16 Pros and Cons of Living in West Virginia

Updated On October 9, 2023
West Virginia

West Virginia is an intriguing state that is situated on the inside of the eastern seaboard.

The entire state is in the Appalachian Mountains, which means most areas are covered by dense forests.

West Virginia‘s history begins when Virginia seceded from the Union during the Civil War.

However, several counties in Virginia did not support this action, so they voted to secede back into the U.S., which created the 35th state.

Despite the state’s choice to remain in the U.S., West Virginia supplied an equal number of troops to both sides.

After reconstruction, mineral resources drove its economy for over a century.

Keystone, West Virginia
Keystone, West Virginia

Pros of Living in West Virginia

Many advantages to living in West Virginia may help you make the final leap to moving, including:

1. A Four-Season Forecast

If you enjoy having a four-season forecast, then West Virginia will not disappoint.

Autumn is the best time of the year to visit because the temperatures cool and the leaves put on a show.

The winters are cold with a decent amount of snow, especially at higher altitudes.

Spring is warm, humid, and rainy, while summer is warmer with humidity at lower elevations.

The best place to be in the summer is in the mountains, where the temperature and humidity levels drop.

2. Extensive Outdoor Activities

West Virginia is an excellent state for those who love the outdoors because it has mountains, lakes, rivers, and forests within its borders.

Nicknamed the Mountain State for a reason, West Virginia sits in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains and is one of the most densely forested states in the U.S.

That means you hike, ski, sunbathe, hunt, fish, and observe nature at its finest.

3. Lots of Rain

You may be surprised to see this in the pros category.

While for many the rain is a drawback, for those who enjoy the rain, you will love this state.

It is fair to put West Virginia and Seattle in the same conversation because it rains a lot in the spring.

That means you will experience lush gardens and forests, with blooming flowers.

While there are certain communities that see plenty of grey days, there are also numerous towns with more sunshine that are lower in the mountains and avoid the rain.

4. Live Where the Bluegrass Genre Began

While other states play the piano or tune their guitars, West Virginia residents enjoy the instruments of Bluegrass.

This genre of music thrives across the state, starting with the Music in the Mountains festival that’s held each June.

You can also find live music in bars across the state.

If you are picky about music, then this can be a challenging advantage to get used to, but you will quickly learn to love how the community embraces this music type.

5. Low Cost of Living

One of the biggest draws to living in West Virginia is the average cost of living is incredibly low compared to other areas of the country.

For instance, the median home value is 60% less than the rest of the country and rentals are 25% cheaper compared to other areas.

Additionally, transportation, utilities, and groceries are 5-10% lower along with property taxes, so you can save money living in this state.

6. Proximity to Major Cities

Although you enjoy small-town life in West Virginia, it does not mean you need to be isolated from major cities.

The state boasts an excellent interstate highway system that connects you to cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

You are also close to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore if you crave some big-city excitement.

7. Relaxed Towns and Cities

You will not find the hustle and bustle in even the largest cities in West Virginia.

All towns and cities are relaxed in this state.

Best of all, you can drive anywhere in only a few minutes to find plenty of uncrowded spaces and plenty of parking, so everyday life is just simpler.

West Virginia is a wonderful place for those who like to avoid crowds, tourists, and a lot of people in one place.

8. Small “Large” Cities

Even the largest cities in the state are small.

Therefore, if you are planning to move to West Virginia to escape the hustle and bustle of a major city, then you will be happy here.

Even if you live in downtown Morgantown or Charleston, it does not take long to end up in the middle of nowhere.

Also, you always have the presence of mountains on the horizon to make you feel like you are in a small town.

Also, given that the population centers are small, the real estate costs are lower, so you can save some money.

Cons of Living in West Virginia 

However, before making that final leap, consider the following drawbacks:

1. Cities Dissuade People from Living There

Websites often rank the worst place to live in the state, so Martinsburg is usually at the top of the list.

This is because it’s consistently in the bottom third percent for crime, unemployment, and income.

It also has one of the worst commutes in the state.

While the amount of sunshine the city receives is high, it can be difficult to get past the 15% unemployment rate.

Grafton is another community that has plenty of challenges, especially when education is a top priority.

However, these two challenged communities do not represent the entire state as they are just a few towns with issues, like anywhere else.

2. Considerable Drug Abuse

The state has significant levels of overdosing, drug addiction, and illegal drug use, especially heroin, opioids, and methamphetamine.

This type of activity can occur in cities, rural areas, safe towns, or dangerous areas.

Nobody lives in an area where someone is not addicted to a drug.

3. High Crime

One of the main results of the economic issues faced by the state is higher crime rates, property, and violent crimes.

While plenty of safe places to live exist in the state, you really need to do your homework before choosing a town.

You always want to ensure you have excellent automobile and property insurance before moving.

Safety must be your number one consideration before moving.

4. Limited Diversity

90% of the state’s population is white and West Virginia has one of the highest median ages in the U.S.

Therefore, if you are planning to retire in the state, then you will likely fit in fine.

Those who have international backgrounds or are people of color, then you may feel out of place.

In some instances, the residents are not as accepting as in other states, so you may always be viewed as an outsider by native West Virginians.

5. One of the Poorest States

With a poverty rate that teeters at around 15%, West Virginia makes all lists as being one of the poorest in the U.S.

West Virginians have the lowest level of higher education attainment in the U.S. with only 23.1% holding at least a Bachelor’s degree.

Also, the state experiences the second-lowest life expectancy at 74.5 years.

6. Poor Economic Growth and Job Outlook

Sadly, West Virginia’s economy consistently ranks near the bottom as being one of the poorest economies in the U.S.

While the state government is trying to beef up other industries, they have a long way to go to get out of this rut.

One of the major reasons not to live here is you will find fewer high-paying professional opportunities than in other states.

7. Poor Government Services

Given that the state experiences an underperforming economy and a decreasing population, there are lower-income residents and a low sales tax base to help fund government services.

With the population having less money to spend, the state is limited on private investment.

The result is a poor education system, poor roads (other than interstates), and a lack of healthcare.

8. Ugly Stereotypes

If you ask the average American what they picture when they think about a West Virginia resident, words like “hillbilly” and “redneck” are often described.

It is a major stereotype to suggest that all residents are agrarian, uneducated, socially-backward workers who eat straw and play the banjo.

The reality is that the state has a rich immigration history and its residents love the outdoors.

They also have a unique viewpoint on the arts, and an amazing, yet underrated culture.

Also, it is illegal to marry your first cousin in West Virginia, but legal in New York and California.

Wheeling, West Virginia
Wheeling, West Virginia

Pros and Cons of Living in West Virginia – Summary Table

Pros of Living in West VirginiaCons of Living in West Virginia 
1. A Four-Season Forecast1. Cities Dissuade People from Living There
2. Extensive Outdoor Activities2. Considerable Drug Abuse
3. Lots of Rain3. High Crime
4. Live Where the Bluegrass Genre Began4. Limited Diversity
5. Low Cost of Living5. One of the Poorest States
6. Proximity to Major Cities6. Poor Economic Growth and Job Outlook
7. Relaxed Towns and Cities7. Poor Government Services
8. Small “Large” Cities8. Ugly Stereotypes

West Virginia Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: West Virginia Safety Review

Safety Index:
West Virginia

Frequently Asked Questions

Is West Virginia worth living in?

With a low cost of living and stunning scenery, West Virginia is considered by many to be a hidden gem.

If you enjoy outdoor activities and events, then this state could be your dream destination at any age.

What are the winters like in West Virginia?

The average winter temperatures range from the low 20s to the low 30s in the southern part of the state.

You will find the more frigid temperatures in the northeastern and central mountain parts of the state, where the altitude is the highest.

Also, the central area of West Virginia receives over 50 inches of precipitation every year with the areas along the Ohio River receiving approximately 40 inches.

Is West Virginia a good place to retire?

Studies have rated West Virginia as being the third-best state in the U.S. for retirement, mostly driven by a low cost of living and mild weather, depending on the location.

What are the safest towns in West Virginia?

The top five safest towns are St. Albans, with a safety index of 0.77, Weirton (0.5), Morgantown (0.4), Fairmont (0.05), and Vienna (0.03).

What are some of the taxes in West Virginia?

The tax structure in West Virginia is a graduated individual income tax, which has rates ranging from 3 to 6.5%.

Local jurisdictions across the state also collect local income taxes.

Additionally, the state has a 6.5% corporate income tax.

29 Comments on 16 Pros and Cons of Living in West Virginia

  1. D
    Donna Lawrence says:

    Iam 62 and want to retire cheap I love outdoors and beautiful place!But I don’t want to be treated like I have leprosy or something cause Iam not from there!I am white!

    1. d
      don rohr says:

      I was born in WV because my dad was in the military we live in N.C. for most but not all my youth we would return to W.V. when possible and stay for around 30 days on leave , loved it and upon my father’s retirement we moved back , I have served in the military myself and been many places but W.V. is my home and will be (God willing) the place I pass from. I have loved this state and the people who live here , let no one b/s you we are somewhat clannish but we judge by actions and not skin tone or place of birth but there are those as is anywhere who will show their ignorance but as a whole we will eventually accept you and help you in anyway we can but the most important thing to remember , we will not change our beliefs or our so-called backward ways but you must except that and learn our way of looking and living here

  2. D
    Donna carpenter says:

    I am 65 years old, i have lived in wv my whole life. Generations of my family are here in wv. We treat everyone with respect, regardless of where you are from as long as you show us the same respect. Never make fun of our state or the people, that will get you shunned quicker than anything. Be friendly and kind, and as far as saying you are white. Who cares what color you are, i know we don’t ! Our life is different than most, we work hard and we depend on ourselves.

  3. M
    Mary Thomlison says:

    I have lived in West Virginia my whole life & my ancestry can be traced back here to the 1600s. I am white. Racism is so prevalent here! 90% white! That speaks volumes! A lot of the folks use racial slurs & think nothing of it. Being brought up with their backward religious & political beliefs no wonder. In my opinion, a person can not call themselves a true “Christian” & be bigoted, prejudiced, or intolerant. Jesus wasn’t! Yet, most of these so-called “Christians” are. Regarding respect? They won’t respect you if you have a difference of opinion or skin color. Again, not all of them are like this but most are. I grew up in an evangelical home where they claim they loved everyone but in reality, they don’t.

    1. think you just sold me on it!

    2. R
      Rad Plaid says:

      Sounds like a win.

    3. Sorry, but I have to disagree with you. You were just hanging with the wrong people who are not the majority of WV.

  4. C
    Chuck Comito says:

    I am moving to West Virginia in a couple of weeks with my two bird dogs to retire. I can’t wait to make new friends and enjoy this beautiful state. Love you, West Virginia!

    1. A
      Anonymous says:

      Congratulations on your move let us know what you think after you settle in. We are also looking to move to West Virginia as soon as our home sells its on the market now. Thanks Sunni

  5. D
    Debby Krikalo says:

    Um…lower prices? Rent, utilities, food everything is up and comparable to other states….we’ve been here for 17 years, came down cuz we were told it’s “cheaper” well it’s not! Prices went up a few or so years ago cuz a bunch of landlords and property owners got greedy when they saw an opportunity with the gas and oil workers and the rental prices never went down. Rentals are difficult to find and it’s difficult to move as many landlords/property owners want all money upfront..it’s difficult to find anyone who will work with ya…too many restrictions as well for houses/residences that aren’t up to code…houses that cost almost to more than your rent to heat and almost as much to cool..repairs that barely if never get repaired..City offices that won’t help..etc etc etc I can go on..can’t wait to relocate when we get a chance which is difficult once ya move here..My advice THINK carefully before ya move here..especially to Clarksburg for many reasons Clarksburg especially one reason they don’t allow Instacart to deliver alcohol and tobacco. Thankfully we’ve met a few nice folks but my Veteran hubby, cats n I will leave asap..questions? Find me on fb *debbykrikalo*

    1. L
      Lauralee says:

      I totally agree. I have lived In Parkersburg WV for 10 years and now in Beckley since 2017… WV sucks.. lack of care for their homeless and meth heads everywhere. No community pride, no programs for their youth to encourage them to embrace the outdoors or explore their rich history. Nothing for the locals in an area supported by tourism. Most of the people I have met have never visited any of the places that lure people here for vacations and frankly…the people in charge must not want locals to be involved due to their lack of culture and education and teeth. I lived in Massachusetts for 20 years and Myrtle Beach for 5 years and Rhode Island . WV is at the bottom. Do not move here

      1. What part of WV did you live in?

    2. J
      Just dont says:

      So right. Population in WV is steadily declining to the point of hiring a recruiter to lie to out of state people to move to WV. Are much better places. Rent is at the highest for this area, since private entities are landlords.

  6. J
    John Ames says:

    Air and water quality is poor. It is cheaper than other states in the north.

  7. Moved to Southern West Virginia from Florida…Love it here! The kind people and the beautiful landscapes…West Virginia is completely underrated. ❤️

    1. Im moving to Florida to get out of Morgantown, Wv. I’ve been here for 42yrs, but my brother and father moved to Florida, Okeechobee & Deltona, so now its finally my turn to leave this place and its awful memories in the past. Now that my Grand parents has passed i hav no reason to stay. Eventually my Daughter will make it down, but she’s an adult now and will hav to make her way on her own.

  8. M
    Mary Jo says:

    I love my home state of sweat Virginia. You get out of it what you put into it. The people are wonderful. I’m a ninth generation of lovely Mountaineers. I was born in Parkersburg, Wood County. My parents were born in arrest and Walton, Roane County. Their ancestors were all from that area. I have a river named after my ancestor Jesse Hughes and a city Gandeeville named after my Great great great grandpa Gandee. I love sweet Virginia and all her people. The transplants are usually not as friendly for some reason.

  9. I am looking to move and I was told West Virginia would be beautiful to retire in if anybody has any comments please let me know I would appreciate it help me make my decision I love the outdoors thank you Diane

  10. S
    Sam Allmond, BCHS Class of 1983 says:

    As a person born and raised in McDowell County, Southern West Virginia, I’ve been away 30 years. Primarily due to lack of employment opportunities. First and foremeost West Virginia IS a BEAUTIFUL STATE, if you have an outdoor spirit and a love of nature – hunting, fishing, hiking biking camping etc. WV IS the place for YOU. The people have a wonderful spirit about them, they truly wonderful people with a sense of community. And while its true, the educational opportunities limited so yes, prevailing attitudes and behavior an undereducated population is absolutely there. But if you carry yourself with dignity and humility – you’ll be fine. As a child I went to Church literally within a mile from the place where held klan there meetings. But again, if you know how to act and carry yourself – you’ll fine. But admittedly I miss those hills and the people .

    I have to agree, there is very little opportunity for the young people and to me, THATS the biggest drawback. As a young person, I watched Southern WV slowly implode as coal mining jobs dried up and decimated my hometown. Youth absolutely NEED hope, encouragement and a vision of how to get to a better life. Unfortunately, that is not there for the current youth. Growing up, my generation was blessed with kind folks who still had a sense of community and used what few resources they had, to keep a playground going for the kids. I remember they literally took coal mining supplies and made make-shift playgrounds for the youth. Looking back, it really was pretty amazing what they did with little or nothing. But it takes leadership and vision to get that moving or to keep it going.

    Today, what would really help in those depressed areas now is jobs. The unused buildings could be used as warehouses for supply-chain mitigation. Start small with limited merchandise and re-invest until you have a thriving supply depot. If Amazon or other supply-chain business were willing to really try to make that place work – it could totally revive that area. Yes, poor roads will present a challenge. But with commitment and a give-and-take between state and local government (tax credits/incentives) and private industry it COULD work. Again, leadership… self-less leadership not political grand-standing could make it work.

    In closing, WV has some of the very best people. Hard-working, caring community but drugs and apathy have truly killed that Mountaineer spirt. But there must be a commitment to revive that area, not necessarily with coal mines but with alternative markets.

    1. G
      G. Hoover says:

      I love people with solutions! Great commenting! Wish all comments provided well thought out answers and progressive ideas that can be built upon. Kudos to you! 👏🏼

  11. J
    JD Hensley says:

    I was born & raised in Charleston, WV. After Marshall University I moved to Charleston SC, where I loved. Upon a return trip home to visit my father, after being away for a year, I realized how much I love these mountains. Shortly after his death I moved back. Having our own business and serving WV, OH, KY, PA & MD I travel Appalachia daily. I’ll challenge who ever wrote this oppinon to check their statistics on crime. Personally I think you need to visit again and spend extended time in Charleston. You never addressed anything about Charleston. The most progressive city in the state and diverse in all cultures. As for the Parkersburgian who can’t wait to leave her sweet VA. Wake up! The state is West Virginia. You have shown what a poor education Wood County gave you.
    In the bigger cities like Charleston, Beckley, Huntington you will find better educated & socialized people. Living remains much cheaper than many of the other 49 states. If you don’t get out much you won’t learn much about anything outside your comfortable box. West Virginia Proud!!

  12. A
    A Miller says:

    I am 62 years old and I graduated from high school on the honor roll and I am a West Virginia resident through and through. My dad worked in the steel mill until he passed in 1987. My mom and dad grew up in Wetzel County. They moved to The Northern Panhandle for the work in the steel mill. They raised 8 kids on his pay. We never wanted for anything because we thought we had everything we needed. From the time we woke until dinner we were outside playing with the neighbors kids during summer vacation. I helped my mom clean house while my brothers helped my dad with the yard and garden work. After school and homework was finished, we were back outside until bedtime. Today, kids do not know that kind of joy. They have their noses snuck to some electronic gadget. I married when I was 18 years old and moved to Ohio. We divorced after almost 19 years of marriage and 4 daughters. I moved back to my beloved State of West Virginia. Yes, it is an impoverished place to live at times, the rent is high, the landlords are strict, and they do not do repairs that they should do, but that does not take away from the beauty that surrounds you each and every day. I would not move from West Virginia even if someone said I won the lottery and I could choose to move anywhere in the world. West Virginia gets into your bones and this is where I will die and be buried when the Lord calls me home. Thank you, if you took the time to read this honest comment.

    1. A
      Abby Smith says:

      Could not agree with you more!! I grew up in NJ, but attended WVU and fell in love with WV and a WV boy. I have lived in Morgantown, Charleston, Parkersburg and now Wheeling. Wheeling is my favorite. It has beautiful city parks, great festivals, theaters and many other attractions. Everything is convenient. Wheeling especially has beautiful Victorian homes and an interesting and rich history. My husband and I have also lived in NJ (ugh!) and Florida. I did enjoy living close to the ocean and other FL perks, but I was happy to move back to WV. Maybe people who were born here just don’t appreciate what they have. There are certainly no parks, or theaters, or even malls close to where my mother lives in her pricey NJ community. Her property taxes alone are absolutely obscene, and she has nothing to show for it. But, WV has much to do and see. I love it here.

  13. That is ridiculous! WV people are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

  14. M
    M. Morgan says:

    WV native (AND PROUD OF IT)!! As educator, hands tied by people who struggle to make ends meet – a strong back more important than education – But we can shoot a gun – military loves us!!! Agree, are downfalls to living here, but also many advantages – residents ready and willing to be helpful- maybe not implants, residents! Sorry bad experience, but please do not judge WV without learning about heritage and issues of state.

  15. L
    Lilykate Jae says:

    I am moving my little family to West Virginia in 10 days. This is a new adventure for us, as we have lived only in Southern states and don’t know anyone who has ever lived in WV. Some of these comments were a bit scary, but everyone from my realtor to the people I spoke to in the utilities offices were very friendly. All the pictures of the state have been lovely. I hope we will be happy there because North Carolina has been violent, Tennessee while beautiful is also ugly where it counts, and I miss my home state of Virginia but I can’t afford to be a single mother of 3 there. I will take the negative as it comes, but I do hope the positive far out weighs it.

  16. L
    Liz Contracture says:

    I am not from WV but have lived here for the last 35 yrs. (still feel and treated like an outsider). West Virginians are their own worst enemies. They are close minded and controlled by the good ole boys in every county. Many are extremely racist and a lot of that is due to never leaving the state and experiencing how others live. Cleanliness is not a priority here, just look around. Don’t blame that on poverty, soap is cheap. I am not sure if they have any priorities (church and hunting)?! Their lack of education shows in so many ways. This is not the place to retire. You need to access doctors and a good hospital when you get older and they are usually a far drive on treacherous roads. Come here to visit, you will be better off. Do not move here.

  17. How about if ur not happy here, leave. The population in this state is significantly lower than other states, therefore the statistics are higher. Yes there are drugs, there is crime, and poverty. I’m not sure of any state in this country where those things do not exist. As far as things to do, the possibilities are endless. The people are friendly and treat others with welcoming respect. If u come here thinking u are better because I live in a city or a state with higher educated people, then yes we may not be as polite or apt to welcome you to our home. I have a bachelors degree as well as an associates degree and a one year trade certificate. I’m educated and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunities to do so. Here’s what the outside doesn’t know… any person who is self sufficient off the land here, is more intelligent than any man with a college degree. Don’t judge a book by its cover.. and if ur unhappy here , it’s ur own fault because this state is Almost heaven and country roads will take me home.. I love it here and I always will.

    1. J
      Just dont says:

      WV is an old rust belt. Limited opportunities. Lots of drug issues and old people. You must be one of the clan controlling things there for your benefit.

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