Washington DC vs NYC 🤷 | Comparison & Pros and Cons of Washington vs New York

Trying to decide between visiting or living in DC vs NYC? These two East Coast metro areas have so much to offer including some of America’s top tourist attractions and a fantastic quality of life. Despite some similarities, they’re still worlds apart.

New York City, internationally known by its nickname, the Big Apple, is one of the largest cities in the world and one of just 3 U.S. cities to crack the top 50 global cities by population. Life in NYC is fast-paced, diverse, and exciting with attractions, amazing cuisine, entertainment, and events around every corner.

By comparison, DC living is more laid-back and quiet. Living in Washington, DC – also known as the National Capital Region, the DMV, or simply “the Capital” – still offers world-class attractions, art, and culture. While more limited, you’ll find things to do in Washington, DC are more accessible and more affordable.

Ready to see how Washington DC vs NYC compare? This complete guide to living in Washington vs New York covers everything you want to know about the vibe, advantages and drawbacks, and cost of living in each city.

Pros and Cons of Living in New York vs Washington DC

Can’t decide between NYC vs DC? A good place to start your comparison is comparing the pros and cons of living in Washington, DC versus New York.

Benefits of Living in DC

The DC lifestyle is easier and more accessible

When you compare New York vs Washington DC, one of the first things you may think of is the culture, vibe, and lifestyle. New York is certainly exciting with everything imaginable in terms of attractions and activities, but it takes a certain type of person to survive the bustling and 24/7 New York City lifestyle!

By comparison, one of the perks of Washington DC living is the comfortable, easy, and quiet lifestyle. Sure, things close down sooner and there is less variety and quantity of activities, cuisine, and culture, but there are still tons of fun things to do in Washington DC!

When you live in DC, you’ll find it easier to get around with the DC metro vs the NYC subway, easier to walk on streets without crowds, and easier to actually get into museums, performances, and events without massive throngs of people and high demand.

There is a tremendously strong job market in Washington, DC

One of the advantages of living in the DMV area is the strong job market. The Washington area recently recorded 30.4% job growth compared to 17.4% for the country!

The DC job market is diverse with major industries like government agencies, government contractors, tech services, healthcare, and nonprofits. It’s been ranked one of the top metro areas for college grads with an average wage of $52,000 for recent graduates. About 80% of young professionals in the DC area are working or looking for a job in a remote-friendly setting which also makes it easier to find gainful employment.

Washington DC boasts hundreds of free things to do: Historic sites, memorials, national museums, and amazing parks!

If you love history and culture, you’ll love life in Washington DC! The city is brimming with cultural and historic attractions that even rival New York City.

NYC may have Broadway and its strong economic sectors in fashion, music, art, and the performing arts, but you’ll find one of the biggest advantages of living in DC is the sheer number of things to do. There are world-renowned museums, performing art venues, and attractions at the nation’s capital, not to mention gorgeous parks.

Here are just some of the top free museums in Washington DC & historic attractions you’ll love:

You’ll also love these stunning Washington, DC parks and gardens:

  • United States National Arboretum (free admission)
  • U.S. Botanic Garden (free admission) is the oldest continuously operated botanic garden in the country
  • Rock Creek Garden, an urban oasis with tennis, golfing, and hiking
  • Georgetown Waterfront Park with scenic views, and a waterfront promenade

 

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Life in DC isn’t just exciting; you’ll definitely find these attractions are more accessible and less packed than New York City museums and theaters. Best of all? There are hundreds of free things to do in Washington DC and dozens of free museums. There are nearly 20 Smithsonian museums in DC that are completely free plus the free National Zoo! Living in Washington DC means you can entertain kids and out-of-town guests for virtually nothing!

Living in Washington DC Cons

Washington DC doesn’t have the best schools

Despite being the nation’s capital and one of America’s largest metro areas, Washington doesn’t have the best public schools. There are still excellent schools in the DC area, but families should carefully explore the best places to live in Washington DC and the DMV. The nearby Fairfax County Public Schools district is excellent, and there are some standout schools in the District of Columbia district including some that rank among the top 100 nationally. You’ll also find some great options for private schools in Washington DC – not surprising considering the DC area’s affluence.

Benefits of Living in NYC

The diverse New York City lifestyle is like nothing else

There’s no comparison for the New York vibe. Life in New York is busy and bustling and great if you love to explore, socialize, and you’re always up for something new. It’s a city that never sleeps where everyone is always on the go. While some people prefer a quiet atmosphere and slower pace, NYC is a paradise for people who love hectic crowds, anonymity, and non-stop action.

 

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A big part of life in New York is its incredible diversity. There are more than 800 languages spoken in New York City with amazing cuisine from around the world. You will routinely meet people from every culture, country, and background you can imagine.

When you compare living in DC vs NYC, consider this: in any other city, you’ll often hear delis, pizzerias, bars, and clubs being described as having a “New York vibe” because the lifestyle is so unique, nothing else compares.

There are many great New York City schools – but the school system is complicated

When you compare New York vs DC schools, you’ll find NYC comes out ahead. The schools are one of the best things about New York, but there is an important caveat: finding and getting into a good school can be challenging, especially for new NYC residents.

The New York City school district is America’s largest with 1,800 schools and more than 1 million students. Kids are usually assigned to the school in their neighborhood but, because New York allows kids to stay in the school they attend until graduation even if their family relocates, many families try to rent temporarily in costly school zones with highly rated schools.

There are also citywide and district gifted and talented programs with an application process. The best schools also have waiting lists to navigate. By middle school, getting into a great school gets tricky with an application process and several types of schools, each with eligibility criteria: district schools, boroughwide schools, and citywide schools.

By high school, students can even attend one of nine specialized high schools which require passing the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT).

You’ll definitely want to study the Department of Education’s Guide to New York City Schools before living in New York City!

Living in NYC Cons

Getting around is challenging and time-consuming

One of the worst things about living in New York City is how hard it is to get around. While it has excellent public transportation, driving in NYC (let alone parking) is expensive and one of the most frustrating experiences you will ever have. The sheer size of NYC makes it an endeavor to travel between boroughs so you’ll spend most of your time in the borough where you live.

 

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The NYC job market is incredibly competitive

NYC’s economy is one of the top reasons to live in New York, but it’s also one of the top downsides of living in NYC.

New York City has one of the world’s largest economies. While thousands of people flock to New York every year with hopes to make it big or break into the career of their dreams, the truth is the job market is notoriously competitive.

In a city with millions of highly educated people and large companies with sizable capital that can recruit talent from around the world, it’s no surprise that securing a decent job in your chosen field can be an uphill battle. Even worse, average wages are very low compared to the ever-rising cost of living in NYC.

DC vs NYC Cost of Living

The cost of living in Washington DC is certainly high, but it can’t compare to the cost of living in New York!

The Washington DC cost of living index is 158 or 58% more expensive than the national average. By comparison, the cost of living in NYC is 51% higher than the national average in Queens and 79% higher in Brooklyn. In Manhattan, your cost of living is more than 2.5x the national average!

Here’s a good comparison of the cost of living in DC vs NYC. Make sure you note the similar pay! According to Payscale, if you’re moving from DC to NYC, the average salary of $79k in DC would require $130k in NYC for the same standard of living.

Cost of Living in DC vs NYC
Washington DC Cost of Living New York City Cost of Living
COLI 158 151 (Queens) to 279 (Manhattan)
Average salary $79,000 $82,000
Average rent $2,261 $2,769 (Queens) to $4,265 (Manhattan)
Median home price $664,000 $800,000
Average utility bill $282 $438
Average car insurance premium per month $184 $448
Public Transit (30-day pass) $76 to $216 (Metrorail & Metrobus) $127/ (NY MetroCard)
Income tax 4% to 10.75% 4% to 10.90% (state) & 3.078% to 3.876% (NYC)
Sales tax 6.0% 4.5%
Property tax $0.85 per $100 of assessed value (market value) 19.96% (property tax rate) + 11.869% (school tax rate) of assessed value (6% of market value)

Both cities have high home prices and a low homeownership rate. However, while the median home price in Washington, DC is definitely high, there are many affluent areas with average home prices well over $1.5 million and neighborhoods where you can buy a home for under $400,000. About 42% of DC residents own their own home.

 

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It isn’t just high home prices that make New York so expensive; taxes, particularly property taxes, are astronomical. NYC property taxes use an outdated system and many homeowners have been shocked by tax bills that have increased from $4,000 to more than $15,000 in less than 20 years. Property taxes have been described as “crushing.”

New York City is overwhelmingly a city of renters with a homeownership rate of just 33%. In high-priced Manhattan, only 24% of people own their home.

According to Doxo, New Yorkers pay $3,069 per month in bills, 53% above the national average. Living in the District, you’ll pay $2,686 per month on average in bills, still 34% above the national average.

Don’t forget to factor in NYC tolls for New York bridges, tunnels, and the NY Thruway! You can get discounts with a NY E-ZPass, but discounted tolls still range from $1.35 to up to $13.75 for the Lincoln Tunnel and George Washington Bridge. The MTA is also expected to institute NYC downtown congestion tolls by 2023 with peak prices of up to $23 for cars.

When you compare moving to Washington DC vs New York, you’ll find the only free thing to do in NYC is walk.

Additional Things to Consider Between DC vs NYC

Population

How does the size and population of Washington DC vs NYC compare? As you might imagine, New York City dwarfs DC in area, population, and density!

Washington DC Population New York City Population
Area 68 square miles 472 square miles
Population 689,500 8.80 million
Density 11,295 people/sq mi 29,300 people/sq mi
Metro Population 6.39 million 20.14 million

DC Crime Rate vs NYC

Is DC safer than New York? It’s a common misconception that New York City is dangerous, but NYC is one of the safest large cities in America and the world.

The NYC crime rate is 9% below the national average. By comparison, the Washington DC crime rate is 87% higher than the national average with 147% more violent crime.

The Economist’s Safe Cities Index (2021) ranked New York #11, the safest city in America, while Washington DC came in two spots lower. Only one other U.S. city made the top 15. This index considered many safety factors including digital safety rather than simply reported property and violent crimes.

The good news is you’ll find many safe neighborhoods in Washington DC or New York no matter where you decide to move.

Public Transportation: DC Metro vs NYC Subway

Interested in a car-free lifestyle, want to save money, or just want to avoid the hassle of traffic? Washington DC and New York City are both among the 5 best cities in the U.S. for public transportation!

59% of NYC commuters use the New York Subway while 38% use the Washington Metro system. You’ll definitely want to compare the two when considering living in DC vs New York.

The Washington Metro was the first comprehensive rapid transit system built in the U.S. after car ownership became widespread. It was designed as a hybrid between an urban subway system and a commuter rail – downtown stations are close together and outlying areas are further apart for higher speeds and faster travel to and from the DC suburbs. There are 6 lines covering 117 miles serving Washington DC and the DMV including areas of Arlington, VA and Maryland.

It’s less extensive than the NYC subway, but it’s newer, smoother, cleaner, and completely handicap accessible. After New York, it’s America’s second-busiest rapid transit system!

By comparison, the New York City Subway system operates 24/7 with a huge network of 421 stations that leave all of Manhattan and most of the outer boroughs within a short walking distance. You can get almost anywhere, but a big drawback is some Subway stations are dirty or dangerous. Few are fully handicap accessible, and the Subway experience is far from smooth.

Sports

Which city is better for sports, DC or NYC? While New York definitely has the edge, you’ll find a great sports culture in both cities.

New York City alone has five “Big Four” franchises in the city limits, but the New York metro area is home to 9 professional Big Four leagues. the Jets (NFL), New York Giants (NFL) Yankees (MLB), Giants (MLB), Brooklyn Dodgers (MLB), Mets (MLB), Knicks (NBA), Brooklyn Nets (NBA), Rangers (NHL), and Islanders (NHL). Living in New York is a dream for baseball fans!

 

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Football fans living in DC can appreciate the Washington Commanders who play in one of the NFL’s largest stadiums and are one of the most valuable franchises. The Washington Nationals (MLB) were 2019 World Series champions and the Capitals (NHL) won the Stanley Cup in 2018.

How Far Is Washington DC from New York City?

No matter which city you choose to call home, you can still enjoy the amenities of the other. It’s only 242 miles or 4 hours, 20 minutes from Washington DC to New York City. You don’t even need to make the drive – the Amtrak DC to NYC train runs hourly and takes just 3 hours, 20 minutes!

Washington DC vs New York City: Where Are You Moving?

Now that you know how DC vs NYC compare, which city is right for you? Do you long for the non-stop action and bustle of New York City, or do you prefer a more affordable, laidback lifestyle in Washington DC?

Once you have made your choice, Suburban Solutions is here to help. We serve the Philadelphia and Washington DC areas with long-distance moving to NYC and beyond!

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