The Best Places to Live in Illinois

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Low costs of living, blue-ribbon schools, and charming communities make cities like Elmhurst, Wood River, and Downs among the best places to live in Illinois.
So you’re shopping for your dream home in Illinois—maybe you’re looking for a place with a big backyard or a slice of Chicagoan suburbia. Or maybe, you’re hoping to brave the Windy City from a high-end condo or apartment. Either way, it can be easy to get caught up in the details, but more goes into an area’s livability than your home alone. 
Cost of living, quality school districts, distance to grocery stores and gas stations, available public transport, and local community atmosphere are just some of the factors you should look at when determining your new home. 
 Knowing what you want and need is the first step—but then what?
That’s where Jerry—the homeowners and car insurance super app—comes in. We’ve put together this handy guide on the eight best places to live in Illinois to help narrow your home search based on your circumstances and priorities. In this article, we’ll discuss the best towns and cities across the Prairie State, so you can make the move that’s right for you.
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What makes a good place to live? 

There’s a lot more that goes into choosing a good place to live than you might think. From grocery stores and gas prices to local climate, school districts, and the cost of living, locating your new (and maybe forever) home can start to feel complicated.
Luckily, we’ve done the work of assessing factors like these and have gathered the facts for you on eight Illinois towns that stand apart from the crowd: Elmhurst, Park Ridge, Hoopeston, Freeport, Wood River, Downs, Monee, and Colona. 
To make comparisons simple, we’ve categorized and included the following information on each town:
  • Median household income
  • Median home price
  • Cost of living
  • Quality of schools 
  • Crime rates
  • Healthcare
  • Average commute times
  • FEMA risk index ratings 
Below, you can find more information on what makes each city unique, from the best places for families to the most affordable places to live and the best places to buy a forever house in Illinois. 

The best places for families to live in Illinois

To be a great place for families, you need good education systems, low crime rates, and enriching community life. Using these factors, we’ve narrowed down two Illinois cities that are great places for families. 

Elmhurst

Location: DuPage County overlapping Cook County
Population: 47,260
Median household income: $118,609
Median home price: $494,918
Excellent education and a family-centric community make the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst a prime location for growing families. Its proximity to The Windy City makes it the perfect commuter town for families who prefer a more relaxed pace of life—the average travel time is just under 30 minutes
Elmhurst residents also make some of the highest wages across Illinois, and with a 94.9% high school graduation rate, families in Elmhurst enjoy one of the best school districts in the state

Park Ridge

Location: Cook County
Population: 37,480
Median household income: $148,405
Median home price: $489,900
A nearby neighbor, the Chicagoan suburb of Park Ridge, shares similar benefits to Elmhurst at only a slightly higher cost of living. Its picturesque homes and family-friendly community lend Park Ridge a certain small-town atmosphere, despite it being located only 20 miles from Chicago.
The median home price in Park Ridge is slightly higher than its comparable neighbor—but so is the median household income. Families in Park Ridge also enjoy an excellent school district with a high school graduation rate of 95%

The most affordable places to live in Illinois

An area’s cost of living can often be a huge draw—or drawback. We’ve assessed the cost of living in the following towns based on metrics like the national and state cost of living index for movers relocating on a budget. 

Hoopeston

Location: Vermilion County
Population: 5,102
Median household income: $43,914
Median home price: $68,900
Back in the day, the small community of Hoopeston operated as a way station at the crossroads of two railways. Now, Hoopeston is the perfect quaint Illinois town for anyone looking to find a more relaxed pace of life at a lower cost of living
Mainly a retirement community, Hoopeston residents can find work at local health centers and nursing homes—and with Chicago only two hours away, it’s not hard to escape to the city whenever you crave a change of pace. 

Freeport

Location: Stephenson County
Population: 25,638
Median household income: $39,975
Median home price: $89,823
Freeport is Hoopeston’s somewhat larger neighbor, but the two cities regularly partner together on local events and projects. Freeport boasts a bigger community and the resources to sustain it: shopping centers, vibrant nightlife, and better school districts. 
Residents of Freeport also enjoy The Little Cubs Field, and the growing economy continues to invite newcomers and families at an affordable cost of living. 

Wood River

Location: Madison County
Population: 10,657
Median household income: $46,860
Median home price: $87,000
As a city along the River Bend region—a regional community of 13 towns that collectively generate $1.7 billion in annual sales—Wood River is the perfect growing town for individuals and families. Driving industries in Wood River include tourism and recreation, retail, and education, but downtown St. Louis is only 15 miles away; it's an easy commute to work in the metropolitan area. 
As a part of the River Bend region, it’s no surprise Wood River offers a picturesque community abounding with activities. Residents can enjoy hikes along the Nickel Plate Trail or in nearby nature preserves, and there are two local playhouses—the Wildey Theatre and Haskell Playhouse—that regularly host shows.
“When we added a new car to our family, we were shocked at how high our current insurer was going to hike our rates. We used Jerry for some comparison shopping and are now saving around $1000 a year. Thank you, Jerry!” —Darius P.

Best places to buy a house in Illinois

If you want to buy a home, it’s important to consider the housing market and climate before you settle. We looked at Realtor.com’s summaries of housing markets and the FEMA Risk Index in Illinois to determine the best places to buy a home.

Monee

Location: Will County
Population: 5,082
Median household income: $71,082
Median home price: $163,400
Steeped in pioneer history, the town of Monee is a scenic community only 40 minutes outside of Chicago. Its small-town atmosphere gives the impression of rural living without sacrificing proximity to all that The Windy City has to offer. 
Residents of Monee enjoy a cost of living lower than the national average as it ranks in the top 50 cheapest places to live in Illinois. In addition to its affordability, Monee has a low FEMA index—its central, landlocked location makes it an unlikely place to experience floods or other natural disasters. Although houses in Monee are often listed in the mid-$100,000 range, the median sale price is about $274,700 as of March 2022. 

Downs

Location: McClean County
Population: 1,010
Median household income: $91,333
Median home price: $399,900
Located in central Illinois, the charming rural town of Downs is the perfect community to establish yourself or your family long-term. Downs’ three local schools have all been recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education, and the community itself offers small-town friendliness. Downs also boasts an abundance of local recreation, given its proximity to Weldon Springs State Park, Lake Bloomington,and several other nearby recreational sites. 
Downs’ FEMA risk is classified as relatively low, although at 10.26, it's a couple of points higher than the overall FEMA index of Illinois. Summer droughts and winter storms are the most common occurrences in Downs—but thankfully, the community resilience is relatively high. If you or your family is looking for a small-town slice of life peppered with modern charm, Downs may be the right community for you. 

Colona

Location: Henry County
Population: 5,096
Median household income: $67,647
Median home price: $157,400
Nestled along the Green River is the city of Colona, a quintessential Illinois small town two and a half hours west of Chicago. Although it is small in size, as part of the Quad Cities metropolitan area—the largest metropolitan area along the Mississippi river—Colona is far from isolated. The nearby cities of Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island and Moline in Illinois provide residents ample opportunity to experience the charms of mid-western living.
Although the average list price for homes in Colona hovers around $157,000, the average sale place is almost $10,000 less—and the market has been trending up year by year, meaning your dream home may be well within your reach. Additionally, the county’s FEMA index is relatively low, while community resilience is ranked very highly. Cold and heat waves and droughts are among the most common natural risks in this area. 

How to find affordable homeowners and car insurance in Illinois 

Choosing the perfect place to live can be a challenge—and once you get there, finding affordable renters, homeowners, or car insurance can feel like an added burden! At Jerry, we’re in the business of making things simple, which is why we take the work out of helping you find and save on the right policy.
As a licensed insurance broker, Jerry lets you easily shop and compare rates from top insurance providers. Signing up takes less than a minute, and swapping policies is just as effortless. Once you’ve made your selection, Jerry takes care of the phone calls and paperwork, automatically checks for cheaper rates upon renewal, and can even help cancel your old policy!
Best of all, the average Jerry user saves $800+ a year on insurance! 
“I signed up for a new policy with Jerry’s help. I ended up saving $236 a month after my switch. Thank you, Jerry!” —Adelaide C.
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