If you are thinking of moving to the Pacific Northwest, you may be wondering which state is better: Oregon or Washington.
Well, in my opinion, you shouldn’t move to either. We’re already full.
Well, not really, but there has been a massive influx of people in the past few years, which is probably one of the reasons you’re wondering which is better!
If you had asked me this question a couple of years ago I would have told you to move to Washington, no questions asked. I recommended that people go to Oregon only if they had to drive through it on the way to Washington.
Then I spent a couple of months in Oregon. Long story short, it’s not Washington’s dirty little brother like I thought. Both states actually have an incredible amount to offer and will appeal to a different type of person.
So which one is right for you? Well, buckle up because I have a bunch of thoughts for you that hopefully will help you decide which one is best.
I will say right off the bat that if you’re just looking to get to the PNW then you’ll probably be happy in either place.
Both Washington and Oregon have everything that the Pacific Northwest is famous for: lots of trees, beautiful coasts, wineries, breweries, lots of coffee, and some strange but interesting people.
It’s their differences that really set them apart.
Moving To Washington
Washington is the most northern and western state in the Pacific Northwest (unless we’re counting Alaska). It is bordered by Oregon to the south, Idaho to the east, and the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north.
With an area of over 71,000 square miles, Washington is the 18th largest state in the country. The state’s population is just over 7 million people, making it the 13th most populous state in the US. The capital of Washington is Olympia, and its largest city is Seattle.
The climate in Washington varies depending on location. The western part of the state (including Seattle) has a mild marine climate, while the eastern part of the state has a continental climate. This means that eastern Washington experiences colder winters and hotter summers than western Washington. However, overall, the state has a relatively moderate climate.
Washington is home to a diverse array of wildlife. The state is home to several species of fish, reptiles, mammals, and birds. Some of the more popular animals include black bears, bald eagles, mountain lions, and orcas. Washington also has a variety of plant life, from Douglas firs to western hemlocks.
Washington State is a beautiful place with plenty to offer tourists and residents alike. From its diverse landscapes to its rich history and culture, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant state.
7 Pros Of Moving To Washington
1. Great Attractions
If you’re looking to stay entertained (by spending money) then Washington is the better choice. There are better neighborhoods, more iconic attractions, lauded restaurants, etc.
Both states have excellent outdoor opportunities but if you want to experience city life in the way of museums, amusement parks, historic towns, etc. then Washington has a bit more to offer.
Of course, more tourist attractions mean more tourists so you’ll have to weigh the balance for yourself.
2. Excellent Public Schools
The public school system in Washington state is excellent. At least, in most parts.
While there are some that lag behind, the schools in Washington are, on balance, better than those in Oregon.
If you have kids of school age, Washington is a great choice. Just be aware that the best schools often are in areas that have a very high cost of living and lack any significant diversity.
The average high school graduation rate in Washington is 68%. That’s 10% higher than the national average.
As an extra tidbit, I’ll say that my wife went through Washington’s public school system and had access to many more programs, and extracurricular activities than I had growing up in Utah.
3. Great Health Care
Washington state has a great healthcare system. The state has a variety of hospitals and clinics that offer excellent care. There are also many insurance options available, so everyone can find a plan that fits their needs.
The state also offers a variety of social programs to help people get the care they need. For example, the state offers free or low-cost health insurance for low-income residents. If you’re without health care or health insurance in Washington you’re probably not quite on top of things.
4. Better Secondary Schools
Washington is highly regarded for having some of the best opportunities in terms of secondary education.
Of all the states on the West Coast, Washington stands out as having schools that offer a comprehensive variety of programs throughout all educational levels. Students can experience a wide range of courses and disciplines, setting their interests and skills up for greater opportunities down the line.
The degree and certification programs available give students more options than just traditional college, allowing them to gain valuable skills in their post-graduation lives. While Oregon also has some excellent schools, Washington runs away with the victory here.
5. Job Opportunities
If you’re looking for a job with lots of upward mobility, Washington should probably be high on your list.
The state is home to some of the biggest names in tech, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. As a result, there are plenty of well-paying jobs available in the tech sector. And it’s not just big companies that are hiring, startups are also thriving in Washington state.
Which is also a drawback. Good luck relaxing at a tiki bar in Seattle without 30 different guys bragging about their new unicorn startup with a 10-figure valuation.
6. No Income Tax
Washington is one of seven states that does not have a personal income tax.
Because Washington does not have an income tax, it relies heavily on other sources of revenue, including sales tax and property tax.
Many people are attracted to the tax structure as they feel it helps reduce their tax burden overall.
7. High Minimum Wage
Washington is a great state for low-wage workers, as the minimum wage rate is markedly higher than in Oregon.
The high minimum wage helps boost retail spending and strengthens buying power, positively impacting the local economy in Washington.
5 Cons Of Moving To Washington
1. Expensive Real Estate
According to a recent report, the average price of a home in Washington state has now reached $732,000. This is an increase of nearly 13% from last year, and it puts homeownership out of reach for many middle-class families.
The situation is even worse in the Seattle area, where the average price of a home has now topped $950,000. Despite these skyrocketing prices, the demand for housing in Washington state remains high. This is largely due to the strong economy and the influx of people moving to the state in recent years.
The result is a severe housing shortage that is driving up prices and making it difficult for families to find affordable places to live. In order to address this problem, state and local leaders are working on a number of initiatives, including increasing funding for affordable housing developments and providing incentives for builders to construct more rental units.
However, given the magnitude of the problem, it will likely take many years for the housing crisis in Washington state to be resolved.
2. Expensive Everything Else
If you’re thinking of moving to Washington state, be prepared for a high cost of living.
I mentioned that houses are expensive but other expenses like transportation, healthcare, and childcare also tend to be higher in Washington.
Some of this is offset by generous benefits packages and government subsidations but the face remains that life in Washington is simply not in the budget for many people
3. The Weather
Contrary to its reputation, Washington actually has many warm dry places including deserts and sand dunes.
The weather really just depends on where you are.
However, when most people consider moving to the PNW it’s the coastal areas where the major cities are located.
This means that, if that’s your location of choice, you’ll be dealing with tons of rain. Or, at least, rain on almost half the days out of the year.
The rain and gray days count as some of the main reasons that Seattle is considered one of the most depressing cities to live in.
4. Civil Unrest
In recent years, there has been a lot of civil unrest and protest in the state of Washington, particularly in the city of Seattle.
While the unrest has been mostly peaceful it’s still unnerving for people who live here and there have been some instances of violence and property damage.
Whether you agree with the politics of the people protesting or not it’s still something to consider as it puts a damper on things like getting groceries and going to work.
Even outside of protests, Washington has quite a politically charged climate as the liberal west part of the state is at odds with most small towns and the eastern portion.
5. Homelessness and The Drug Scene
In Washington state, the issue of homelessness is inextricably linked to the problem of drug addiction. And both are getting worse.
According to a recent study, nearly 60% of homeless individuals in the state reported using drugs in the past year. Unfortunately, this cycle of addiction often leads to more serious problems, such as violence and crime.
In addition, homeless shelters are often unable to provide adequate care for those suffering from addiction, which makes it difficult for people to get the help they need.
From my point of view, the situation in Seattle has gotten exponentially worse in the past couple of years and I don’t see it changing any time soon.
Moving To Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Oregon is bordered by Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada to the east, and Idaho to the northeast.
The Columbia River delineates much of Oregon’s northern boundary along Washington, while the Snake River defines Oregon’s eastern boundary with Idaho. The state has a maritime border with California and a shared border with the Canadian province of British Columbia. Oregon is one of only three states of the contiguous United States to have a coastline on the Pacific Ocean.
Oregon is home to many wineries and vineyards, as well as craft breweries and distilleries. The Willamette Valley is particularly well known for its wines, and there are more than 400 wineries in the state.
The state is also home to more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of hiking trails, such as the Pacific Crest Trail, which traverses Oregon from north to south.
Oregon is also home to several national parks including Crater Lake National Park is located in southern Oregon.
Pros Of Moving To Oregon
1. Beautiful Beaches
Oregon is renowned for its stunning coastlines, and its beautiful beaches are the perfect getaway for nature lovers and sun seekers alike.
I thought I had seen all that the PNW had to offer when it came to beaches…and then I visited southern Oregon.
The otherworldly beaches there blow anything that Washington has out of the water (except for maybe the Olympic Peninsula beaches).
While you probably won’t do a ton of sunbathing, there are plenty of beaches for tide pooling, hiking, beach combing, etc.
2. Lower Cost Of Living
Oregon has a great appeal for those looking for a more affordable way of life than what’s offered in Washington.
It’s widely known that the cost of living in Oregon is significantly lower compared to neighboring Washington. While I won’t say that it’s cheap, I do feel that Oregon provides a better value overall when it comes to cost-of-living compared to its neighbor in the north.
3. Fewer Tourists
Oregon and Washington have always had a rivalry, but now they’re competing for something different: tourism dollars.
However, I honestly don’t notice much difference from the tourism industry in my everyday life. I do appreciate going to Oregon and not being asked for directions though!
If you don’t like dealing with tourists, there are fewer in most areas of Oregon (unless you’re in a coastal town).
However, you can escape them in almost every small town of Washington as well.
4. A Bit Warmer (with drier beaches)
Oregon is a great place to get away from the rain that is so common in Washington.
While Oregon certainly gets its fair share of precipitation, it still averages slightly less than what can be found across the border in Washington. The (relative) warmth of Oregon provides locals and visitors alike with an alluring reprieve from the chilly, drizzly days that can plague those living in Washington.
I will say that the last time we were in Oregon, it rained for a week straight and we literally have to use a jug to bail water out of our tent. So it’s not a total reprieve, just better.
5. No Sales Tax
Oregon is a great place for those looking to save a little bit of money on everyday purchases.
Oregon does not charge sales tax on any type of food or grocery items which makes it taxes options even more attractive for some people than Washington’s.
Although, it has also led to people living in Washington and shopping in Oregon (or vice versa, depending on how smart they are…)
Cons Of Moving To Oregon
1. Fewer Major Attractions
If you want to experience any of the major attractions of the PNW, you’ll probably end up in Washington whether you live there or not.
Nearly all of the famous “city” attractions are located in Seattle. Then you have the San Juan Islands with nothing corresponding in Oregon.
There are mountains in both (you can actually see a few from Portland) but many people would argue that the peaks of Washington come out on top.
Now, if you’re just trying to live your life and get by this probably won’t matter much either way.
2. Worse Social Problems
If the social situation in Seattle is bad, then it’s terrible in Portland.
The rise of the Portland ghettos means that there are many places where people just don’t want to go anymore.
Going downtown isn’t a great experience and you’re likely to be accosted for money every time you go to the store or walk down the street.
While I’m not saying that it can’t be fixed, Portland has it pretty bad at the moment and it doesn’t seem to be improving.
Some Specific Scenarios & What I Would Recommend
If You Love Spending Time Outdoors: Either
Oregon and Washington are both great states for outdoor activities. In Oregon, you can enjoy sailing, hiking, biking, and fishing in the many beautiful parks and forests. In Washington, you can sail on Puget Sound or the Salish Sea, hike in the Cascade Mountains, bike along the coast, and fish in the many rivers and lakes.
It really comes down to what type of activities you want to spend the majority of your time doing.
If You Love City Life: Washington
Seattle is better than Portland for a number of reasons.
First, Seattle’s economy is booming, with an unemployment rate that is significantly lower than Portland’s. Additionally, Seattle has a much larger population than Portland, meaning there are more job opportunities and more to do in the city.
Finally, Seattle is home to the Super Bowl champion Seahawks and the University of Washington, while Portland only has the University of Oregon (booo).
If You’re Career Driven: Washington
Seattle is home to some of the largest and most successful tech companies in the world, including Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Apple.
These companies are constantly looking for new talent, and they offer excellent career opportunities with competitive salaries and great benefits. In addition to the large tech companies, Seattle is also home to a number of smaller startups that are always looking for new employees.
If You Love Sandy Beaches: Oregon
Oregon is known for its many sandy beaches, which offer a great place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. If you’re in to sand, check out the beaches in Cannon Beach, Newport, and Seaside.
If You’re Looking To Retire: Washington…Probably
If you have the money, retiring in Washington is a better option due to the availability of healthcare, the Seattle airport, and the over demographics.
If you’re on a budget, however, rural Oregon is a solid option for retirement!
If You Hate Rain: Neither
Both Washington and Oregon get their fair share of rain.
However, there are places in both that are quite dry and pleasant.
Once you pass over the mountains and escape the rain shadow of the coast you’ll run into deserts, rocky peaks, and pine forests. However, the drier area of Oregon is full of absolutely nothing but grass and small hills.
The drier area of Washington at least has Spokane so, if you hate rain, that’s probably your best option!
Now, I’m not saying that you have to choose between Oregon or Washington anytime soon but we are getting pretty full up here!
If you’re still trying to decide which is better to move to, the only real solution is to come visit and see which one you like better.