Reno got its start because of its favorable location along the Truckee River. Settlers would come to this spot because crossing the inland river was much easier from this spot during the gold rushes of the 1840s. When the Comstock Lode was found in Virginia City in 1859, the need for commerce and trade at that spot encouraged settlers to start a town. The community was officially established in 1868, which is the same year the transcontinental railroad reached the town.
The University of Nevada built its primary campus in the land overlooking the city in 1885. It and the emphasis on commerce helped Reno to earn the nickname of being the “biggest little city in the world,” a reference to its many cosmopolitan amenities despite its initial isolation and size in the 19th century.
More people began to make their way to Reno at the turn of the 20th century because of its reputation for processing divorces quickly. When Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, the city created the hotel and casino resort concept that quickly spread throughout the rest of the world. Tourism, entertainment, and gaming became the backbone of the economy.
There are several pros and cons to consider if you’re thinking about living in Reno. Here is what you will want to consider.
List of the Pros of Living in Reno, NV
1. The outdoor adventures around the Reno area are incredible.
If you love to explore the outdoors, then you are going to love living in Reno. You will find that there are plenty of quick day trips that you can take to enjoy the high desert weather. Make your way to Virginia City, and you can enjoy walking down the old boardwalks and enjoy a picture of life the way that it used to be. You can head up to Lake Tahoe for the day to enjoy its clear waters and clean beaches.
There are also dozens of miles of trails in and around the Washoe Valley that you can explore. Try visiting Bowers Mansion to work your way up to the summit and a great view of the entire region.
2. Reno offers a very reasonable housing market.
The median home value in Reno right now is about $371,000, according to information published by Zillow. Although home prices went up about 6% compared to 2018 figures, it is a buyer’s market in the city. About 4% of the properties that you’ll find in the city have negative equity, which is half of what the average is in the United States. It takes about 70 days on average to find a buyer as well, which means you have some leverage in the transaction.
You can also find several options for less than $300,000 in the metro area. If you live in Sparks, then the costs can be significantly lower for you.
3. The traffic in Reno is almost always manageable.
If you have ever been stuck in traffic in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, or Seattle, then you are familiar with the extensive time commitments you face when trying to reach your destination. It can take 30 minutes sometimes just to go a couple of miles. You rarely face a problem like that when living in Reno. The interstate that runs across the northern part of the city offers excellent driver access, while Hwy 395 gives you a north-south option that’s easy to navigate.
Even if a traffic jam occurs, it doesn’t last very long. You can get to most places in the city rather easily. It won’t take much time for you to reach your favorite day trip destinations either.
4. People in Reno are genuinely nice.
You can always find a negative element to any city, so there are places in Reno that can make you feel uncomfortable. What you will find when living here is that the people are genuinely nice. They want to engage in conversations with you about your day, your experience, and life in general. When you first start living here, you’ll notice that people love to talk about the history and reputation of the city.
5. Crime levels are low once you get into the suburbs.
There is a certain amount of common sense that you will want to practice when you are in the downtown area. When you get into the suburbs of Reno, the crime rate drops dramatically. Many of the older housing subdivisions are still excellent places to live and raise a family. It gets even better when you can afford to move into one of the newer neighborhoods. Although you might see a longer commute and need to deal with a few extra cost-of-living expenses when staying outside of the city core, it really is a great place to be.
6. You’re four hours away from a lot of memorable experiences.
When you start living in Reno, then a drive to San Francisco will take you about four hours on a day with average traffic. You can make it to Lassen National Park with a 3-hour drive most days. There are nice drives through the Sierra Nevadas you can take, making a summer adventure to Mount Shasta a wonderful experience. You’re also within reach of Yosemite, Napa Valley, Mendocino, and the coast with only a half-day of driving.
You can also travel via air thanks to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, which is located only a few miles east of the downtown area. There are daily nonstop flights to Los Angeles, Dallas, Phoenix, and other locations that can connect you to the rest of the world as well.
7. There are lots of festivals to enjoy when living in Reno.
There is at least one significant community event held in Reno each month during the year. Some of them last for the entire month as well, such as the Artown Arts and Cultural Festival held each July. The Hot August Nights classic car rally is another popular event, and then you have the Great Reno Balloon Race held each September.
When you aren’t at one of the festivals, you can enjoy sporting events hosted by the University of Nevada, see the Reno Aces play, or cheer on the Reno Bighorns. There is a USL soccer team playing in the city as of 2019 as well.
8. You have access to plenty of cultural experiences when living in Reno.
The arts and culture scene in Reno has grown rapidly since 2010 when the housing market fell to an all-time low. You will find gallery showcases, discovery museums, and a local wildlife sanctuary mixing with the area’s parks and rich history all available to explore when you start living here. If you travel down to Carson City, you can even take a tour of the old Mint that processed silver and gold coins from the region. It operated from 1870-1885, and then 1889-1893.
Because of the hotel and casino culture in the city, you’ll find that the culinary world in Reno is excellent as well. You can find everything from Korean barbecue here to Ethiopian food. There are new restaurants opening all of the time here, giving you a chance to try something new almost every week.
9. The schools in Reno offer an excellent educational opportunity at every grade level.
The Reno school district offers 22 public elementary, middle, and high schools. There are more in the surrounding suburbs as well. A total of 41 private schools also serve the community. Four of the institutions consistently rank as some of the best in the United States. The city maintains a healthy 21:1 student-teacher ratio as well, creating one of the highest-rated college readiness scores for a metro area of its size in the country.
Then students can stay home thanks to the presence of the University of Nevada in the city. You also have the option to attend several schools in the greater Nevada and California region while still having a day trip home if you want.
10. Reno is diversifying its job opportunities.
Hospitality and gaming are still top priorities for Reno, but there is also a growing focus on high-tech companies, startups, and clean energy in the city. Microsoft and Apple have both setup corporate outposts in the city. The Gigafactory for Tesla, which produces lithium-ion batteries, is also a newer option in the city for some workers to consider.
List of the Cons of Living in Reno, NV
1. Winters can get pretty cold in Reno.
If you like the idea of living in a desert climate that still sees all four seasons, then you’re going to love what Reno offers. It does get pretty cold in the city even with its northern Nevada location, so be prepared for the temperatures to drop when the days get shorter. The city averages about 22 inches of snow per year as well. It is nowhere near the climate that you’d get in Las Vegas.
If you don’t like the snow, then you might consider living a little further south in Carson City. For those who love the fluffy white stuff, then a Lake Tahoe home could be a suitable compromise to consider too.
2. Job options in Reno can be somewhat limited.
Reno is a gambling town. You’ll find that a majority of the employers that offer the most open positions are the large hotel and casino properties that are in the downtown area. Unless you can work your way into a management position, the salary that you earn is going to be on the lower side of the income chart. The unemployment rate in 2018 was 3.7%, which was actually 0.2% lower than the national average.
The city is expanding rapidly and there are some excellent healthcare, construction, and teaching jobs becoming available in Reno. You just won’t find the same variety of positions that are available in a larger metropolitan area, especially when you consider its western U.S. location. That means your salary is going to be a little less than the national average at $46,000 per year.
3. There is the gambling element to consider with Reno.
If you’re not the biggest fan of gaming and gambling, then there are some elements of Reno that you may not enjoy. Some people don’t know when to walk away from the tables, so you can encounter people asking for some extra cash because they lost everything. You will find a homeless element in the city that can have aggressive individuals wanting something. Even with the state-of-the-art shelters and the funding for social care in the city, you will find more people asking you for something here than in other western cities.
4. Public transportation is rather limited outside of the city core.
If you live and work in the downtown Reno area, then you can usually get away without owning a vehicle unless you want to travel outside of the city. When your home is in the suburbs, then you’ll want to own a car since the public transportation options are somewhat limited. The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) operates bus routes throughout the entire metro area, including South Meadows, Lakeridge, Lemmon Valley, and Sparks.
The Tahoe-Truckee Area Regional Transit system runs routes in the Lake Tahoe area as well, but once you get outside of the Reno area, your options are very limited.
5. Violent crime can be a problem in the city.
Except for the recovery years of 2011-2014 when the value of real estate was down in Reno, the city typically sees a higher rate of violent crime than the U.S. average. According to information from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the violent crime rate is 514 per 100,000 people, which is about 30% higher than the national average. The property crime rate is slightly higher than the national average, but not by a significant amount.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Living in Reno, NV
There are times when Reno can get hot. It can become an expensive place to live, especially since home prices have nearly doubled since the Great Recession years that began in 2010 for the city. You have elements of gambling and crime that may need management.
You will also have the opportunity to find a good-paying job, a chance to explore the outdoors, and safe neighborhoods where you can raise a family.
The pros and cons of living in Reno, NV, give you elements of the frontier town it used to be, yet it also provides you with the modern amenities that continue to make it the biggest little city in the world. It may not be the right move for everyone, but you will definitely find an opportunity to make a great life for yourself when you call this city or its surrounding metro region your 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.