The Ultimate Guide to Moving to Chicago

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Moving to Chicago entails taking on a high cost of living, riding the L, and braving sub-zero winters on the shores of Lake Michigan. It’s not for everyone—but if you love culture and nightlife, sports, and deep-dish pizza, it could just be the perfect place for you.
Centered in the American Heartland lies the third-largest U.S. city: a metropolitan oasis of culture, industry, and rich history. Chicago—also known colloquially as The Windy City or the “Third Coast”—is home to some 2.67 million people and the business epicenter of the Midwest.
A hub for young professionals, foodies, and families, you’ll find more than booming industry in Illinois’ largest city. Here to help you uncover the truth about living in Chicago is Jerry, the car and home insurance super app with expert tips on moving—and saving money. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about moving to Chicago.
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What you need to know about Chicago before you move

Originally designed as a transportation hub to cart cargo and goods coast-to-coast, Chicago remains the backbone of modern U.S. transport. Over the course of a year, the city sees over 2 million passengers and travelers and $1.3 billion worth of freight—the highest in the country. 
Life in Chicago is predictably busy, but when you’re not working you’ll find its streets abound with Michelin-starred restaurants, cultural events and nightlife, lakefront beaches, and some of the best pizza you’ve ever tasted. 

The Third Coast won’t come cheap

As the seventh most expensive city in the U.S., be prepared to find a higher cost of living in Chicago. In general, Chicago’s COL is 23% higher than the national average—with housing typically being your most expensive expenditure. On the bright side, average utility costs are actually lower than in other Illinois cities. 
Some neighborhoods will be more expensive than others—and where you choose to relocate can dictate more than just your monthly rent. Often referred to as “a city of neighborhoods,” Chicago’s 77 unique neighborhoods are spaced across 9 districts and three “sides,” each promising its own charms and appeals. 
The neighborhood you live in can determine your sports team, your nightlife experience, and even a part of your identity—so you’ll want to choose wisely. 

It’s home to over 30 500 Fortune companies—and great for startups, too

With a GRP of $693 billion, you can expect to find a land of opportunity in Chicago’s Central Business District. Leading industries include manufacturing, publishing, and finance—but financial tech, eCommerce, and real estate are on the rise, and with 17 unicorn startups under its belt, it’s also a good spot for start-ups, too. 
As with so many cities, Chicago’s industries are still recovering from the pandemic’s impact, with labor shortages and shipping backlogs continuing to slow production and put a strain on companies. The once-thriving industries of leisure and hospitality, for example, suffered a loss of nearly one-third of their labor force and remain the least recovered of any industry in the city.

It’s (in)famous for its crime rates

Illinois’s average crime rate is 1,985 per 100,000 people. In Chicago, that rate is more than doubled at 3,926 crimes per 100,000—a disproportionate amount of which are violent and property crimes
With a crime rate that’s 67% higher than the national average, it’s no surprise Chicago is stereotyped as dangerous—but your risk of crime dramatically changes based on location, with some neighborhoods being safer than others. 
Places like West Garfield Park and Washington Park typically see the most violence, whereas Edison Park and Lakeview see some of the lowest. Despite discouraging numbers, Chicago is still safer than 9% of U.S. cities. 

You’ll find young professionals in every neighborhood

Ranked among Niche’stop 20 cities for young professionals, Chicago’s blend of culture, events, and industry is the perfect mix for young adults seeking out the life of an entrepreneur, looking to get in with their dream company, or just interested in meeting new people.
As America’s 9th most diverse city, you can expect to find culture and history etched into every Chicago block. From Chinatown to Little Italy, there’s no shortage of food to enjoy—and events like the World Music Festival, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the Blues and Jazz festivals engage the unique and vibrant history of the city.  
There are also over a million families in Chicago—although many opt for the suburbs due to crime rates and the cost of living in the metropolitan area. 

Public transportation is top-notch

Chicago’s public transportation system is the second-largest in the country. You won’t need a car—but if you have one you can’t bear to part with, it’s not entirely impossible to bring it with you. 
Chicago faces some severe rush hour traffic—anywhere from 3 PM to 7 PM for homebound commutes—but parking garages across the city mean you’ll have an easier time finding accessible parking. 
The L train offers eight separate lines for commuters and winds its way along an elevated track through the densest areas of the city. CTA bus services are the alternative primary mode of transportation. The Metro Rail will get you to the suburbs, and lakefront residents have been known to brave their morning commute on water taxis skimming the surface of Lake Michigan.
The city is pedestrian-friendly, too—the Pedway, a system of underground tunnels and overhead bridges, connects some 40 blocks in the Central Business District. You’ll also find it’s bike-friendly, with over 300 miles of bike lanes and a city-led bike share program to boot. 
All in all, when it comes to city living, you won’t find public transport like Chicago’s anywhere else. 

Winters are anything but a wonderland

Chicago gets cold—and we mean COLD. December and January bring some of the lowest temperatures, with averages in the low teens. When Lake Michigan freezes, winds can barrel off the frozen surface into the city with chills as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Yikes!  
Thankfully, the summers are breezy and warm. Peak summer temps tend to round out around the mid-80s, and you can enjoy the sunshine and even work on a tan along one of Lake Michigan’s many beaches
June, August, and September are generally the most comfortable months when it comes to weather. 

Get ready to get in on the traditions

As a city rich in history, there are several Chicago traditions you won’t want to miss as a new resident—and some of them are stranger than others.
Perhaps none is stranger than dyeing the Chicago River green, a tradition dating back to the early 1960s in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Each year, residents emerge to gawk and gaze at the shamrock-green waters—some may even break out their kayaks and take to the green waters themselves! 
You’ll also need to know your sports team—depending on where you live, this decision can easily be made for you. If you’re on the North Side, for example, you’ll need to support the Cubs. For the South, it’s White Sox all the way. 
Chicago’s also home to the Bears, Blackhawks, and Bulls—and the array of stadiums and sports venues that come with them. But if you’re at a game and craving a snack, make sure to put mustard (not ketchup) on your hotdog, and get a deep-dished slice of pepperoni pizza to go with it!

Does Chicago live up to its stereotypes?

The rumors are often true—from its famous food to its bitter sports fan rivalries, Chicago lives up to a decent number of its stereotypes. That being said, there’s a lot more to life in the city beneath its windblown exterior. 
For young professionals, entrepreneurs, students, and foodies, The Windy City offers world-class business centers, top universities, and tons of local historical culture. 
With 77 community areas, you’re sure to find your niche—and consistent across all of them is great nightlife, fun local events, and city-wide traditions. 
If you’re looking for community, culture, and professional success—and can withstand subzero winters and a somewhat elevated cost of living to get them—then Chicago just might be the perfect place for you! 
Key Takeaway While Chicago faces above-average crime rates and record-breaking low winter temperatures, it remains an optimal city for young professionals. 

Finding a place to live in Chicago

The housing market in Chicago can be a little bit of a doozy. On average, housing costs are nearly 50% higher than the national average—which means no matter what you do for work, you’ll need some solid savings in the bank. 
Chicago is currently a seller’s market—demand is higher than inventory, and properties come and go quickly. As with the rest of the nation, rent and home prices are only on the rise. 
The majority of Chicago residents (about 55%) rent their properties at a median rent price of $1,870. Homeowners in the Metro Area can expect to pay around $290,000 to $320,000 for a property, making the average mortgage just about the same as monthly rent at $1,882
Of course, home and rental prices can vary based on location. You’ll tend to find steeper prices in central Chicago, Naperville, Lincoln Park, and other iconic areas. If you’re unfamiliar with Chicago’s most famous neighborhoods, here’s a little breakdown: 
  • Most iconic neighborhoods: Gold Coast, Old Town, River North, Near North Side
  • Best neighborhoods if you’ve got kids: Lincoln Park or Old Town—or the suburbs
  • Best neighborhoods for foodies: Wicker Park, West Loop, Bridgeport
  • Most affordable neighborhoods: Uptown, Logan Square, Irving Park, Humboldt Park
  • Safest neighborhoods: Edison Park, Forest Glen, Norwood Park, Lakeview, and Lincoln Park
Affordability is a top concern when searching for a place to live—but it’s equally important to make sure you like the area you’re moving to. That’s why we suggest spending some time (if possible) in the neighborhood you’re looking to move to. 
Getting a feel for a community’s vibe can help you determine whether you feel it’s the right place for you—and can help you avoid sticking out as a transplant once you’ve moved.
Pro Tip Consider finding roommates to help make city living more affordable.

Moving to Chicago checklist

So, you’ve found the perfect neighborhood, lined up a job downtown, and are ready to get the ball rolling on your big-city move! The moving process can be an overwhelming undertaking—so to help you keep track of the essentials, we’ve put together a short checklist below. 

Before you go

Before you move, follow these tips to help you prepare: 

After you get there

Once you’re there, take these steps to help you get settled: 
  • If you’re moving from out-of-state, update your car insurance and obtain an Illinois registration.
  • You’ll also want to update your mailing address, healthcare, and voter registration!
  • Keep your new crib protected with home or renters insurance

How to save on car, renters, and home insurance in Chicago

Ready to plan your move to Chicago? Part of your planning will have to involve updating your insurance policy. Luckily, Jerry will do all the hard work for you
Jerry makes shopping for home and renters insurance as easy as possible. Just download the app, answer a few quick questions, and let Jerry take care of the rest—from contacting your insurance company to filling out paperwork.
Compare quotes side-by-side and customize your coverage needs with ease, all right on your phone. Jerry will even send you quotes each time your policy is up for renewal, so you never have to search the internet for answers again (at least not on home insurance). 
“You must get this app! It’s my first time getting my own insurance, so I called a few companies myself. Their rates priced me around $600/month. I used Jerry and my rates went down to $250/month. I’m so happy!” —Melissa C.
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FAQs

It depends on how much you make and what you’re looking for. If you can afford the city’s somewhat elevated cost of living (Chicago’s COL is 23% above the national average), then the fast-paced, entrepreneurial lifestyle may be worth it—but high crime rates and housing costs may prove too overwhelming for those just starting out.
Moving to Chicago won’t be cheap—depending on where you’re relocating from and how much you have to spend, you’ll want to budget at least a couple hundred dollars—but it may be more prudent to budget a couple thousand. 
When considering your move, you’ll need to think short-term (moving truck, packing materials, gas) and long-term (rent, security deposit, utilities). To get by, you’ll want to make at least $5,000 a month—and to live comfortably, you’ll have to make closer to $7,000 or $8,000 a month.

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