The Ultimate Guide to Moving to Vancouver, Washington

Vancouver is a great destination for its proximity to nature and burgeoning hipster population, but be prepared for competitive housing and job markets.
Written by Cameron Thiessen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Nov 07, 2022
If you’re thinking about making the move to Vancouver, prepare yourself for a competitive job market and a quickly increasing cost of living—the sorts of things you can expect from a city that has grown in population by over 300% in the last three decades.
Vancouver, WA is located on the ancestral homeland of many indigenous peoples, including the Chinook, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Yakama, Grand Ronde, Wasco, and Wishram peoples. The city is named after Captain George Vancouver, who explored and charted much of the Pacific Northwest’s coast in his search for the fabled northwest passage in 1792.
Smallpox and other European diseases spread rapidly through the indigenous communities in the decades following, despite being controlled among European colonists by 1862. This allowed for easy occupation and control of the region through violence and enslavement. 
People have been pouring into Pacific Northwestern settlements like the city of Vancouver, ever since.
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What you need to know about Vancouver before you move

Vancouver’s total land area is nearly 50 square miles. It has become a popular choice for former residents of Portland, Seattle, and other large cities seeking a location with a smaller population. As of 2022 the population is 196,739. In 1990, it was only 46,400.

1. Cost of living is higher than the U.S. average and increasing (but it’s still cheaper than Portland and Seattle)

According to
, a studio apartment in Vancouver, Washington costs $1,363 as of October 22, 2022, 9% higher than in 2021. Housing costs are an average 47% higher than the national average according to
. While rent is slightly cheaper here than in Portland or Seattle, the difference is fairly negligible, especially if you figure in the higher transportation costs.
You’ll spend less money on food and healthcare in Vancouver than most other American cities. However, Vancouver residents also earn less money than the national average. With low average wages and high costs of living, it’s really only those who already have an above-average income that will find it easy to move to Vancouver.

2. It is overpopulated and rapidly gentrifying

Vancouver’s influx in population has resulted in a devastating rate of gentrification, leading to significant increases in the city’s homeless population. 
Gentrification is the process by which current inhabitants of a low-income urban area are involuntarily pushed out and displaced due to rapid changes in cost of living. This occurs when an influx of wealthier people invest in new developments in the area and low-income earners are pushed out as a result. This is a continuation of the ongoing effects of colonization and disproportionately affects indigenous people and people of color.
As of 2022, Clark County’s homeless population was estimated to be
, a 33% increase from 2020. The 2020 U.S. Census found that 12.5% of Vancouver residents live in poverty. As more people are unhoused and forced to live without safe shelter and stable income, crime rates in low-income areas are likely to increase.

3. There’s lots of nature around, but the weather is almost always gloomy

Vancouver is known for being close to plenty of great hiking trails and parks, but it’s also known for being consistently overcast and rainy—163 days of rainfall per year. You should only expect clear sunny skies during the limited summer months.
In recent years however, summer heat waves have become a serious issue. These heat waves are more often leading to an influx in forest fires to the north, south, and east, resulting in smoky skies and dangerous air quality furthering the gloom. In fact, ranked Vancouver the #2 Gloomiest Place in America.

4. Hipsters

MoveHub has developed rankings for U.S. cities based on how hipster they are using the
U.S. Hipster Index
. Topping even Portland and Seattle by a significant factor, Vancouver, WA was named the Most Hipster City in America in 2018. The study’s results were based on an analysis of five types of data:
  • Number of microbreweries per capita
  • Number of thrift stores per capita
  • Number of vegan restaurants per capita
  • Number of tattoo studios per capita
  • Degree of rent inflation in the last year
updated results
saw Vancouver fall to the 37th global rank in 2021, meaning that Vancouver is so hipster that it was doing it before it was cool to be hipster.

5. Traffic is bad!

A lot of people move to Vancouver because of its proximity to Portland, where many Vancouver residents end up working. Vancouver commuters should expect horrible rush hour traffic on the I-5. Portland famously has some of the
worst traffic in the country
, so you might not be bothered if you’re moving from Portland, but the traffic may take some getting used to if you’re moving from elsewhere.

6. Call it “The ‘Couve”

Yep! Every city has to have its silly name that residents like to call it, and Vancouver, WA’s is “The ‘Couve.” If you use this colloquial name, you’re sure to have the locals tricked into thinking you’re one of them in no time!

7. No income tax

The rumors are true! If you live in Vancouver, you won’t need to pay any income tax. You’ll notice that plenty of folks in The Couve are also savvy enough to do their shopping in Portland, where there’s no sales tax. That’s what we call finding the loophole.

Does The Couve live up to its stereotypes?

If all this sounds like a bit too much, then moving to Vancouver, WA might not be the move for you. It lives up to a lot of the stereotypes that it’s acquired over the years—a Portland suburb that’s a bit smaller, less cool, less crowded, and less expensive to live in, as well as a bit more conservative than Portland itself.

Finding a place to live in Vancouver

The Vancouver median home cost is $429,900—that’s $132,200 more than the national average. While this is quite expensive, keep in mind that the median home cost throughout the state of Washington is $504,200.
If the idea of getting a half-million-dollar mortgage isn’t all that enticing, you’ll have to rent instead. But renting is also getting quite expensive in Vancouver—and it’s likely only going to get worse!
According to the
National Low Income Housing Coalition
, Washington has the 6th highest housing wage in the U.S. This is based on the hourly wage you’d need to afford a modest 2-bedroom apartment on a 40-hour work week schedule. 
In Vancouver, this number hovers around the $30.00/hr mark depending on the area, while the state average is $31.33/hr. This is more than twice the $14.49 minimum wage. Unfortunately, the average hourly wage across all occupations in Washington is only $25.96. You’d need to work 72 hours per week at minimum wage to afford a 1-bedroom rental at Fair Market Rent or 67 hours a week for a studio.

Vancouver neighborhoods

Okay, so let’s say that you can make the finances work—after all, it’s still cheaper than Portland, right? Well, you’re going to need to pick a neighborhood. These are Vancouver’s official neighborhoods:
  • Cascade Park: safest neighborhood in Vancouver
  • Columbia River: views along the water
  • Downtown: for the lovers of urban living, Fruit Valley is quite affordable
  • Evergreen: more of a small town vibe
  • Fisher’s Landing: great for families
  • North Vancouver: affordable, close to downtown
  • The Heights: upscale, expensive, top choice for retirees
Spend some time exploring the city and see what the neighborhoods are like if you can! You might find that being close to downtown is non-negotiable, or that you need an area like Evergreen where the pace is slower and there are plenty of good schools.
Pro Tip If you’re moving alone, you might want to consider trying to find a roommate.

Moving to Vancouver checklist 

Once you’ve decided where to move and found a place to live, it’s time to get your moving checklist in order. Here’s a helpful checklist to help make sure things go smoothly on
your first night in your new home

Before you go

Before you move, make sure to:

After you get there

Unfortunately, getting settled into a new home is a process in and of itself. Here are some important steps to take once you’ve arrived in The Couve:
  • If you moved your car from a different state,
    register it
    in Washington and
    update your insurance
  • If you’re renting, it definitely doesn’t hurt to
    buy renters’ insurance
  • Update your ID, healthcare, voter registration, etc. with your new address.
  • Go outside. You’ll feel much more at home if you take the time to go out and explore your new surroundings and familiarize yourself with them.

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

If you’re planning to commute across the river to work in Portland, you’re going to need a solidcar insurance policy. Even if you’re not driving, having renters or
Washington homeowners insurance
for your new place is a must—and
may be able to help you save money on all these policies with some competitive
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