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By Bee Davis
Updated on Jun 10, 2022
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff, Staff Editor.
Great schools, thriving art scenes, and low cost of living make towns like New Brunswick, Monmouth Junction, and Red Bank the best places to live in New Jersey.
The Garden State is a hot market right now, drawing transplants from all over the country and beyond. While New Jersey’s cost of living tends to be a little north of the national average, there are still great places to live that are affordable with plenty of personality—you just might have to do a little digging.
That’s where insurance expert Jerry comes in. Jerry isn’t just the top-rated insurance app for home and car insurance, we can also help you find your dream home in New Jersey.
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What makes a good place to live?
Whether you’re looking to settle down or just want a change in scenery, finding a good place to live can seem like a daunting task. We all have different expectations for what makes our home not only livable but supportive of our interests and lifestyle. From grocery and gas prices to nightlife, schools, and parks, there’s a lot to consider when choosing your new home.
Well, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably thinking of moving to New Jersey. To help you with your research, we’ve compiled facts on eight New Jersey towns and cities that just might meet your criteria. When picking these places, we looked at several livability factors, including:
- Median household income
- Median home price
- Cost of living
- Quality of schools
- Crime rates
- Average commute times
- FEMA risk index ratings
Using these metrics, we’ve found the eight best places to live in New Jersey in three categories: the best places for families, the most affordable, and the best places to buy a house.
The best places for families to live in New Jersey
For families with children, the standards for housing can seem a lot higher. After all, there are schools, crime rates, and community life to consider, as well as culture and nightlife for parents' nights out. Here are the places that jump to the top of the list for families in New Jersey.
Location: Morris County
Median household income: $241,667
Median home price: $867,200
Located an hour outside New York City, this borough is the perfect place to raise a family. Its small population gives it a homey, small-town feel with easy access to the Big Apple.
Mountain Lakes ranks an A+ for public schools, generally a high priority for families with little ones. It also earns an A rating in crime and safety and an A- in housing.
If you’re at all outdoorsy, you’ll love settling down in the rolling hills of New Jersey’s Piedmont area. Stroll the Tourne-Birchwood Lake Area on its many trails, or kayak the lake in summer.
Mountain Lakes is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in New Jersey, so it isn’t the best budget-friendly option. But if you’re looking to invest in great schools, housing, and a crime-free neighborhood to raise your kids, Mountain Lakes is worth it.
Location: Monmouth County
Median household income:$150,500
Median home price: $433,800
This suburb of New York City has a mix of a rural and suburban feel, making it a great place to raise kids.
Monmouth Junction is centrally located and easily accessible from major New Jersey highways. It’s also only an hour from New York City, meaning you can commute to the city fairly easily. The neighborhood is surrounded by green trees that blossom in the springtime and has a diverse population and a very low crime rate.
The biggest draw to Monmouth Junction for families, however, is the schools. From elementary schools to high schools, Monmouth Junction’s schools are highly rated, with 13 students for every teacher. Their schools are also notable for their extracurriculars and investing in young people in and outside class.
The most affordable places to live in New Jersey
The higher cost of living is becoming an issue for most people, but there are still great places to live where you can get a deal on housing. Here are some towns that are on the cheaper side while still having plenty of livable features.
Location: Mercer County
Median household income: $80,410
Median home price: $267,600
Hightstown is a historic and affordable city that offers the best of big city living without the crowds. Its historic district is notable for its Victorian-era homes, Civil War monument, and train station—one of the first stations on the rail between New York and Philadelphia.
Hightstown’s crime rate ranks it 90% safer than most U.S. cities. It’s also centrally located, just a little over an hour to New York and Philly on either side and 40 minutes from the Jersey Shore. With an affordable cost of living, Hightstown delivers a great small city experience for anyone looking to settle down or just stay for a while.
Stroll from the trails at Peddie Lake to the city’s historic downtown, where you can peruse local crafts, small shops, restaurants with locally sourced ingredients, a brewery, coffee shops, and more.
Location: Middlesex County
Median household income: $43,783
Median home price: $253,300
Dating back to the 1690s, the city of New Brunswick is as historic as it is affordable. With a low cost of living and excellent public transportation, New Brunswick attracts people from all walks of life. The city is also only an hour by train to New York City, so you can pop over whenever you want or even commute daily.
Drawing talent from all around New York and New Jersey, New Brunswick is a great place to be for arts and entertainment. The city boasts a renowned Performing Arts Center, which hosts the American Repertory Ballet, several local theater groups, and the Rutgers Mason Gross School for the Arts. In terms of fine art, Rutgers’ Zimmerli Art Gallery and Above Art Studios show local and student artists and traveling exhibits.
Participate in community events like the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, which provides free, family-friendly fitness events to the public. Or spend your days strolling the Raritan River and visiting the city’s many parks. No matter what your interests are, you can find community and culture in New Brunswick.
Location: Union County
Median household income: $78,946
Median home price: $265,300
Just 30 minutes south of Newark, Rahwayis an affordable, smaller city with a lot of heart and personality. Its thriving local arts and culture scene has a lot going for it, with multiple theaters, galleries, and music venues to fill your Friday nights.
Rahway’s restaurant scene is also a huge draw, with a diverse and delicious spread of local restaurants in its downtown. Take a walk along the Rahway River or visit one of the city’s many refreshing and well-maintained parks.
And if you need a break from the small city feel, Manhattan is only a 30-minute train ride away. You can visit the city whenever you want or commute daily if you need to. Either way, Rahway is a great way to get an affordable, smaller city experience with easy access to the Big Apple.
Best places to buy a house in New Jersey
If you’re looking to settle down, New Jersey has plenty of great spots that are affordable with great community amenities and high quality of living.
Location: Hudson County
Median household income: $127,523
Median home price: $749,000
While Hoboken's median house price might seem a bit higher, you’re definitely getting what you pay for. New York City is just a tunnel drive away, giving you access to the big city while still maintaining a smaller city atmosphere.
In Hoboken, the crime rate is lower than the national average and even lower than in other nearby areas in New Jersey. It also has its own downtown, with plenty of shops, entertainment, and nightlife. Check out the Barsky Gallery in downtown Hoboken or the Whitney Museum across the river in Chelsea.
That said, commute times and Hoboken's FEMA risk index are higher than the national averages. With a risk index of 38.52, consider getting flood insurance in addition to your home insurance policy.
While being close to the water means a high risk for flooding, Hoboken has great riverside parks and community spaces, a thriving cultural scene, and access to Manhattan.
And hey, you can’t beat the view of the city!
Location: Camden County
Median household income: $105,022
Median home price: $370,000
Just 20 minutes by car to the heart of Philly, Cherry Hill is a quiet, delightful burg with a lot to offer new home buyers. In Cherry Hill, you can have access to plenty of parks and green spaces, including Cooper River Lake, while still maintaining proximity to a big city.
Cherry Hill’s violent crime rate is half the national average and much lower than in nearby Camden and Philadelphia. It’s more affordable and has a lower FEMA risk rating than the rest of New Jersey at 15.24!
You can get the space and quiet you deserve and plenty of arts and culture.
In terms of the arts, the Schmidt Dean Gallery hosts rotating contemporary art exhibits, and the nearby Ritz Theatre Company produces plays in their historic venue. Cherry Hill’s thriving restaurant scene is also a plus, with tons of restaurants and cafes in its downtown area.
For the affordability, access, and comfort, you can’t beat Cherry Hill!
Location: Monmouth County
Median household income: $74,181
Median home price: $410,000
Right on the banks of the Navesink River, this South Jersey gem is a great place to settle down. Not only is Red Bank within commutable distance of New York, but its FEMA risk index is only 12.99, and it has all the arts, culture, and dining of a big city while still maintaining a secluded, small-town feel.
For fine art, you’ve got a lot of options; head to Art Alliance Studio and Gallery, Beacon Fine Arts Gallery, or Count Basie Center for the Arts. The area also has several local theatre groups and plenty of great nightlife downtown.
One of the main draws, however, is the area’s dining scene. Red Bank is definitely a foodie town, with a local spread of farm-to-table offerings for culinary enthusiasts. The city’s unique boardwalk area is both a fine dining hub and a community gathering space, bringing some of the most delicious and diverse cuisines on the East Coast right to your table.
How to find affordable homeowners and car insurance in New Jersey
If you’re looking to buy a house in New Jersey, rent, or just save money in general, you could definitely benefit from cutting $800+ off your car insurance bill every year.
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