You can find Eugene, OR, at the southern end of the Willamette Valley. It is situated near the confluence of the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers, about 50 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. It is the third-most populous city behind Portland and Salem, serving as the county seat of Lane County. It is also the home to the University of Oregon.
The natural environment and recreational opportunities that you can find in Eugene will draw visitors from around the world all year long. It is a city that focuses on the arts and education while encouraging outdoor activities. Cycling, rafting, and kayaking are all popular here because of the access to the rivers. You will also find many people going out for a jog at all hours of the day.
Unlike other areas of the Pacific Northwest, this city benefits more from a continental climate than one which is coastal – despite its close location to the shore. It remains temperature throughout the year, with average highs never below 45F, while the summer average is about 82F. If it gets a little too hot, you can always head up into the mountains to enjoy a cool day.
If you are thinking about living in Eugene, OR, then here are some of the pros and cons you will want to consider.
List of the Pros of Living in Eugene, OR
1. The area in and around Eugene is breathtakingly beautiful.
Eugene shares a nickname with Seattle as being the Emerald City. This community in Oregon earns it name because of its emphasis on environmentalism and cleanliness. Taking walks in the park, heading out to the coast to spot sea lions or whales, or rowing along a tranquil lake are just a handful of the outdoor experiences which await you here. You will find that there are plenty of green spaces, forests, and mountains to explore when you start living here.
2. There is plenty of elbow room available to you in Eugene.
Although the census of Eugene places the population somewhere near 160,000 people, the total area of the city is almost 44 square miles. That means you have plenty of room to find some space without feeling too cramped. Although the I-5 corridor gets very busy throughout the day, the rest of the city generally moves along without many delays. You won’t need to worry about being stuck in a big crowd when you start living here.
3. Craft beer making is a favorite hobby of people who live in Eugene.
Some people like to call this city “Beer Town” because of the number of craft beers that come from Eugene. There are several high-quality wines that come from the Willamette Valley and the surrounding region to enjoy as well. The clean water and continental climate are perfect for growing hops, so you will find microbreweries popping up everywhere. Even some homeowners plant their own vines to make their own beer at home.
If someone isn’t stopping in Eugene to visit the University of Oregon, then there is an excellent chance that they are coming to enjoy this advantage of living here.
4. There are a wide variety of jobs from which to choose when living in Eugene.
If you want to teach, then there are three college-level institutions in the city where you can follow your passion. The public school district is a significant employer, responsible for more than 1,000 employees each year. You can get into the lumber industry with a variety of wood production businesses that are available. Breweries, gastropubs, and tasting rooms attract over 19 million visitors each year to the region. You can also find jobs in healthcare and public service if you want to call this city your home.
5. The number of physicians available to the population is very high.
When you start living in Eugene, then you will discover that it is much easier to start up a relationship with a primary care physician here when compared to the rest of the United States. The ratio of physicians per capita to the general population is higher than the national average. When you add in the good air quality that is available in the city and the crime rate which is exceptionally low, then you will enjoy the quality of life that you can make for yourself when calling this city your home.
6. It does offer an opportunity for a handful of tax breaks.
Although the tax rate in Oregon is comparatively higher than the rest of the country, it is much lower than what you will experience in California. You can also manage your expenses with some wise spending habits since there is no state sales tax to worry about when you start living here. There is no state tax on your Social Security benefits either, so it can be a great place to retire if you have a financial nest egg to rely upon before your move. However, be aware that the estate tax starts at 10% and goes up to 16%.
7. You can experience a variety of biomes without traveling far.
When you start living in Eugene, then you are about a two-hour drive on I-5 to reach Portland. It’s also about a 90-minute drive to reach the high deserts found in the eastern part of the state. If the traffic levels aren’t too heavy, then you can reach the coast in about 90 minutes as well. That means you can visit a number of different ecological zones to enjoy the recreational opportunities which are present there.
Living in Eugene also puts you within a day trip of the lava flows that are near Bend and Lassen National Park in Northern California. You can choose to explore the Cascades, take a drive to see the Sierra Nevadas, or head north to enjoy the Columbia River basin.
8. It is an excellent foodie community with a variety of restaurants to enjoy.
Even though Eugene is a college town, you will find that the culinary opportunities are wonderful to explore here. The number of new bars and restaurants which have opened here in the past decade provides you with lots of great options. Downtown merchants have really started to flourish in the past couple of years as well. The exodus away from the shopping malls is helping more galleries and small shops to come back into town, allowing you to enjoy a walkable tour or go on a cycling adventure.
9. Plenty of performers come through town for entertainment options each year.
The University of Oregon recently built a new basketball arena in Eugene which encourages several famous performers to come through the city despite its smaller size. You can see off-Broadway musicals at the Hult Center, including productions offered by the local ballet and opera companies. There is an art cinema that offers a downtown location to enjoy, theaters that play cult films regularly, and plenty of food carts to explore as you wander around the city.
List of the Cons of Living in Eugene, OR
1. If you have allergies, then you will hate living in Eugene.
The location of Eugene is downwind from the grass farms of the Willamette Valley most days, which means your pollen counts are going to be exceptionally high. During the summer months, it is not unusual to have the rating be above 1,500 pollen grains per cubic meter of air, making it one of the highest counts in the United States for this issue.
The pollen counts are so high that track athletes can struggle in this climate. During the Olympic trials in 1982, an athlete had to be flown by helicopter to a medical facility because he was so allergic to the pollen from grass seed. Six-time Olympian Maria Mutola notes that she abandoned the city as a training area to avoid the allergies from which she was suffering.
2. The unemployment rate in Eugene stays rather high.
The unemployment rate that is in Eugene is typically 1% to 3% higher each month when compared to the national average. Oregon as a state sees higher unemployment rates than the rest of the country, but this city tends to be at or near the top for this problem. Students graduating from the university typically look for career-level jobs in the city, which creates a lot of competition for a handful of positions.
There are several large employers in the city that usually have some open positions, but it can be helpful to find a job before you decide to start living here since it is such a competitive city.
3. The cost of living in Eugene is higher than average in the United States.
When you chart the cost of living in Eugene compared to the United States with 100 being the average, the score in this city is 115. That’s higher than the average in the state and 15% more than what you would pay at any random spot in America. The primary driver of this increase is the cost of housing, which is 30% higher here than the rest of the country. Purchasing goods and services is 33% higher as well.
You can offset some of this problem by managing your home expenses wisely and living within your means. If you are coming to Eugene from somewhere with a lower cost of living, trying to find the extra cash to rent or buy can be challenging. The median home value is over $70,000 more per property in the city.
4. It rains frequently and often in Eugene outside of the summer window.
If you like to experience a lot of sunshine and blue skies, then Eugene is a place where you might struggle to find some happiness. Although everyone tends to spend more time in the outdoors when they move here, it tends to be in the rain unless you are in the July-August window. There isn’t as much snow when compared to the rest of Oregon, but it can dump a heavy storm on you about once per year on average. The added moisture is why the city tends to be very green, but it can also be a challenge to get through the gray days if you are susceptible to issues like seasonal affective disorder.
5. The homeless population in Eugene is higher than average.
Some people like the vagabond lifestyle, while others are not so keen to have it around their home. It would be fair to say that Eugene is the modern definition of a “hippie” town. There is a lot of support for marijuana use in the city, and the homeless population levels are higher than you will find in other cities in the state. You’ll still find plenty of amenities here because it is a college town, but the University of Oregon does drive the economy.
If you like small towns, then Eugene is suitable for most people. You might just need to say “No, thank you” more often than in other places as some folks ask you for your spare change.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Living in Eugene, OR
If you don’t mind living in a college town, then Eugene is a great city to call your home. There are no high-rise buildings to worry about when you live here, and the mountains are right outside your front door. Many of the trees that you will find in this city are taller than most of the buildings. Being active in the outdoors is a top priority for many residents.
You do have the challenge of balancing your expenses when living here with the challenge of unemployment. It features a high state income tax and ranks low on the list of best cities for successful aging as published by the Milken Institute. Also, note that the population is mostly extremely politically liberal, so this could be a pro, a con, or a non-issue depending on your political views.
The pros and cons of living in Eugene, OR, are worth considering if you’re ready to make a change and you want to live closer to the coast. It is also a beautiful city to call home.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.