As one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. that’s also growing quickly, it’s no surprise that Phoenix can be challenging for commuters. When searching for a community to call home, workers often have to compromise between time spent driving under the blazing Valley sun and housing affordability—which is not an easy task. So, we did the work for you. Below is a list of the top 10 commuter towns between 5 and 50 miles from Phoenix.
Using a similar methodology to our previous studies, we ranked the cities based on commute time, housing values, school ratings and crime rates. When weighting the metrics, we emphasized the importance of short commute times and home affordability, which accounted for 40% and 30%, respectively, of the scores.
To make the list as relevant as possible, we only looked at the average commute time by car because the overwhelming majority (87.5%) of workers in the Phoenix metro area drives to work. On average, drivers from the 10 cities included on our list spend 29 minutes commuting to work in Phoenix, with a 20-minute difference between the shortest and longest commutes.
Scottsdale: Shortest Commute, Best Overall Score
Scottsdale landed the top spot on our list, with a total of 83 points, a four-point lead over Peoria in second place. Almost half of this score was due to the city receiving the maximum of 40 points for its commute time. Located in the eastern part of Maricopa County and 11 miles from Phoenix, Scottsdale boasts a 20-minute average commute, the shortest among the cities in our top 10.
The city has a lot to offer in terms of educational opportunities. Scottsdale garnered a little less than 11 points for its above-average GreatSchools.org rating of 7.2, coming in third for this indicator. BASIS Scottsdale was named the third-best high school in the country in the most recent U.S. News & World Report ranking. In addition, the city is just a 13-minute drive from the Arizona State University campus in Tempe.
On the other hand, Scottsdale lagged behind when it came to housing affordability. With a median home price of $433,500, the second-highest on our list, it scored a modest 22 points for this metric. Golf enthusiasts might be willing to pay the extra price, though, as Scottsdale has some of the best golf courses in the state.
Gilbert: Great Schools, Safe Community
Coming in at #3 is Gilbert, with a total of 77 points. Overtaken only by Paradise Valley, the city scored its best and came in second for both the school rating and crime rate indicators. For its 7.4 school rating, Gilbert received a little more than 11 points, a 0.5-point lead on Scottsdale. Greenfield Elementary School, Neely Traditional Academy and the Gilbert Classical Academy, are rated a perfect 10/10 by GreatSchools.org.
In terms of safety, the city managed an impressive 13 points. With a rate of 89 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, Gilbert was well below the state average of 489 crimes per 100,000 residents, as well as our list’s average of 193 crimes per 100,000 residents. According to a recent study, Gilbert is the fourth-safest city in Arizona.
Commuters living in Gilbert spend an average of 35 minutes driving to work in Phoenix, the same amount of time as residents from Chandler. The cities tied for the second-to-last spot for this metric. This makes for a 15-minute difference between Gilbert’s time and the shortest commute on our list, Scottsdale’s 20-minute drive. However, the commuters in Gilbet have a five-minute advantage over those driving in from Surprise.
Sun City: Most Affordable
With a median home value of $130,100, 64% less than our list’s average, Sun City is the best option for those looking to buy a home near Phoenix. The city received the maximum of 30 points for this indicator. Sun City is also 91% more affordable than Paradise Valley, which is the priciest entry in our ranking. Overall, it scored a total of 72 points, landing in fifth place.
Sun City’s 28-minute average commute tied the city with Goodyear, Avondale and Mesa for this indicator, coming in fifth. However, Sun City surpassed the other cities when it came to school ratings; it took the fourth spot for this metric, right behind Paradise Valley, Gilbert and Scottsdale.
One of the oldest retirement communities in the country, Sun City might be the perfect choice for those who are already thinking about settling down. With seven recreation centers, more than 130 clubs and several golf courses, there’s something here for everyone.
Paradise Valley: Perfect Package, with a Price
At a first glance, Paradise Valley seems like the perfect place for those driving to Phoenix for work. The city received the maximum of 15 points for both the crime rate and the school rating indicators, as well as a notable 38 out of 40 points for its commute time.
When it comes to safety, Paradise Valley leads the way, with a rate of only 43 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, which is 52% less than the runner-up, Gilbert. Paradise Valley also boasts the best school rating (9.0) and the second-best commute time (22 minutes).
However, due to its steep median housing value of $1,406,700, Paradise Valley missed the chance of getting any of the 30 points for the last indicator. In the end, the city came in at #9, with a total score of 68 points, overtaking Mesa by just one point.
Mesa: Phoenix’s Biggest Suburb
With 479,317 residents per Census 2017 estimates, Mesa is by far the biggest commuter town in our top 10, as well as the biggest suburb near Phoenix. But commuting from such a busy area presents its own set of issues, as the city came in at #10, with a total of 67 points. It scored above average for its commute time and housing affordability, but performed modestly when it came to the crime rate and school rating indicators.
Mesa was third in terms of housing costs, with a median home value of $187,900, roughly 48% less than the average of our 10 cities. It also ranked fifth for its reasonable commute. Workers driving in to Phoenix from Mesa spend an average of 28 minutes on the road—about 7 minutes less than those from Gilbert or Chandler and 12 minutes less than commuters from Surprise.
It’s also worth mentioning that Mesa had the highest percentage of transit commuters out of the 18 cities we initially reviewed. The light rail is a good option for those looking for alternatives to driving. Following a recent Arizona Republic commuting experiment, one reporter said that, despite taking considerably longer, her light rail commute was the most productive she’d ever had.
Other Cities in the Series
We looked at towns located between 5 and 50 miles from Phoenix. Each town was allocated points based on the following metrics: commuting time, housing value, crime rate, and school rating.
Points for commute time, housing cost, and crime rate were awarded inversely proportional to their value. Points for school ratings were awarded directly proportional to their value.
Entries could gather a maximum of 100 points, spread across the four metrics as follows: 40 points for commute time, 30 points for housing value, and 15 points each for crime rate and school rating.
The average commute time by car was calculated by Google directions. We’ve considered the shortest typical trip time for arriving in Phoenix by 08:00 on a Monday morning.
Housing values are based on a five-year Census estimate (2013-2017) of the median price of owner-occupied housing units.
FBI crime rates indicate the number of violent crimes committed per 100,000 residents. We only included towns that have a violent crime rate lower than the state average of 489 crimes per 100,000 residents.
School ratings were calculated based on the average score by town for schools that had a review on GreatSchools.org by August 2019.
Cities with less than 10,000 residents, based on 2017 Census estimates, were excluded from the list.