Living in Philadelphia, PA: 13 Pros & Cons (Videos & Prices)


Philadelphia at night, Pennsylvania, USA
Philadelphia at night, Pennsylvania, USA

Philadelphia, fondly known as Philly, is Pennsylvania’s largest city. The metropolitan is notable for its rich history, which can be seen at the Independence Hall (known as the location of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution signing), the Liberty Bell, and other similar American Revolutionary sites. But is it the right city for you?

Population Median Age Bachelor Degree or Higher
1,579,075 34.429.70%
Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Pro: The city has ample green spaces

Philadelphia is filled with ample green space, with Square Parks like Rittenhouse and Washington enhancing the city’s scenic beauty. There is a park in just about every neighborhood of Philly, with more than 300 neighborhood parks, playgrounds, and rec centers, as well as 166 miles of trails for residents to enjoy. The city is also home to the country’s largest self-possessed park, Fairmount Park, a whopping 9,200 acres.

Con: Traffic and congestion

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US - City Hall
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US – City Hall
(Source – @alexandertstross via Twnety20)
Median Philadelphia Commuting Time Median U.S. Commuting Time
33.6 Minutes26.9 Minutes
Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Means of Transportation to Work/SchoolPercentage %
Car57.89%
Bus0.00%
Train/Metro7.02%
Bike5.26%
Walking17.54%
Working from Home10.53%

Data sourced from numbeo.com – Jul 2021

Philadelphia is ranked the 18th most congested city in the United States. In 2020, drivers in the metropolitan area lost about 94 hours stuck in traffic. To give you an idea of just how bad the traffic in Philly is, the national average of hours lost by drivers to traffic is 26. Traffic is a huge problem in the city mainly because business sectors own fleets of vehicles, plus many of its residents also opt to drive to get around. Whenever possible, opt for public transit, walking, or biking to your destination.

Pro: Philadelphia is quite affordable to live in

Despite being Pennsylvania’s largest city, Philadelphia is quite affordable. It is one of the least expensive cities to live in on the East Coast. 

Median Home PriceMedian Household incomeMedian Earnings for MaleMedian Earnings for Female
$221,996$45,927$48,577$43,754
Data sourced from Zillow Median Home Sale Prices and the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Service NamesAvg. Prices
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult35.68$
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend)35.73$
Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat14.00$
Meal/DrinkAvg. Prices
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant15.00$
Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course57.50$
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal)8.00$
Domestic Beer (1 pint draught)5.00$
Imported Beer (12 oz small bottle)7.00$
Cappuccino (regular)4.32$
Coke/Pepsi (12 oz small bottle)1.83$
Water (12 oz small bottle)1.40$
Utilities (Monthly)Prices
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 915 sq ft Apartment 146.09$
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)61.41$
Rent Per MonthAvg. Prices
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre1,696.03$
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre1,074.47$
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre2,847.81$
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre1,649.41$
Service NamesPrices
One-way Ticket (Local Transport)2.50$
Monthly Pass (Regular Price)96.00$
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)3.50$
Taxi 1 mile (Normal Tariff)5.50$
Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff)25.00$
Gasoline (1 gallon)2.78$
Food NamesAvg. Food Prices
Milk (regular), (1 gallon)4.10$
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (1 lb)2.70$
Rice (white), (1 lb)1.70$
Eggs (regular) (12)2.42$
Local Cheese (1 lb)3.97$
Chicken Fillets (1 lb)5.04$
Beef Round (1 lb) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)6.83$
Apples (1 lb)2.52$
Banana (1 lb)0.77$
Oranges (1 lb)2.12$
Tomato (1 lb)2.29$
Potato (1 lb)2.07$
Onion (1 lb)1.88$
Lettuce (1 head)1.54$
Water (1.5 liter bottle)2.01$
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)15.00$
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle)4.00$
Imported Beer (12 oz small bottle)3.64$
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro)11.00$

Data sourced from numbeo.com – Jul 2021

Con: Residents in the city have to pay a high wage tax

Living in Philadelphia comes with the responsibility of paying a City Wage Tax – this is a tax on salaries, commissions, wages, and other compensation. Regardless of where the residents of the city work, they are mandated to pay a 3.8712 percent wage tax, while non-residents who work in the city are required to pay 3.5% wage tax. 

Pro: Many things to see and do in the city

Chinese lantern festival in Phily
Chinese lantern festival in Philly
(Source: @brookiecookie via Twnety20)

Philly is anything but boring. Music and art are the backbones of Philadelphia’s culture. The city has multiple museums and galleries, like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Barnes Foundation. You can also go out to see the 4,00 murals painted all over the city.

Many famous musical artists hail from the city, including Patty LaBelle, Hall & Oates, The Roots,  Boyz II Men, Chubby Checker, and so many others. There are a variety of spots where you can enjoy live music. If you love jazz, make a point of going to Heritage for live music at least once. If you’re looking for something more upbeat, head out to Franky Bradleys, where you can dance to DJs and live performers.

Video of top 10 things to do in Philadelphia

Con: Philly is overpopulated

According to the United States census report of 2010, the city’s population was around 1,526,006 in total, which meant that the population density in every square kilometer was roughly 4,405.4 people. These numbers have undoubtedly increased since then, which has led to overcrowded facilities all over the city.

Pro: Philadelphia has plenty of neighborhood options

Philadelphia has plenty of reputable neighborhoods that you can check out if you’re moving to the city. Each has something unique to offer, either to live or visit. Some of the top neighborhoods include:

Chestnut Hill

Chestnut Hill is a family-friendly neighborhood with many family-oriented attractions such as the Children’s Music Express and the Morris Arboretum. It also has several parks, playgrounds, and shops. 

If you have school-going kids, you’ll be happy to know that the neighborhood is home to several reputable public and private schools and also has a free library.

Manayunk

Manayunk is about 15 minutes away from the Philly city center. It is a great neighborhood for young professionals, with dozens of cafes, bars, and clubs you can visit in your downtime. There are various housing types in Manayunk, from chic lofts to contemporary townhouses to turn-of-the-century row homes and even a handful of converted churches.

Northern Liberties

The Northern Liberties neighborhood is filled with boutiques, bars, restaurants, and mixed-use complexes such as The Schmidt’s Commons.

Fishtown

Fishtown is another hip neighborhood in Philly worth checking out. Located to the north of Northern Liberties, Fishtown has plenty of bars, row homes, music venues, restaurants, and art galleries lining its streets.

Con: Pollution is a huge problem in Philadelphia

Overcrowding in the city has led to the accumulation of toxic gases and fumes in the city’s atmosphere. A high population means an increase in the number of vehicles used, which leaves a significant carbon footprint. As a result, Philadelphia is comparatively hotter than many other surrounding areas.

Philadelphia Temperature Table

Best months to visit Philadelphia: April, May, June, July, August, September, October.

MonthTemp. Low. Avg.Temp. High Avg.
Jan27℉41℉
Feb28℉43℉
Marc34℉52℉
Apr46℉66℉
May55℉73℉
Jun66℉84℉
Jul72℉88℉
Aug68℉84℉
Sep63℉81℉
Oct52℉70℉
Nov39℉57℉
Dec34℉48℉

Data sourced from numbeo.com – Jul 2021

Pro: Reputable universities and colleges

Library
(Source: @nikmock via Twnety20)
Library

Philadelphia has the fourth-largest university population in the United States, for a good reason – the city has multiple higher education institutions, including Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, and Drexel University. These institutions have made a significant economic impact; over the past 25 years, Drexel University has donated $2 million annually to various community organizations and raised $95 million in local and diverse procurement. 

Con: Parking in the city is a pain

Daily traffic on the streets of downtown Philadelphia
Daily traffic on the streets of downtown Philadelphia
(Source: @ako via Twnety20)

It’s tough to find parking in Philly, and if you do somehow manage to find a good spot (make sure you read the signs carefully), it will cost you dearly. The city continues to grow in leaps and bounds. As a result, new housing structures are popping up, which has led the Philadelphia Parking Authority to convert some areas offering free street parking to permit parking. You may find that a parking permit in your own neighborhood costs $35.

Pro: Easy commute

Traffic at Philadelphia city hall
Traffic at Philadelphia city hall
(Source: @shepardheff via Twnety20)

Commuters living in large metropolitan areas generally have a hard time moving around, but that is not the case in Philadelphia. Commuting is easy and convenient in the city – the average one-way commute time is just 32 minutes, with around 21% of Philadelphians using public transportation. 

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) regional rail service runs 13 lines to and from every corner of Philadelphia, including the three busiest city center hubs:  Logan Square, Market East, and University City. In addition, it’s easier and quicker to walk in some areas than to drive, with several jobs being only a few minutes walks from residential areas.

Con: Liquor licenses do not come by easily

It is difficult to obtain a liquor license in Philly, so there are multiple BYOB restaurants. Wine and liquor can only be bought in state-owned Wine and Spirits stores which you will find in the city centers, and you’ll mostly find beer being sold in delis or by distributors around town.

Pro: Rich history

Liberty Bell ~ Philadelphia, PA
Liberty Bell ~ Philadelphia, PA
(Source: @cristinaLphotography via Twnety20)

Philly is the place to be if you’re a history buff. So much of the city’s elaborate history has been preserved, like the Liberty Bell andIndependence Hall. For a more intimate experience, visit institutions like the African American Museum, the National Museum of American Jewish History, and the Museum of the American Revolution.

Final thoughts

Philadelphia is a fascinating city to live in. On the one hand, you get perks like great career opportunities, good education, and plenty of green spaces. Still, on the other hand, factors such as pollution, overcrowding, and traffic jams lessen the city’s appeal. To live in Philadelphia, you must be willing to take both the good and the bad.

Philadelphia Phoenix compared to other cities (June 2021 rent price data from Zumper national rent report)

CitiesMedian RentMedian Home PricesMedian Household Income
Charlotte$1,174$296,603$62,817
Chicago$1,134$296,603$58,247
Columbus$984$208,768$53,745
Houston $1,095 $222,540 $52,338
Denver$1,433$543,544$68,592
Indianapolis$908$187,628$45,670
Jacksonville$1,099$236,615$54,701
Philadelphia$1,079$221,996$45,927
Phoenix$1,107$350,077$57,459
San Antonio$1,029$221,886$52,455
San Diego$1,806$829,062$79,673
Seattle$1,744$863,058$92,263
Washington$1,603$692,178$86,420
Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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