Pros and Cons of Moving to and Living in Boston, MA

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Boston at a Glance

The capital of Massachusetts and the heart of New England, Boston is the birthplace of the American Revolution and a historic center of the nation. As the biggest city in the state (and in the region), Boston has a lot riding on its shoulders, but riding is what Beantown does best — just ask Paul Revere.  

Much like a living history book, it’s impossible to go anywhere in this coastal hub without finding a historical marker, a centuries-old tavern or a site that changed our destiny. But Boston has a contemporary cultural scene as rich as the finest bowl of chowder, stocked with world-class universities like Harvard and MIT, amazing performance outfits like the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the famous Boston pops, gorgeous green spaces in the city’s Emerald Necklace, and incredible museums, like the MFA Boston.  

Boston is also a City of Champions, and the fan base here is as prideful and rowdy as they come, whether they’re rooting for the Bruins, the Patriots or the Red Sox…now that the Curse of the Bambino has been broken. 

With four real seasons (or five, if blizzarding counts separately), a top-notch food and bar scene and a terrific job market, it’s not hard to see why so many people want to live in Boston. But, like many expensive coastal giants, Boston’s population decreased sharply following the pandemic, as residents faced steep rises in the cost of living, particularly in housing. 

Below we’ll discuss the many pros (and a few cons) of moving to this historic, seaside town. If you’re interested in living in Boston, see what life in this fun, historic New England city is like.  

Pros of Living in Boston

Historical Significance

The origin story of Boston is also the story of the United States. As the birthplace of the American Revolution, Boston holds in the imagination many of the country’s most potent colonial mythologies, including the stories of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre and Paul Revere’s legendary ride. And this rebellious spirit still has a mighty hold in the hearts of many Bostonians, defying conventional authority in favor of more democratic and equitable rules.  

At the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, you can have an immersive — yet floating — living history experience, complete with a tour of the Brig Beaver and the Eleanor and a defiantly ceremonial tossing of tea overboard. (Best get a shine on those pilgrim shoes!) Afterwards, tour the many revolutionary sites on Boston’s Freedom Trail, like the Old North Church, which broadcasted the coming of the British by lanternlight, and Paul Revere’s House, the actual residence he departed from to make his revolutionary ride.  

A Strong Economy 

Boston has a powerful economy, a robust job market and exceptionally low unemployment. In November 2023, the unemployment rate in the metro Boston-Cambridge-Nashua region stood at just 2.7% — more than a point below the national average. In addition to the numerous institutions of higher education in the city like Harvard, MIT and Boston University (more on those below), major corporations like Fidelity Investments, State Street, Gillette, Liberty Mutual and General Electric make their home in Boston. Prominent hospitals like Boston Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital provide excellent medical care, groundbreaking research and good jobs for the region.   

No matter what industry you work in (or want to work in), you’re likely to find a good fit in Boston’s diverse employment base. There are nearly 2.9 million workers in Boston’s nonfarm civilian workforce, and the most dominant industries are education and health services (633,600 employees), professional and business services (556,800 employees), and trade, transportation, and utilities (420,700 employees). All have seen moderate growth over the past year. With only 84,000 employees, the Information industry is the Boston area’s smallest sector, and it suffered modest losses over the past 12 months.  

Education Hub

No city in America has a more prestigious reputation for education than Boston. With Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Boston University (BU), Northeastern, Wellesley, Brandeis, Tufts — and its School of the Museum of Fine Arts — along with other fine institutions across the state of Massachusetts, academic excellence is one of the Boston area’s core industries and a central part of its identity.  

Walkable City

The city of Boston is less than 50 square miles, and with this highly compact size and high population density, Beantown is a highly walkable place to live. Those living outside the city proper will find that it’s easy to use public transit to access the city. The MBTA (Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority) — colloquially known as the T — encompasses bus, subway, commuter rail and ferry service.   

At $1.70/ride, local bus service is the least expensive fare, and express bus services cost $4.25/ride. The subway costs $2.40/ride, the ferry costs $3.70/ride, and prices for the commuter rail ranges from $2.40-$13.25/ride. Daily, weekly and monthly passes are available. If you can’t access public transit like buses and trains because of a disability, you can use the RIDE, a shared, door-to-door paratransit service.  

According to a 2019 Bloomberg report, two thirds of Boston commuters use a car alone to get to work — one of the lowest percentages in the country — and 13.4% of the city uses nothing but public transportation — making it one of only seven American cities in which more than 10% of the population has ditched the automobile for their daily ride. 5.2% of Bostonians use nothing more than their own two legs to reach their jobs, and around 2% bike to work.  

The city has made a substantial effort over the past 10 years to add bike lanes and improve the road conditions to encourage cycling, and some areas like Cambridge reflect an increased interest in bike commuting, while others lag behind the city’s ambitions. 

Boston’s Neighborhood Spotlight  

From in-town neighborhoods like Beacon Hill to farther-flung hamlets like Allston, Dorchester and Jamaica Plain, Boston is a dynamic, diverse city to call home.  

It’s no secret that Boston is filled with historic sites and architecture, and no neighborhood has more historic charm than Back Bay. Located on the South side of the Charles River opposite MIT, the intimate neighborhood of Back Bay has easy proximity to downtown gems like the Public Garden and Boston Common — the oldest park in the country — as well as great restaurants and shopping. This upscale area filled with Victorian townhouses has, well, very upscale prices. You could easily shell out $275,000 just for a parking space, and a single-family home can cost multiple millions.  

South Boston is a sprawling area southeast of downtown, with pleasant beaches on Massachusetts Bay and family-run restaurants and taverns. Popularly known as Southie, this historically Irish, working-class neighborhood in Boston was made famous by blockbusters like Good Will Hunting, and this once humble ‘hood has not been immune to gentrification, so prices here are still steep. Multi-family flats, modest rowhouses, condominiums and live-work artist lofts can all be found in South Boston, and you’ll generally get more space for your dollar than you will in more exclusive areas. In apartments, you’ll also get more, like a full-size refrigerator and stove, rather than the dorm-scale appliances you’ll find in studios in other districts.  

Boston’s North End is Paul Revere central. His residence at 19 North Square — built around 1680 — is the oldest building downtown, and tourists flock to see the home he departed from that fateful night in 1775 to make his now-famous ride. The Old North Church — where the two lanterns were lit to signal the approach of the British — is just down the road, as is Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, the final resting place of many revolutionaries and abolitionists. But the North End isn’t trapped in time by any means. Its contemporary identity is as Boston’s Little Italy, where the historic red brick buildings and narrow streets of the harborside neighborhood make for cozy quarters and a destination for great food. Longstanding establishments like Modern Pastry (est. 1930) offer traditional favorites, like the cassata cake and torrone, while newer spots like Bricco have authentic fare with contemporary flair — ricotta pillows with truffle butter (yes, good enough to sleep on) and farfalle with lobster and fava beans. Real estate in the North End still comes at a premium but is far below the royal threshold of Back Bay.  

Artsy and bohemian (but still approachable), Boston’s South End neighborhood is the center of the city’s cultural core. This inland district is adjacent to each of the aforementioned neighborhoods and home to Boston University’s Medical Campus. It’s also a destination for dining and a charming place to call home. Many of the city’s creatives keep studios in the SoWa Art + Design District and exhibit their work alongside international contemporaries in the dozens of galleries here. Inside refurbished industrial spaces you’ll find cozy Mediterranean bistros like Marseille, gay sports bars like Cathedral Station and intimate sushi restaurants like Oishii. You’ll find elegant condos, historic rowhouses and lavish new digs in swanky high-rises.  

Note: If you’re planning to move to Boston, it’s important to thoroughly research the neighborhoods and areas in the city you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to reside, make sure you understand the neighborhood’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information. 

Wide Array of Recreational Activities

As one of the oldest American cities, Boston is chockablock with historic landmarks, from Boston Common to Faneuil Hall. A tour of Boston’s Freedom Trail will hit all the city’s major highlights, including the Old State House, the USS Constitution (or “Old Ironsides” to her BFFs) and the site of the Boston Massacre.  

20th-century history was made with the construction of Fenway Park — the oldest MLB stadium in the country. The Boston Red Sox would be happy to welcome you to a tour of the ballpark, which was built in 1912, and has been the site of some exciting World Series wins for the Sox.  

Part of Boston’s Emerald Necklace — a network of green spaces originally conceived of by Frederick Law Olmstead — the Back Bay Fens are one of Boston’s favorite spots for leisure. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston (familiarly known as the MFA) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum crown the park’s east side, and memorials to WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War provide sites for contemplation within the grounds. Flower-lovers will want to visit the gorgeous Kelleher Rose Garden in the Fens, where 1,500 varieties of fragrant blossoms offer a transportive respite from the woes of the workday.  

Boston knows how to put on a snowstorm, and when it does, the Moki winter sauna village — located within the Rose Kennedy Greenway — will be ready to welcome you. Soak in the heat in one of their woodfired saunas, or embrace the cold with their icy cedar barrel plunge!  

Just across the Charles in Cambridge, Harvard University is its own destination for museums, with more than a dozen institutions dedicated to art, history and science. The “Glass Flowers” collection at the Harvard Museum of Natural History is a thing of wonder, and the Egyptian collections at the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East point an inquisitive eye at this corner of the ancient world. The Harvard Art Museums are just the tip of the iceberg of the institution’s art collections. Look for public talks from prominent artists, designers, architects and theorists at the Center for Visual Arts and the cutting-edge metaLAB — which is so boundary-pushing it’s almost as metal as it is meta — and works from the African diaspora at the Cooper Gallery, whose building was designed by Sir David Adjaye, the architect behind the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. 

Sports Fanatics’ Paradise

Boston is the competitive capital of New England, and this city’s citizens love an underdog as much as they love a favorite, so be prepared for crazy fandom from Fenway to TD Garden.  

The Boston Red Sox — one of the oldest teams in the country — have now earned a whopping nine World Series titles, but between 1918 and 2003 they won absolutely zero, during the dreaded years spent under “the curse.” But no matter how the team fared, fans couldn’t stay away from beloved Fenway Park — the nation’s oldest MLB ballpark.  

Basketball devotees will find it easy to be a Celtics fan — the NBA named them one of the greatest teams of all time. The Boston Bruins are having another good year, hoping to take home their seventh Stanley Cup, which they last won in 2011, when they beat the Vancouver Canucks.  

But no team whips Boston into a frothier lather than the New England Patriots, who have won six Super Bowls, all in the 21st century.    

Cons of Living in Boston

High Cost of Living 

If you’ve looked at all at real estate in the Boston area, you’ve already discovered that Beantown has a high cost of living.  

Massachusetts has the highest cost of living in the country (148.0), coming ahead of California (136.4). The median home value in the city of Boston between 2018 and 2022 was $684,900, compared to the U.S. average of $281,900. Rent is also punishingly high, costing residents a median of $1,981/month. Buyers in Los Angeles and New York City will pay more for housing, but renters — shockingly — pay less, according to the U.S. Census. Prices in Massachusetts easily topple those of their New England neighbors. While income levels in Massachusetts are similar to those in Connecticut and New Hampshire, they are far higher than those in Vermont and Maine, where housing costs are less than half those in the Bay State. Even in tony Connecticut, the median home value is only $323,700, veritably dwarfed by Massachusetts’ average of $483,900. 

Bostonians may pay more than the average American for housing, education, and insurance/pensions, but they actually pay less for healthcare, groceries and transportation. Bostonians also earn more than their counterparts, bringing home an average household income of $89,212 compared to the U.S. average of $75,149. 

Harsh Winters

It likely comes as no surprise that Boston has harsh winters, and with an ever-warming planet, some new residents actually come in search of them. The average January low is 23 F and the average high is 37 F, and the weather really isn’t bad…until it is. No one is likely to forget the Blizzard of 2022 — so start practicing your best grandpa voice to pass the story along to the youngins of the future — the year that Logan airport was buried in nearly two feet of snow in two days’ time and 100,000 people lost both power and their will to winter.  

The payoff of the snow-packed, frozen season is the delight of a long, cool summer, but if you’ve watched a recent season of This Old House you’ll know that Bostonians are retrofitting their century-old homes and outfitting their new ones with cool AC for the summer heat waves. That said, the average summertime high is only 82 F and lows are usually in the 60s F, so you’ll still be considerably cooler than most places further south.  

Thanks to its marine environment, Boston receives plenty of precipitation throughout the year, ranging from three to four inches per month, so you won’t have to worry about dry or wet seasons, either. 

Spring can be slow to arrive but is wonderfully mild once it does. And, fall is certainly one of the best times to be in Boston, when the chilly weather turns the trees into a colorful show and the nippy temperatures make a hot bowl of chowder taste even finer.  

Traffic Woes

Despite the robust public transportation options, commuting in Boston still takes more than 30 minutes, on average, thanks to its narrow, winding streets, complicated layout, and high population density. More than ever, Bostonians are looking to cleaner, greener and leaner commutes. Cutting out car travel can help commuters achieve all three ambitions, and — as noted above — more than a third of residents have already eliminated the automobile from that equation.  

Relocating to Boston? Let Mayflower Help You

If you’ve decided that Boston seems like the best place for your family, Mayflower is here to help you make the move. Working with America’s most trusted mover like Mayflower can help take the stress out of your move so that you can focus on acclimating to your new home and job. 

Get a quote today on moving to Boston. 

Mayflower can help you make a cross-country move to Boston. We are licensed for interstate moves, and our nationwide network of long-distance movers can help you move to Boston from anywhere in the U.S. Mayflower’s full-service moving solutions can take the hassle of moving out of your hands. 

If you are looking for local movers in Boston and the Bay State, our Massachusetts movers and our movers in Boston perform local moves independently under their own brands and businesses.  

Mayflower can even help you plan a DIY move to Boston. Even if you’re doing it yourself, you don’t have to go it alone! Moving to Boston has certain challenges other cities may not. Here are a few things to consider if you’re planning on handling your move alone: 

  • If you plan to rent a moving van or truck yourself, you’ll likely need to reserve a parking spot at your destination at least two weeks ahead of your move. 
  • You can’t drive moving trucks on Storrow Drive due to low clearance.  
  • The default speed limit in Boston is 25 mph, whether or not a sign is posted. 
  • Most leases turn over in Boston at the beginning of September, so fall can be one of the busiest times to move in and out of the city, and rentals may be limited.  

However you decide to move, Mayflower’s moving resources and moving checklist and planner can help you keep track of all the details of your relocation, including your budget.  

If you’re looking for even more information about living in Massachusetts and the American Northeast, check out Mayflower’s state guides, city guides and our Moving Guide to Massachusetts for an inside look at the city and life in New England. 

Worried about how your family will adjust after your move? We get it. Follow these tips for settling into a new home.  

Get a moving quote for Boston. 

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