Thinking about living in Michigan? If so, you’re in good hands.
I’ve lived in the Great Lake State for the past 10 years and have definitely learned a thing or two about the honest pros and cons of living in Michigan.
Home to a population of 10 million residents, Michigan is the 10th most populous state. Best known for self-sufficient locals, Midwestern hospitality and epic outdoor recreation, make no mistake — there’s a lot to love about this slice of heaven.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in Michigan, hell, we get some nasty blizzards too.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, so let’s cover everything you need to know about moving to Michigan based on firsthand experience. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, I’d love to help!
Largest Cities in Michigan
- Population: 633K
- Average salary: $72K
- Median home price: $100K
Grand Rapids City
- Population: 197K
- Average salary: $65K
- Median home price: $262K
- Population: 138K
- Average salary: $50K
- Median home price: $176K
Pros & Cons of Living in Michigan
Pros of Moving to Michigan
#1. The slow pace of life
My biggest adjustment when moving to Michigan was getting used to the (pleasant) slow pace of daily life. In many ways, living in Michigan feels like living in a small town, which isn’t something I was aware of right off the bat.
With the exception of Detroit, we don’t have large metro areas, so most of our cities are a manageable size. The second most populous city is Grand Rapids City, with a population of 197,000, is considered a small city by definition.
So what does this mean for everyday life in Michigan? Well, expect to come across friendly and self-sufficient locals. People are used to enjoying life at a slower pace without the stress of city-living, and the daily mood reflects that.
Don’t expect things to happen quickly, but expect kindness during the constant hurdles. Like I said, the slow pace of life takes some adjustment, especially for those moving to Michigan from a city (*raises hand).
#2. Access to top-notch outdoor recreation
When my decision was finalized and my intention of moving to Michigan for retirement was shared with family and friends, I noticed a reoccurring theme. Every single person raved about the outdoor recreation in Michigan and shared a never-ending list of epic activities that can’t be missed.
They weren’t wrong. Turns out living in Michigan can keep you entertained year-round, especially for those that love nature. Heck, they don’t call us the Great Lake State for nothing!
Lake Superior is a sight to behold. Hell, I’d argue that being close to the lake is the biggest perk of moving to Michigan. You can spend every weekend in summer fishing, swimming, camping, boating — you name it.
Lake aside, there’s so many other great recreation to be had. From breathtaking hiking trails, skiing, hunting and kayaking — you’ll never have a reason to be inactive while living in Michigan.
Must Know Before Moving to Michigan | The Upper Peninsula
Rugged, remote, and breathtakingly beautiful, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is the crown jewel of the state. Locals and visitors alike make the trek north to experience this gem firsthand.
The most popular activities include hiking (those waterfalls!), kayaking, fishing and taking too many photos along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (half-joking!).
Home to a population of 20,000+ Marquette is the largest city in the Upper Peninsula, it’s charming and worth a visit. Most of the peninsula is covered by forest (approximately 84%), making this a safe haven for those that love the wilderness.
#3. Affordable housing market
Before deciding on moving to Michigan, I did extensive research on daily life in this great state. One of the biggest factors that convinced me to move was the affordable housing market.
I’m probably not the first to tell you that home ownership is out of reach for most Americans, but thankfully Michigan seems to be an exception. Don’t just take my word for it, Michigan has some of the most affordable homes in the country.
The average home price in Michigan clocks in at $237K, which is way below the national average of $430,000. All this to say, there’s plenty of folks moving to Michigan to achieve the dream of home ownership, and it’s hard to blame them.
#4. Midwestern hospitality is in full effect
One of my favorite things about setting up home in the Midwest is the undeniable Midwest hospitality. We’ve all heard of southern hospitality (I moved from Atlanta, Georgia), but Midwest hospitality is something else.
It’s hard to explain the extent of the hospitality I’ve experienced while living in Michigan. Everyone is eager to help and everybody feels neighborly. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen strangers commit random acts of kindness to the benefit of others.
I was so warmly greeted by my neighbors shortly after moving to Michigan, everyone eager to share their favorite spots (restaurants, campgrounds, hikes, etc). I’ve never experienced anything like it and (at this point) refuse to leave because of it.
#5. Low cost of living in Michigan
Going hand-in-hand with affordable housing prices, the overall cost of living in Michigan is low. The advantages to living in an affordable state are numerous!
For starters, you get to enjoy more because you can afford more. Everything from eating out and entertainment (concerts, movies, etc) to everyday errands like groceries and necessities like haircuts will cost less while living in Michigan.
Speaking from personal experience, I feel like my quality of life improved greatly after moving to Michigan simply because I was able to enjoy things more often. My eating out budget affords me 4-5 meals per week, concert tickets aren’t obnoxiously priced and I can go out to the movies without sweating the credit card statement.
#6. The craft beer scene
Something I didn’t realize until moving to Michigan is our top-notch craft brew scene. Turns out we have some of the best beer in the country!
Home to more than 350 breweries, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The brews span the gamut, from satisfying sours to IPAs that punch above their weight, you’ll never go thirsty while living in Michigan.
If you’re new to the area, here’s a quick roundup of my favorite breweries in the state
- Transient Artisan Ales (don’t sleep on the IPA)
- HOMES Brewery (the IPA was rated one of the best in the USA)
- Speciation Artisan Ales
#7. … and all the wineries
If you’re libation of choice centers around chilled white wines or velvety pours of reds, you’ll be happy to learn that Michigan shines in the wine department as well. Heck, we have more than 150 wineries in state!
It’s surprising to imagine that our inhospitable winters would create conditions where vineyards can thrive, yet somehow it works.
There’s four certified wine regions across the state and each offers a unique soil composition the results in distinctive finishes ably to impress the most ardent connoisseur.
The hardy Austrian Blaufrankisch grape is the star of the show, resulting in an exciting and complex wine that’s far too easy to drink in the fall (… or so I’m told 😉).
One of the best ways to get acquainted with perks of living in Michigan is to spend a weekend pairing local wines with local cheese.
Local’s Tip: Partake in the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail to see what all the fuss is about.
#8. Lack of natural disasters
No list outlining the pros and cons of living in Michigan would be complete without mentioning the lack of natural disasters.
All told, disasters are rare (unless we’re talking about the Detroit Lions), you won’t hear mention of earthquakes, droughts, hurricanes and wildfires are a rarity.
Worth noting: We do get nasty snow blizzards. But heck, I’d take blizzards over tornadoes and wildfires any day of the year.
A fascinating study worth knowing about before moving to Michigan
Speaking of natural disasters, let’s talk climate change. I recently caught up with a friend from NYC who called me to tell me about a fascinating interview she heard on NPR.
A globalization expert by the name of Parag Khanna (has the fancy titles and all) predicts that Michigan will be the best place to live in the USA by the year 2050.
The reasoning, according to Khanna, is a mix of Michigan’s prime latitudinal location and the abundance of fresh water access. Likewise, the state’s economic and political situation appear favorable and, Khanna argues, will contribute to the state’s growth in the years to come.
Cons of Living in Michigan
#1. The BRUTAL winters while living in Michigan
Let’s not sugarcoat it, winters in Michigan suck. They’re the worst part of living in Michigan by far. Seriously, nothing comes close.
Even if you “think” you enjoy snow, you’ll find yourself questioning everything you thought you knew about yourself. We’re not just talking about snow, we’re talking about limb-numbing temperatures from late November through mid-March.
What’s more, blizzards are not uncommon, but thankfully they keep regular office hours. Every winter, you can expect to bunker down at home or add an extra 2+ hours for your errands.
Must Know Before Moving to Michigan | The Winter Lake Effect
You’ll hear mention of the Lake Effect often when living in Michigan, so allow me to elaborate. The Lake Effect refers to intense snow storms that form as a result of below-freezing air passing over a lake’s warmer waters.
This causes water from the lake to evaporate which later turns into snow as it cools. And with Lake Michigan-Huron being the largest lake in the country, well you can only imagine how big a factor the Lake Effect is for those living in Michigan.
#2. Terrible road infrastructure
One thing you’ll quickly learn after moving to Michigan is that Dante’s inferno needs an update and Michigan’s road infrastructure is the top contender.
Our road conditions are so terrible, I hardly know where to begin. First, it feels like construction never ends. I’m willing to bet that those who voted for Eisenhower are still waiting to see how the I-75 turns out.
I’m well aware that our weather conditions are the culprit, but still, you’d think we would have found a solution by now. Between the potholes and lack of maintenance, you need to be very careful during daily commutes while living in Michigan.
#3. Obnoxious car insurance rates
This wouldn’t be an honest list of the cons of living in Michigan if we didn’t talk about car insurance rates. They’re off the charts, seriously. For example, a recent study found that Detroit has the highest car insurance rates in the country.
According to the study, the average commuter pays $5,182 annually, which exceeds the national average by a whopping 284%! So factor those rates into your cost of living in Michigan, because it adds up.
The worst part? Michigan is a no-fault state, which means your rates may go up even if you’re not “at fault.” It’s a tad technical, you can learn more here.
#4. Let’s talk about Detroit
Alright, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Detroit doesn’t speak for the rest of the state, but it holds a seat at the table and therefore warrants conversation.
Time after time, Detroit is considered one of the most dangerous cities in America, which is not a stat to be taken lightly. Especially when considering more 600,000+ people ended up is living in Detroit after moving to Michigan.
As of 2022, Detroit ranks as the 3rd most dangerous city in America. The crimes span the gamut, from petty crimes to serious bone-chilling stats (like the murder rate). So if you’re moving to Michigan with the hopes of establishing a home in Detroit, I suggest doing the proper research.
Personally speaking, I originally moved to Detroit but ended up lasting less than two years. It was way too stressful and I found myself getting paranoid too often (especially in the evenings). Some areas were enjoyable, but since I was in the retirement mindset, I found it cons outweighed the pros for me.
#5. The summer humidity is a bear
I know that Michigan’s winters get all the press, but the summer humidity is no joke. It will mostly likely be a hard adjustments for those moving to Michigan from milder climates.
Michigan is one of the most humid states in the country, which means you’ll feel like you’re living in a sauna during the summer months. The logic is sound though, the Great Lake State is surrounded by … lakes.
Lots of water + hot temperatures = humidity.
And you know what thrives in humidity? Bugs and pests. Which brings me to my next point.
#6. The mosquitoes (mercy!)
You know what loves water more than the residents of Michigan? The mosquitos, and those things will defend the water like its their job. But don’t just take my word for it, two of our cities rank as the worst place in the country for mosquitoes.
These things will eat you alive. It doesn’t matter what you do, mosquitoes will become a part of your daily life in Michigan. It’s a bummer because the summer months are great for outdoor recreation, but the mosquitoes will drive you crazy until you find yourself sitting in the car and praying for the good old years when lotus were the top concern.
Also, if you’re dreaming of long summer meals on the porch while living in Michigan, think again. You’ll need a screen porch for that to be remotely possible.
Retiring in Michigan FAQs
Is Michigan a good place to live?
All told, Michigan is a great place to live for those that love the outdoors, friendly locals, affordable housing and low cost of living. However, the brutal winters are not to be trifled with and can drive you up the wall. If you’re prone to seasonal depression, Michigan may not be the place for you.
Is Michigan a good place to retire?
Between the low cost of living in Michigan and the light tax burden, Michigan is a great place to retire. In terms of taxes, I’m happy to report that Social Security income is not taxed. Other retirement accounts (Roth, 401K) are partially taxed at a marginal state tax rate of 5.9%.
Is weed legal in Michigan?
As of November 2018, recreational marijuana use is legal in Michigan. Weed is subject to a 10% excise tax in addition to the sales tax of 6% and a daily purchase limit of 2.5 ounces is imposed.
Pros & Cons of Living in Michigan(Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the pros and cons of living in Michigan.
- The slow pace of life (small town living)
- Access to top-notch outdoor recreation
- Affordable housing market
- Midwestern hospitality is in full effect
- Low cost of living in Michigan
- The craft beer scene
- …and all the wineries
- Lack of natural disasters
- Michigan is predicted to be a climate oasis
- Brutal winters while living in Michigan
- Terrible road infrastructure
- Obnoxious car insurance rates
- Detroit is a dangerous city
- Summer humidity
- The mosquitos (mercy!)
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