Updated May 28, 2014

Study: Best Cities for Wanderers


Are you one of those people who don’t like to stay in one place for a long time? Do you dislike the concept of working more than two years for the same company because you want to keep your options open? Do you avoid buying furniture because it’s too much of a pain to move?

Then you, my friend, might be a wanderer. You’re a person who always wants to see what’s out there. A person who isn’t afraid to pack up and find something else. A one-person wolf pack.

Of course, you may not want to stay that far away; you may, in fact, want to find other wanderers like yourself (after all, life can be trying for the boss of a wanderer or the significant other of a wanderer). So we set out to find places where wanderers flock. We know you won’t settle down anytime soon, but at least you can be surrounded by those who truly understand you.

Study Methodology

As ironic as “finding wanderers” sounds, they have to be somewhere at some point, right? That’s why we developed a list of wanderer-detection data points - things that are likely to attract America’s nomads. With the help of U.S. Census data, we looked at:

  • Places that have a lot of new residents
  • Places with a lot of renters
  • Places that make it easy to move away
  • Places full of people who don’t bother to invest in heavy objects

First, we considered which populations have a high percentage of people who have been there for less than a year. The U.S. Census Bureau tracks this data by state, so we incorporated it at the state level. Not surprisingly, Washington, D.C., tops the list of cities full of newbies (8.33%).

Building home equity isn’t usually top on a wanderer’s list of priorities. That’s why we looked at rental vacancy rates, which by definition aren’t meant to be a lifetime arrangement. We figured that a low vacancy rate suggests residents in a particular area have more interest in renting (though it could also mean a low proportion of rental properties). Not surprising, Las Vegas has the highest vacancy rate (15.5%); San Jose, Calif., has the lowest at 4.9%.

Being able to pick up and go is a wanderer’s M.O., so we looked at the number of moving companies per 1,000 residents over age 21. We figure that the more moving companies there are in a town, the more competition there is, and in turn the cheaper it should be to move out. Turns out it’s easiest to escape Great Falls, Mont. - the town has 0.21 moving companies per 1,000 people age 21 and over. Land yourself in Grand Rapids, Mich., however, and you might feel like you’ve checked into the Hotel California.

Last but not least, nothing says “I won’t be here for long” like using a laundromat. Using business data and the number of people over 21 in each major metropolitan area, we calculated the popularity of those coin-operated wanderer magnets. We gave this data only half the weight of the other data, because wanderers pack light and have less to wash anyway. The most laundromat-intensive city turns out to be Danville, VA, with 0.19 laundromats for every 1,000 people over 21. People in Scranton, PA, on the other hand, seem to like washing their undies at home more than anywhere else in the nation.

10 Best Cities for Wanders

After considering our four factors, here’s our list of best cities for wanderers.

1. Providence, RI

Providence, Rhode Island
Providence, Rhode Island

  • Rental vacancy rate: 8.9%
  • % of state population that moved in last year: 3.2%
  • Moving companies per 1,000 people: 0.05
  • Laundromats per 1,000 people: 0.11

Looks like wanderers love Providence. What put this city over the top is its huge saturation of laundromats. Either there are a lot of dirty people in Providence, or folks just don’t think they’ll be there long enough to invest in a washer and dryer. It ranks near the top of the nation in this measure. It also ranks near the top of the country in percentage of people who arrived there in the last year. Full of renowned Italian restaurants, prestigious colleges, and easy access to Rhode Island’s coastline, Providence is more of a stomping ground for the youthful and evening revelers than a place to live forever.

2. Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC
Washington, DC

  • Rental vacancy rate: 8.2%
  • % of state population that moved in last year: 8.3%
  • Moving companies per 1,000 people: 0.05
  • Laundromats per 1,000 people: 0.04

It’s no surprise that there are a lot of wanderers in Washington, D.C. Staffers, aides, elected officials, and government workers are all on a constant treadmill of coming and going in this town. The Beltway is not a handcuff, though its traffic may make it feel that way.

3. Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach, Virginia

  • Rental vacancy rate: 8.7%
  • % of state population that moved in last year: 3.0%
  • Moving companies per 1,000 people: 0.06
  • Laundromats per 1,000 people: 0.06

What more is there to say? This is a beach town. Virginia Beach has 38 miles of beaches, and if you’re going to rent a place, why not rent a place on the water? And if you get sick of the humidity, there are plenty of moving companies that are happy to help you out - literally.

4. Denver, CO

Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado

  • Rental vacancy rate: 5.5%
  • % of state population that moved in last year: 3.9%
  • Moving companies per 1,000 people: 0.05
  • Laundromats per 1,000 people: 0.03

It’s relatively hard to find a rental in Denver (it has the lowest vacancy rate on this list), but that doesn’t seem to prevent anyone from making a stop here. Almost 4% of the population arrived in just the last year. Marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use in this state, which might prompt some folks to shuffle in or out. There aren’t too many laundromats though, so this town might be home to a few “longer-tem” wanderers.

Did you know?
Peyton Manning moved to Denver from Indianapolis in 2012 to be the quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

5. Boston, MA

Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts

  • Rental vacancy rate: 6.2%
  • % of state population that moved in last year: 2.1%
  • Moving companies per 1,000 people: 0.06
  • Laundromats per 1,000 people: 0.07

The Boston area is a college town - Harvard, MIT, UMass, Boston College, Boston University - the list goes on. College towns naturally have a lot of comings and goings, but Boston lands at number five partly because it has the second-highest number of moving companies per capita. That makes it easier to gorge on baked beans and cream pie for a few months and move on.

Did you know?
Around 300,000 students flock to Boston every year to attend college.

6. Bridgeport, CT

  • Rental vacancy rate: 9.4%
  • % of state population that moved in last year: 2.2%
  • Moving companies per 1,000 people: 0.07
  • Laundromats per 1,000 people: 0.07

One of the largest cities in New England, Bridgeport comes in at number six. The city has the highest per capita number of moving companies (it beats the other cities on our list by a hefty margin). Funny thing, though: Bridgeport has one of the lowest percentages of people who moved there in the last year. And few of them seem to want to own a washing machine.

7. Miami, FL

Miami, Florida
Miami, Florida

  • Rental vacancy rate: 10.3%
  • % of state population that moved in last year: 2.8%
  • Moving companies per 1,000 people: 0.06
  • Laundromats per 1,000 people: 0.06

Who wouldn’t want to hang out a while in Miami? The weather is warm in the winter, the beaches are fabulous, and you won’t get better Cuban food anywhere else. Wanderers love this place, maybe because it’s so easy to find a place to rent right now.

Did you know?
The average rent in Miami is $1,151.

8. Seattle, WA

Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington

  • Rental vacancy rate: 6.6%
  • % of state population that moved in last year: 3.1%
  • Moving companies per 1,000 people: 0.05
  • Laundromats per 1,000 people: 0.02

There’s something about the Pacific Northwest and washing machines, because Seattle and number 9, Portland, have the fewest laundromats per capita of the entire list. That doesn’t bode well for wanderers, of course, which is why these towns fall near the bottom of the list. But what Seattle lacks in cheap washing facilities, it makes up for in renters and the number of fellow wanderers who have been there less than a year.

9. Portland, OR

Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon

  • Rental vacancy rate: 6.1%
  • % of state population that moved in last year: 3.1%
  • Moving companies per 1,000 people: 0.04
  • Laundromats per 1,000 people: 0.02

Like Seattle, Portland has a thing about washing machines, but unlike Seattle, it has better weather. Other than that, these towns are virtually neck and neck, save the slight decrease in ease of moving out of Portland.

Did you know?
One reason people wander into Portland is the food. Approximately 80% of the restaurants are locally owned, according to Sperling’s BestPlaces, a research firm.

10. Tucson, AZ

Tucson, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona

  • Rental vacancy rate: 12.5%
  • % of state population that moved in last year: 3.5%
  • Moving companies per 1,000 people: 0.05
  • Laundromats per 1,000 people: 0.03

Last but not least is Tucson. The relative lack of interest in renting here suggests that wanderers are looking elsewhere, which lowered its rankings. No all wanderers are shunning the town, though; the city has the second highest population of residents who have been there less than a year.


If you’re a wanderer, you’re not alone, as our list attests. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11.7% of all Americans (about 36 million people) moved between 2012 and 2013. Most of these movers stay in the same county, apparently, so if you’re moving more than 500 miles to a new place, you’re still a one-person wolf pack.

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Follow @CreditDonkey or write to Tina O at tina@creditdonkey.com
Tina O is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped young adults make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

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