Best and Worst Cities for Renting a Home

El Paso, Texas


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El Paso, Texas

Move-in Ready?

There are plenty of reasons you might rent rather than buy a home, including moving for better job prospects or taking your work remote. Before you pack your things, though, know what you’re getting into: In many places, rents are the highest they have ever been. In a study about the best and worst places in America, the finance site WalletHub assessed 182 markets on factors ranging from the difference between rent and mortgage costs, costs of living, job availability, and quality of life. Here’s where you should move and where to avoid.

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Nashua, New Hampshire

10th Best City for Renting a Home: Nashua, New Hampshire

There aren’t many rental vacancies in Nashua, but if you can snag one you’ll be happy: The city boasts a high quality of life, coming in ninth on WalletHub’s list. It ranks sixth for safety and is in the top 25 for job availability.

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Autumn in Lewiston, Maine

9th Best: Lewiston, Maine

New England claims another top spot for renter-friendliness. Lewiston was 20th and 21st respectively for quality-of-life and rental-market-and-affordability rankings. On average, homes here are smaller, at just over 1,500 square feet, but the smaller space adds to affordability. Lewiston also ranks 10th for the least number of severely cost-burdened renters.

Related: How to Get Rental Assistance in Your City

El Paso, Texas

8th Best: El Paso, Texas

If quality of life is important to you (which it probably is), El Paso ranks 12th overall for quality of life and 37th for affordability. Most residents love living here, as evidenced by its ninth-place position for city satisfaction.

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North Dakota State Capitol Building

7th Best: Bismarck, North Dakota

If finding somewhere affordable is your priority, Bismark is second in rental-market-and-affordability rankings. Nearly 15% of rental homes are 15 years old or newer, more than in many other cities. You’ll sacrifice some on quality of life, though: Bismarck ranks 123rd out of the 182 cities in the study. Parents should know it has some of the worst public school ratings, and less than 40% of residents are vaccinated against COVID-19. 

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Columbia, Maryland

6th Best: Columbia, Maryland

Columbia is more balanced than some in terms of affordability and high quality of life (18th and 11th, respectively). There are also many rentals available, meaning it’ll be easier to find a place to live. If you’re in the market for a job, Columbia is a promising place to look, coming in sixth for the current job market. 

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Lincoln, NE landscape
Miriam Bade/istockphoto

5th Best: Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln claims the fifth-place spot for quality of life and is 26th for affordability and rental market — 43% of residents rent. The overall cost of living is also lower than in many other rental markets in the study, and Lincoln came in seventh for city satisfaction. You’ll probably be happy if you choose to move here. 

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Fargo, North Dakota

4th Best: Fargo, North Dakota

If you hate the cold, steer clear. But beyond frigid winters, Fargo has a lot to offer renters: It comes in first place for largest homes, with an average of just over 2,700 square feet. It is also the first in newer homes, with 16% of stock built after 2010. Residents also have the lowest annual renter’s insurance premiums of all the cities studied. Public school ratings, however, were 155th, and safety was another red flag at a ranking of 75th-safest. 

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Kansas City Skyline Lake View

3rd Best: Overland Park, Kansas

Overland Park has a high quality of life and ranks well in affordability and availability for rentals. The average home is more than 2,500 square feet, yet the place ranks as the third-most-affordable. Out of the top 10 cities, Overland Park also has the best public school system, coming in sixth overall, and it ranks in the top 25 for safety.

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Cedar Rapids

2nd Best: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Cedar Rapids ranks 43rd for quality of life, but affordability and availability bring up its overall ranking: It has the most affordable rents of all cities in the WalletHub study. Additionally, a smaller percentage of renters are severely cost-burdened, and rental insurance premiums are some of the lowest in the county. Public school and weather ratings bring down Cedar Rapids the most in quality of life (125th and 113th, respectively), and if you don’t like snow, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

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Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Best City for Renting a Home: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Rounding out the top five, which were all Midwestern, is Sioux Falls. The city has plenty of affordable, newer rental homes, low insurance premiums, a low overall cost of living, and a decent job market. Weather is the worst aspect in quality-of-life rankings, but if you love the snow, you’ll certainly be happy here. 

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Aerial view of north Oakland on a sunny autumn evening
Sundry Photography/istockphoto

10th Worst City for Renting: Oakland, California

Most Oakland residents are renters, but nearly 25% of them are severely cost burdened by rates. Oakland is also one of the most dangerous places to live, ranking 172nd out of 182, yet there’s high cost of living, poorly graded public schools, and a terrible job market. Don’t let the prospect of sunny California lead you astray; there are better options out there. 

Aerial view of Newark New Jersey skyline

9th Worst: Newark, New Jersey

Newark has the highest share of renters in the country based on the WalletHub study: a whopping 78% of residents rent. That could be because they can’t afford to buy homes, considering that rental affordability is awful at 180th out of 182. These prices lead to nearly 30% of residents being severely cost-burdened. The job market, weather, and public school ratings are also squarely in the bottom half.

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8th Worst: Stockton, California

California has another disappointment in Stockton. On average, homes are small, old, and expensive to rent, yet high prices mean more than 25% of renters are severely burdened by their costs. Safety, city satisfaction, job market, and public school ratings are also some of the worst in the country. 

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Jackson, Mississippi Skyline

7th Worst: Jackson, Mississippi

Jackson’s overall cost of living is the fifth-lowest in the country, but housing costs simply don’t match up: Jackson ranks 147th for rental affordability. Perhaps for this reason there are a fair number of rental homes available. Jackson also has poor ratings for city satisfaction, job market, public schools, and safety. It ranks near the bottom for the percent of residents vaccinated against COVID-19, too. 

Cleveland, Ohio, USA skyline on the Cuyahoga River.
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

6th Worst: Cleveland

Small, old, and expensive rental homes await you. Cleveland is also tied for last place in rent-to-price ratio, so if you really want to move here, you’d probably be better off buying. With rankings of 179th for the job market, 150th for weather, 159th for public schools, and 171st for safety, I’m not sure why you would want to. 

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Downtown San Bernardino, California

5th Worst: San Bernardino, California

San Bernardino doesn’t have many rentals available. If you are lucky enough (or unlucky enough) to find one, it will probably be small, old, and — you guessed it — expensive: Nearly 30% of renters here are severely rent-burdened. It ranks 12th for best weather, but the overall inferior quality of life and high prices don’t seem worth the tradeoff. 

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Baltimore row houses - Charles Village.

4th Worst: New Orleans

New Orleans may be a popular tourist destination, but renting there means affordability that’s among the worst in the nation. Unsurprisingly, given its reputation as a hurricane magnet, residents have some of the most expensive renter’s insurance. It also ranks poorly for job market, city satisfaction, public schools, and safety. A saving grace is outdoor recreation, for which New Orleans ranks 10th. Still, vacationing, rather than moving, here seems like the smart call. 

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Beale Street Music District in Memphis Tennessee USA

3rd Worst: Memphis, Tennessee

There are many homes available for rent in Memphis, this may be because they are expensive compared with the city’s otherwise low cost of living. Memphis has a poor quality-of-life rating. 

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2nd Worst: Detroit

WalletHub’s data doesn’t help Detroit’s bad reputation. It ranks 173rd for home size, with an average home of just over 1,100 square feet, and less than 1% of rentals were built after 2010 — yet they’re the most expensive on the list. The job market, public school ratings, and safety are also near the bottom of the pack. 

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Aerial view of the campus of Marshall University

Worst City for Renting a Home: Huntington, West Virginia

Do yourself a favor: Don’t rent in Huntington, where the stock is small, old, and expensive. If you buy, be aware that city satisfaction, safety, and the availability of jobs are also ranked low. And only about 20% of residents are vaccinated against COVID-19.

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