Picking a spot to retire may come down to more than just sunshine. While consistently warm weather can improve a retirement location, low costs may boost an area's prospects even more, a new survey suggests.
The survey by Bankrate.com evaluated 172 American cities on metrics including cost of living, tax burden, health care quality, weather, ease of transportation and senior well-being. Retirees heading to Arizona may have found a haven for their golden years.
Scroll through to see the five best and five worst cities for retirement, according to Bankrate.
— By CNBC's Jacob Pramuk
Posted 8 June 2015
The Big Apple ranks last of all cities evaluated, primarily because of expenses. Despite the ease of getting around without a car and a wealth of entertainment, the city's cost of living sets retirees back.
High tax rates and one of the country's most inflated apartment markets can put a heavy strain on a retiree's fixed income.
"If you look at apartment rents in Manhattan or Brooklyn that should really tell you all you need to know," said Chris Kahn, research and statistics editor at Bankrate.
Migrating south may not always prove wise for retirees. A less-than-stellar health care system, high taxes and crime combine to drag Little Rock toward the bottom of the list.
While the area stays relatively warm, high humidity hurts its rating for weather, Kahn noted.
Retirees in the New Haven area experience some of the same pitfalls as New York City residents, according to Kahn. A high cost of living is compounded by harsh winter weather.
Watching Buffalo residents dig through walls of snow as tall as themselves last winter likely will not appeal to most retirees. Buffalo's weather, high New York state taxes and below average health care contribute to the city's low rating.
Newark's lack of merits for retirement are similar to that of neighboring New York City. A high crime rate also hits the city's ranking.
While the city is a far cry from warm weather havens in Florida or Arizona, Des Moines' low cost of living makes it one of the best places to retire, Kahn said.
"You can come from just about anywhere and see your dollar stretch further," he said.
Kahn added that the city has a strong health care system.
The lowest-rated of three Arizona cities that cracked the top five, Tucson fell behind because of a higher crime rate than some of its peers in the state. Low taxes and warm weather pushed Tucson's rating higher.
As in many other Arizona cities, the cost of living in Prescott is "very reasonable," Kahn said.
"You're not going to see the sticker shock," he said.
The Washington, D.C., suburb rises high on the list largely because of a strong health care system. Kahn said the area is easy to get around, and residents have a great sense of well-being.
Arizona "dominated" the survey, and Phoenix emerged as the strongest retirement area in the state, Kahn said. Warm weather in the winter, low tax rates and average costs make the city a "great place to be," he added.