17 Pros and Cons of Living in Boston, MA

Boston is a city which is synonymous with American history. Puritan colonists from England founded the community in 1630, helping it to become the metropolis that it is today. It would become the financial, religious, commercial, and educational center for New England. Even the revolutionary war erupted there in the 18th century as the British retaliated with force and aggression for the actions of the Boston Tea Party.

It would not be until after 1800 when Boston would finally recover from all of the fighting during the establishment of the independent government of the United States. It would become a regional network for the new railroads, provide medical resources to the rest of the nation, and work with New York City as the nation’s primary financial center. During the Civil War, anti-slavery activities occurred within its borders.

In the 20th century, Boston would transform once again by becoming an industrial center for the country, featuring thousands of textile mills and factories. Now the city focuses on high technology, biotechnology, and education as its population continues to grow. If you are thinking of a move to the City on the Hill, then here are some critical pros and cons to ponder.

List of the Pros of Living in Boston

1. Boston offers a thriving jobs market.
Most people decide to move to Boston because there is a prolific job market available in a variety of industries. Technology, Financial, and Life Sciences sectors tend to provide the most opportunities, although you can find plenty of entrepreneurs and start-ups in the city as well. Some of the country’s top names have offices here, including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Pfizer, Fidelity Investments, and Merck.

Be aware that the employment market is very competitive, so get your resume up-to-date and consider working with a job placement coach to get into your dream job.

2. The educational opportunities in Boston are plentiful.
There are 125 schools in the growing Boston Public School system, so there is a program available which fits most children and their families. You will want to research the neighborhoods in the city to see if there are any corresponding schools that can match your preferences. You will find some advantages and disadvantage is that with the city’s school district, but it tends to prepare kids for a job or college.

The University settings in the city are an advantage in this category as well. World-class institutions are near your home, including Cambridge, Boston University, MIT, and Harvard.

3. Boston is a very walkable city.
Boston is the city that seems large from the outside, but you will quickly discover when living here that it is surprisingly small. Many tourists with a comfortable pair of walking shoes can see everything they want over a weekend without really missing anything. About half of the residents do not commute by car either, which means there is a lot of walking and public transportation in use here. You will find that it isn’t too difficult to find a job close to your new home if you’re willing to put in a little research work.

Make sure to grab a commuter pass when you get into Boston as well. It will help you to move about faster in those times when you’re in a rush.

4. The food options in the city will make you think you’re in heaven.
The culinary scene in Boston provides a dizzying array of different styles, ethnicities, and cultures that will leave your head spinning. Whether you prefer oysters and clam chowder or some of the best beer around, the seafood is fresher here than almost anywhere else in the country. Remember that there are some folks who make their chowder with ketchup, so order accordingly if you’re eating out. Even a quick sandwich from a local deli is at another level when you live in the city compared to what you can find elsewhere.

5. If you’re passionate about sports, then Boston will love you – maybe.
There might be a lot of arguments in Boston over a plethora of subjects, but the one thing that everyone agrees upon is their love for the professional sports in the city. There are championship teams all over the city in a variety of sports, all with a legacy of success that brings a lot of pride to the population. The New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, and New England Revolution all provide you with entertainment options to consider when living here.

Then there are the Boston Bruins. This NHL team was founded in 1924, and it is the league’s third-oldest team overall and the oldest one in the United States still in operation. It was one of the Original Six with the Blackhawks, Red Wings, Canadiens, Rangers, and Maple Leafs, and they have won 6 Stanley Cups – tied for fourth-most all-time with Chicago.

6. Boston gives you a taste of Europe in the United States.
You might hear people say that if you want a taste of Europe in North America, then you need to visit Victoria, BC. Those critics have obviously never spent some time in Boston. This city looks and feels very much like a European community. What you will find for activities here is 100% American. There is an abundance of history down each street, with markers commemorating important events throughout the Revolution. Here are just a few of the options to consider visiting when you first start living here.

  • Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.
  • Longfellow’s Wayside Inn.
  • Paul Revere’s House.
  • Boston Common.
  • Harvard Square.
  • Newbury Street.

7. You won’t need to deal with the Boston accent.
Boston is well known for its accent, but it is not as prevalent as it used to be. Dropping certain letters from words it isn’t a habit that is picked up as easily with the younger generations. You’ll still hear it spoken in the older parts of the town which have not gone through gentrification as of yet, but it is much easier to communicate with each other in the city than arguably at any time since its founding.

You will also discover that the stereotypes of Bostonians being sarcastic, unemotional, and hardened are not very accurate either. Although the winter cold and high cost of living will usually lead to some complaints, most folks here are friendly enough if you’re willing to get to know them.

8. The city is centrally located for much of the northeastern United States.
You will find that Boston is well-positioned in the northeast to provide you with numerous day trips and weekend excursions to some of the best spots along the Atlantic coast. You can reach the rugged coast of Maine, see the Hudson Valley, explore Rhode Island, or relax in Nantucket without much effort. Even though the winters can sometimes feel long, the rewards of a warm spring day are often worth the cost. Most of the cities and towns are geographically small too, which means reaching Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard won’t take much travel time at all.

9. Outside of the weather, Boston weather is usually fantastic.
The winters in Boston can be challenging in some years because of the wind, snow, and cold that you’ll face. Having the breeze come in off of the ocean can chill your bones! When you make it to the summer, you’ll discover that they are relatively mild when compared to the hotter, more humid cities that are further south. You won’t need to deal with intense heat except for the occasional spell in July and August.

List of the Cons of Living in Boston

1. You need to pick a home that is close to where you will work.
Boston is the city filled with commuters. Because of this transportation structure, you will want to choose a neighborhood that is close to your employer to limit the amount of time you spend between destinations. The ideal location should be within walking or cycling distance, or at least be on the same color line of the train. Try to find a spot in Beacon Hill, Back Bay, or South Boston if you want to live in one of the best neighborhoods.

If you must commute to the city, then the suburbs to consider are Belmont, Worcester, and Cambridge. The further out you go means the homes will become cheaper. A single-family property in Worcester averages about $500,000 less than one in Cambridge and $700,000 less than Belmont.

2. Get used to the higher cost of living when living in Boston.
You can find a cheap place to live if you don’t mind being in one of the “bad” neighborhoods of the city, but the rest of them and the suburbs will take a considerable amount of your budget. The average rent for a two-bedroom place in Back Bay is $3,500 per month. Living in Beacon Hill is about $500 per month cheaper, while a spot in South Boston will double your savings. If you want to live close to the water, then you are going to pay a premium for that luxury as well.

The overall cost of living in Boston is 47% higher than it is across the United States. It is more expensive to live in the city then it is to be in Chicago, Miami, or Los Angeles. Only New York City and San Francisco are more expensive.

3. You may need a real estate agent to secure a rental.
If you decide to start living in Boston, then it is imperative to know what your rights will be as a tenant if you choose to rent a place first. Because of the high housing costs, the rental market is exceptionally competitive. There are more owner-occupied two-unit and three-unit houses in the city than there are apartment buildings. That means you can run into some inexperienced landlords in your first place.

It helps to use a real estate agent because of the competitiveness of the market. Since you will need to pay the equivalent of one month of rent for their services, you’ll need to budget accordingly. Most landlords will require a first, last, and security deposit to get into a place as well.

4. Boston is a city that can be challenging to navigate.
Boston is arguably one of the worst cities in the United States to try to navigate. There are confusing city streets, street signs that seem to be out of place, and traffic congestion neck and surprise you at all hours of the day. When you decide to start living here, it helps to use a high-quality GPS app with your phone until you begin to understand the system. Without this tool, you might find yourself stuck at a random dead-end, a rotary, or going down a one-way when you need to be going the other way.

5. The public transportation system is not as efficient as it could be.
Designated commuter trains run on schedules that can help you to cut down on your morning commute once you figure out the system. What you will also notice is that the public transit system uses some of the oldest tunnels still in operation in the United States. You will need to get to know the red, blue, and orange subway lines to navigate the system appropriately. Keep in mind that the trains do not run after 1 AM, so you’ll need to plan your outings accordingly. Taxis, Lyft, and Uber are all common in the early hours of the morning.

6. You might love the Red Sox, but you’ll probably hate the traffic.
Parking is already a challenge in the downtown area of Boston because of how compressed the city is with this design. Many of the apartments in the area do not offer off-street parking, so you will need to have a residential parking permit if you plan to bring a vehicle. When the Red Sox are playing in town, you’ll want to plan ahead for your commute because the traffic becomes a nightmare before and after the game. Make sure that you know what the schedule is so that you can work around this issue.

7. Make sure that you start dressing in layers.
The quality of life in Boston is similar to what you’ll find in most cities in the northeastern part of the United States. Because you will spend more time outside during your commute or running errands, it is essential that you dress in layers that are appropriate for each season. When the winter months come along, you’ll need to wear more clothing than you would if you were hopping into your vehicle for a quick drive.

The same rule applies for the warmer summer months too. You can wake up in the morning and it can feel like a crisp spring day, but then the afternoon sun makes you feel like you’re baking in an oven. It’s a good idea to pack a bag with a variety of options to ensure that you can be comfortable.

8. Everything seems to run late when you start living in Boston.
This disadvantage is just another reason why it is important to pick a home that is close to where your job will be. The trains and buses which are part of the public transportation system are often running late. If you choose to take a taxi instead, then the fares can get expensive and you might wonder when the vehicle was last cleaned. When you add in the tolls that are in place in I-90 and at the Tobin Bridge and the occasional rudeness that you can encounter, there is a definite investment in patience needed when living in Boston.

Don’t expect any sympathy if that means you’re late for work, an appointment, or a personal occasion. Boston might have a history of breaking the rules, but it must be done with a purpose. Failing to navigate the system is closer to laziness than rebelliousness.

Conclusion of the Pros and Cons of Living in Boston

Let’s face it: living in Boston isn’t for everyone. Some people prefer the open spaces of the Western states instead of the compact cities that you can find along the eastern seaboard. That isn’t a judgment on anyone. It’s just a simple fact that some people prefer an urban environment and others do not.

Boston has some unique challenges that you will need to face when you start living here. Not only is it expensive, but it also will force you to accept winter as a hostile force most years. If the snow gets too bad, then the entire city can shut down sometimes. It also provides some unique rewards with its beautiful downtown area, historic monuments, and superb culinary atmosphere.

These pros and cons of living in Boston can help you to decide if this city is right for you. If you’re on a limited budget, then you must plan on a daily commute and expect to live several miles outside of it in one of the suburbs. It may not be right for everyone, but it could be the best decision you make to live here too.

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.