Article Overview: Pros and Cons of Living in Vancouver, Washington
Are you thinking about moving to Vancouver, Washington? Welcome to my hometown.
I was raised in Vancouver and have lived to tell the tale. I’ve laughed my way through cheesy sayings like “Vancouver not BC, Washington, not DC” and cringed the first time I heard the city referenced as Vantucky. Not cool.
There’s no denying that Vancouver has seen a massive influx of new residents in recent years. The city went from being known as Portland’s neighbor to becoming a desirable city in its own right. Quiet, green and full of beauty — there’s a lot to love about this place.
I thought it’d be fun to draft a quick list of the pros and cons of living in Vancouver, Washington to help answer some common questions. If you still have questions after reading this list (or want to offer your two cents), don’t hesitate to reach out — I’m happy to help!
As you read this list, please keep in mind that these pros and cons are based on my personal experience. Not everyone feels the same way about living in Vancouver, WA. And that’s alright! Heck, that’s what the comments are for.
Editor’s Note: As long time readers of this website will know, the fun lives in the comments. Don’t forget to take a look below to see what other locals are saying. We update this post regularly based on feedback received. Cheers!
Living in Vancouver FAQ
Yes, depending on what you’re looking for, Vancouver is a good place to live. The lack of state income taxes is very popular among residents and retirees as well as the access to nature.
Some of the cons of living in Vancouver, Washington include the seemingly endless grey and rainy weather in the winter, the wild housing market (that finally seems to be cooling), and rising homelessness.
Pros & Cons of Living in Vancouver, Washington
Pros of Living in Vancouver
#1. Proximity to Nature
Nestled nicely into the epic beauty of the Pacific Northwest, the region’s natural beauty is a huge draw for folks moving to Vancouver, Washington. But hey, hard to blame them.
This corner of America is defined by the dramatic Cascade Mountain Range and swaths of forest so pristine it’ll make you question the injustice of having to be born elsewhere. Thankfully, those living in Vancouver seem to appreciate the great outdoors and are keen on taking advantage of the teeming outdoor recreation opportunities.
Vancouver is situated a mere 2-hour drive from the beach, desert, forests and mountains. You name it, we got it! The best part? These areas are packed with locals (and visitors) alike during the warm summer months. We know how good we have it around here.
If you’re in the mood for a grand adventure, take a weekend trip to one of the three breathtaking national parks in Washington State. Don’t feel like committing to an overnight trip? No problem, chances are very high you’ll be less than a half hour drive from a hiking trail.
It’s impossible to escape nature while living in Vancouver, WA. Between the lakes, forests and epic views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens, you won’t be able to take nature for granted and will seldom be bored. Lucky you.
#2. Vancouver is Environmentally Friendly
Apart from being surrounded by epic nature, Vancouver is home to a whopping 90 parks and 20 natural areas. Including Esther Short Park, the oldest public square in the west.
It’s not just the inescapable nature that makes us “green.” Hardly. Vancouver is recognized as an environmentally-friendly city. Respect for the environment is a big deal around here, made evident by strong recycling and composting habits.
I take great pride in living in Vancouver, Washington because I’m surrounded by like-minded people that strive to keep waste to a minimum. There’s no soapbox or holier-than-though attitude around it. Just regular folks trying to live good lives while considering the impact they have on their environment. How could you not love that?
Stay in the Know: Clark County launched a Green Neighbors Program where new (and current) residents can learn best practices for a most sustainable life.
#3. There’s No State Income Tax
Ever heard that one joke that goes “the only things you can’t escape in life are death and taxes?” The adage rings true, but at least those living in Vancouver, Washington don’t have to pay state income tax — which really adds up.
There’s only 9 states in America without state income tax and Washington is lucky enough to be one of them.
For perspective, our neighbors to the south (Oregon) pay nearly 10% in state income taxes. Put another way, if you got offered the same salary for a job in Washington vs. Oregon, choosing the Washington gig would automatically increase your take-home pay by nearly 10%. Imagine!
That’s why so many folks from Portland end up moving to Vancouver, Washington for retirement.
With that said, it’s worth knowing that the sales tax clocks in at a pretty steep 8.5%. Whereas Oregon doesn’t have a sales tax so it’s not uncommon for Vancouver residents to drive across the border for larger purchases like home equipment and appliances.
P.S. If you live in Vancouver but work in Portland (like tons of people) you will be subject to Oregon’s state income tax. Which means this perk of living in Vancouver won’t apply to you unless you telework. Speak to your HR department to get some clarity on this one.
#4. Vancouver is a Safe City
As of December 2022, Vancouver, Washington is considered the 58th safest city in the country. As someone that grew up in Vancouver, I’ve seen the city shift from sleepiness to energetic.
Nothing happens without growing pains though, and the growth of Vancouver is no exception. I’ve been hearing a lot about how Vancouver has “gone to the dogs” but I think most of it is exaggerated (as are most things these days).
The truth is, my day to day life in Vancouver hasn’t really changed much over the past 5 years. Aside from the pandemic when I spent way more time at home, it’s business as usual. For example, this past summer (2022), my husband and I took on a yard project and ended up mingling and chatting with neighborhoods daily.
I don’t want to paint a false picture though. As with most cities in America, the police force is stretched thin so many non-violent crimes are being put on the back burner. Car thefts are on the rise as are car break ins, but I’ve never once felt unsafe living in Vancouver. Not by any stretch of the imagination
At the end of the day, Vancouver is a great place to live and raise a family. Those moving to Vancouver with the hopes of putting down roots will find a pretty calm and slow way of life.
Editor’s Note: Some readers have reached out to disagree with this point. We’re all about facts at The Honest Local, and while perception is important, without stats it isn’t deemed a fact. To keep the conversation topical, we updated the resource with the most recent WalletHub report on city safety. Enjoy!
#5. People are Kind
One of my favorite things about living in Vancouver, WA is the kindness of the people. Circling back to the yard project I just mentioned, we had so many neighbors swing by just to admire the work or strike up a conversation. It was really encouraging to know that people still want to mingle and connect, contradicting the narrative that the city is going to hell in a hand basket.
But in true Pacific Northwest fashion, people are definitely reserved. Locals can tolerate small talk, but it’s rare for conversations to develop into something more.
Come to thin of it, I met most of my adult friends in high school or college. I find it hard disagree when people say that making friends while living in Vancouver is difficult. I can definitely see that.
Blame it on adulthood (has anyone ever made a friend past the age of 25?!), or the reserved locals, but this is something to brace for before moving to Vancouver. You’ll get kindness, but the friendship part is harder. So in a way, this is both a pro and con of living in Vancouver.
#6. Access to the Portland International Airport
For many people, a huge perk of living in Vancouver boils down to the Portland International Airport (PDX). Sounds like a stretch, but bear with me. Located less than 30 minutes from downtown, PDX is often rated as one of the best airports in the country. Heck, in 2017 it was even rated the most efficient airport in America.
Both my husband and I travel often for work. Last year alone, we spent 7 months abroad. He flies more than me and averages 100,000+ miles per year. Based on his travels (and the plethora of airports he’s visited), PDX is his favorite.
It’s very manageable, easy to navigate, has good food options and tons of direct flights (international and domestic). It’s hard to hate on our local airport, everything from departing to arriving is a pleasant experience.
We scored a phenomenal deal flying direct from Portland, Oregon to Tokyo, Japan for $520 round trip. Read: Kyoto in the Fall (Top 10 Places to See)
#7. There’s No Need for Air Conditioning
Okay, let’s start wrapping the advantages of living in Vancouver, WA with a fun fact: we’re one of the least AC’d cities in the country!
An interesting study found that Seattle is the least air conditioned city (with only 33% of homes equipped with ACs) in the US.Portland doesn’t trail too far behind, either.
Seriously, apart from maybe two weeks a year, there’s no need for AC when living in Vancouver. Granted, the past two summers have been terrible with temperatures soaring past 100°F. I see the trends shifting and anticipate most homes will be equipped with air conditioning in the coming years.
I’m bracing to see what summer 2023 brings before seeing if this information needs to be updated. Climate change is a bear, and anyone drafting (yet another) email to let me know that it isn’t real, I ask one question: How much did you spend on your AC last year?
#8. The Summer Weather is Perfect
All my childhood summers were spent outdoors. As the climate starts to shift, I’m not sure if this will remain true for the current generation, but as it stands, I consider summers in Vancouver dreamy.
With the exception of extreme heat waves, average summer temperatures rarely exceed 90°Fs, and you can count on sunshine from June through mid-September. You can take advantage of the great outdoors without melting, which is a perk you can only appreciate after visiting Arizona.
I have a handful of friends that refuse to leave Vancouver because they can’t imagine spending summers elsewhere. Mild temperatures and no humidity is hard to come by, why mess with perfection?
They’d sooner find a place to rent in winter (those gray skies!) but couldn’t fathom moving altogether because of the blissful summer season.
Another big perk of living in Vancouver? The two biggest surrounding cities (Portland and Seattle) both rank as the least challenging cities in the country for allergy sufferers. Maybe all that rain we have to put up with (I’ll cover that shortly) is good for something.
Cons of Living in Vancouver
#1. The Housing Market is Nuts
Living in Vancouver is not all sunshine and rainbows. Shocking, I know. With median home prices clocking in at a hefty $500,000, moving to Vancouver to buy a home won’t come cheap.
The housing market has really blown up in the past five years and COVID only exacerbated the problem when city-dwellers began moving to Vancouver en masse. Again, hard to blame them, no hard feeling there.
A lot of our friends ended up moving to Vancouver from Portland and found buying a home more stressful than anticipated. The inflated housing market is not unique to Vancouver, I understand that, but the competition to score a home is legendary.
One couple we know was outbid for 8 homes before deciding to look in a different state. They said homes were getting 20+ offers and selling within 2 days for well above asking. I was hoping the market would cool down in 2022, but so far no such luck. Maybe next year?
If helpful, the chart below shows the sharp increase of home prices in Vancouver since 2012. The median home price in 2012 was $179,000 and has risen by 140% to $431,000 in 2021. Excuse me. Can you imagine paying $179K for a house 10 years ago?
#2. It Rains So Much
Is there an award for making the understatement of the century? Because I definitely qualify.
But here’s the thing, when my husband ended up moving to Vancouver (from Atlanta) he thought he was prepared for the rain. First red flag (no one prepares for rain). Within 4 months of living in Vancouver (poor guy moved here in October, amateur mistake), he was clawing at the wall.
Vancouver averages 163 days of rainfall a year. It’s like getting rain every three days, only it’s worse because nature doesn’t spread it out fairly. Nah, she’ll let you “enjoy” the rain daily for 6 months straight. Ugh, she’s the worst.
So let that little number sink in like it will sink into your garden’s root system and keep you on your toes come spring. Granted, it’s always fun to see which new plantings survive the rainy half of the year (my husband and I have started taking bets).
But look at me getting distracted with weird gardening stuff. At the end of the day, it’s safe to say that the constant rainfall should be seriously considered before moving to Vancouver, Washington. It will become a part of your daily life from November through May.
But the rain isn’t the worst part! It’s the constant gray clouds taking permanent residence above the city from fall through spring. That has a tendency to bring folks down the most.
Between the dark gray skies, rain and bone-chill, winters feel long. It’s no wonder Vancouver residents are desperate to take advantage of the quickly-fleeting summer months. All the trails and city parks are packed during summer for a reason, folks.
#3. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is Real
This goes hand-in-hand with the rain and grayness mentioned above. Something people don’t realize before moving to Vancouver is that our residents are prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to seasonal weather changes. It tends to keep regular office hours — opening shop in October and closing for the season come May. (This is obviously not a medical definition).
Honestly, between January – March, the gray weather is a lot to handle. There’s two things that have helped me most in dealing with the impossible winter season. First, investing in this bad boy (I use it daily) and secondly, budging a vacation in February.
A Happy Light, you say? Yes, it’s a bright lamp that emulates sunlight and provides benefits similar to sunshine. We use ours every single day, plus it helps our plants grow like crazy, too. I’m telling you, you can’t afford living in Vancouver without it.
My husband likes to joke that Vancouver weather has two settings: rain and bliss. If he makes the joke in the summer, I laugh. If he tries it in the winter, I threaten him with Hallmark movies and Christmas music.
#4. The Constant Traffic
Since a decent majority of Vancouver residents work in Portland, the nightmare traffic you’ll experience on a daily basis should be taken into account when considering moving to Vancouver.
For reference, my 15-mile commute from Vancouver to Portland took one hour each way. It was absolutely brutal and got tiring after a mere three months. I dreaded the drive to work and the long drive home.
Because of the mass influx of folks moving to Vancouver (while working in Portland), the highways simply cannot keep up with the unexpected demand. I mean, you’ll never mistake Vancouver’s traffic for L.A. but it’s pretty bad.
In fact, Portland’s nightmare traffic has officially clocked in as the 6th worst in the country, with an estimated 89 hours a year spent in traffic for the average commuter.
#5. Lack of Public Transportation
When you live in Vancouver, Washington you quickly learn that it’s a very car-centric city. The small downtown core is far removed from the suburbs and since most folks work in Portland, a car is practically required.
There’s a handful of bus lines that service the downtown core and provide direct routes from Vancouver to Portland but they normally increase commute times by 50-60%, at least they did for me. I’m just going to say it: public transportation is abysmal, I gave up on it pretty quickly and opted to use my car.
It doesn’t chance the fact that lack of decent public transportation is a big con of living in Vancouver, Washington and a huge contributor to the terrible traffic. You can’t escape the nightmarish traffic.
#6. Lack of Diversity
After moving to Vancouver, Washington you’ll notice that it’s not a very diverse city. 72% of the population identifies as white, but the demographics are slowly shifting with the influx of new residents.
However, which Vancouver most definitely lacks in ethnic diversity, one thing it doesn’t lack is being considered an LGBTQ+ friendly city.
In fact, with more than 5.4% of residents identifying as gay, lesbian, trans or bisexual, the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro region has the second highest LGBTQ+ community in the country!
#7. Homelessness is on the Rise
As mentioned earlier, growing pains are part of daily life and Vancouver is experiencing its fair share. There’s no denying that homelessness is on the rise. It’s most felt in the downtown core (like all cities) but many neighbors are starting to complain that they’re seeing more homeless in neighborhoods too.
Homelessness is a tough humanitarian issue to solve and the city is working on it, but I have no idea what the solution is and doubt it’s an easy fix. As such, I’d love to contribute to the conversation in a helpful manner and am open to learning more about the issue. If you have resources (or advice) please let me know in the comment below. I want to stay informed and am always looking for ways to learn.
Pros & Cons of moving to Vancouver Washington (Post Summary)
In short, here are the honest pros and cons of living in Vancouver, Washington:
- Proximity to nature
- Vancouver is green
- No state income tax
- Vancouver is a safe city
- The people are kind
- Access to the airport
- No need for A/C
- The summer weather
- It rains a lot
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is Real
- Lack of public transportation
- Nightmare traffic
- The housing market
- Lack of diversity
Until next time!
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