Oregon is sandwiched nicely between Washington State and California in the Pacific Northwest. What makes the location unique is the fact that Great Britain and the U.S. disputed ownership as late as the 19th century over portions of land in the area. It wouldn’t be until the Oregon Treaty, signed in 1846 and organized in 1848, that the conflict ceased. The state was later admitted to the Union in 1859 with undercurrents of the Civil War looming.
While the North fought the South in the 1860s, local residents were battling the tribes in the region during the Snake War, with local volunteers never really seeing conflict in the American battles unless they sought it out. Slavery was outlawed in Oregon as early as 1844, but freed slaves were also forced to leave the region under the threats of lashing or hard labor.
Polarizing conflicts have always been part of life when living in Oregon, whether the issue is progressivism vs. conservatism or British settlers vs. American ranchers. When reviewing the pros and cons of living in Oregon today, you’ll find that this is still the case. You’ll find people who are the exact opposite of you living there, yet everyone still seems to find ways to get along.
List of the Pros of Living in Oregon
1. There is no state sales tax in Oregon.
According to Avalara, the state sales tax rate in Oregon is 0%. Instead of taxing purchases to generate revenues, the state places a higher tax on personal income instead. There is also vehicle use taxes which apply to residents that bring in a vehicle from out-of-state. You must pay that tax before a title and registration is issued. County and local taxes could apply in some situations too. For the most part, however, the price you see on the shelf is the price you pay when you live in Oregon.
2. It doesn’t rain as much as you might think in Oregon.
Oregon is part of the Pacific Northwest. It rains there more often than it does in other parts of the country. When you take into account the high hills of the eastern part of the state, however, it doesn’t even make it into the Top 10 U.S. states for total rainfall each year. The cloudy, rainy weather tends to stay near the coast, so as you move up the Columbia River valley, you’ll find more sun, more heat, and less rain waiting for you.
3. You’ve got plenty of opportunities to go ride your bicycle.
Portland is often named the best city for biking in the United States. Other communities, such as Eugene, make it to the top of that list as well. Most cities offer bike paths, purchasing programs, or clubs that encourage movement on two wheels instead of four. That will cut down on the cost of living, especially in the city, if you’re able to commute to work on your bicycle instead of trying to drive.
4. Let’s talk about the winter when everyone gets crabs.
Crabbing season in Oregon is a special time of year. You’ll find many households choose to put Dungeness crab on their holiday tables instead of ham or turkey because of its abundance. The season begins the week after Thanksgiving, assuming that the weather cooperates, and you’ll find the cost to have a proper Oregon meal is surprisingly low. Other seafood options, including salmon, are available more often and at better prices than you find in the Plains states or the Midwest.
5. The coastlines of Oregon are stunning.
Some of the world’s best beaches are found in Oregon. There are over 360 miles of coastline to explore, with Highway 101 taking you the entire way. You’ll find that the area feels magical and free, giving you a chance to explore the Columbia River, the aquariums along the ocean, and quiet stretches where all you hear is the wind and the waves. If you find yourself living in Oregon down by the beach, make sure to take a trip to Tillamook County to visit their cheese factory and dairy facilities.
6. Oregon offers one of the greenest footprints in the United States.
The green trees which tower over the mountains and beaches along the coast aren’t the only opportunity to get in touch with the environment when you live in Oregon. The state also offers one of the lowest carbon footprints found in the United States. There are more certified environmentally-friendly buildings in the state than anywhere in the nation. Portland often ranks as one of the greenest cities in the world. Energy-efficiency standards, recycling programs, and access to renewable energy are all available and affordable when you call Oregon your home.
7. You can find a quiet place to call home in Oregon.
Even if you prefer to live in a village or town, you’ll find that there are plenty of wide-open spaces with small communities where you can have plenty of space to yourself. Take the community of Baker City as an example. It’s located in the hills of eastern Oregon, offers a population below 10,000 people according to the 2010 census, and is far enough away from large urban areas that a road trip is required to go almost anywhere.
8. There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy when you live in Oregon.
You’ll find a vast array of adventures waiting for you when you decide to make Oregon your home. The stunning beauty of Crater Lake is an excellent day trip from almost any location within the state. You can climb Mount Hood if you wish, whether you care about making it to the summit or not. Sandboarding is possible along the dunes in the east, while ranch tours and vineyards are popular in the central part of the state. Don’t forget about the coastal forests and beaches too, visit the Painted Hills, or go horseback riding along a quiet lake. Whatever lifestyle you wish to pursue, there is something available for you here.
List of the Cons of Living in Oregon
1. You’re not permitted to pump your own fuel in Oregon.
Beginning in 2018, a change to the full-service fuel laws in the state permit stand-alone fuel stations in counties with fewer than 40,000 residents to allow self-serve gas pumps. The rest of the state requires full-service fueling. That structure means you’re going to pay a little more for your fuel than you would in other states because you’re also paying for the employee’s wages who provides you with assistance.
There are some benefits to full-service stations. They’ll wipe down your windows for you, check your fluid levels if needed, and you won’t smell like gasoline because you were fueling up your vehicle.
2. The traffic is problematic throughout the state.
Portland is famous for its traffic jams thanks to the setup of bridges you’re forced to traverse as you travel around the city. The I-5 Corridor down through Grants Pass gets packed with traffic coming to and from the schools in the region. Even when you come in from the east, there are pockets of traffic to consider that will surprise you. With the lower speed limits in place on highways in the state too (65 miles per hour), it takes you longer to legally arrive at your destination too. Although changes were made to increase speed limits from 55 mph in 2016, the routes are still slower than what you’ll find in other states.
3. There is a distinctive personality you’ll find in Oregon.
There are pockets of independence and conservatism that you’ll find in the state, especially if you decide to live in Springfield or Salem. You’ll find, however, that Portland really is like how it is portrayed on television. Living on the coast helps you escape much of the politics, but it is a living situation which comes at a cost. Astoria is fairly isolated from major city centers, offers a higher cost of living, and job availability is somewhat limited if you’re living outside of an urban area.
4. Transplants continue moving to Oregon to make it their home.
There is a rivalry in the Pacific Northwest between Californians and those who live in Oregon or Washington. The taxes and policies of California are often restrictive, making it difficult to maintain a decent standard of living. Like most families would, people who find CA inhospitable move north to maintain their lifestyle at a cheaper cost. The only problem is that Oregonians often find the attitudes of Californians to be smug and superior, which is a trait view in a similar light in reverse. If you’re moving to Oregon, expect resistance at first, especially if you came from south of the border.
5. Rental costs are high in Oregon because so many people want to live in the state.
The rental vacancy rate in Oregon for 2014 came in at 3.6%. Even if you could afford a great apartment, condo, or home to rent in the state, trying to find one would be a headache. It was the lowest vacancy rate in the entire country. Some rentals were going for over $1,200 per month just to give you access to 400 square feet.
The housing market in the state is equally grim for people wanting to move to Oregon. Demand has outstripped supply for almost 4 consecutive years at the time of writing, with homes often selling in the $300,000 to $500,000 range for a square footage below 1,500. The inventory levels are at their lowest point in over 10 years, with most properties receiving multiple offers.
6. Oregon is the second-worst state in the U.S. to earn a living.
When ranking the cost of living with high income and property taxes, workplace safety, and other factors, Oregon ranks 49th out of 50 states for households trying to make a living. The only state worse was Hawaii according to the MoneyRates ranking system. If you can establish yourself in the state with a good job before moving, then you’ve got a fighting chance to enjoy your time in the Pacific Northwest. For those moving here more on a whim, then good luck with the job hunt.
7. If you love rain, then you’ll love Oregon. If not…
The city of Portland averages about 35 inches of rain each year. The winter months tend to be the wettest in the region, since you receive downpours there instead of snow unless you live in the east or at a higher elevation. The counties near the Washington border along the western half of the state average about 70 clear days per year. That means overcast skies are possible for about the same amount of time that Arizona residents expect sunshine.
With all that rain comes some specific homeowner issues to address. You’ll need to be on-guard against basement flooding, mold and mildew issues, and dry rot in the home. Once you get all of that sorted, there is still the minor threat of volcanoes to think about when you live in the state too.
8. There is limited access to professional sports in Oregon.
If you love to follow professional sports, then your options when living in Oregon are basketball and soccer. Both the Trail Blazers and the Timbers enjoy a robust, passionate fan base that will readily include you. If you’re more of a baseball or football fan, you’ll either need to follow the teams in the San Francisco Bay Area or make your way north to Seattle. Both options aren’t necessarily happy ones either, considering the ferocity of the Cascadia rivalries which are in place.
9. Driving is a nightmare when you live in Oregon.
Portland experiences one of the highest rates of vehicular collisions in the United States. The city is also ranked as the 10th most-congested, but it isn’t just the metro areas which see problems. The entire I-5 corridor sees heavy traffic on a regular day, almost all the way down to the California border. If you don’t like dealing with congestion, the alternative highways aren’t as busy, but they are a lot slower. Either way, plan for some extra time when driving through the state to make sure you reach your destination on time.
10. Then there is the Big One to consider.
Oregon is overdue for a large earthquake, which is a similar threat expressed up and down the West Coast of the United States. The rumbling for the quake could be higher than 8.0. With the event is an expected tsunami that could inundate the entire coastal region. Those who look at the possibilities of such an earthquake say it could become the worst natural disaster in the history of North America if it occurs. The chances are 1 in 10 for the Big One, and 1 in 3 for a large shaker, and there are many households still not prepared for this event.
The pros and cons of living in Oregon all depend on your perspective. There are certainly challenges in public education, transportation, and weather to manage when you call this state your home. It also offers some world-class beaches, stunning national parks, and quiet roads where you may not encounter someone for miles. There is a place perfect for you in Oregon somewhere. Just make sure you start looking now to ensure you can get into a home that you love.