Does it feel frustrating being hemmed in among too much concrete in the shadows of New York City’s skyscrapers and high rises? If you’re yearning to see more sky and open space, Washington DC, four hours south of Manhattan, is a great choice. You’ll have similar weather and lifestyle opportunities, but with less concrete and access to more open sky, parks, grass, and greenspaces. Add the perks of a lower cost of living, less density, and outstanding cultural offerings, and Washington DC may just be the right city for you.

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What to Know About Moving from NYC to DC

Here are some things to consider before pulling up your roots and heading south to Washington.

Housing and Cost of Living

Whether you rent or buy, you’ll save big on housing in DC. The median home cost in the nation’s capital is $556,700 compared to $680,500 in NYC. A two-bedroom apartment in NYC runs an average of $2,049 monthly while in DC, you’ll pay an average of $1,665.

Moving to DC from NYC will also mean significantly lower living expenses. Overall, your cost of living will be almost 32% less in DC. Your food and grocery costs will be about the same in both cities, but in DC, you’ll save about 43% on utilities, 42% on transportation, and 27% on health care costs. 

Taxes

Your NYC sales tax rate runs an average of 8.875%, but in DC, the sales tax rate is 5.8%. This differential can add up to significant savings over time. The Washington DC income tax rate is 6.5%, whereas New York’s progressive state income tax rate is between 4 and 8.82%.

And if you choose to buy a home in DC, you’ll pay some of the lowest property tax rates in the nation. DC assesses a 0.545% tax on assessed value. So, if you purchase a home valued at $600,000, your annual tax would be $3,270. 

Economy and Job Growth

In terms of job sectors, one of the most significant differences between NYC and DC is that the majority of DC jobs are in the federal government, federally-funded contracting, or non-profit sectors. Key industries that drive the DC economy are federal government technology, construction, international business, and tourism and hospitality. DC is the biggest consumer of tech equipment and services in the world. 

In 2019, DC job market growth, at 1.8%, was about three times stronger than NYC’s 0.5% growth. In the nation’s capital, job growth over the next ten years is forecast at 33.7%, while in NYC, it’s predicted to be 30.7%. And in Washington DC, the family median income of $95,995 is higher than New York City’s $64,565. 

Transportation and Traffic

In the Big Apple, 57% of residents use public transportation. But DC is a more car-oriented city, and with more residents using their wheels to get to work, the roadways and freeways experience frequent congestion. In DC, 35% take public transit, 34% drive alone in their car, 13% walk, and 5% cycle to work. 

Because commuting can eat up a lot of your precious time, you’ll want to know how a DC commute stacks up against NYC’s. On average, a DC one-way commute takes 30 minutes compared to the average 41 minutes NYC residents spend on their trip to work. 

Although cleaner than the NYC subway, The DC Metrorail closes nightly, is slow, and doesn’t access many outlying areas. NYC’s transit operates on a flat fee with free connection to busses, but in DC, you pay based on entry and exit points. A plus to living in DC with a car is that in just an hour, you can be cruising and exploring gorgeous backcountry roads. In NYC, it takes twice as long to get out into the sticks because you’re spending your first two hours navigating through the suburbs. 

If your preferred form of transportation is cycling, you’ll find DC is pretty bike-friendly. Many neighborhoods are walkable, too. For example, Dupont Circle, a community just north of Downtown, has a 98 walk score, 96 transit score, and 92 bike score. Foggy Bottom scores 92 for walking, 81 for transit, and 85 for cycling. You can check the walk, transportation, and bike scores for neighborhoods you’re interested in at walkscore.com.

If you’re an air commuter, three major airports serve DC: Dulles International Airport (IAD), Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

Weather and Climate

You can plan on DC’s and NYC’s weather and climate to be similar, although DC summers will run about 5°F warmer than those in NYC. In DC, the average July high is 89 while in NYC, it’s 84. New York averages a January low of 26° F, and in DC, the average January low is 27, but with less snow. Your DC winter will be a bit shorter too. Winter starts about two weeks after NYC’s, and spring pops out about two weeks earlier.

In DC, you won’t deal with as much snow as in New York City.  Storms bring about 14” compared to New York City’s 25”. Rainfall amounts are relatively comparable in both cities: 47” in NYC and 43” in DC.

Crime

DC crime rates are high. Based on a US average of 35.4 for property crime, in DC property crime is 63.9. In NY, it’s significantly lower at 25. The US average for violent crime is 22.7, and in DC, it’s 56.2, compared to New York City’s 28.2.

As with all big cities, you’ll find a spectrum of extremely safe DC neighborhoods and others with high crime rates. As you investigate various communities, be sure to check the crime info. This map will get you started with updates on types of crimes, the date, time of occurrence, and location.

Culture, Diversity, and Demographics

DC has public and private museums galore, and most are free. In NYC, you almost always pay an entrance fee. And for history buffs, DC is a paradise bar none.

While NYC is a late-night city, DC isn’t. DC residents enjoy a much more active happy-hour scene, then go home earlier. You’ll find plenty of cocktail lounges, bars, and clubs around Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, and U and H Streets, but the variety and number pale to NYC standards. And compared to many US cities, DC cuisine is fantastic, but it just doesn’t match up when compared to NYC. 

A more significant proportion of DC residents are African-American than in NYC, and the Big Apple has a larger percentage of Hispanic and Asian-American residents. With the majority in DC either African American or White, there isn’t the wide diversity you experience in NYC.

NYC is the nation’s economic capital, whereas DC is the political capital, which society reflects. The DC focus centers on public service, social causes, global issues, your job, and who you know. In NYC, the focus is more on experiences and how much money you make. 

DC has a more laid-back vibe than NYC – residents don’t seem as hurried and rushed or stressed. And people who have lived in both cities report that DC is cleaner than NYC.

Geography

While NYC hems you in with high-rises and skyscrapers, DC’s height-limit ordinance keeps buildings low. Consequently, you can see more sky, more green, feel the breezes, and enjoy a sense of more open space. 

Also, surrounded by the Hudson and East Rivers, NYC is a more water-oriented city. You can dine in cafes and restaurants while enjoying river and bridge views, or may even get around on the ferries and water taxis. DC wasn’t designed around the Potomac, and if you want beach, you’ll have to get in the car and head to Maryland or Delaware.  

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Best Neighborhoods in Washington DC

If moving from NYC to DC is in the cards, finding a safe, convenient, attractive neighborhood is essential. Here are some of DC’s best:

Downtown

Directly north of the White House, Downtown offers a dense urban lifestyle where you can easily walk or cycle to shopping, restaurants, parks, and more. The majority of residents rent, and most homes are two and three-story row houses. Housing is close to NYC prices. Check out more info about Downtown.

Penn Quarter

Just north of the National Mall, Penn Quarter’s 3,309 residents are mainly executives and professionals, 80% of whom have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Families with children only make up 7% of residents in this thriving area. If you’d like to learn more about Penn Quarter, click here.

Capitol Hill

Lush green historic Capitol Hill is popular with professionals and families who enjoy the many parks and convenient corner grocery stores. Housing comes mainly in row houses, condos, and apartment complexes, but be prepared for prices that are some of DC’s highest. Learn more about Capitol Hill here.

Foggy Bottom

Highly rated schools and safety are reasons why charming Foggy Bottom appeals to both families and professionals. The majority of residents rent their homes that range from townhomes, single-family, rowhouses, and condos. Foggy Bottom bistros and lounges are especially popular at happy hour. Would you like more information about this beautiful neighborhood?

Georgetown

Historic and charming Georgetown is DC’s oldest neighborhood. Cobblestone streets, lined with beautiful mature trees, connect parks and greenspaces. Many residents cycle or walk to trendy bars, boutiques, and bistros. The median home value is over $1,300,000. If Georgetown sounds appealing, click here for more info.

Foxhall Village

Homes built in a range of classic architectural styles define affluent Foxhall Village. The 5,413 residents enjoy the lush, wide-open space between homes and on the eastern edge of the neighborhood. Safe and established, Foxhall Village appeals to families and professionals who can afford the expensive housing. Find out more here

Colonial Village, Arlington, Virginia

For those looking for a safe neighborhood with affordable housing prices, Colonial Village is only 15 minutes southwest of Downtown, DC. This close-by neighborhood is popular with young professionals and young families who want to get established as homeowners. If Colonial Village sounds interesting, click here for more information.

Waverly Hills, Arlington, Virginia

Another desirable neighborhood that’s only a 20-minute drive west of Downtown, DC, Waverly Hills is family-oriented, safe, and walkable. Housing varies from condos, rowhouses, and charming vintage single-family homes to some new builds. With the nearby Metro Ballston station, it’s easy to get into central DC for work. Find out more here.


Cost of Moving from New York City to Washington DC

On average, it costs about $1800-$2200 to move from NYC to DC. Though this might sound expensive, consider that you are hauling your stuff about 230 miles down the coast. The total cost of your move will depend on several variables, including your origin and destination zip codes, the time of year you’re moving, the size of your household, and which services you require. The best way to get an accurate estimate is by scheduling an in-home or virtual (no contact) walkthrough with a licensed and insured interstate mover. Get free moving quotes from the best NYC to Washington DC movers now!

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Patricia McBratney

Between working as a clinical educational therapist and flipping houses, Patty’s lifelong love of horses found her riding the remote... Read More