It sounds like a dream to live in a state with bookstores, art galleries, and mountains. Montana is such a state that makes it a reality. Everything in Montana is right out of a poetry book from its snow-capped mountains to the beautiful streets. There could be many reasons to vacation in Montana, but there are more to relocate in the state. Some of them being the high-quality education in the universities, the job opportunities, and the tight-knit business community.
Though Montana is the fourth largest state in the US, its population density is quite low. Clearly the ‘Big Sky Country’ has a lot of space for anyone wishing to make it home. But there is so much more to Montana than its brighter side alone. This exhaustive guide is going to tell you everything about moving to Montana. So read on for a complete rundown.
What Should I Know Before Moving To Montana?
Montana is located in the western United States and is one of the eight mountain states in the region. Beyond the mountain ranges to the west of Montana lies the state of Idaho, and across the canyons on the east lie the states of North and South Dakota. Montana is the only state in the US that acts as a border to three Canadian provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, all of which lie on Montana’s north. This ‘Land of the Shining Mountains’ covers a large area of 147,040 sq mi, most of which is occupied by grasslands, river valleys, mountain ranges, and protected lands.
If you have seen the films ‘The Horse Whisperer’ or ‘A River Runs Through It’, you will recognize the scenes shot in the breathtaking terrain of Montana. With such rich outdoors, why would anyone spend their time cooped up indoors? People of Montana are active and spend most of their free time exploring the nature trails. Excluding the ranchers and farmers who spend their days out in the open, even the office goers don’t miss any recreational activity. You will often find Montanans often hiking, fishing, camping, or canoeing.
This active Montana life doesn’t slow down even in the winters. The 15 ski resorts of Montana are often packed with people flocking in for skiing or snowboarding. But winters in Montana come with their cold spells. Take our word and never forget to place a winter survival kit in your car. It snows for days at length in the mountains causing the mountain passes to close for ages. If not for Montana’s winters, we recommend getting a car that can withstand the chewed-up country roads.
Thanks to the diverse topography of Montana, the state is home to approximately 100 species of mammals. Though the lifestyle in Montana is not the same as the trendy hip life in other US states, settling in the state is not difficult. Montanans are extremely warm and friendly, even if you are an outsider. They greet strangers passing them on the roads and chat happily in cafes and diners. So, with some forward planning, moving to Montana will be a breeze.
Crime Rate In Montana
Crime rates in Montana are just above average when compared to the rest of the country. There was a sharp rise in violent crimes last year. The violent crime rate jumped from 3.7 per 1,000 people to 4.05 in 2021, whereas property crimes saw a decline from 25 per 1,000 people to 21.93. If you were to fall victim to a violent crime, the chances are 1 in 247 people. On the other hand, your chances of facing property crime is 1 in 46. According to NeighbourhoodScout, the total crime rate of Montana is 25.98.
Weather is not constant all across Montana because of its diverse typography. The western part of Montana experiences the northern Pacific coastal climate, resulting in mild winters and cool summers. The continental divide separates the earthen and western parts of Montana which is why the eastern part experiences a semi-arid climate. This gives eastern Montana cold winters and warm summers.
But by and large, Montana has beautiful summer weather. It is bright and sunny between July and September, with cloudy days once in a while. But despite the sun, summer is not too harsh and hot, except for the period of heatwaves. It is during such heat waves that you would wish to escape to the higher elevations towards the mountains. Eastern Montana sometimes sees thunderstorms in summers with some fascinating lighting storms in the mountains.
You must’ve already heard about the winters of Montana. With temperatures going below zero in the eastern parts of Montana. Higher elevation areas like West Yellowstone and Cooke City bear witness to loads of snow. Resulting in beautiful white blankets all over the mountains, resulting in people pouring in for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. The lower elevation areas and valleys don’t experience more than 50-70 inches of snow a year.
Springs in Montana sound like a delight but can be an ache sometimes. Snow marks its presence even in spring in some parts of Montana. It even rains during the spring months between May and June. This moisture helps prevent the torrid forest fires which often become national news. It is when fall arrives between September and October, a time when Montana is magical with blue skies and colorful landscapes.
How Expensive Is It To Live In Montana?
When moving to a place, it is important to see the costs from all angles. The average wages and salaries in the state plus the cost of living. Montana is a large state which is sparsely populated, thus has affordable property in areas outside the city. But wages for most jobs are on the lower end. With some forethought and planning, savings can be of use until you start settling in Montana.
The income tax structure in Montana is progressive, which means higher rates for higher earners. The income tax rates can range anywhere between 1% to 6.9% depending on the income. You will be relieved to know that there are no sales taxes in Montana and the property rates are relatively low at 0.83%. Many retirees prefer settling in Montana as it is moderately tax-friendly towards retirees.
Cost Of Living In Montana
The overall cost of living index in Montana is 94 which is lower than the national average set at 100. The median household income in most parts of Montana is $54,970. Living wages of $23,671 are sufficient for a single adult with no children. Montana families spend $3,573 on food purchases and groceries in a month.
Shopping for daily necessities would mean spending $0.80 on a liter of milk, $2.79 on a loaf of white bread, $2.38 for a dozen eggs, and $4.77 on a kg of rice. If you don’t feel like cooking or decide to eat out with friends, expect a check of $54.99 for 2 people at a mid-range restaurant. A bottle of beer is going to cost you $3.25 but if you prefer a cup of cappuccino, it will be $4.71.
It is always recommended to get health coverage for a secure life. Getting major health insurance cover will cost $539 per person. But it will be lower if you are in good shape and healthy.
Buying A House
Apart from the urban land, there are many farmlands, ranches, and rural lands in Montana. Once you decide where in Montana you intend to relocate to, run research around the property rates in that particular area. You should also consider the estimated prices of farmlands if you want a home in the country area. Say for example, the average price of farms and ranches in Montana is $943,486. The values of homes in Montana have gone up by 14.2% over the past year. Buying a typical house in Montana is going to cost you $340,532 on average. Buying land within city limits is going to be more expensive. If you ask us, it will be cost-effective to move into an apartment rather, costing you $4,159 per square meter in the center of Billings city.
Renting A House
You would prefer to move into a studio apartment if you were moving to Montana alone. This is better and cheaper too with the average rent for a studio apartment being $554. Working professionals can also choose to rent a one-bedroom apartment, which costs $1,005 in the city center according to Numbeo. If you are planning to move to Montana with your family, the cost of a three-bedroom apartment in the city center is $1,810.
You must also account for utility bills while moving to a new state as they slowly eat up bits from your income and savings. The average energy bill in Montana is $94.75 monthly, which is lower than what other US states pay. Other basic utilities like electricity, water, garbage, and heating will cost you $141 in total. You cannot just do without the internet nowadays, so budgeting for an internet connection is a clever move. A connection of unlimited data at a speed of 60 Mbps is priced at $65.50.
Montana Economy And Employment Opportunities
It is no rocket science to guess that a state with so many planes must surely be into the primary sector. Activities like agriculture, forestry, mining, and energy production are dominant in Montana. The service sector is growing and contributes greatly to Montana’s income as a third of the state’s workforce is into this industry. Though high-tech industries have entered the state, they are fairly new as compared to the other industries.
The numerous water resources of Montana act as a boon to generate hydroelectric power for use in other sectors of the economy. This also helps power one-third of Montana’s electricity. Livestock like beef, cattle, sheep, and crops like sugar beets, potatoes are reared and produced in the dry valleys of Rocky Mountain. The soft rocks of Great Plains provide Montana’s economy with coal, petroleum, and natural gas.
The outdoor recreation industry is also one of the large contributors to the economy. Black Feet Tribe, Billings Clinic Employee, and Aageson Farm are some of Montana’s largest employers. Survey researchers, Forest and conservation technicians, human service assistants are some of the common jobs in Montana with the top earners of the state earning around $80,267. Though the wages in Montana are on the lower end, the pay is better in the tourism-centric areas.
Montana ranks 30th in education amongst other US states. The public school system of Montana operates within districts that are governed by locally elected school boards. Beaverhead County, Bozeman, and Billings city school districts have some of the most quality public schools in Montana. If you prefer to go for private school education, there are 118 private schools in Montana. It is better to budget the tuition costs of your children, private school tuition at elementary schools will cost you $9,183 and tuition at high schools will cost you $8,026.
Since agriculture is a huge thing in Montana, many large universities offer agricultural and wildlife studies degree programs. There are sixteen public universities in Montana, the largest of them being Montana State University and the University of Montana. You will also find tribal colleges, community colleges, church-affiliated private colleges, and public postsecondary vocational-technical schools in Montana.
Getting Around Montana
If you want to travel outside Montana or within the state, there are flights for all your needs. With 123 airports that connect the major cities of Montana to other US states or other cities within Montana, people here usually prefer catching a flight and dropping in West Yellowstone Airport if they are visiting Yellowstone National Park. There are other ways to reach the place, but the air is the fastest route keeping in mind the wide area Montana is spread over. Montana has many public airports in its large cities like Billings, Great Falls, Helena, etc. There are privately owned airlines spread over the state too.
Amtrak’s Empire Builder is an essential passenger train service for people traveling within Montana or outside of the state. There are in all 12 Amartak stations in Montana connecting cities and towns like Browning, Cut Bank, East Glacier Park to Wolf Point, and beyond. Getting on a train along a top route in Montana will cost you a ticket of $149 on average.
There are numerous state highways, interstate highways, and other US routes in Montana. Public transportation options like buses are sparse in Montana. Only the bigger cities have their local bus networks, like ASUM Transportation in Missoula and MET Transit in Billings. If you want to travel inter-city, board a Greyhound Lines bus, it connects cities like Helena, Sidney, and Bozeman. Montanans in rural parts of the state prefer traveling in their own vehicles.
Best Cities To Live In Montana
This city in southern Montana with a population of 46,746 is chosen by students, young professionals and families. Bozeman has a young crowd because of the presence of many public schools and Montana State University. At first glance, you will be surprised that it is a city, as it is nestled between lush green landscape with the backdrop of mountains. Apart from the views and outdoor activities, Bozeman also provides excellent local amenities, healthcare facilities and employment opportunities. Art and culture geeks will find themselves lost in the city’s many art galleries and theaters. The frequent festivals and concerts act as a bounty to the already popular city.
- Median Home value: $573,684
- Median Home rent: $1,600
- Unemployment rate: 3.2%
Billings is the biggest city in Montana and is home to a huge population of a whooping 1.1 lakh people. The diversity of activities, amazing healthcare, job opportunities and friendly neighbors are some of the reasons why Billings makes it to this list. Ripe with numerous restaurants, breweries and music venues, life in Billings is a fest in itself. Not to forget the great outdoors, which is made magical by many activities and scenic attractions. You could go kayaking in the Yellowstone River one day and go hiking in the famous Rimrocks the next day. Locals often spend their weekends trying the world-class cuisine and vibrant craft beer in Billings. If that wasn’t enough, excellent public transport network and great services makes Billings a sought-after city to relocate to.
- Median Home value: $290,130
- Median Home rent: $610
- Unemployment rate: 4.5%
This city with a population of 32,024 is the capital of Montana. Helena is preferred by many families and working professionals because of the affordability of its homes and its cultural attractions. The above average quality of public schools is also a reason why most families choose to relocate to Helena. There is no shortage of recreational activities in Helena because of its local breweries, restaurants and events. For nature enthusiasts, there are 75 miles of mountain hiking and biking trails around the city. You will find many locals strolling along Prickly Pear Creek or spending their evenings around the City Hall building. Local amenities are also abundantly available in close radius from most neighborhoods.
- Median Home value: $353,570
- Median Home rent: $850
- Unemployment rate: 6.1%
Is It A Good Idea To Move To Montana?
From its affordable housing and job opportunities to its proximity to wildlife preserves and snow capped mountains, there are several reasons to move to Montana. All cities of Montana give you the feeling of a metropolitan living seasoned with the beautiful outdoors. This ‘Land of the Shining Mountains’ is also going to keep you in the pink of your health. All that fresh mountain air could be the reason why Montanans are so happy and healthy.
Opportunities are never a concern with the thriving technology industry and business climate. Communities in Montana are welcoming and business-friendly, so it is easy for an outsider to flourish in the state. So if you are pondering over moving to Montana, then go ahead and plan your move.