Washington vs. Oregon Living: Both Incredible, But Which is Better?

When considering a move to the Pacific Northwest, two states often come to mind: Oregon and Washington. Both states offer beautiful landscapes, vibrant cities, and a plethora of outdoor activities, making it quite the challenge to decide between the two. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of living in each state to help you make an informed decision.

The cost of living is a significant factor in choosing where to reside. In general, Washington is more expensive than Oregon, with cities like Seattle having a 21% higher cost of living than Portland. This is mainly due to higher housing costs in Washington, where a median 2-bedroom apartment rent in Seattle is nearly $400 more than in Portland. On the other hand, Oregon tends to have higher grocery expenses compared to Washington.

Another aspect to consider when weighing the advantages and disadvantages of living in either state is the proximity to various amenities and attractions. Washington and Oregon share a border, so residents in either state can experience the beauty and opportunities offered by both regions with relative ease. For example, living in Clark County, Washington, puts you within a 45-minute drive of downtown Portland, Oregon, allowing access to the best of both worlds.

Washington vs. Oregon Living: Key Differences

Cost of Living

In comparing the cost of living between Oregon and Washington, it is important to note that Washington is approximately 11.2% more expensive than Oregon. While Oregon has lower expenses for groceries, people living in Washington tend to pay more for restaurants and other amenities.

Housing and Real Estate

Housing costs in both states can vary depending on the area. In general, though, the cost of living in Oregon is higher than in Washington. This includes factors like housing, groceries, and transportation. In more urban areas, such as Seattle and Portland, home prices can be significantly higher than in rural areas of either state.

Education and Schools

Education is an important aspect to consider when comparing these two states. Washington has a better public school system, offering higher funding and better test scores than Oregon. This may be a crucial factor for families with children when deciding where to live.

Taxes

When comparing taxes, Oregon has no sales tax while Washington has no income tax. This can make a significant difference in a person’s financial situation depending on their source of income and spending habits. For example, someone who benefits from a higher wage may prefer living in Washington to avoid income taxes, while someone who spends more on consumer goods might prefer Oregon without sales tax.

Climate and Weather

Both Oregon and Washington are known for their rainy climates, with high amounts of rainfall almost throughout the year. However, the eastern parts of both states tend to be drier with more varied seasons. Rainfall is not the only factor to consider, as humidity levels, temperature ranges, and access to outdoor activities might affect one’s quality of life in these two states.

Safety and Crime Rates

In terms of safety and crime rates, Oregon overall has a lower crime rate than Washington. However, it is important to consider that crime rates can vary greatly depending on specific cities and towns within each state. To make an informed decision about safety in Oregon or Washington, it would be best to research the specific area you are considering for your residence.

Cities and Neighborhoods Comparison

Seattle vs. Portland

Washington vs. Oregon Living: Comparing Cost, Climate, and Lifestyle
Downtown Seattle, WA

Seattle, located in Washington, and Portland, in Oregon, are cities known for their similarities in culture, natural beauty, and climate. Seattle, being a larger city, has a higher population density and more bustling neighborhoods. Some of Seattle’s popular neighborhoods include Capitol Hill, Fremont, and Ballard, which boast a variety of amenities such as parks, shopping, and dining options.

Washington vs. Oregon Living: Comparing Cost, Climate, and Lifestyle
Downtown Portland, OR

On the other hand, Portland, known as the City of Roses, has a more relaxed feel and a unique vibe in its neighborhoods like Alberta Arts District, Nob Hill, and The Pearl District. Both cities are rich in arts and culture, but Seattle has a more thriving tech industry due to the presence of companies like Microsoft and Amazon.

Vancouver vs. Salem

Washington vs. Oregon Living: Comparing Cost, Climate, and Lifestyle
Vancouver, WA

Vancouver, a city in Washington, is situated just across the Columbia River from Portland, making it an attractive option for those who want easy access to both cities. It offers a perfect blend of urban living and natural beauty, with notable neighborhoods like Fisher’s Landing and Hazel Dell.

Life Hack: If you decide to move to Vancouver, you can do all your shopping next door in Oregon to avoid sales tax. Living in Vancouver will allow you to save money from Washington’s lack of income tax.

Washington vs. Oregon Living: Comparing Cost, Climate, and Lifestyle
Salem, OR

Salem, Oregon’s capital city, combines the charm of a small town with modern amenities, including a variety of neighborhoods like West Salem and South Salem. Both cities offer good recreational and outdoor opportunities but differ in the urban vibe and closeness to metropolitan areas.

Spokane vs. Eugene

Washington vs. Oregon Living: Comparing Cost, Climate, and Lifestyle
Spokane, WA

Spokane, in eastern Washington, is the second-largest city in the state, with neighborhoods such as Browne’s Addition, South Hill, and Kendall Yards, offering a mix of historic charm and modern living. The city provides numerous outdoor activities and a strong arts scene.

Washington vs. Oregon Living: Comparing Cost, Climate, and Lifestyle
Eugene, OR

Eugene, in Oregon, is known as “TrackTown USA” due to its reputation for athletics and outdoor activities. It has a more college-town feel, with the University of Oregon playing a major role in defining its personality. Popular neighborhoods in Eugene include South Eugene, Friendly Street, and the Whiteaker District. Both cities have a strong focus on outdoor recreation and wellness but differ in vibe and community focus.

Bellevue vs. Bend

Washington vs. Oregon Living: Comparing Cost, Climate, and Lifestyle
Bellevue, WA

Bellevue, an affluent city in Washington, is situated across Lake Washington from Seattle. Neighborhoods like Downtown Bellevue, Factoria, and West Bellevue offer residents access to luxurious shops, top-notch restaurants, and plentiful outdoor activities. Bellevue has a more corporate feel, being home to several major tech companies and businesses.

Washington vs. Oregon Living: Comparing Cost, Climate, and Lifestyle
Bend, OR

Bend, in central Oregon, offers a laid-back lifestyle surrounded by stunning scenery and outdoor adventures. Some of Bend’s popular neighborhoods include the Old Mill District, Northwest Crossing, and River West. Although both Bellevue and Bend provide a high quality of living, Bellevue leans more towards a bustling city feel, while Bend offers a relaxed outdoors-oriented atmosphere.

Washington & Oregon Cities With High Quality of Life

Washington Cities

Several Washington cities have been ranked as having a high quality of life. Here are a few examples:

  • Mercer Island: This city has been consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in Washington due to its high median household income, low crime rates, excellent schools, and beautiful natural surroundings.
  • Redmond: This city is known for its strong economy, high median household income, excellent schools, and abundance of parks and recreational opportunities.
  • Kirkland: This city is located on the eastern shore of Lake Washington and offers a high quality of life with its strong economy, excellent schools, beautiful parks, and easy access to outdoor recreation.
  • Bellevue: This city is located just across Lake Washington from Seattle and is known for its strong economy, excellent schools, beautiful parks, and high quality of life.
  • Sammamish: This city is located east of Seattle and is known for its high median household income, excellent schools, low crime rates, and abundance of parks and recreational opportunities.

Oregon Cities

Here are a few Oregon cities that have been ranked as having a high quality of life:

  • Lake Oswego: This city is located just south of Portland and is known for its beautiful parks, excellent schools, low crime rates, and high median household income.
  • Bend: This city is located in central Oregon and is known for its natural beauty, abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities, strong economy, and excellent schools.
  • Corvallis: This city is located in the Willamette Valley and is known for its excellent schools, strong economy, low crime rates, and abundance of parks and recreational opportunities.
  • West Linn: This city is located just south of Portland and is known for its beautiful parks, excellent schools, low crime rates, and high median household income.
  • Ashland: This city is located in southern Oregon and is known for its natural beauty, vibrant arts scene, abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities, and excellent schools.

Recreation and Outdoor Activities

Nature and Parks

Washington vs. Oregon Living: Comparing Cost, Climate, and Lifestyle
Mount Rainier, Washington

Both Washington and Oregon are known for their beautiful nature and abundance of parks. Washington offers plenty of parks for children, as well as scenic natural areas, such as Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park, which provide opportunities for various outdoor activities.

Likewise, Oregon features numerous parks and natural areas, such as Crater Lake National Park and the scenic Columbia River Gorge. In addition, Oregon’s sandy beaches along its coastline attract beach lovers and surfers, providing unique recreational options.

Hiking and Trails

Washington vs. Oregon Living: Comparing Cost, Climate, and Lifestyle
Crater Lake, OR

For those who enjoy hiking and exploring trails, both Washington and Oregon are ideal destinations. Washington is home to many popular hiking trails, such as those found in the North Cascades, Mount Rainier National Park, and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

On the other hand, Oregon also offers countless trails with beautiful views and diverse landscapes. The state has some well-known hikes, such as those in the Cascade Range, the Mount Hood area, and Smith Rock State Park.

Furthermore, both Washington and Oregon cater to various outdoor interests, including:

  • Fishing: Washington is famous for its salmon fishing, while Oregon’s rivers, lakes, and coastal waters offer a wide variety of fishing experiences, from trout to deep-sea fishing.
  • Mountain biking: Both states have expansive networks of mountain biking trails, ensuring that cycling enthusiasts have plenty to explore.
  • Skiing and snowboarding: Snow sports enthusiasts will find a plethora of options in both states, with popular ski resorts, such as Mount Hood in Oregon and Crystal Mountain in Washington.
  • Wildlife watching: Both states provide the opportunity to observe a wide array of wildlife, from coastal sea life to mountain-dwelling creatures.

In conclusion, while Washington and Oregon share many commonalities when it comes to recreation and outdoor activities, certain aspects may cater more to specific interests. Ultimately, it will depend on personal preference and priorities when choosing between the two states for an outdoor lover’s dream destination.

Healthcare and Access to Services

Washington and Oregon both offer healthcare services to their residents, but they have some differences in terms of accessibility and cost. In both states, the healthcare cost depends on the insurance plan and whether your workplace offers insurance. On average, most people pay around $350 to $450 per month for health insurance.

In Oregon, healthcare costs have increased significantly over the years, with a rise of about 50% over six years. This has made healthcare expensive for many residents in the state.

In terms of access to care, it is essential to consider both urban and rural populations. As per the available data in the search results, there is insufficient understanding of the differences in facilitators and barriers between urban versus rural specialty care in both states.

Mental health care access is another important aspect to consider. Mental Health America measures access ranking by considering factors such as adults with mental illnesses who did not receive treatment, adults with mental illnesses reporting unmet needs, and adults with mental illnesses who are uninsured.

In conclusion, healthcare services in both Washington and Oregon have their pros and cons in terms of accessibility, cost, and quality of care. Further research and evaluation will be necessary to adequately compare the healthcare services in these two Pacific Northwest states.

Employment and Economy

Minimum Wage

In both Washington and Oregon, the minimum wage rates are higher than the federal minimum wage. As of 2023, the minimum wage in Washington is $15.74 per hour, while in Oregon, it is $14.20 per hour.

Job Market

When comparing the job markets of Washington and Oregon, there are some differences to consider. Here are key points on the job market in each state:

  • Unemployment Rate: As of March 2023, the unemployment rate in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area was 3.2%. In contrast, the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro area had an unemployment rate of 4.1%.
  • Average Household Income: Household income in Portland is 23% less than in Seattle. However, it is still 6% above the national average.
  • Economic Growth: Both states have seen economic growth in recent years. In November, Oregon’s private sector added 5,600 jobs, reaching a record 1,688,400 positions.

Income Tax

Both Washington and Oregon have different approaches to income tax. Washington does not have a personal income tax, while Oregon imposes some of the highest personal income tax rates in the country. The tax rates in Oregon range from 4.75% to 9.9%, depending on the income level.

In conclusion, the section has provided an overview of employment and the economy in both Washington and Oregon. Factors such as minimum wage, job market, and income tax have been discussed, allowing the reader to make an informed decision about living in either state.

Culture and Entertainment

The cultural and entertainment scenes in both Washington and Oregon offer a diverse range of experiences for residents and visitors alike.

In Washington, the city of Seattle is known for its thriving music scene, with a rich history of grunge and indie rock bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. In addition, the city boasts numerous theaters, performance venues, and art galleries, contributing to a vibrant arts scene. Popular attractions in Washington include the iconic Space Needle, the Chihuly Garden and Glass art museum, and the Pike Place Market.

Oregon, on the other hand, has a reputation for its laid-back, artsy vibe. Portland, the largest city in the state, is famous for its eclectic mix of independent shops, food trucks, and craft breweries. The city also hosts several annual cultural events and festivals, such as the Portland International Film Festival and the Oregon Brewers Festival. Some of Oregon’s top attractions include the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Portland Art Museum, and Powell’s City of Books.

When it comes to restaurants, both states have strong culinary scenes. Washington is known for its fresh seafood, with the iconic Pike Place Market offering a wide variety of local produce and seafood delights. Oregon, particularly Portland, is famous for its food trucks and innovative dining experiences, emphasizing farm-to-table and locally-sourced ingredients.

In the realm of sports, Washington residents enjoy cheering on their professional sports teams, such as the Seattle Seahawks (NFL), Seattle Mariners (MLB), and Seattle Kraken (NHL). College sports also play a significant role in Washington, with the University of Washington and Washington State University boasting competitive athletic programs.

In contrast, Oregon may not have as many professional sports teams, but it is home to the popular Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) and the Portland Timbers (MLS). College sports are similarly significant in Oregon, with the University of Oregon and Oregon State University attracting avid fan bases.

In summary, both Washington and Oregon offer compelling cultural and entertainment experiences, ranging from arts and music scenes to diverse culinary offerings and sports.

The Seattle Food Scene

The Seattle food scene is known for its diverse and innovative cuisine, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. Seattle is a city that loves food, and it shows in the many restaurants, cafes, and food trucks that can be found throughout the city.

One of the defining features of the Seattle food scene is its focus on seafood. With the city’s location on the Puget Sound, there is no shortage of fresh fish and shellfish available. Popular seafood dishes include salmon, Dungeness crab, and oysters. Pike Place Market, one of Seattle’s most iconic attractions, is a must-visit for seafood lovers, with vendors selling everything from smoked salmon to clam chowder.

In addition to seafood, Seattle is also known for its coffee culture. The city is home to some of the world’s most famous coffee shops, including Starbucks, which was founded in Seattle in 1971. Today, there are countless independent coffee shops throughout the city, each with its own unique atmosphere and style.

Seattle is also a great destination for foodies looking to explore international cuisine. The city has a rich Japanese food scene, with world-class sushi masters like Shiro Kashiba. There are also many excellent Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean restaurants throughout the city.

Finally, the Seattle food scene is known for its commitment to sustainability and local sourcing. Many restaurants in the city prioritize using locally sourced ingredients, and there are several farmers markets throughout the city where visitors can purchase fresh produce and other goods.

Overall, the Seattle food scene is a vibrant and exciting part of the city’s culture. Whether you’re a seafood lover, coffee enthusiast, or just looking to try something new, there is something for everyone in Seattle’s diverse culinary scene.

The Portland Food Scene

The Portland food scene is a vibrant and innovative culinary landscape, known for its focus on farm-to-table cuisine, craft beer, and food carts. The city has become a destination for foodies from around the world, with a wide range of dining options available.

One of the defining features of the Portland food scene is its focus on locally sourced ingredients. Many restaurants in the city prioritize using fresh, seasonal ingredients from local farms and producers. This commitment to sustainability and local sourcing has helped to shape the city’s culinary identity.

Portland is also known for its thriving craft beer scene, with more than 70 breweries located in the city. The city’s breweries produce a wide range of styles, from traditional IPAs and stouts to experimental sour beers and barrel-aged ales. Visitors can explore the city’s breweries on foot or by bike, and many breweries offer tours and tastings.

Another unique aspect of the Portland food scene is its food carts. The city has more than 600 food carts located throughout the city, offering a wide range of international cuisine, from Korean BBQ to Mexican street tacos. Food carts are a popular option for locals and visitors alike, with many carts offering high-quality, affordable food in a casual setting.

In addition to its focus on local ingredients and craft beer, the Portland food scene is also known for its innovative and experimental cuisine. Many chefs in the city are pushing the boundaries of traditional cooking, using techniques like fermentation and molecular gastronomy to create new and exciting dishes.

Overall, the Portland food scene is a dynamic and exciting part of the city’s culture. Whether you’re looking for a locally sourced farm-to-table meal, a craft beer tasting, or a delicious meal from a food cart, Portland has something for everyone.

Pros and Cons of Washington vs. Oregon Living

When comparing living in Washington and Oregon, there are several factors to consider in weighing the pros and cons.

Washington

Pros:

  • No income tax: Washington residents benefit from the absence of a state income tax, allowing for potential savings on their earnings.
  • Higher minimum wage: The minimum wage in Washington is higher than in Oregon, offering better earnings for workers in lower-paying jobs.
  • Job opportunities: The state is home to many large corporations, such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing, providing ample job opportunities in various industries.

Cons:

  • Sales tax: Unlike Oregon, Washington imposes a statewide sales tax, which can contribute to higher costs for consumers.
  • Higher cost of living in urban areas: Major cities like Seattle can be considerably more expensive than other areas in the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon

Pros:

  • No sales tax: One of the main benefits of living in Oregon is the absence of a sales tax, potentially leading to savings on daily purchases.
  • Natural beauty and outdoor activities: Oregon includes diverse landscapes and numerous outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and sightseeing, making it ideal for nature enthusiasts.
  • Laid-back atmosphere: Oregon, particularly in cities like Portland, is known for its relaxed and welcoming culture.

Cons:

  • Income tax: Unlike Washington, Oregon residents must pay state income tax, which can make a difference in overall earnings and disposable income.
  • Higher overall cost of living: The cost of living in Oregon is generally higher than in Washington, especially when it comes to housing prices.
  • Rainy climate: Both states experience high amounts of rain each year, but Oregon tends to have more rainfall, which may not be appealing to some residents.

In summary, both Washington and Oregon have unique benefits and drawbacks. Factors such as taxes, cost of living, job opportunities, and lifestyle preferences will play a role in determining the best fit for each individual.


Sources:

Niche

US News

About the author

My name is April, and I’m a Seattle-based writer, traveler, and foodie. I started this travel guide blog to share my passion for Seattle with fellow travelers and locals alike.

Whether you’re looking for the best coffee shops, the trendiest restaurants, or the most scenic hiking trails, I’ve got you covered.

When I’m not writing or exploring Seattle, you can find me watching movies with my husband, reading, or gardening with my dog in the backyard.

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