16 Pros and Cons of Living in Fort Smith, AR

Updated On November 7, 2023

Fort Smith Arkansas may not seem like a choice destination at first glance, but you may be surprised when you look into the area.

It’s located in Sebastian County, Arkansas. 

Fort Smith is a city, which provides plenty of activities without being as crowded or expensive as larger cities.

It has experienced steady but slow population growth in the last few years and has a population of about 90,000 residents. 

If you are considering moving to Fort Smith, you’ll want to know the pros and cons of living here. 

Fort Smith, AR
Fort Smith, AR

Pros of Living in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Fort Smith has plenty of benefits that you can enjoy. 

The pros of living in Fort Smith, Arkansas include:

  • Low cost of living
  • Quality schools
  • Family-friendly
  • Diverse population
  • Affordable housing
  • Natural beauty
  • Arts and Culture
  • Rich history
  • Sense of Community

Low Cost of Living

The cost of living in Fort Smith is significantly lower than the national average, and comparable towns in Arkansas, particularly other riverside towns.

The overall cost of living is about 25% lower than the average. 

Transportation costs are significantly lower than the national average.

Grocery and utility costs are slightly less expensive than average in Fort Smith. 

Quality Schools

Fort Smith is well known for having good schools, from elementary through college.

This makes it a popular city for raising a family.

The school district received a B rating for academics and teachers, and an A rating for clubs, sports, and facilities. 

Student proficiency is higher than the national average as well.

35% of students in Fort Smith are proficient in math, compared to 26% for the national average.

In reading, 39% are proficient in Fort Smith, compared to 32% for the national average. 

Family Friendly 

Fort Smith has lots of families, which makes it a great place to raise or start a family.

The average age in the city is 37.

There are many children, with 24% of the population being under 18.

 Only 15% of the population is 65 or older.

There are also plenty of parks and playgrounds and family-friendly activities, including Parrot Island Water Park and Creekmore Park. 

Diverse Population 

Fort Smith is a relatively diverse city.

63% of the population identifies as Caucasian.

16% are Hispanic, 7% are African American, and 14% identify as another race. 

While there are cities with more racial diversity, Fort Smith is much more diverse than the average in Arkansas.

In fact, the average city in the state has a population that is 78% Caucasian. 

Affordable Housing 

Along with the cost of living, housing is very affordable in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

In fact, the average housing cost is about half of the national average.

The average price of a home in Fort Smith is $155,000, compared to 182,000 for Arkansas.

The average cost of a home in the U.S. is $338,100.

This makes Fort Smith a very affordable place to purchase a home. 

Natural Beauty 

If you love nature, you’ll enjoy living in Fort Smith.

It’s nestled in the shadow of the Ozark Mountains and the Ouachita Mountains on the Arkansas River.

Torraine Lake offers fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. 

Bike lovers can enjoy trail riding at Ben Geren Regional Park.

The park features 14 miles of trails that range from beginner-friendly to advanced.

Mount Nebo is also a great place to bike or hike.

You can also enjoy the beautiful view of the Arkansas River Valley from the 1,300-foot elevation of the mountain. 

Another place to take in some natural beauty is the waterfront.  

You can skate or bike by the river or enjoy the 12,000 sq ft area designed with obstacles and trails for all skill levels. 

Arts and Culture

If you love arts and culture, you’ll enjoy Fort Smith, Arkansas.

You’ll see murals on buildings, including American Heroes by Guido Van Helten and Mural by Ana Marie.

These murals give Fort Smith a modern and artistic feel. 

The Bass Reeves Monument commemorates the first African-American sheriff West of the Mississippi.

He began his life as a slave but spent 32 years as a Sheriff of Fort Smith. 

You can enjoy the Fort Smith Symphony Orchestra, Little Theatre, and the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum.

There are also plenty of cultural events each year, including the Riverfront Blues Festival and Peacemaker Music and Arts Festival. 

Rich History 

Fort Smith has lots of historical significance.

Civil War battles, the Trail of Tears, and Native American heritage are a few things you can learn about and experience here.

Visit Sequoyah’s cabin, where he created the Cherokee alphabet.

Honor the soldiers that fell at Massard Prairie Battlefield, and visit the Fort Smith National Historic Site. 

The site features the location of the original Fort Smith, a portion of the Trail of Tears, and the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center was once barracks, a courthouse, and a jail.

The original building was constructed in 1851 by the U.S. Army. 

Sense of Community

Fort Smith also offers a sense of community.

Despite being a medium-sized city, it has a close-knit feel.

The residents are friendly, neighborly, and tolerant.

The city is considered LGBTQ-friendly, and tolerant of all cultures and ethnicities. 

Cons of Living in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Fort Smith has plenty to offer, but there are some downsides as well. 

The cons of living in Fort Smith, Arkansas include:

  • High crime rate
  • High poverty rate
  • Severe weather
  • High sales tax rate 
  • Limited job opportunities
  • High property tax
  • Low rate of home ownership
  • Homeless population

High Crime Rate

Fort Smith’s crime rate is much higher than the national average.

The rate is 6,700 per 100,000 residents.

The national average is only 2,346.

This means the crime rate in Fort Smith is nearly 3 times higher than the national average. 

Property crime is the most common.

Violent crime occurs less often but is still relatively high with a rate of 615 per 100,000 residents.

Again, this is significantly higher than the average for the nation, which is 396 per 100,000 residents. 

High Poverty Rate

Poverty and crime often go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise Fort Smith has a high poverty rate in addition to a high rate of crime.

The poverty threshold is essentially the amount the average person or family needs to care for themselves and cover basic expenses.

If the income of the person or family is below this threshold, they are considered to be in poverty. 

24% of Fort Smith residents are below the poverty level as of 2021.

This is 32% higher than the state average of 16% poverty.

The national average for 2021 was 12%, making Fort Smith’s poverty level about twice the average for the nation. 

Severe Weather

Fort Smith Arkansas gets its fair share of severe weather.

It’s located in Tornado Alley, a part of the country that gets the most tornadoes each year. 

If you live in Fort Smith, it’s important to be prepared for severe weather.

A storm cellar or basement can keep you safe from tornadoes.

You should also have water, non-perishable foods, and an emergency kit on hand in case of power outages or other emergencies due to the weather. 

High Sales Tax 

45 out of 50 states charge a sales tax.

38 states also charge a local sales tax, which means you’ll pay the local and state tax on items you buy. 

Arkansas is one of the states with the highest sales tax, at 9.5%.

This is only slightly lower than Louisiana, which has the highest sales tax at 9.55%. 

The sales tax is broken up into a 6.5% state sales tax, a 1% tax for Sebastian County, and a 2% tax for the city of Fort Smith. 

When you purchase an item in the city, you’ll pay the combined tax of 9.5%.

While sales tax does help provide revenue, high sales tax can discourage spending, or encourage consumers to buy things in areas with a lower sales tax. 

This can have a negative effect on the local economy.  

Limited Job Opportunities

Fort Smith has limited job opportunities for a city of its size.

You’ll find lots of jobs in healthcare, manufacturing, and retail.

However, positions outside of these industries are hard to find. 

If you don’t have employment when you move to Fort Smith, you may struggle to find a lucrative job or career

Low Rate of Home Ownership

Fort Smith has a lower-than-average rate of home ownership.

50% of Fort Smith residents own their own home, compared to 64% of residents in the country.

Homeownership is important because it provides stable housing and investment for families. 


Homelessness is a problem in nearly any city, and this is also true for Fort Smith.

There are about 400 homeless people in the city at any given time.

Along with homelessness, you’ll also see people on the street and panhandlers. 

Fort Smith, AR
Fort Smith, AR

Pros and Cons of Living in Fort Smith, AR – Summary Table

Pros of Living in Fort Smith, ArkansasCons of Living in Fort Smith, Arkansas
1. Low Cost of Living1. High Crime Rate
2. Quality Schools2. High Poverty Rate
3. Family Friendly 3. Severe Weather
4. Diverse Population 4. High Sales Tax 
5. Affordable Housing 5. Limited Job Opportunities
6. Natural Beauty 6. Low Rate of Home Ownership
7. Arts and Culture7. Homelessness 
8. Rich History 
9.Sense of Community

Fort Smith Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: Fort Smith Safety Review

Safety Index:
Fort Smith

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Fort Smith Arkansas a good place to live?

Overall, Fort Smith is considered a great place to live.

In fact, it’s one of the best cities in Arkansas.

Its natural beauty and low cost of living are a few reasons why it’s a popular city.

Is Fort Smith a good place to retire?

Fort Smith is a good place to spend your retirement.

There’s not a large senior population.

However, the welcoming nature of the city, assortment of activities, and low cost of living make it a good choice for your golden years.

What are the seasons like in Fort Smith?

Winters are relatively mild in Fort Smith.

January is the coldest month, with average temperatures of 50 degrees for the high and 30 degrees for the low.

The hottest month of the year is July.

You can expect highs of 93 and and lows of 73 degrees during the height of summer.

What are the best neighborhoods in Fort Smith?

The best neighborhoods in the city are Fianna Hills, Cavanaugh, and Oak Park.

Is Fort Smith a safe place to live?

Despite its charm and small-town feel, Fort Smith is not a very safe city.

The high crime rate means you have a 1 in 15 chance of being the victim of a crime.

Like any city, some neighborhoods are safer than others, but you should be aware of this risk.

2 Comments on 16 Pros and Cons of Living in Fort Smith, AR

  1. If you’re in my scenario you’ll kinda like it here. It’s very affordable making it possible to live comfortably on a modest income, as I just started working as a freelancer. So, if you want the quiet life and if you’re the outdoorsy type, go ahead and try to rent, at least for a couple of months and see where you’re at then. In case you decide to get a dog or already have one, you’ll have no trouble taking him to dine al fresco or even indoors, they’re quite pet friendly.

  2. The winters are mild and the summers are hot, but there’s always a breeze coming off the Arkansas River.The job market is not as large as in some other cities, but there are still many opportunities for retirees. And the city can be quite spread out, which can make it difficult to get around without a car. North is a bit rough around the ages, especially for people my age, but the south is ideal if you plan to buy a home as well and not rent.

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