18 Pros and Cons of Living in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The city of Albuquerque, which some locals like to call Duke City, was founded in the early 18th century. It was named in honor of Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva, who served as the 10th Duke of Albuquerque and at the time was the Viceroy of New Spain. It also has one of the highest elevations above sea level for a city of its size, with the area in the Sandia Heights and Glenwood Hills reaching over 6,700 feet.

It was originally a colonial outpost and farming community, becoming the sheep-herding center of the region. Mexico would eventually establish a military presence in Albuquerque in 1821, helping to establish a church, government buildings, homes, and a central plaza. This area is preserved and still accessible in the Old Town sector of the community.

The Confederacy occupied the city during the Civil War, with General Henry Hopkins Sibley advancing into the region. It began to grow once national politics began to settle, and then military bases in the 1930s and 1940s helped the economy to start growing. It is now one of the most significant economic generators for New Mexico that features a warm climate and growing opportunities for those who are willing to start living in the city.

List of the Pros of Living in Albuquerque

1. The median home value in Albuquerque is competitive.
There are about 2 million people who are living in New Mexico right now. About 25% of the entire population lives in Albuquerque. That means you’ll have access to a housing market that sees some movement in a state where there isn’t much demand. The new construction of homes outside of Santa Fe and here is limited, with the average price hovering right around the national average.

You can find the average home selling for about $182,000. If you prefer to rent, a 900 square foot apartment will cost about $840 per month. That places the city and state as being 33rd in the country for affordability.

2. Albuquerque is home to a rich mix of cultures, ethnicities, and identities.
There are over 70 different ethnicities that call New Mexico home. You’ll find Middle Eastern, Asian, Native American, and a buffet of many other cultures all wrapped up into one when you start living in Albuquerque. It creates a vibrant mixture in the southwest that is charming and vibrant.

The only problem with this advantage is that once you get outside of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, there are severe issues with generational poverty. Food scarcity is a significant problem in the rural areas. Educational opportunities are very poor. You can get a chill vibe inside the city, but your heart will break traveling outside of it.

3. You’ll have access to a number of fun activities in the region.
Albuquerque and New Mexico are home to several natural wonders and fun locations to explore. You can take a road trip to Roswell to hunt for aliens, tour the stunning Carlsbad Caverns, or check out the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. There are national monuments, artistic masterpieces, and charming boutiques to find. The culture of the southwest might take a little getting used to experiencing if you’re not from the area, but it can be a whole lot of fun. Don’t forget about the hot air balloon festival!

4. The cost of an education in Albuquerque is highly competitive.
If you are thinking about an undergraduate, graduate, or doctorate degree, then living in New Mexico is a choice that makes sense. With the average cost of in-state tuition being $3,100 per year, you’ll receive a high-quality education without breaking the budget. The K-12 schools in Albuquerque generally perform well too, giving you a chance to let everyone get the education they need to pursue the career that they want.

The overall cost of living is competitive in the city and in New Mexico as a whole too. It is one of the few places in the country where the cost of living index is 4% lower than the national average. Even though wages are lower, you won’t notice the issue at the store.

5. Albuquerque offers a culinary culture that is tough to beat in the United States.
If you love the idea of sampling different cuisines, then Albuquerque is the place you want to be. Because there are dozens of ethnicities in the region, you’ll find a wide variety of unique options that take you through the tribal culture, Spanish influences, Mexican specialties, and American stapes. Although this advantage can seem insular to some people, you won’t find better food that speaks of New Mexico anywhere else in the world. If you’re willing to get outside and enjoy the city, then it can be a wonderful time.

You’re also going to wonder how you ever managed to get through life without having authentic red chile. The only culinary issue you’ll find is good pizza that doesn’t come from a chain location.

6. The traffic in Albuquerque is manageable.
If you’re used to living in a small town where traffic jams are rare, then Albuquerque is going to provide a jolt to your reality. Because of its overall size, you’re going to encounter some slowing on the primary arterial paths through the city. As one commentator on Quora put it, you’re not living in Bernalillo or Belen, so it is going to be different. When you compare this issue to a city like Dallas, Denver, or Las Vegas, you’ve got nothing to worry about most days. It can be busy, but you’ll find it typically moves pretty well.

7. Albuquerque provides plenty of outdoor adventures to enjoy.
If you love to be active outside throughout most of the year, then you are going to love living in this city. It is one of the best places in the southwest for hiking and backpacking. The Sandias are only a few miles from the city, so it doesn’t take long to get away from the bustle of people to enjoy some quiet relaxation. There are a handful of small lakes in each direction where you can find some fishing opportunities awaiting your arrival. Skiing is available in the winter as well when you start living in Albuquerque.

Most of the land in the state is public, so everyone has access to the trails in the region. The metropolitan areas provide some trails to enjoy as well, and since the air is very clean, every day can be a great opportunity to start exploring.

8. Life moves at its own pace in Albuquerque.
If you are driving on I-40 through the city, then you might wonder why people describe Albuquerque as having a slower pace to life. When you see people dressing down to eat at fancy restaurants or taking leisurely strolls in a park, then you will start to see the different speeds. You can wear whatever you feel like (within reason) no matter what your plans involve when you start living here.

9. The people in Albuquerque are genuinely friendly.
When you move to the south or southwest, there are a lot of communities where people are friendly to you because there is a reputation for them to uphold. No one wants to be the person who ruined the “southern hospitality” benefit for their community, but it also comes across as fake. When you start living in Albuquerque, you’ll know exactly where you stand with someone.

The people here genuinely want to know how you’re doing for the most part. If someone has an issue with you, then you don’t get that passive-aggressive nonsense that can happen in other parts of the country. They’ll speak their peace, you can have your say, and then you can both enjoy a beer and a laugh later on that day.

10. Owning a vehicle is rather easy when living in Albuquerque.
There are no state inspections for vehicles in New Mexico, which cannot be said for other states in the southwest. Safety inspections aren’t a thing here either, and then only Bernalillo County tests for emissions at the moment – but diesels are exempt. You can renew your tags online so you’re not running all over the place trying to stay in legal compliance. They’ll even send you the stickers in the mail, which makes the entire process exceptionally convenience. Because snow is rare (but it happens), there is no salt on the roads to worry about either.

List of the Cons of Living in Albuquerque

1. The job market is struggling in Albuquerque.
Moving to New Mexico in general is a disadvantage if you’re coming into the state without a job. The unemployment rate hovers around 6% most years, and it gets even worse when the national economy experiences a downturn for some reason. You’ll have some of the impact reduced when living in Albuquerque, but it doesn’t disappear entirely. The state ranks 43rd in the nation as the best state for job creation when all economic opportunities are taken under consideration.

2. The minimum wage is problematic for many families in Albuquerque.
The minimum wage in Albuquerque has been $7.50 per hour since 2009. That makes it a challenge to earn a living salary if you come into the city to work. That’s the same problem that you’ll see throughout the state as well. This disadvantage is going to slowly disappear since Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a new increase into law that will raise earnings to $12 per hour by 2023.

Until it takes full effect, wages are going to stay low in the area. The minimum wage for 2020 is scheduled to be just $9 per hour. There is always the chance that a different administration could work to overturn progress in this area as well.

3. Some people can struggle to get used to the weather.
Albuquerque might have a high elevation above sea level, but its desert location means you’ll be dealing with warm average high temperatures throughout the year. It stays in the 80s from June through September most years, but then you start to experience a drop around the middle of October. December and January tend to be the coldest months, with the average highs struggling to stay above freezing. There are about 8 days of snow each year. If you can get used to the heat and the summer rains, then this city can be a fun place to live.

4. Graduation rates in New Mexico are lackluster.
Albuquerque might give your family access to a high-quality education system, but the issues of unemployment and generational poverty can impact people in a variety of unexpected ways. The high school graduation rate in the city is perennially under 70%, and it is even lower when you get outside of the city. The graduation rates for colleges and universities are pretty similar. If you are currently uncertain about your job prospects when thinking about moving here, then you’ll want to delay the process until you can find employment that can meet your financial needs.

5. Drug-related crime in high in Albuquerque.
Because of the generational poverty issues, low wages, and an overall lack of opportunities for many families, crime can be a significant issue in the city. Most of it tends to be drug-related, which means you’re dealing with issues like property crime a lot. Package thefts, car prowling, and even some breaking and entering are issues to consider when living in Albuquerque. Violent crime is about on average with what you’d expect for a city with more than 500,000 people.

When you get outside of the city center, you’ll find that most of the neighborhoods are generally safe. According to Neighborhood Scout, you’ll want to live somewhere in the vicinity of Eubank Blvd NE, Modesto Ave NE, or Sandia Heights.

6. You’ll need to get used to the wind when living in the city.
Because you’re living in the “canyon” when you start calling Albuquerque home, there are some issues where the wind likes to funnel through at high speeds. You’ll notice this issue when storms come through. It starts when I-40 comes in through the east, creating cooler temperatures and lots of noise. During the dry season, there can be some dust that comes along with these events that can be problematic. Anyone with seasonal allergies will want to be prepared for it as well.

7. You will need to be on your child’s teachers about the quality of their work.
Even with the highest per capita number of doctorate recipients in the United States, there are pockets of K-12 education which are some of the worst in the country. You’ll find excellent opportunities if you search for them, but there are also some profoundly poor schools. Only 25% of students between the third grade and their junior year of high school were able to pass the standardized tests for mathematics. Just 31% of students completed their English tests as well.

You will want to be proactive as a parent with your student’s teacher to ensure that you can maximize the educational opportunities.

8. Albuquerque could use some infrastructure improvements.
About 1 in 4 of the rural roads that are around the Albuquerque area are in a condition that is poor enough that the state believes they increase the risk of a traffic fatality occurring. Some of this disadvantage does come the legends of the former Highway 666, which is now U.S. Route 491. Bridges in the area require some extensive improvements, with some being rated as the worst in the state. The winding roads in the mountains can become problematic for some drivers as well.

This disadvantage extends to public transportation as well. You’ll want to own a vehicle when you start living in Albuquerque. Although there are bus routes that can take you through the city fairly effectively, there is almost nothing that will help you to get outside of the community to start exploring.

Conclusion of the Pros and Cons of Living in Albuquerque

Albuquerque is a city that can offer numerous opportunities. It can also be a place where life can feel like a struggle. That is why some proactive planning before completing a move can help you to make the most out of an opportunity here.

Even though the climate in New Mexico is warm and continental, the higher elevation keeps you cooler than other desert locations. There is a dryness to the local climate even with July having an average of nine precipitation days per year. You’ll have a lot of sunshine to enjoy, clean air to breathe, and adventures to find.

The pros and cons of living in Albuquerque can help you to become part of the long history of this community. Whether you make your way up to Santa Fe, which is thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States, or you enjoy the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in New Mexico, you can find yourself at the center of great entertainment and recreational options when this city is 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.