Albuquerque, The Duke City, is known for its diverse landscape, excellent weather, and rich history. It’s the largest city in New Mexico and has a lot to offer locals and visitors.
The city holds a Balloon Fiesta every year, where many hot air balloons launch, coloring the sky. There are also many things to enjoy, including New Mexico cuisine, local wines, and brews.
Moving to a new place requires planning, and it involves knowing the advantages and disadvantages of living there. Your decision ultimately comes down to preference and factors, such as cost of living, education, work opportunities, and crime.
So, is Albuquerque a good place to live? Albuquerque is a great place to live but has some things to consider. Its stunning landscape complements its 300 days of sun, and there are many outdoor activities to explore. The cost of living is low; however, crime is high, and the job market is highly competitive.
Analyzing the pros and cons can affect your decision differently depending on what living aspects you value more. This article digs deep into these factors. We also included some of the best places to live in Albuquerque and retirement communities that are cost-effective and luxurious.
Albuquerque Quick Facts
Before we plunge deep into the pros and cons of living in Albuquerque, let’s get to know the basics about the city.
|City Type||Dense urban|
|Cultural Diversity||1st Statewide, 73rd Nationwide|
|Nicknames||The Duke City, ABQ, Burque, 505|
|Resident Nickname||Burqueños, Burqueñas|
|Hottest Month||July (90 degrees)|
|Coldest Months||December and January (26 degrees)|
|Rainiest Months||July and August|
|Average Rain and Snow||10 inches each a year|
Is Living in Albuquerque Expensive?
Albuquerque’s cost of living is lower than most cities in New Mexico. According to bestplaces.net, it also ranks below the national average at 91.1. This ranking includes health, utilities, grocery, housing, and transportation costs.
As of September 2019, Zillow lists the average home price at about $235,000. Average monthly rent (1 and 2 bedrooms) is among the most affordable across the US largest cities, ranging from $700 to $1,000.
Nearly 38% of the city’s residents rent their homes.
Is It Safe to Live in Albuquerque?
Crime rates are high in Albuquerque, and the figures are above the statewide and national averages. The highest crime rates are in Pajarito Mesa, Bernalillo, and the Albuquerque proper.
The downtown area is usually safe during the day but not so much at night. Nob Hill tends to be safe even at night, and it’s a less rowdy neighborhood.
Albuquerque’s Educational System
Albuquerque gets a C+, which ranks high on both statewide and national levels. Factors calculated into the score include:
- Enrollment rates
- Student-parent reviews
- Teacher-to-student ratios
- Public school graduation rates
According to greatschools.org, the following schools are rated either 9/10 or 10/10.
- Hubert H Humphrey Elementary School (10/10)
- North Star Elementary School (10/10)
- Albuquerque Institue of Math and Science (middle school) (10/10)
- Explore Academy (middle school) (9/10)
- College and Career High School (9/10)
- La Cueva High School (9/10)
Prominent colleges and universities include:
- University of New Mexico
- University of Phoenix
- Trinity Southwest University
- University of St. Francis
Community, technical, and design colleges include:
- ITT Technical Institute
- The Art Center Design College
- Central New Mexico Community College
Albuquerque’s weather is generally mild, dry, and sunny for over 300 days a year.
Humidity is relatively low, but temperatures can fluctuate within a day, particularly in the winter and summer. Given this erratic weather, you might want to consider an air conditioner and heater (view on Amazon).
Summer is tolerable with low humidity, rarely spiking to 90 degrees. Winter is brief, with a low of 10 degrees and an average of 36. Apart from mountain tops, snow rarely visits the city.
Albuquerque’s property tax rate of 0.96% is below the US average of 1.21%, and sales tax is higher at 7.87% against US’ 7.3%. The state income tax ranges from 1.7% to 4.9% versus the US average of 4.6%.
In Albuquerque, moving around in your car is a breeze.
Two interstates run through the city, intersecting at what’s called the Big I. Take the Interstate 25 if you’re going north to Colorado and Santa Fe or south to El Paso. Interstate 40 takes you east to Texas or west to Arizona in two hours.
City bus lines are extensive and conducive for short travels, many of which are at the downtown Alvarado Transportation Center. Consider taking the bus when traveling from Central Avenue to downtown or from the west to the Rio Grande.
Buses are handicapped accessible with bike racks and bus pass options:
- Daily (1 to 3 days)
- Monthly (up to 12 months)
- Children under 9 years old ride free
The city also has the ABQ Ride Paratransit in the metro area. It’s a door-to-door service for people who are too impaired to take the fixed-route service.
Parking lot designs feel like mazes. There are random stop signs, sharp curves, and one-ways.
There are more than 400 miles of lanes and paths to ride a bike (view on Amazon) in Albuquerque, making biking (commuting and recreational) the highest transit rating in the city.
Living in Albuquerque: Pros and Cons
What makes Albuquerque a good place to live? Here are some of the reasons.
On a scale of 0 to 100, Albuquerque’s livability score is 69. The city’s above-average rating covers crime, education, cost of living, and the residents’ overall happiness.
Albuquerque is among the most walkable cities in the US, particularly the downtown area like Old Town Albuquerque and Nob Hill.
It’s easy to own a car in Albuquerque because there are no state inspections for vehicles in New Mexico. Bernalillo County requires emission tests, but diesel vehicles are exempt.
Albuquerque’s diverse nightlife marries southwestern cultural cuisines with country-and-western rowdiness.
- Founders Speakeasy offers exclusivity with a laid-back charm during its craft cocktails and happy hour. This downtown bar serves beer, wine, seasonal cocktails, and almost 150 spirits.
- Marble Brewery in downtown Albuquerque boasts an outdoor beer garden and on-site tasting room. It offers 10 beers on tap, seven house beers, seasonal drafts, and a 40-foot-long bar overlooking the brewery.
- Sister, off Route 66, is a party venue. It serves craft brews, cocktails, and local cuisine with live music and classic arcade games in the background.
The Mountaineer Ranger District is one great spot to explore Albuquerque’s outdoors. Together with New Mexico’s Jemez Springs and Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, these outdoor destinations offer an exciting weekend to set up your camping tent (view on Amazon), hike, kayak, or enjoy the scenic Sandia Mountains.
The Balloon Fiesta is an annual event every October. During this 9-day event, more than 500 hot air balloons parade the skies, making it the largest balloon festival in the world.
Other fantastic outdoor destinations are:
- Petroglyph National Monument (one of North America’s largest petroglyph sites)
- Sandia Peak Tramway (offers 11,000 square miles of panoramic views from a peak of nearly 10,400 feet)
- Rio Grande Nature Center State Park (spanning 38 acres with 1.2 miles of interpretive hiking trails)
- Old Town Albuquerque (historic area founded in 1706 with over 150 stores, art galleries, locally-owned restaurants, and museums)
Albuquerque is diverse, both historically and culturally. Old Town Albuquerque was home to Native Americans for centuries, dating back to 1706, when the Spaniards colonized the area.
Compared to a busy city life where everything is rushed amidst traffic that’s constantly congested, living in Albuquerque is quiet and slow.
Some people would rather live in another city than Albuquerque. Here are some of the reasons why.
Unregulated Rent Deposit
In Albuquerque and other New Mexico cities, landlords can charge as much as they want for rent deposits (the standard is a month’s rent).
Flights in and out of Albuquerque are limited, mainly to big cities like Washington, DC, or New York.
Compared to other US cities, unemployment is high in Albuquerque. It also pegs high at 4.3% versus the national average of 3.7%.
The US News gives the city’s job market a 6/10 score, indicating that there are limited work opportunities in the city compared to similarly-sized metropolitan areas.
However, bestplaces.net states a 3.3% increase in the job market from 2020 to 2021.
Top industry sectors include:
- Energy Technology
- Semiconductor Manufacturing
- Solar Energy
Major employers include:
- Honeywell Defense and Space Electronic Systems
- General Mills
- Albuquerque Public Schools
- Kirtland Airforce Base
- Intel Corporation
- Thomas and Betts
- University of New Mexico
- Sandia National Laboratories
The minimum wage of $7.50 per hour has been the same since 2009. However, a law was signed that by 2023, the rate would increase to $12 per hour.
Albuquerque’s highest altitude is only more than 5,300 feet, but with the city’s desert climate, the combination doesn’t sit well with everyone. If you’re moving from a lower-elevation area, adjusting or engaging in physical activities might take days.
Some rural roads need improvements, particularly the bridges on US Route 491 (formerly Highway 666). The state believes that the poor infrastructure increases the risk of traffic fatalities in the city.
While natural calamities like earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes pose minimal to no risk in Albuquerque, wildfires can cause concern.
Wind and Dust
Albuquerque’s canyons are prone to winds funneling at high speeds, especially when there’s a storm. During the dry season, dust that causes seasonal allergies comes with these strong winds.
Where to Live in Albuquerque
Budget-Friendly Places in Albuquerque
Moving on a tight budget? These areas have you covered:
- Barelas/South Valley
- Tijeras Arroyo
- Four Hills
- Snow Heights
- Rio Rancho
- Singing Arrow
- Ladera West
Pricey Neighborhoods in Albuquerque
Did you say, ‘name the price?’ Here are excellent choices:
- Historic Old Town
- Sandia Heights
- Balloon Fiesta Park
- Northeast Side
Retirement Communities in Albuquerque
If you want to retire in a community that lets you stay active while caring for your needs throughout your golden years, here are some select choices.
- Brookdale Valencia (Assisted Living)
- Bear Canyon Estates (Independent Living)
- MorningStar at North Ridge (Alzheimer’s Care)
- BeeHive Homes of Albuquerque (Respite Care-Short Term Stay)
- Affinity at Albuquerque (62+ Lifestyles)
- La Vida Llena (Continuing Care)
- 1st Premier (Home Care)
- Ladera Care and Rehabilitation Center (Nursing Care)
- Share Your Care (Adult Day Care)
Conclusion: Is Albuquerque a Good Place to Live?
Whether Albuquerque is a good place to live or not is subjective.
If picturesque landscapes and juxtaposed modern-and-old neighborhoods fire your senses, Albuquerque is an ideal home. Culture and history dating back to the early 1700s are similarly potent magnets for people who want diversity.
However, the city’s 300 days of sunshine is not for everyone. Younger generations or those looking for a career change may not look kindly at Albuquerque’s competitive job market.
The bottom line, if Albuquerque earns many thumbs up from your checklist of a good place to live, you’re on the right path.