The Best Places to Live in Florida

A Credit Karma Study

Updated

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A lot of people are moving to Florida these days. From July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021, Florida’s population grew by 211,196 residents — reaching a new level of more than 21.7 million people.

This population growth from 2020 to 2021 was second only to Texas. With benefits like no state income tax, Florida can be alluring.

Credit Karma compiled info from a variety of publicly available datasets and created a weighted formula to determine our picks for the best cities in Florida to live in. Factors included crime rates; access to healthcare and social assistance; arts, entertainment and recreation; population age and diversity; and key economic characteristics like unemployment rates and per capita income versus per capita cost of living. (Click here for the full methodology.)

Of Florida’s 200 largest cities and towns for which complete data was available, we identified the five best places to live as …

  1. Naples
  2. Fruit Cove
  3. Lake Mary
  4. Palm Beach Gardens
  5. Jupiter

Read on for details and background.

Top 5 places to live in Florida

Our picks for the best cities to live in Florida shared a variety of good scores across the multiple factors we analyzed. Here is a closer look at our findings.

1. Naples

We ranked Naples as Florida’s No. 1 best city to live in thanks to solid scores generally across the board. Naples has a low rate of violent crime. Economically, Naples is in good shape, too, with an unemployment rate that has declined by 53.7% — from 5.4% in 2015 to 2.5% in 2020. Average commute time to work is relatively fast at 23 minutes, and if your income is in line with the median earnings of Naples residents ($93,147), that should more than cover typical cost of annual living expenses ($40,884). It’s important to note, however, that Naples has one of the worst ethnic diversity scores of the 200 cities we analyzed — and you’ll probably find housing prices on the higher end given this city’s typical home value of $592,152.

2. Fruit Cove

Fruit Cove ranked as our No. 2 city in Florida, with very low property crime and violent crime rates and favorable economic conditions. The annual unemployment rate decreased by 53.2%, from 7.7% in 2015 to 3.6% in 2020. It’s worth noting that Fruit Cove’s typical home value is $557,796, making it potentially one of the more costly places on our list to settle down.  

3. Lake Mary

Lake Mary is our No. 3 best Florida city to live in. You’d probably find buying a home more doable in Lake Mary than in the No. 1 and No. 2 cities on our list — Lake Mary’s typical home value is $461,424 compared to the mid to higher $500,000s for Naples and Fruit Cove. Plus, unemployment in Lake Mary fell by 75%, from 9.6% in 2015 to 2.4% in 2020. And with median individual earnings of $65,619 versus typical annual living costs of $43,004, there’s room to make ends meet.

4. Palm Beach Gardens

Located northwest of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens ranked as the No. 4 best city to live in Florida. Violent crime rates are low in Palm Beach Gardens, and its location in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro area offers access to a large number of healthcare and social services, arts and recreation, and accommodation and food services establishments. Palm Beach Gardens’ unemployment rate fell by 44.2%, from 5.2% in 2015 to 2.9% in 2020, while the average commute time to work is only 23.7 minutes.

5. Jupiter

With a population of 65,139, Jupiter came in as our No. 5 best place to live in Florida. Both violent and property crime rates are low in the city, and unemployment declined by almost a quarter, from 5% in 2015 to 3.8% in 2020. Plus, the average commute time to work is fast at 22.4 minutes.

Overall best places to live in Florida

In Credit Karma’s study, a lower score equals a better place to live in Florida. Check out our overall rankings of the best places to live in Florida and some of the contributing factors.

Rank City Violent crime per capita (2020) Zillow typical home value (May 2022) 1-year home value growth 2020 unemployment rate % (age 16+)
1 Naples 0.10% $592,152 52.0% 2.5
2 Fruit Cove 0.11% $557,796 36.9% 3.6
3 Lake Mary 0.18% $461,424 27.7% 2.4
4 Palm Beach Gardens 0.11% $626,782 39.2% 2.9
* The Villages 0.16% $416,828 33.7% 0.3
5 Jupiter 0.13% $666,072 39.1% 3.8
6 North Port 0.17% $379,165 49.3% 3.7
7 Venice 0.07% $475,917 48.5% 4.0
8 Wellington 0.10% $655,203 39.0% 5.0
9 Boca Raton 0.21% $569,457 38.4% 6.0
10 Sarasota 0.60% $482,283 46.0% 3.7
11 Royal Palm Beach 0.21% $481,643 34.7% 4.2
12 Greenacres 0.29% $290,900 34.1% 6.4
13 Palm River-Clair Mel 0.13% $291,052 38.7% 5.4
14 Winter Springs 0.18% $418,861 28.0% 4.3
15 Parkland 0.02% $1,007,146 38.0% 3.9
16 Oviedo 0.13% $490,558 28.7% 4.6
17 Coral Terrace 0.23% $593,351 27.0% 1.4
18 Temple Terrace 0.27% $338,653 37.5% 1.7
19 Lutz 0.13% $484,599 37.4% 2.0
20 Town ‘n’ Country 0.13% $382,685 37.4% 4.6

*The Villages is an age-restricted community, catering to retirees. So while not everyone can live there, we wanted to acknowledge that The Villages ranked highly due to solid scores across the board.

Indeed, most Florida cities in the top 20 of our ranking have certain things in common, including …

  • Low property and violent crime rates
  • Large numbers of establishments for accommodation and food services, healthcare and social assistance, and arts, entertainment and recreation
  • Declines in unemployment rates
  • Individual incomes that are higher than annual cost of living expenses

Best places to live in Florida for employment and income

Coral Terrace, which ranked No. 18, saw a decline in unemployment by 85.9% over the past five years — it has the second-lowest unemployment rate on our list at 1.4%. The Villages has the lowest unemployment rate at 0.3%, but it’s also an age-restricted community aimed at retirees. The top 20 best cities to live in Florida have an average unemployment rate of 3.6%. That’s superior to the average unemployment rate of the 200 cities analyzed in the study, which is 5.3%.

Work commute can be a big factor in deciding where to live. Among our top 20 cities in Florida to live in, the following places had the fastest average work commute times:

  1. Boca Raton: 21.5 minutes
  2. Sarasota: 22.2 minutes
  3. Jupiter: 22.4 minutes
  4. Naples: 23 minutes
  5. Venice: 23.1 minutes

Many of the top 20 best places to live in Florida beat the overall mean commute time for the state, which is 27.9 minutes, according to the 2020 American Community Survey.

Safest places to live in Florida

In terms of crime rates, the following cities have the lowest property crime rates:

  1. Sweetwater: 0%
  2. Niceville: 0.31%
  3. Palm Harbor: 0.32%
  4. Debary: 0.33%
  5. Deltona: 0.33%

When looking at violent crime rates, the following cities have the lowest violent crime rates:

  1. Sweetwater: 0%
  2. Parkland: 0.02%
  3. Weston: 0.05%
  4. Palm Harbor: 0.05%
  5. Niceville: 0.06%

Best cities to retire in Florida

Though this study did not focus on retirement, some of the cities could be attractive to retirees. Here are our picks for the three best cities to retire in Florida.

1. The Villages

The Villages has a population of more than 81,000, with 84.4% age 65 and older. The city features a high percentage of top-rated nursing homes and a high rate of dedicated healthcare providers per adult age 65 and older.

2. Venice

Nearly two-thirds of Venice’s population are 65 and older, and its livability score, according to AreaVibes, is very high. Both violent crime and property crime rates are comparatively low. Community support for seniors is strong, with expenditures of $142 per adult age 60 and older.

3. Naples

Naples could be one of the best cities to retire in Florida thanks to high livability, a large percentage of senior residents (52.5% are age 65 and older) and low rates of both property and violent crime.

Best and Worst States to Retire in 2021

Best places to live in Florida for home value

Increasing home values are a good thing when you own a home. But high home values can also mean high home prices. Based on the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) for May 2022, our picks for Florida’s top 20 cities to live in have a typical home value of $507,739. That’s compared to a statewide home value index of roughly $388,200.

Greenacres (No. 13) has the lowest typical home value at $290,900, though it experienced a robust five-year growth in home values of 82.9%.

Best places in Florida for key services, entertainment and recreation

Based on data from the 2017 Economic Census (latest data available), the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro area has the greatest number of establishments focused on accommodation and food services; healthcare and social assistance; and arts, entertainment and recreation.

  • Accommodation & food services establishments: 12,870
  • Healthcare & social assistance establishments: 21,676
  • Arts, entertainment & recreation establishments: 3,112

Tips for choosing the best place to live in Florida

The criteria that we used to evaluate and rank the 200 largest cities in Florida are important, but they’re not the only factors to consider. For example, maybe being near beaches or lakes is important to you.

If you have your heart set on living in Florida but can’t decide where to settle, you might want to think about other factors we didn’t cover, such as …

  • Do you want to live in an urban, suburban or rural area?
  • Do you want to drive to work or take public transportation?
  • Will you be close to family and friends and does that matter to you?
  • How many employment opportunities are available in your profession?
  • What’s the population like? For example, are there a lot of families? Retirees? Working singles?
  • What is there to do for fun?
  • How far away is the closest airport?
  • What types of housing are available (single family homes, condos, apartments, duplexes, townhouses, etc.)?
  • What are the schools like (if you have children)?

Deciding where to live is about more than the numbers. Be sure to consider all the factors that are important to you, including those that can’t be easily measured. 

You may not be able to find a place that checks every box on your wish list, but you can prioritize the things that matter most to you and select a new hometown based on them.

Methodology

To determine the best cities to live in Florida, this study considered 200 of the largest cities in Florida by population and evaluated them by the following criteria:

  1. All violent crime reported in 2020, sourced from FBI Uniform Crime Reporting; violent crimes reported were divided by the city’s population to get the crime rate per capita
  2. All property crime reported in 2020, sourced from FBI Uniform Crime Reporting; property crimes reported were divided by the city’s population to get the crime rate per capita
  3. Number of food and drink establishments by metropolitan statistical area (MSA), sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 Economic Census (latest available)
  4. Number of hospitals by MSA, sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 Economic Census (latest available)
  5. Number of arts, entertainment and recreation establishments by MSA, sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 Economic Census (latest available)
  6. Zillow typical home value for all homes, May 2022, sourced from Zillow’s Home Value Index
  7. One-year home value growth, sourced from Zillow’s Home Value Index
  8. Two-year home value growth, sourced from Zillow’s Home Value Index
  9. Five-year home value growth, sourced from Zillow’s Home Value Index
  10. Average commute to work for people ages 16 and older, sourced from the Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates
  11. Annual unemployment rate, sourced from Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates
  12. Five-year change in unemployment rate, from 2015 to 2020, sourced from Census Bureau’s 2015 and 2020 American Community Surveys, 5-Year Estimates
  13. Difference between annual individual median earnings, sourced from the 2020 American Community Surveys, 5-Year Estimates, and annual cost of living for one adult, based on Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator
  14. Distribution of age of population in each city compared to national age distribution, sourced Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates
  15. Diversity score based on ethnicities of population in each city, sourced from Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates
  16. Age-adjusted health status of physical health not good, sourced from the CDC’s Local Data for Better Health, County Data 2021 release
  17. Age-adjusted mental health status not good, sourced from the CDC’s Local Data for Better Health, County Data 2021 release
  18. Fair or poor self-rated health status, sourced from the CDC’s Local Data for Better Health, County Data 2021 release
  19. Five-year population growth, sourced from  Census Bureau’s 20015 and 2020 American Community Surveys, 5-Year Estimates

Sources