Homeownership isn’t for everyone. Roughly 44 million American households have opted to rent rather than buy their homes because of convenience, cost or both. But renting isn’t always a cheaper or better alternative to owning a property. The right road to take depends on a variety of factors, including an individual’s or family’s financial means and how well the local real-estate market is doing.
As more people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and states have reopened, rental prices have hit the highest level in two years, after being relatively low in 2020. Meanwhile, mortgage rates are also starting to rise again. Like home prices, however, rental rates can vary significantly by region, state or city. And in some places, renting will prove to be more cost-effective and a better overall value than owning.
To determine where renters can get the most bang for their buck, WalletHub compared more than 180 rental markets based on 22 key measures of rental attractiveness and quality of life. Our data set ranges from the difference between rental rates and mortgage payments to historical price changes, the cost of living and job availability.
Best Places to Rent
|Overall Rank||City||Total Score||Rental Market & Affordability||Quality of Life|
|1||Sioux Falls, SD||65.26||1||89|
|2||Cedar Rapids, IA||63.86||5||43|
|3||Overland Park, KS||62.12||14||15|
|8||El Paso, TX||60.16||37||12|
|16||Des Moines, IA||57.91||13||63|
|19||South Burlington, VT||57.42||68||4|
|23||Rapid City, SD||56.38||4||148|
|37||Virginia Beach, VA||52.75||39||88|
|39||Santa Rosa, CA||52.58||149||2|
|45||San Francisco, CA||51.43||141||18|
|49||San Diego, CA||51.13||146||21|
|51||Grand Rapids, MI||51.00||64||76|
|52||San Jose, CA||50.99||145||24|
|56||Grand Prairie, TX||50.57||131||28|
|57||Las Cruces, NM||50.47||33||132|
|58||Corpus Christi, TX||50.23||35||127|
|60||Newport News, VA||50.06||25||146|
|61||San Antonio, TX||50.04||78||81|
|65||Kansas City, MO||49.85||30||134|
|66||Fort Wayne, IN||49.85||46||120|
|69||Fort Worth, TX||49.77||107||59|
|70||Oklahoma City, OK||49.61||48||119|
|73||St. Petersburg, FL||49.55||143||39|
|79||West Valley City, UT||49.24||87||82|
|81||Little Rock, AR||48.98||10||170|
|83||Colorado Springs, CO||48.91||92||87|
|93||St. Louis, MO||48.04||27||153|
|96||Pembroke Pines, FL||47.75||167||19|
|97||Salt Lake City, UT||47.66||81||110|
|100||Fort Smith, AR||47.50||8||180|
|102||Chula Vista, CA||47.40||127||70|
|107||Huntington Beach, CA||47.04||172||14|
|109||New York, NY||46.91||144||64|
|112||Pearl City, HI||46.70||120||77|
|114||Jersey City, NJ||46.47||122||95|
|117||Cape Coral, FL||46.35||173||10|
|118||Rancho Cucamonga, CA||46.12||160||49|
|119||St. Paul, MN||46.11||133||91|
|120||Port St. Lucie, FL||46.08||169||33|
|122||Santa Clarita, CA||45.79||170||31|
|134||Las Vegas, NV||44.95||119||117|
|150||Moreno Valley, CA||42.71||157||103|
|153||New Haven, CT||42.45||153||109|
|155||Garden Grove, CA||42.18||180||29|
|157||Long Beach, CA||41.90||176||62|
|158||Fort Lauderdale, FL||41.84||162||99|
|160||Los Angeles, CA||41.71||177||61|
|168||Baton Rouge, LA||40.06||111||166|
|169||North Las Vegas, NV||40.03||118||159|
|172||Santa Ana, CA||39.41||181||71|
|178||San Bernardino, CA||36.07||161||163|
|179||New Orleans, LA||36.06||171||151|
Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that city, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
Ask the Experts
Finding a suitable rental unit is a similar process to buying a home. Your search may be based purely on cost or also on needs, such as the number of bedrooms or close proximity to work. For guidance, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What tips do you have for a person looking to get the best value in an apartment?
- What are the most common mistakes that renters make when searching for a new apartment?
- In evaluating the best and worst cities for renters, what are the top five indicators?
- What listing details have become more important when searching for a place to rent during the current economic crisis?
- Are the fastest growing cities a good place for renters? Why?
- Will the way the cities handled the COVID-19 health crisis influence in any way the renter's choice when looking for an apartment?
- How can local policymakers make housing more affordable for renters without upsetting homeowners?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the best local rental markets, WalletHub compared 182 cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across two key dimensions, “Rental Market & Affordability” and “Quality of Life.”
We evaluated those dimensions using 22 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for renters. Data for metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available at the state level only.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. Our sample considers only the city proper in each case and excludes cities in the surrounding metro area.
Rental Market & Affordability – Total Points: 60
- Share of Renters: Full Weight (~3.24 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the share of renter occupied housing units among total occupied housing units.
- Rental Vacancy Rate: Full Weight (~3.24 Points)
- Sublet Laws-Friendliness*: Full Weight (~3.24 Points)
- Average Home Square Footage: Half Weight (~1.62 Points)
- Share of Newer Homes: Full Weight (~3.24 Points)
Note: “Newer Homes” include housing units built between 2010 and 2019.
- Rental Affordability: Triple Weight (~9.73 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Median Gross Rent / Median Annual Household Income.
- Share of Apartment Community Pillar Listings: Full Weight (~3.24 Points)
Note: A Community Pillar landlord has agreed to relax their standard tenant screening process in order to help applicants with potential rental barriers—such as low incomes, spotty credit scores, unemployment, or lack of housing references—be able to obtain housing.
- Historical Rental-Price Changes: Triple Weight (~9.73 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the year-over-year change in rent prices (2021 vs. 2020 vs. 2019).
- Share of Severely Cost-Burdened Renter Households: Full Weight (~3.24 Points)
Note: “Severely Cost-Burdened Renter Households,” as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, refers to consumers who spend at least 50 percent of their income on housing.
- Average Annual Renters-Insurance Premium*: Full Weight (~3.24 Points)
- Rent-to-Price Ratio: Full Weight (~3.24 Points)
- Cost of Living: Triple Weight (~9.73 Points)
- Security-Deposit Limit*: Full Weight (~3.24 Points)
Note: This metric measures the maximum security-deposit amount that landlords are allowed to charge in the state. A lower amount is ideal for renters.
Quality of Life – Total Points: 40
- City Satisfaction Ranking: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
- Job Market: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities for Jobs” ranking.
- Driver-Friendliness: Half Weight (~2.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities to Drive in” ranking.
- Recreation-Friendliness: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities for Recreation” ranking.
- Weather: Half Weight (~2.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Cities with the Best & Worst Weather” ranking.
- Quality of Public School System: Half Weight (~2.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on GreatSchools.org’s ratings of U.S. public schools.
- Safety: Double Weight (~8.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the violent- and property-crime rates.
- Presence of State Bedbug Laws*: Half Weight (~2.00 Points)
Note: This binary metric measures the presence or absence of bedbug laws in the state. Bedbug laws address bedbug infestations in rental properties.
- Percentage of Residents Who Are Fully Vaccinated: Triple Weight (~12.00 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, Zillow, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Insurance Information Institute, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Flex Zone, Gallup, Federal Bureau of Investigation, GreatSchools.org, NOLO, National Association of REALTORS, Muller Media, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and WalletHub research.