11 Pros and Cons of Living in Pennsylvania

Do outdoor activities and diverse opportunities outweigh brutal winters and heavy traffic? Here are the pros and cons of living in Pennsylvania.
Written by Matthew Lynaugh
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
From its low cost of living to its historic roots, there is plenty to love about living in Pennsylvania. But the harsh winters, dense traffic, and weak infrastructure present a decent amount of downside to living in the Keystone State.
If you’re thinking about moving to Pennsylvania, you’ll want to weigh out all of the pros and cons to make sure it’s a decision you can live with. For some, Pennsylvania may sound like the perfect change of scenery—but for others, the drawbacks might be too much to bear for settling in this state.
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Pro: Affordable living

Pennsylvania has seen rapid population growth in recent years thanks in part to its low cost of living. 
With a score of 92.5 on the cost of living index, the Keystone State falls below the country’s average score of 100, making it the 27th least expensive state in the US.
Crucial categories like health and utilities are also below average, with the biggest savings coming in housing costs, which score 75.1 against the average score of 100.
With a median household income of $63,000, Pennsylvania residents often find it easy to afford a place to live. According to Zillow, houses here cost an average of $238,826, while one-bedroom apartments cost $1,175 per month on average. 

Con: Rough winters

If mild weather is at the top of your priority list, you may want to reconsider Pennsylvania. You can surely experience all four seasons here, but the seasons’ length and severity are far from consistent
Winter dominates the calendar despite the cold season being listed as only December to March on paper, and the average low temperature is 27 degrees in January
You can also expect to see more than your fair share of snow here. During winter 2021,
saw 24 inches of snow, while Erie experienced a mind-boggling 64 inches.

Pro: Education system 

A state’s school system should be one of the most important things to think about if you are going to move with a family. According to WalletHub, Pennsylvania puts a substantial amount of its budget towards educational funding. As a matter of fact, they spend more on education than 42 other states!
As a result, the Pennsylvania schooling system has been ranked 18th out of 50, barely being edged out by New York and its 17th ranking. Factors like math and reading scores, the graduation rate, and pupil-teacher ratio are all used to determine a state’s score.
As for higher education, Pennsylvania is home to some of the best in the country. Of course, there’s UPenn, a member of the Ivy League, but we’d be remiss not to mention the renowned state-funded institutions, too. 
Penn State and Temple University are among the most prestigious public schools in the country, offering a plethora of undergraduate and graduate programs—oh, and Pennsylvania residents can score discounts on tuition!

Con: Subpar infrastructure

Earning an embarrassing D+ on the Biden Administration’s 2021 infrastructure report card, Pennsylvania has some of the weakest roads and bridges in the nation. The White House’s report listed “lack of investment” as the primary reason for the crumbling infrastructure, but the cold, wintery conditions play a big part as well.
As a state and possibly city tax-paying resident, you may be curious as to where your money is going since the transportation research nonprofit, TRIP, ranked PA as having the 11th worst interstate pavement in the country
There’s a reason Pennsylvania has the old saying, “There are only two seasons here: winter and construction season.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem the construction has done much to improve the overall quality of the transportation here.

Pro: Diverse living styles

One of the most attractive parts of Pennsylvania is all the different lifestyles you can settle into here. The Keystone State offers a variety of different residential options so you can truly live any life you wish here.
Sure, many people move to PA to be close to the work and entertainment available in Philadelphia, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. 
With a whopping 75% of the state’s land being rural, you can escape the hustle and bustle and settle in the countryside if you wish. If you’re looking for a middle ground, check out any of the many thriving suburbs, like Chesterbrook and Pennwayne.

Con: Brutal traffic

As more people move to Pennsylvania, increasing (and sometimes unbearable) traffic inevitably comes with it. Between Philadelphia and the drivers coming from
New York
, the Keystone State is home to some of the most congested roadways in America.
According to the American Transportation Research Institute, Pennsylvania has seven of the country’s top 100 worst traffic bottlenecks—two of which are in
If you’ve got your eye on Philly, studies have found that the average car commuter spends 48 hours per year stuck in traffic here
Unfortunately, insurance companies will also factor these congested roadways into your insurance rates. More cars on the road means a higher likelihood of collisions, which equates to higher premiums for the driver.

Pro: Outdoor activities

If you fancy yourself an outdoorsy person or are looking to get just a little closer to nature, then Pennsylvania may be just the place for you. 
Its Northeast location makes it a four-season state, offering breathtaking views and recreational activities that change with the calendar.
Lake Erie is one of the most popular destinations to visit during the spring and summer to soak in the sun and get your fix of aquatic fun. In the winter, you can hit the slopes on any of Pennsylvania's famous mountains—Blue Mountain and Camelback are among the top-rated. 
Lastly, if you’re a hunter, the start of hunting season is an unofficial holiday here, offering some of the best deer and bear game in the country.

Con: Extra taxes

While Pennsylvania does offer a flat income tax rate, there are other additional taxes that can disrupt your budget. Depending on where you live, you might be hit with a local services tax, where your municipality can tax you up to 4% for taking residence there. 
This may sound rather arbitrary, but it’s important to know these taxes go towards funding things like public safety and education.
Pennsylvania also has an inheritance tax through which the state taxes your beneficiary on whatever inheritance you leave them. 
You will also find yourself paying extra at the pump with one of the highest gas taxes in the country. Residents can expect to pay almost 60 cents per gallon in taxes, further adding to your transportation expenses.

Pro: The history

Whether you’re a history buff or just someone looking to brush up on Americana, Philadelphia is one of the most historically-rich cities in the country
Best known for being the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the home of the Liberty Bell, you can visit a number of historic landmarks in Philly either on your own or as part of a guided tour.
Wherever you decide to live within the state’s borders, you‘re never too far from a site that shaped the country into what it is today.

Con: Obscure liquor laws

Dating all the way back to the end of Prohibition, Pennsylvania laws were passed (and still remain) in order to make the purchase of alcohol difficult. Although it may not sound like a big deal, if you are coming from a state without strict liquor laws, you could be in for a very inconvenient surprise.
If you have an expansive pallet, you will have to go to different stores depending on which type of alcohol you’re trying to buy
If you want beer or wine, you can find them in grocery stores, but if you want liquor, you’ll have to visit a State Store—a state-owned liquor store. There are also limitations as to how much of each you can purchase at one time, and to-go cocktails are illegal.

Pro: Hershey

It only feels right to end by boasting that Pennsylvania is the chocolate capital of the United States
Founded in 1903 by the world-famous chocolate company, Hershey, this namesake town was originally inhabited only by Hershey employees to be fully self-sufficient in order to keep the focus on producing the best desserts. 
Hershey’s headquarters remain here to this day, and they’ve added a little more to their plate in the last century. Hershey Park opened its gates to the public allowing guests to ride numerous candy-themed attractions and even offers a ride that takes you through the chocolate factory. 
More recently, a water park expansion and hotels have been added to the theme park, allowing for a sweet getaway for the whole family. 

Is Pennsylvania a good place to live in?

Pennsylvania can be a great place to live, but just like anywhere else, this state is not without its drawbacks. If you’re considering a move to the Keystone State, take the time to weigh out all the pros and cons before finalizing your decision. 
Pennsylvania is an excellent state for:
  • Families
  • Students
  • History buffs
If the winters and heavy traffic sound like too much to withstand, though, Pennsylvania might not be the state for you.

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Both basic liability and full-coverage car insurance are well above the national average in Pennsylvania. 
Two of the many factors that influence these prices include a ton of cars on the road and subpar roadways.
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