Retiring in Scottsdale AZ: Pros, Cons, Costs & More 2024

Retiring in Scottsdale AZ: Pros, Cons, Costs & More 2024

After the hustle and grind of work life, the greatest attractions of retired living include enjoying endless rounds of golf, lazy days by the poolside and a year-round active lifestyle. 

Since 2020, hundreds of Americans have been discovering that retiring in mid-life to Scottsdale, Arizona is the ticket to this long-dreamed-of lifestyle. Watching the breathtaking Sonoran Desert sunrise every day is just the icing on the cake.  

Little wonder, then, that each year, over 2,000 searches across the US center on retiring to Scottsdale (Spyfu SEO data, figure below).  

Google Search Interest in Retirement Related Queries data. Scottsdale, AZ vs Other US Cities.

Not just this, recent IRS data show that in a single year, over 143,000 taxpayers from across the US migrated to Maricopa County, seat of Scottsdale (figure below). During the same period, roughly 109,000 individuals moved away from the county to other states.

This means that Scottsdale, Arizona is attracting 1.3x as many people as those leaving.

IRS Migration Inflow data Scottsdale, AZ

Clearly, Scottsdale, AZ is a popular relocation destination for Americans. However, at PlayLouder, we have pretty stringent requirements for a place before recommending it as a potential retirement destination.

So, does Scottsdale make the cut? We needed to find out, so we got to work. 

We pulled in opinions and stories from a bunch of people who’d had experience living in Scottsdale, whether past or present. From shopping baskets to speeding tickets, we looked at all the data that our informants could share.

Putting the pieces together gave us an in-depth picture of what retiring to Scottsdale in 2024 will likely look and feel like in 2024.

In this article, we’ve compiled a detailed summary of the most important facts you’ll need to know when considering Scottsdale, AZ as a potential retirement destination.  

Main Pros and Cons of Scottsdale, AZ for Retirees

In case you’re juggling a ton of things, we’ve got a ‘TL;DR’ pros and cons section that’ll take you less than a minute to go over, so you can get to the meat of the article at your leisure.

Pros

For a retirement that combines the comforts of big city life with the pleasures of the big outdoors, Scottsdale, AZ is likely your #1 option, particularly if budget constraints are not an issue. Additional perks include a high safety environment, quality healthcare facilities and great connectivity that allows you to remain at the hub of your business and social networks. 

Cons

On the other hand, if retirement means managing on a more limited income, then life in Scottsdale might prove to be a constant balancing act. The sweltering summer heat can also prove difficult to adapt to for those unused to dry, arid environments. Finally, for those with respiratory, eye and skin sensitivities, the frequently elevated ozone and PM (particulate matter) levels in Scottsdale may be an added challenge. 

Cost of Living

Overview

Scottsdale, AZ is undoubtedly closer to the higher end of the cost spectrum. However, the city guarantees the luxury lifestyle and cultural vibrancy and variety that discerning investors find to be worth the price tag. Here's a breakdown of the expenses of daily living in Scottsdale, AZ.

Housing and Utilities

Scottsdale, Arizona has emerged as one of the hottest housing destinations for Americans seeking a luxurious desert lifestyle. The city has witnessed a staggering 102% increase in millionaire residents in just a decade. With a median listing price of a little under $1 million, houses in Scottsdale are anything but cheap.

Real Estate Cost of Living Scottsdale, AZ

House and apartment rents in Scottsdale can cost you anywhere from 1.1x to 2x as much as elsewhere (figure above), depending on location, square foot area and number of bedrooms. In general, larger apartments and those outside the city tend to be pricier.  

Digging deeper, we pulled data on property purchase prices from Scottsdale realtors.

On average, real estate costs $444 per square foot in Scottsdale, AZ, a whopping 42% higher than the US average of $312 (per Numbeo data). 

Going further, a 3-bedroom house in the Scottsdale area would set you back by approximately $925,686; this estimate is roughly 87% higher than the US Department of Housing and Urban Development national average ($495,100), and a full 117% higher than the national median housing price for 2024 estimated by Forbes ($426,000).

Utilities Cost of Living Scottsdale, AZ

Expenditure on utilities—HVAC , water and waste disposal (15%), as well as on internet (12%) and cellphone bills (26%) is also higher in Scottsdale (figure above).

Food, Grocery and Apparel

Food Cost of Living Scottsdale, AZ

Dining expenses in Scottsdale are on par with those elsewhere. Whether cooking at home or eating out, you’re unlikely to spend too much extra, unless of course, you opt to dine at the in-house restaurants of the luxurious resorts dotting the landscape.

Keeping grocery bills in check shouldn’t be too difficult in Scottsdale, especially if you’re a fan of classics like steak and potatoes, or an advocate of fresh herb recipes like balsamic tomato chicken.

One of Scottsdale’s top attractions for residents and visitors alike is its upscale shopping scene, with an array of high-end retail chains and luxury boutique stores to equal big cities like NY and LA. It is therefore unsurprising that wardrobe essentials can cost anywhere from 1% to 10% more, even in regular stores (figure below). 

Clothing Cost of Living Scottsdale, AZ

Transportation and Fuel

Gasoline costs roughly 5% more in Scottsdale than the country average. Given that the average car also costs at least 4% more in this city than elsewhere (figure below), driving yourself around is likely to run up a higher bill than you’ve been used to.

Fuel, Transportation and Automobiles Cost of Living Scottsdale, AZ

There are alternatives, however. Scottsdale, AZ boasts an excellent public transit system with multiple options suited to all needs and budgets. Aside from a charming, completely free trolley service – ‘Olley the Trolley’ –  whose three fixed routes cover all major public places and downtown areas, Scottsdale’s Valley Metro transit system includes buses, light rail and streetcars as well as a paratransit facility.

A large catchment area, frequent service, reasonably priced tickets (including daily, weekly and monthly passes) as well as discounted fares for seniors and the differently abled ensure that Scottsdale’s transit       

Local Economy and Part-Time Job Opportunities

According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve’s (aka FRED’s) most recent data,the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale region recorded an impressive 8.4% growth in GDP over a 5-year period. 

The Economic and Business Research Center or EBRC (Eller College of Management, Arizona State University) estimates that the backbone of Scottsdale’s economy, namely retail sales, grew by 2.9% from 2023 to 2024. In the same period, personal incomes grew by an impressive 6.2% in this region.

Even more impressively, EBRC estimates for 2025 peg the city’s retail sales growth at 6.4% and personal income growth at 3.9%.

In step with its booming economy, Scottsdale is set to continue adding jobs at the brisk rate of 2.2% over the coming year (figure below). 

Employment Growth Rate in Scottsdale, AZ

Besides retail, Scottsdale’s economic growth is being spurred on by big development projects such as the $60 million Thunderbird Commerce Park, the 1.2 million square foot Mack Innovation Park, as well as the $1 billion mixed-use complex, ‘The Parque’.

Another major contributor to the region’s job growth is mining, a mainstay of the Arizona economy (figure below). Other sectors that have witnessed fast-paced growth include health and education.

Economic Growth Rate in Scottsdale, AZ

Job Prospects for Retirees

In a recent study, researchers at Columbia University's School of Public Health discovered that business owners increasingly favor hiring older adults over younger candidates. The top reasons cited for this preference included:

  • Older workers’ valuable experience in navigating workplace difficulties
  • More dependability, greater consistency in job performance among seniors
  • Seniors’ skills in mentoring and guiding junior team members
  • Better rapport and positive customer relationships fostered by older workers 

Sure enough, a quick survey of major job search portals (such as  revealed that on average, over 140 opportunities for retirees and/or senior individuals are posted per platform per month. The majority of these are for transportation, customer service and administrative support.  

The figure below provides weekly earnings benchmarks for jobs in various sectors in Scottsdale and surrounding areas.

Weekly Wages by Sector in Scottsdale, AZ

Healthcare Facilities, Costs, and Quality

Scottsdale, AZ is currently served by full-fledged hospitals that are part of the Honor Health network, as well as having specialist facilities run by Banner Health.

Major Honor Health hospitals in Scottsdale include the Shea Medical Center (427 beds),  Osborn Medical Center (330 beds) and Thompson Peak Medical Center in North Scottsdale (120 beds). 

The Shea and Osborn Centers provide trauma care, with Shea being a Level I Trauma Center. The Shea Center additionally boasts a Level III neonatal ICU as well as a dedicated pediatric intensive care unit. Among them, the three Honor Health facilities cater to a spectrum of healthcare needs spanning cardiology, orthopedics, neurology, urology, oncology, pediatric care and women’s health.

At present, the Banner network includes Behavioral Health as well as Sports Medicine facilities in Scottsdale, with a project underway for a full-fledged hospital in North Scottsdale.

Average Healthcare Cost in Scottsdale, AZ

With access to over 3,000 healthcare providers and 1,000 veterinarians, Scottsdale is equipped to cater to your every healthcare need and concern, be it for yourself, your family or your beloved pets.

Predictably, Scottsdale, AZ is a little more expensive than average when it comes to healthcare costs, with a doctor visit likely to cost about 5% extra and a vet visit being nearly 30% more expensive than elsewhere. Surprisingly, the cost of dental and eye care is lower than average here.

Healthcare and assisted living for seniors

The growing popularity of Scottsdale as a retirement destination has been parallelled by the development of a plethora of facilities that provide varying levels of support and care to older adults and seniors. 

These range from retirement communities offering independent living with basic support for active older adults, all the way to skilled nursing and hands-on care. In a 2023 interview with Forbes Health, a Scottsdale-based senior living consultant revealed how the city’s spectrum of assisted living facilities suit all budgets and needs, from as low as $2,000 per month to upwards of $10,000 for full-time, skilled nursing and rehabilitative care.

Some of the most well-known facilities that accommodate all needs, from independent living to basic assistance to full-time care include Atria Park, Belmont Village and Vi of Silverstone. Reputed institutions that support independent living for seniors include Brookdale North, McDowell Village and Sunrise of Scottsdale.  

Safety and Accessibility

Crime and safety

Estimates indicate that Scottsdale, AZ has a crime rate per 100K population of roughly 2,117, placing it well below the US national average of 3,659 (42% lower, to be exact). 

To get a feel for what this means, we ran our usual 10-city comparison, pitting Scottsdale against 9 other cities with similar-sized populations (figure below). 

Crime and Safety Comaprison in Scottsdale, AZ

Clearly, Scottsdale’s overall safety rating of 73.26 is high for a city of its size—it ranked as the safest in our comparison, with Madison (WI) taking second place. 

For on-the-ground insights, we turned to Scottsdale residents, both current and former. All our sources were in agreement that Scottsdale, AZ is a very safe place. Some individuals compared the city favorably with other big cities in which they had lived earlier, such as NY and DC. No one was able to report any personal encounters with crime.  

Safe vs. unsafe neighborhoods

When asked specifically about neighborhood safety, the majority of individuals asserted that there are no “unsafe” neighborhoods in Scottsdale. However, a couple of long-time residents of Scottsdale expressed the opinion that the area south of Old Town Scottsdale has suffered administrative neglect and grown rundown in recent years.

Road safety tips for Scottsdale, AZ

Although people agreed that life in Scottsdale is very safe, many of our informants expressed the view that road safety can be a concern in the city (and in Arizona state, in general). Here are some tips they shared for navigating your way safely around the area:

  • Be extra cautious as a pedestrian, and cross the road after ensuring that oncoming traffic is at a safe distance.
  • Stay vigilant when out on the roads in the early morning hours, particularly on weekends and holidays, when drunk driving is most likely.
  • Speed limits may not be strictly observed by many drivers on the freeway, particularly those in the left lane, so avoid this lane if you’re a conservative driver. 

Accessibility: Getting to Scottsdale, AZ

By road

  • Phoenix, AZ: The 12 miles from Phoenix to Scottsdale should take roughly 21 minutes. Start by heading east on I-10 E, then take exit 147B to merge onto Loop 202 E/Red Mountain Fwy. Take the right exit onto E McDowell Road. In 4 miles, make a left onto N 64th St, continue for 1.7 miles, then make a right onto E Indian School Road into Scottsdale.
  • Tucson, AZ: Scottsdale is 113 miles northwest of Tucson, or a 1 hour 45 minute drive. Start off by taking the ramp onto I-10 W toward Phoenix. After 107 miles, take the right exit to merge onto AZ-143 N/Hohokam Expy (follow signs for Sky Harbor International Airport). In 4.7 miles, make a left onto N 64th St and follow the same directions as above (Phoenix-to-Scottsdale)
  • Las Vegas, NV: The 311-mile southeasterly drive to Scottsdale clocks in at around 5 hours. Begin by taking I-11 S/US-93. After 245 miles, make a left onto the AZ-74 E/I-17. In 30 miles, make a right to merge onto the I-17 S. Follow I-17 S and then AZ-101 Loop E for roughly 33 miles, then take exit 47 on the right onto E Indian School Road for the last 2 mile-stretch into Scottsdale.
  • San Diego, CA: The 364-mile eastbound journey from San Diego to Scottsdale typically takes around 5 hours and 45 minutes. To begin, get on the CA-125 N ramp to Santee. In 2 miles, take the right exit 18B to merge onto the I-8 E. Continue for 282 miles until you reach exit 115 for W Pima St in Gila Bend. From there, take AZ-85 North and drive for about 38 miles until you get on I-10 E in Buckeye. Continue on I-10 E for 37 miles to Phoenix, then take exit 3 for AZ-202. Follow E McDowell Rd, N 64th St, and E Indian School Rd for the final stretch to your destination in Scottsdale, AZ.
  • Santa Fe, NM: The 468 miles to Scottsdale usually takes 7 hours. First, head south on the Old Santa Fé Trail, then take Old Pecos Trail and NM-466 S to merge onto I-25 S. Continue for approximately 4 miles. Next, take I-40 W and drive for about 289 miles until you reach exit 286 for AZ-77 S/I-40BL W/Navajo Blvd in Holbrook. From there, follow AZ-377 S, then take AZ-260 W, and finally AZ-87 S for about 175 miles to reach your destination in Scottsdale, AZ.
  • Denver, CO: It’s a full 853 miles southwest from Denver to Scottsdale, a drive that usually takes about 13 hours. Start by heading south on N Broadway to get on I-25 S. Continue on I-25 S for about 674 miles, then take exit 286 for AZ-77 S/I-40BL W/Navajo Blvd in Holbrook. Follow AZ-377 S, then take AZ-260 W, and finally AZ-87 S for about 175 miles to hit Scottsdale, AZ.

Taking a bus to Scottsdale, AZ is an economical alternative to driving down. Greyhound services to Scottsdale operate from a host of cities, including both nearby ones like Sedona, Flagstaff and Tucson, as well as major cities further away, including Las Vegas, Reno, San Diego, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Santa Fé, Colorado Springs, Denver and others.

For those who appreciate the amenities of FlixBus, getting to Phoenix, AZ by their favorite bus service and from there to Scottsdale by cab or light rail is yet another option. 

By rail

Scottsdale is served by the Maricopa Amtrak train station located roughly 37 miles south on the AZ-347. Amtrak operates the thrice-weekly Sunset Limited service between New Orleans (LA) and Los Angeles (CA) with a stop in Maricopa station.      

By air

The nearest commercial airport to Scottsdale is Phoenix Sky Harbor Intl. Airport (PHX), which is served by all major domestic airlines besides a host of international operators. Other options include flying into Tucson International Airport (TUS) or taking a charter flight directly into Scottsdale Airport (SCF); the latter option is preferred by organizations and corporations for flying in employees and clients.

Climate

Scottsdale, AZ basks in the year-round warmth of its Sonoran Desert climate.

Early summer mornings and late afternoons are perfect for refreshing swims and hitting up the world-class golf courses dotting the landscape. Pre-dawn hikes to savor the stunning desert sunrises and vistas from atop the iconic Camelback Mountain are also a great attraction.  

Gentler autumn temperatures make it ideal for exploring Scottsdale's lively arts district galleries, museums like Taliesin West, or enjoying a meal al fresco at any of the acclaimed restaurants lining the city's tree-lined streets.

Mild, dry winters beckon outdoor enthusiasts to discover the fascinating geology and wildlife of the area, along its sprawling network of desert parks and trails. Depending on the type of challenge you’re looking for, there are trails suited to hikers on foot as well as Jeep trails. 

The vivid and vibrant wildflowers that blanket the desert landscape come spring entice residents and visitors alike into hiking among the saguaro cacti that are so unique to the local landscape. The cool evening air also forms the perfect backdrop for excursions to the chic shopping areas and open air restaurants of Scottsdale.

Annual Temperature Range in Scottsdale, AZ

Weather and wildlife preparedness

Being part of the arid Southwest, Scottsdale is potentially susceptible to wildfires during the hot, dry months. Wildfire preparedness basics include clearing brush and combustible materials within a 30-foot radius around your home, as well as having an emergency supply kit stocked with water, medications, a first aid kit and battery-powered radio.

Hikers are particularly advised to ensure that all flames are properly extinguished. 

In addition, staying hydrated and wearing appropriate attire (hats, sunshades) while outdoors is crucial for coping with the dry heat of Arizona.

An essential precaution while out in the open is to be on the lookout for desert wildlife such as peccaries (aka javelinas), coyotes, scorpions and snakes. For those without extensive desert experience, It is advisable to stay on marked trails, and to avoid contact with any wildlife.

Pet owners need to be watchful when out with their furry loved ones, particularly during the dawn and dusk hours when wild creatures are most likely to be encountered.

Environment quality

Scottsdale, AZ is subject to fluctuations in environmental quality, owing to its proximity to the heavily industrialized area in and around Phoenix. 

At present, the city’s average annual AQI of 50 falls on the border between the EPA’s green and yellow zones—this means that while air quality is classified as “acceptable”, it may still pose some risk for those with unusual sensitivities. 

Maricopa county, home of Scottsdale, has an average annual particulate matter count of 10.5 μg/m³, which likewise falls just below the EPA’s annual cutoff of 15 μg/m³. However, the count is still high enough to be cause for concern, particularly as the area also has a large number of ‘high ozone’ days per year. 

Air Quality Index in Scottsdale, AZ
Particulate Matter Index in Scottsdale, AZ

Scottsdale and its surrounding areas are home to multitudes of native and non-native plants and trees, many of which produce pollen in abundance, contributing to allergies during spring and summer.

From February through May, trees such as the native mesquite, oak and cottonwood, as well as non-native species like olive and mulberry are likely to trigger allergies with their prolific pollen production.

Soaring summer temperatures and dry heat typically suppress pollen, and the absence of breezes and winds additionally provide relief to allergy sufferers.

However, cooler fall temperatures promote weed pollen allergies through late September and October, with the major culprits being ragweed and Russian thistle, as well as the Bermuda grass cultivar that is a popular choice for lawns and golf courses in the area.  

Education and Learning

Scottsdale provides a rich array of educational opportunities to nurture lifelong learning for its residents. From highly-rated public and private schools that build a strong foundation to colleges and universities that foster higher education, career development and personal growth, the city caters to students of all ages and academic interests.

Traditional academics

The largest major university in the Scottsdale area is Arizona State University (ASU), with campuses in downtown Phoenix (37 miles), nearby Glendale (West Valley Campus, 30 miles) as well as Gilbert (Polytechnic Campus, 30 miles). 

ASU offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a wide array of fields, from law to liberal arts, sciences and healthcare, management and public policy. Undergraduate resident tuition for 2024-25 for students on the downtown Phoenix campus is pegged at $11,478.

An alternative for those seeking workplace oriented qualifications such as associate degrees and certifications is Scottsdale Community College (SCC). With programs in fields as varied as accounting, biochemistry, geology, hospitality management and yoga, SCC is an attractive option for working adults. As of July 2023, tuition for Maricopa county residents is $97 per credit hour (cr.hr.).  

Continued Learning

ASU’s Lifelong Learners outreach program encourages older adults to stay engaged by earning badges and certificates or earning college credits in a self-paced manner, or even by opting for the more demanding pace of a continued professional education (CPE) program.

The Lifelong Learners program includes over 480 options, from learning to work with AI such as ChatGPT to microelectronics to sustainability analysis. Program fees range from as low as $49 to over $2000 for professional certifications.

Scottsdale Community College similarly offers flexible scheduling options on nearly all its programs for students juggling work demands alongside study. Options include daytime, evening, online and mixed scheduling.

School Education

The NCES database lists 52 public and 24 private schools in and around the city of Scottsdale, AZ. Of the public schools, 19 offer pre-KG schooling, 12 begin at the kindergarten level, 30 schools include elementary grades, 18 offer middle school education, while 15 include high school classes.

Highly rated schools in this area include Sequoya Elementary (grades PK‒5), Cheyenne Traditional School (PK‒8), Cocopah Middle School (6‒8), Horizon High School (7‒12), Desert Mountain High School (9‒12) and all BASIS schools (PK‒12).

Demographics and Social Profile

Demographic Profile in Scottsdale, AZ

The population of Scottsdale, AZ is 244,394, based on a mid-2023 estimate by the US Census Bureau. Individuals aged 18 and below make up 17.6% (roughly 43,000) of the population. A slight skew towards the other end of the spectrum means that older adults (age 65 or more) make up 25.1% – about 61,300 of the headcount.

The male: female ratio is evenly balanced, though, with approximately 51.3% being female.

White/ Caucasian individuals make up the largest segment of Scottsdale, at 83% (figure above). The next largest group is of Hispanic ethnicity (10.4%), with Asians forming the third biggest community (5.2%). African-American individuals comprise only 2.1% of the population, with even smaller groups of Native Americans/ Alaskans (0.7%) and Hawaiians/ Pacific Islanders (0.2%).

A significant percentage (11.8%) of the Scottsdale population is foreign-born. Of them, the largest communities are made up of people of Mexican birth (roughly 16,470 or 6.7%), while those from India and Canada account for the next largest groups (0.5% each, that is, about 1,300 individuals per group). 

Scottsdale, like the rest of Maricopa county, is a liberal-leaning city. During the last election, Maricopa returned a Democrat vote by a narrow margin—50%, while 48% were Republican votes and less than 2% voted independent.

Founder at Play Louder !

Joe DiSanto is the founder of Play Louder! He has built multi-million dollar businesses, produced critically acclaimed documentaries and an Emmy-winning TV show, invested millions in real estate, and semi-retired at age 43. Now, Joe serves as a Fractional CFO for several creative firms and is sharing a lifetime of fiscal know-how via Play Louder, an invaluable resource that helps individuals and business owners increase their net worth and plan better for their future.