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These 5 cities are the best of the 'best places to retire'

  • CNBC analyzed five "best U.S. cities to retire" lists and found that three of the five most frequently listed metros share the same balmy climate.
  • Although these top places lists are popular, they should only be used as inspiration, warns Jared Scharen, co-founder of relocation guidance site eRetirements.com.
Aging population retirement
Mike Blake | Reuters

There's a lot to think about in deciding where you'll live in retirement.

When it comes to "best places to retire" lists, quality of health care and housing prices can play a big role. But don't discount the pull of decent weather.

CNBC analyzed the latest "best U.S. cities to retire" lists from WalletHub, Livability, Bankrate, the Milken Institute and U.S. News, and found that three of the five metros that appear most frequently share the same balmy climate. Those top-mentioned cities:

1. Austin, Texas
2. Salt Lake City, Utah
3. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
4. San Francisco, California
5. San Antonio, Texas

Austin appeared on four lists, ranking ninth on those from Bankrate, U.S. News and WalletHub and sixth on the Milken Institute's. Its top score can be attributed to a low-cost of living, low taxes, a booming restaurant scene and — you guessed it — near-perfect weather.

Salt Lake City, Utah was the only other city to appear on four lists (Bankrate, Livability, the Milken Institute and WalletHub). Although residents won't find as much sun, lists called out the skiing hot-spot for having three highly rated hospitals, relatively affordable housing for a city of its size, an abundance of outdoor activities and a major airport.

Downtown Salt Lake City and mountains
Source: Douglas Pulsipher
Downtown Salt Lake City and mountains

Pittsburgh may have scored poorly for weather, but the area's low cost of living and top-notch health care at the University of Pittsburgh helped pull it to the No. 1 spot on Bankrate's list. (It also made the best lists for U.S. News and WalletHub.)

While San Francisco has plenty to do and beautiful weather to enjoy while doing it, the area isn't for the frugal. It's one of the most expensive cities to buy a home in the U.S. with the median price of a single-family house at $815,000. Still, it made three lists: Bankrate, the Milken Institute and WalletHub.

In comparison, sunny San Antonio is one of the most affordable retirement destinations with below average taxes and a median rent per month of $1,450. It also made three lists — Bankrate, U.S. News and WalletHub.

Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas.
f11photo | Getty Images
Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas.

There wasn't much agreement when it came to the best city in Florida, but the state was the most frequently occurring, with various cities appearing 16 times across the lists. Texas is another popular state, with different areas popping up 12 times.

It's no surprise those states are popular, said Jared Scharen, co-founder of relocation guidance site eRetirements.com, which also does its own rankings. Florida and Texas share two commonalities important to seniors, he said: No state income tax and a warmer climate.

"People do still want to live in warmer areas, but they're less concerned about it than in previous generations," he said.

Instead, seniors today prefer to focus on activities, from golfing to seeing the world.

"They're able to find their true hobbies [in retirement]— their passions they've put off for a while," Scharen said. "Traveling is [also] becoming a much bigger desire to these people, whether domestic or international. It's things they couldn't do before."

But take "best of" lists with a grain of salt.

"Everyone's looking for something slightly different," he said.

Compare cities in those lists against whatever is important to you, whether that's activities, sandy beaches, health care or affordable housing.

"Read the fine print," Scharen said. "See what the criteria are — those criteria can vary so much among these lists — and ask, 'are these things the most important to me?' If they're not, it won't provide much help."

If the criteria do match, then those lists can be a nice inspiration for further research.