Nevada vs. California for Retirement: Which Is Better?

Some of the links below are affiliate links, so we may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Check our disclaimer for more info. (* = affiliate link)

Both Nevada and California offer a host of reasons why you should consider retiring there. Choosing to retire should not be an impulsive decision, and a lot of consideration must go into it, especially when it comes to choosing the place where you would like to retire. When selecting either Nevada or California, you need to consider a few aspects of retired life to make an informed decision.

Between Nevada and California, if the high cost of living is not an issue, California is undoubtedly more suitable for a better quality of life. Nevada is a great option if you want to stretch your savings and avoid getting taxed for social security benefits.

Category Nevada California
Cost of Living Affordable Very High
Climate Mostly dry with harsh winters and very hot summers Varied climate with hot deserts to polar climate; the coastal areas have relatively warmer winters and cooler summers
Entertainment Theatre and music programs in Off Broadstreet, Miners Foundry Cultural Center and Nevada Theater Jazz, movies, music and day outings in the vineyards of Napa valley
Proximity to Natural Attractions Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, Jarbidge Wilderness Joshua Tree and Yosemite Falls
Taxes No taxes on retirement incomes Tax may be levied up to 12.3% on retirement income
Crime Rate Relatively higher Relatively lower
Cultural Activities Music and food festivals such as the Las Vegas Elvis Festival and the Reno River Festival Beer and Wine fests, polar plunges, and rodeos
Health care facilities Discount available for retired state workers There are many options that state programs provide.

This article dives deep into the various aspects of living in Nevada and California and explores why one would be a better choice than the other.

Nevada vs. California for Retirement: Which Is Better?

Cost of Living in Nevada and California

The median home cost in California is about 152% more than Nevada’s. Transportation and grocery costs are also higher.

The cost of living will always be one of the prime factors you will need to plan your retirement. Consider reading the book “Retire Inspired” by Chris Hogan that will walk you through what steps you can take to make your retirement stress free.

Climate: Nevada vs. California

California enjoys a varied climate. The state has hot deserts and extreme polar weather as well. Much of it depends on the elevation of different areas in the state and its proximity to the coast. The central part of the state, which comprises the foothills of Sierra Nevada, enjoys a Mediterranean climate and has warmer and drier summers while cold in the winter.

Nevada is considered to be the driest state in the US. Summers and it can get pretty warm in here due to the deserts. Most of the rest of the state is also a semi-arid region. While the summers are hot, the winters are relatively harsh in here too.

Entertainment in Nevada and California

Nevada has a lot of live theatre and music programs. It also hosts film festivals and has art galleries that you can visit. Off Broadstreet, Miners Foundry Cultural Center, and Nevada Theater are some of the places you could see for a show. There are many choices should you wish to plan your weekend with fun-filled and culturally rich activities.

California has the SF Jazz Center, where you can drop in to hear jazz legends from Argentina to the Republic of Yemen. Poets often gather here as well to riff alongside the jazz musicians. There are theatres and stadiums galore to choose from.

You will never be bored in California for entertainment, and if it is a quiet break that you seek, then head over to Napa Valley for a day and spend some time in the quiet of the vineyards there. The options are endless, indeed.

Proximity to Natural Attractions: Nevada vs. California

Both California and Nevada are blessed with natural wonders. In California, head over to Yosemite Falls for a breath-taking view of the waterfall as you hike your way up the steep slopes. For a more relaxed outing, head to Joshua Tree National Park – the point where two great deserts, the Mojave and the Colorado deserts, meet. If the sea is your calling, drive down to Mendocino Coast, where you can hike, bike ride, or even go kayaking.

In this video, you can discover the beauty and wonders of Joshua Tree:

Nevada has the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, which is the largest in the US outside of Alaska. It is interesting to note here that part of the forest also lies in the state of California. In Nevada, you will also find Pyramid Lake, which is known for its incredible rock formations, or you could head over to the Jarbidge Wilderness located in the Elko county of Nevada for a quiet day out and a leisurely hike through the vast outdoors.

Taxes: Nevada vs. California

Nevada is an excellent option for retirees as the tax system here is quite relaxed. Many things, such as social security benefits and withdrawals from retirement accounts, are not taxed here. The state also does not impose any income taxes if you have a working partner or child who lives with you.

California also exempts social security retirement benefits from taxation, but all other retirement incomes are subject to taxes. The tax rate could fall in the range of 1% to 12.3 %.   

Crime Rate: Nevada vs. California

The crime rate in most large cities in Nevada is much higher than the crime rate in California. A chart comparing the violent crime rate and property-related crime rate in two of the most famous cities in each of the states shows that the crime rate is almost 33% higher in Nevada than in California.

  Las Vegas, NV Los Angeles, CA
Violent Crime (year 2020) 40.9 29.1
Property Related Crime (year 2020) 43.4 35.1

Source: Best Places – 2020 Compare Crime Rates: Las Vegas, NV vs. Los Angeles, CA

Cultural Activities in Nevada and California

Culturally, both California and Nevada are distinct as they have their unique festivals peppered over their calendar years. Nevada has many music and food festivals, including the Las Vegas Elvis Festival and the Reno River Festival.

California has a lot of wine and beer fests along with rodeos and polar plunges. It could be said that the festivals in California are for those who are of a more adventurous disposition.  

Health Care in Nevada and California

Nevada provides health insurance subsidies to most of its state workers, and this plan also includes their families. This is not the case in California, where health care is costly, and there are no rebates offered through public policy.

The California government does give out a lot of options for retirees when it comes to health insurance. Still, there is no blanket discount that California’s state workers can enjoy like they do in Nevada.


Nevada and California are both great states to retire in. California is a great place to retire in but given the high cost of living there, retiring in California would mean that you would be depleting your savings at a much faster rate. 

On the other hand, Nevada is exempt from state taxes, is more affordable than California, and the climate is also quite diverse here, making it the better option between the two if you would like to make your savings last.   

The choice is yours! Hopefully, this article made the decision a bit easier. 



Hey there, my name is Anja, I’ve seen and supported my mom’s incredible transformation in her fifties. Seeing how my mom “awakened” and took full control over her life really impressed me. I got inspired and started dreaming about how we could inspire more people, especially women, to open up and create a second life for themselves. That’s how the idea of came to life…

Recent Posts