Study: Best Cities to Live in New Mexico

New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment for good reason. With more than 80 mountain ranges, five national forests and hundreds of miles of rose-colored desert in between, the landscape is a geographical study in beauty. New Mexico is also rich in history, with some of the oldest pueblos in the United States found here. Foodies will enjoy the diverse blend of Spanish and Native American flavors.

The climate is generally mild, with temperatures cooler in higher elevation areas. Summertime brings the heat but come winter, the air takes on a welcome chill. The aviation and aerospace industries are big business, featuring top employers such as Sandia National Laboratories, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, and the White Sands Missile Range. New Mexico also has some of the lowest property taxes in the U.S., which makes it very attractive to retirees who want to keep their housing costs down.

If a move is in your future or you're a current resident who's relocating in the state, it helps to know as much as possible about the area you're planning to call home. To make the process easier, the CreditDonkey team has come up with a list of the best cities to live in New Mexico.

Study Methodology

Each city was ranked based on the following five factors:

  1. Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Residents Who Attended Some College
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

Crime is always a concern when you're moving to a new place, and knowing you'll be safe is important to your peace of mind. For each of the cities on our list, we calculated the odds of becoming a victim of violent crime.

It's good to have a job but getting there can be a hassle, especially if you're dealing with heavy traffic on a daily basis, so we considered the average commute time residents can expect.

Living in a place you love is that much better when you also have a job that pays well. For our rankings, we examined the average income for each city as well as the percentage of residents who attended college.

If you're looking for a new taste experience, New Mexico has something for everyone. With such a wide range of dining choices, we chose to rank each city based on the number of restaurants per capita.

10 Best Cities to Live in New Mexico

10. Hobbs

Hobbs sits in the southeast corner of New Mexico, just a short drive from the Texas state line. This quiet town has a strong family presence, with more than a third of households comprised of families with young children. Like most other southwestern towns, Hobbs is hot in the summer and cooler in the winter, although temperatures below freezing are rare. There are more than 60 restaurants to choose from, including Saxony Steakhouse and Casey's, both local favorites.

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 150
  • Commute Time: 16.8 minutes
  • Income: $47,654
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 21.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 530 inhabitants

Did You Know: The headquarters for the Soaring Society of America, a membership organization devoted to the art of flying sailplanes, is located in Hobbs.

9. Artesia

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 94
  • Commute Time: 14.6 minutes
  • Income: $44,269
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 23.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 455 inhabitants

Artesia sits at the crossroads of U.S. Routes 82 and 285, and its central location between Roswell and Carlsbad makes it a prime spot to call home. Commute times here are among the shortest of any of the cities on our list and despite its smaller size, there are plenty of big-name employers to choose from, including Yates Petroleum and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Downtown Main Street is a major draw, with the landscape marked by a number of large bronze monuments that pay tribute to early southwestern heroes.

Did You Know: Artesia takes its name from several artesian well that were discovered in the area in 1903.

8. Roswell

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 159
  • Commute Time: 15.7 minutes
  • Income: $36,583
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 27.4%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 557 inhabitants

Roswell gained notoriety in 1947 when news reports claimed that a UFO had crashed in the nearby desert. While questions linger about what really happened, it hasn't stopped nearly a quarter million tourists from visiting the town each year. One of the biggest attractions is the UFO Museum but if aliens aren't your thing, you could check out what nature has to offer at the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge or Bottomless Lakes State Park.

Did You Know: In 2012, Felix Baumgartner completed his epic space jump, falling 24 miles to Earth before landing safely in the desert just outside Roswell.

7. Carlsbad

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 187
  • Commute Time: 17.6 minutes
  • Income: $46,309
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 24.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 523 inhabitants

Just 45 minutes south of Artesia, Carlsbad is a great choice if you're looking to enjoy the rugged beauty of New Mexico at its finest. Both residents and visitors alike can take in the scenery at Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains National Park or the Living Desert Zoo. Commute times are short and average incomes approach the $50,000 mark. If you're in the mood for an adventurous dining out experience, head over to the No Whiner Diner, whose menu clearly states, "The No Whiner Diner is not responsible for bad decisions made in your life.”

Did You Know: Lechuguilla Cave, located in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, is the deepest in the contiguous United States, and it's known for its relatively untouched condition.

6. Las Cruces

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 253
  • Commute Time: 17.8 minutes
  • Income: $40,318
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 25.5%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 472 inhabitants

Known as "The City of the Crosses," Las Cruces is located in the agriculturally rich Mesilla Valley. Less than an hour's drive from El Paso, Las Cruces is the most populous spot on our list and one of the fastest growing cities in New Mexico. The economy here is booming, with the aerospace industry a top source of employment. There are more than 200 restaurants to choose from, offering everything from homestyle chili to the best in high-end, southwest-style cuisine.

Did You Know: The White Sands Missile Range and Test Facility are located in the Organ Mountains just outside Las Cruces.

5. Rio Rancho

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 443
  • Commute Time: 29.7 minutes
  • Income: $60,125
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 28.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 1336 inhabitants

Rio Rancho is another rapidly growing city largely thanks to its close proximity to the Albuquerque metropolitan area. While the commute time is slightly longer at just under 30 minutes, residents of Rio Rancho earn the highest average incomes of any city on our list. Hewlett-Packard is a major employer and the city has also become a popular spot for film production.

Did You Know: Rio Rancho was voted one of America's best places to live by Money magazine in 2012.

4. Santa Fe

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 208
  • Commute Time: 18.4 minutes
  • Income: $50,446
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 20.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 258 inhabitants

Do you know the way to Santa Fe? If not, then it's time you did. New Mexico's capital is a vibrant metropolis that sits between Los Alamos and Las Vegas. Known as the City Different, Santa Fe boasts a strong arts presence, and is a self-described melting pot for Hispanic, Anglo, and Native American cultures. There are nearly 300 restaurants here and the city's dining scene has earned it top honors from Travel + Leisure magazine, TripAdvisor, and Sherman's Travel.

Did You Know: Santa Fe is the oldest capital in the United States.

3. Farmington

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 94
  • Commute Time: 17.8 minutes
  • Income: $53,777
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 25.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 433 inhabitants

Farmington is located near the Four Corners region, just a short drive from Shiprock and Bloomfield. The town was originally formed on a strong agricultural foundation, but today the economy is largely centered around oil and gas production. Farmington lies just outside the Navajo Nation reservation, and there are numerous trading posts nearby that feature authentic Native American art.

Did You Know: Four Corners Tribal Park marks the intersection of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado.

2. Silver City

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 120
  • Commute Time: 13.7 minutes
  • Income: $35,481
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 26.4%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 245 inhabitants

Silver City is the smallest city on our list with a population of just over 10,000, but its borders are overflowing with things to see and do. Gila National Forest lies just north or you can explore the town's history at the Silver City Museum. The town has the shortest commute at less than 14 minutes, which is great if you're looking to kiss big-city gridlock goodbye.

Did You Know: Silver City was the site of the first arrest of William H. Bonney, aka Billy the Kid. Bonney's mother is still buried in the Town's Memory Lane Cemetery.

1. Alamogordo

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 349
  • Commute Time: 18 minutes
  • Income: $42,969
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 30.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 470 inhabitants

Situated squarely between Roswell and Las Cruces, Alamogordo takes top honors thanks to its low crime rate, varied restaurant choices and short average commute time. The city's economy is largely driven by tourism, but Holloman Air Force Base is a top employer. Restaurant choices range from local favorites like the HI-D-Ho Drive-In to major chains such as Chili's. The White Sands National Monument is close by and other popular attractions include the Tularosa Basin Historical Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

Did You Know: The first atomic bomb was successfully detonated here on July 16, 1945.

Whether you're going three states away or just a few miles down the road, moving somewhere new can be stressful. Our rankings are meant to take some of the guesswork out of the process so you can find the perfect place to settle down.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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