11 Pros and Cons of Living in Virginia

Virginia offers a relatively average cost of living and highly ranked public schools and hospitals—but also severe weather risks and congested traffic.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Virginia offers a relatively average cost of living, as well as high-ranking public schools and hospitals. But severe weather risks, congested traffic, and busy tourist seasons are factors that can cause prospective residents to look elsewhere for their next home.
There’s a lot to love about living in Virginia, but every state has its setbacks. And whenever you’re considering relocating to a new place, it’s important to weigh both the pros and the cons before making any decisions.
Could Virginia be a good fit for you? Here to help you weigh your options is
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Pro: Relatively average cost of living

Living expenses in a new state may seem either reasonable or costly depending on which state you’re moving from, but the cost of living in Virginia is considered relatively average by most standards. 
As of the second quarter of 2022, the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) assigned Virginia an overall cost of living index (COLI) of 103.2, implying that the state’s average living costs are within about 3.2% of the national average.
That number puts Virginia roughly in the middle of the pack when compared to other states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. When organized from least to most expensive, Virginia ranks number 32.
Here’s a look at what some of those living costs can look like:
  • Median household income:$76,398 (as of the 2020 census)
  • Monthly costs for homeowners with a mortgage:$1,822 (as of the 2020 census)
  • Median home sale value:$404,600 (according to
  • Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment:$1,824 per month (according to
  • Minimum wage:$11 per hour, then $12 beginning January 2023
  • Average cost of car insurance:$2,594 for basic
    ,$3,169 per year for
    full coverage

Pro: You can enjoy milder winters—or go all in

If you’re moving to Virginia from a northern state, you might be able to appreciate that winters in Virginia are a little milder. But it still gets cold, with average low temperatures generally falling to the low 20s and 30s, and most places get at least several inches of snow annually.
If you can’t get enough snow, on the other hand, look for a place in the mountains, where you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy plenty of skiing and other winter recreational activities. 

Con: Spring and summer can be a struggle

Virginia weather overall is considered generally mild, but spring can be fairly unpredictable. One week might give you days of warm temperatures and sunshine, while the next could bring heavy rains, sleet, or snow.
Summers in Virginia can be pleasant, but the height of the season can get quite hot, with average high temperatures soaring into the 90s and sometimes beyond. Add in high humidity levels, and the heat can become even more uncomfortable.

Pro: Plenty of natural wonders

For outdoors enthusiasts, Virginia has plenty of breathtaking sights and tons of natural scenery to explore, from the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains to numerous lakes, caves, coastal beaches, and forests (which cover 62% of the state).
Many of the features you’ll enjoy in Virginia can’t be found anywhere else. Take, for example,
Mountain Lake
—which many people might recognize from scenes in the movie “Dirty Dancing.” Its unique, centuries-long cycle of drying and refilling with water makes it the only known lake of its kind in the world.
Here’s a sampling of other popular natural sites across Virginia:

Con: Risk of hurricanes, tornadoes, and rising sea levels

While not impossible, it’s extremely rare for a major hurricane to make landfall in Virginia. Although Virginia’s hurricane risk isn’t as high as that of other southern states, it can still be impacted by hurricanes and other tropical storms in the region, particularly to the southeast.
There’s also the possibility of tornadoes, especially in the northern and eastern portions of the state.
Unfortunately, as climate change worsens, Virginians can also expect more days of extreme heat and eroding beaches along the coast as sea levels rise.
All these risks can have an impact on where you might choose to rent or buy property in Virginia, as well as what kind of
home insurance
and other types of insurance coverage you’ll want to have to protect your home and your belongings.

Pro: Fine food and drink

If that doesn’t deter you, you can take comfort in the food and drink Virginia has to offer. 
Across the state, you can easily find a number of local wineries and craft breweries. 
If you’re living along the coast, you’ll have access to seafood like blue crab. Virginia’s rivers, meanwhile, offer fresh trout and oysters. On land, peanuts show up in surprising places, like soups, pies, and more. 
You’ll also have plenty of opportunity to enjoy classic southern BBQ, and legend has it that Virginia is the place where Brunswick stew came to be. The Appalachian Mountain region has a unique food culture all its own.
The list could go on and on, but we’ll stop here and save you from all that longing.

Pro: It’s a great place to learn about history

Virginia is the site of a whole lot of history—and there are plenty of museums and historical sites to help you develop a deeper appreciation for it.  
Before the first European colonists arrived, humans had already been living in what’s today called Virginia for at least 17,000 years. Virginia’s museums, parks, and historical sites provide a number of opportunities to learn about how Native American culture has shaped Virginia, both past and present—a couple of examples include the
Pamunkey Indian Museum and Cultural Center
Prince William Forest
There are also plenty of places to explore early U.S. history. After all, eight of the country’s presidents—including four of the first five—were born here. 
Just a sampling of other historical sites include
Historic Jamestowne
, the first British colony which dates back to the early 1600s; the home of
Maggie L. Walker
, who helped make important civil rights strides; and
Harpers Ferry
, where pivotal points of the Civil War took place.
In summary: it’s not an exaggeration to say you could easily spend years making your way around Virginia’s historically significant places!

Con: Traffic congestion can be a major problem

Depending on where you choose to live in Virginia, you might need to prepare yourself for some seriously congested traffic—particularly if you commute to the Washington, D.C. metro area for work. 
Based on data from INRIX’s
2021 Global Traffic Scorecard
, here’s a comparison of how Virginia cities’ traffic congestion ranks among other U.S. cities and how much time the average driver lost to traffic last year:

Pro: Good public schools

In recent years, Virginia’s public schools have been some of the most highly ranked in the country. That’s pretty welcome news, especially if you’re raising kids. 
That said, Virginia’s school funding at the state level is relatively low compared to states with similar median household incomes, so many K-12 schools rely on local property taxes. That means some schools will have significantly more resources than others.

Con: Lots of tourists

With so much to experience in Virginia, it’s unsurprisingly an attractive place for tourists. While that can be a major bolster for Virginia’s economy, it has its drawbacks, too.
More visitors can mean more congested (and chaotic) traffic, and it might be more difficult to get reservations for popular restaurants or activities during peak tourist seasons. Over time, popular tourist sites can also drive up living costs for local residents, too.
MORE: Best Virginia road trips 

Pro: Some of the best hospitals in the nation

If quality healthcare is important to you, you’ll be glad to know that a number of Virginia’s hospitals are ranked as some of the nation’s best. 
Inova Fairfax Hospital and University of Virginia Medical Center, for example, are considered top children’s specialty hospitals—as well as two of the best hospitals overall in Virginia.
Based on rankings from
U.S. News
, Virginia is also ranked 14th for best healthcare access and 17th for healthcare quality when compared with other states.
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Is Virginia a good state to live in?

Whether any state is “good” to live in is a little subjective, and living in any state will inevitably come with pros and cons. How much you would enjoy living in Virginia will depend on factors like what you value, what kinds of risks you prefer to avoid, and what kind of lifestyle you want to live. 
Virginia can be an especially appealing place to call home for: 
  • Nature lovers
  • History enthusiasts
  • Foodies
  • Families with children
On the other hand, if you don’t have much patience for congested traffic or tourists, or if you’re looking for a really low cost of living, you might want to consider other states.

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Virginia isn’t part of what’s referred to as “Tornado Alley,” but the portions of the state that tend to experience the most tornadoes are to the north and east.
It depends on what part of the state you live in. Most parts of Virginia get at least several inches of snow each year, while the mountains can get anywhere from 15 to 30 inches in a given year. Average overall low temperatures can fall into the 20s and 30s.
Virginia has been growing more diverse over the years. As of the 2020 census, 68.8% of Virginians identified as white, 20% identified as Black or African American, 10.2% identified as Hispanic or Latino, and 7.2% identified as Asian. You can find more information about Virginia’s demographics on the
U.S. Census Bureau website
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