a healthy, outdoor lifestyle, coupled with endless opportunities for exploration, fun, and culture. The kids will have better schools, you’ll save on a cheaper, smoother commute, and your weekends are yours to explore everything that makes Florida your private paradise.
Where Should I Live in Florida? Best Places to Call Home in the Sunshine State
Never-ending summer. Warm waters 365 days year. With award-winning beaches from 30A to Key West, Florida’s beaches took 7 of the top 10 spots for America’s very best beaches! It’s no surprise that many of the world’s billionaires (including our very own President!) choose to make Florida home, with Forbes naming places like Palm Beach and Miami’s Fisher Island among the wealthiest communities in the country. There’s so much to enjoy that it’s a struggle to choose where to settle down and plant your roots. From the Panhandle to the Keys, let’s explore the best of Florida’s bustling communities!
Population: 2.8 million
Popular Areas: Harbour Island, Channelside, Clearwater, St. Petersburg
Sunny Tampa Bay is a tourism and finance hub situated on Florida’s Gulf Coast between neighboring Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Home to the nation’s top-ranked beaches, annual MLB spring training, and historic Ybor City, this cultural melting pot offers no shortage of sights to see. Also, nearby you’ll find the Hard Rock Café and Casino, multiple theme parks, museums, and incredible shopping. Be sure to sample the local’s pick, freshly caught grouper!
Although the crime rate here may rank among the higher half of the state, it is important to note the majority are nonviolent property crimes, making the Tampa Bay area much safer than other urban cities like Orlando and Miami. A family-friendly area, Tampa Bay excels academically as well, with nearby Pinellas County closely trailing Tampa’s 125 schools in Hillsborough County, which enrolls half of Tampa’s population. In May of 2018, The Tampa Bay Times noted that ten of its area schools were ranked best in the state by US News & World Report.
And, with credit to the low unemployment rate, graduates go on to enjoy thriving careers with Tampa Bay’s top employers: Grow Financial Federal Credit Union, TradeWinds Island Resort, GTE Financial, and Capital One – to name a few.
Population: approximately 27,000, to include neighboring islands
Popular Areas: Old Town, Bahama Village, Historic Seaport, Casa Marina
When you’re known for Jimmy Buffett and Margaritaville, you’re known for a party. That’s why it is no surprise that this petite paradise on the Southern tip of the state serves as a trendy port of call for cruise ships and a top destination for tourists.
However, it still comes as a surprise to find that Key West ranks within the top 20% of worst crime rates in Florida, and among the worst in America when you compare the amount of crime to its diminutive size, says Neighborhood Scout. High crime rates are undoubtedly a direct result of the traffic constantly coming through town.
There are only 23 schools on the island, including eight private institutions. One of those private schools, Sigsbee Charter School, ranks among Zillow’s top-rated schools in the country.
Like most towns, the top employers in town local government and utility services, but private employers include Publix and Lower Keys Medical Center, in addition to tourist hotspots like Ocean Reef Club and Casa Marina/Beach Resort.
Tour the Naval Air Station Key West for naval training exercises or visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, a quaint nod to the author’s favorite getaway. In-town features include Mallory Square and Duval Street. And finally, don’t forget about the remarkable water tours – a champagne catamaran cruise at sunset is the perfect way to cap off a day spent snorkeling and scuba diving.
Popular Areas: Farndale/Beacon Beach, Pine Log and Seminole Hills, and Delwood/Magnolia Beach
Nestled in the northwest pocket of Florida’s Panhandle, Panama City packs a punch. Lots of tourism means lots of traffic, which translates to more crime, and Panama City falls is within the top 4% of violent crime in the entire state. However, with the Navy, Air Force, and one of the nation’s biggest Coast Guard posts all taking up residence in town, response rates are impressive, and a helping hand is always nearby.
With 120 schools in town, the high schools are average. However, the area’s charter schools shine. With top ranking scores, it’s an area rich in academia, as Zillow shows nearby Gulf county Ranks even higher than Bay County on the national scale, and Calhoun County even higher than that (which is excellent, since Bay County only enrolls 33 percent of Panama City population).
As to be expected, the military and local government are top employers in Panama City; Bay and Gulf Coast Medical Centers, Walmart, Eastern Shipbuilding, and BookIt.com also top the list of local employers.
Panama City is famous for the typical water-based activities found in Florida, but there’s plenty more to do. Hit Pier Park for some shopping and hang out at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park. Panama City also has plenty to wet your whistle, most notably Panama City Beach Winery and Nivol Brewery, which might help your nerves after hanging out with the real wolves at the Seacrest Wolf Preserve.
Population: over 463,000
Popular Areas: Little Havana, City Center, Jones College-Miami Campus, SW 142nd Ave/SW 56th St, SW 156th Pl/SW 55th Ter
Miami is a thriving community known around the world for its incredible culture, gorgeous beaches, and pulsing nightlife. With its huge population, it’s no surprise that it also holds one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. However, as US News notes, Miami today is significantly safer than the crime-laden ’70s and ’80s.
As large as it is, Miami demands a lot of schools – over 1200, to be exact. US News places five Miami schools within the state’s top 10, with one ranked second best in the state. Not surprisingly, Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the top employer in the county, but the private sector is dominated by medical companies like Baptist Health South Florida and Jackson Health System. Since Miami is a tourist stronghold, it’s no surprise that companies like American Airlines and Carnival Cruise Lines are also significant employers.
Miami has much to offer beyond the bright salsa clubs of Little Havana. The Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is beloved by academics, and Miami attracts sports enthusiasts from all around the world for annual spring training. There is also an intense devotion to football, with Miami producing the second-highest number of NFL players in the country!
Popular Areas: Lake Nona, Windemere/Winter Garden, Altamonte Springs
The land that Disney built. Like Miami, Orlando ranks high on both state and national criminal rankings, with a murder rate higher than the national average. It is also top-rated for motor vehicle theft in the country, which could be due to the constant tourist traffic.
There are over 650 schools in the Orlando area, with Orange County enrolling only 28 percent of Orlando residents. Top-rated Hillcrest Elementary School leads a smattering of decent middle schools and barely above-average high schools. Still, Zillow ranks Seminole as the best district, with over 60,000 students enrolled and yet only 15 students per teacher.
Just this July, Orlando Business Journal ranked the top employers in town. Of course, Disney topped the list with its many parks and resorts, but AdventHealth, Orange County Public Schools, and the University of Central Florida also rank high on the list.
If Disney fails to keep you occupied, there’s plenty more to see outside its golden gates. Nearby visitors delight in Sea World, Madame Tussauds, and the Kennedy Space Center. Visit International Drive and ICON Orlando for breathtaking views of the city, catch a live show, or hit the outlet malls. And a bonus? You’ll now enjoy resident discounts at several area attractions, including Disney!
Population: 1.5 million
Popular Areas: Downtown, Wellington, Delray Beach, Jupiter
Palm Beach is known for Tiger Woods and its love of golf. It’s also a ritzy, high-end area that is home to some of the world’s wealthiest individuals.
Despite the wealth, crime continues to be a regular problem, running very high on the national scale for both violent and property crime. The Palm Beach Post named two of its areas, Riviera Beach and Lake Worth, among the most dangerous in the country.
Palm Beach County’s Business Development Board shows the top employers in town include Florida Crystals Corporation, Sikorsky (a Lockheed Martin Company), Cheney Brothers, Pratt & Whitney, and TBC Corporation. Many companies, including ADT, house their headquarters here, as well.
When you’re not at the office, you can spend the day exploring the popular neighborhood of Worth Avenue or take the opportunity to mingle with wildlife at zoos and sanctuaries. Visit the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum and lounge on the famous Delray Beach. And don’t forget – Palm Beach is most beloved for golf, with more than 160 courses in “Florida’s Golf Capital.”
As illustrated here, there is no shortage of hotspots in Florida. While crime prevention continues to be an ongoing battle statewide, its usually in direct proportion to population and tends to cling to more urban areas with higher tourism.
Still, it fails to be a deterrent. With nearly 1,000 people moving to Florida each day, the state continues to grow and flourish, and it’s no surprise given all that Florida has to offer. As one of the most sought-after destinations in the country, its popularity is easily attributed to Florida’s natural beauty, growing employment, and affordable cost of living.
Moving to Florida Checklist | Tips for Your Coast-to-Coast Move
There is plenty you can do to minimize disruption and reduce costs during your cross-country move. A little preparation will go a LONG way, particularly when moving and unpacking, so let’s dig in!
Moving does not have to be a nightmare. Some careful planning can make all the difference with your upcoming move! Before you start, be sure to check in with your new place of employment. Many companies offer relocation assistance that could cover a sizeable chunk, if not all, of your moving expenses.
Even if your work doesn’t pitch in with the moving expenses, an experienced CPA may be able to find additional deductions and savings come tax time, so be sure to keep track of all your receipts. The government could end up reimbursing you for your moving expenses! Either way, you want to scope out the most budget-friendly way to move cross-country, and despite what you may be thinking, this isn’t the kind of move that you want to risk on a DIY experiment.
A professional moving service will have all the tools, experience, and labor to pull off your move affordably and conveniently. Be sure to carefully review your quotes to ensure that you have the best possible package for your needs; things like taxes, tolls, and miscellaneous charges can all add up and profoundly affect your bottom line.
We’ve all been there, standing in chaos and upheaval, our living space cluttered with moving boxes and memorabilia from days past. That old, familiar, all-encompassing feeling where you are utterly overwhelmed and have just one question echoing on repeat again and again:
“Where do I even begin?”
- First, change your approach. Think of this move as a massive spring cleaning, an opportunity to purge and start anew, and suddenly you will find that the entire process becomes a little easier to approach. Choose to view this event as an opportunity to ditch all the trash cluttering your life and mainstream your life before your move!
- You may desperately want to hang onto that nostalgic décor, but the chances are high that you’ll end up ditching it in the new state, anyway, in favor of something more locally-inspired.
- Also, don’t forget to rehome your plants. Not only are the travel conditions incredibly harsh for living organisms, but it’s illegal for moving companies to transport certain plants across state lines. Be sure to consult with your moving company, so it’s not a concern coming moving day.
But what to do with all these things you no longer need?
- Facebook Marketplace is the new Craig’s List and can help you sell your unwanted items for free. That could earn you a tidy sum to go toward those moving costs.
- Budget doing okay? Charities and churches always welcome donations, and they’re usually tax deductible too. (Don’t forget to keep those receipts!)
3. Start Packing
Even if you end up purging a lot of your belongings, there will still be plenty more to pack.
- Before you begin to feel overwhelmed, however, check out this great timeline we put together that helps you pack with as little disruption as possible to your household.
- Also, consider renting portable moving containers from your moving company. Not only could it be more cost effective, but they also double as storage containers before and after your move, cutting down on clutter and trash in your home while you pack and unpack. You will need to load and unload them yourself, but your movers will take care of all the transportation logistics for you.
- Of course, moving supplies are best when they’re free, and thankfully, it’s easy to find free moving supplies locally. Check popular online forums like Facebook Marketplace, Craig’s List, local shops, and liquor stores – even local schools and groceries! However, take extra care to select newer, sturdier boxes. A cross-country move is hard on your things, so it’s essential that all your moving supplies are in top shape to survive the long, bumpy journey. Wardrobe boxes are especially great because you save countless time and energy by keeping your clothes on the hangers. They make for quick, painless unpacking in the new place, too!
- And finally, make sure your movers are licensed and insured, particularly for this large and complicated a move. Moving brings enough activity as it is but driving clear across the country is an entirely different beast. Just think of all the potholes from California to Florida! Don’t worry, if you find movers through Great Guys, you can rest assured we’ve already put them through the vetting process to make sure they are licensed and insured!
4. Get Moving!
Some folks consider moving themselves – until they realize that they will have to navigate a truck with several thousand pounds of furniture down a slick mountain in the dead of night (keep in mind, you must cross the Rockies to move from the West to East Coast).
- Even in the best of conditions, a cross-country move can be incredibly challenging and dangerous, so it is always best to leave a cross-country move to the professionals. However, some flexibility on your move could translate to significant savings and incentives that could make it surprisingly affordable. Try to offer some flexibility with your moving dates when scheduling your move. There are certain times (such as summer when the kids are out of school) that create high demand and command inflated prices. Meanwhile, a mid-month, mid-week move could not only cost way less, but it could also mean more personalized attention and greater flexibility.
- Be sure to make special arrangements for anything that requires climate-controlled storage. Your move will bring unstable temperatures that may damage more sensitive items, so take special note of that vintage wine collection – you’ll be glad you did!
- Also, set aside a box or two with your more immediate necessities. Chargers, paperwork, linens, toilet paper, and medication are a few of the essential items you’ll always need on-hand. Mark these boxes accordingly and keep them stored in a safe, secure space away from all the moving hubbub.
And with that, you should be all set!
A coast-to-coast move is never easy, but there are ways to persevere, and Great Guys Moving is always here to help. A little planning goes a long way, and for the rest, you have us.