Finding the perfect place to retire can be an overwhelming challenge, especially if you’re trying to choose between several potential locations. Oklahoma and Arkansas may not be the top destinations for retirees, but either could be the right choice for you.
Oklahoma and Arkansas have similar home prices and property tax rates. However, Oklahoma offers superior health care access and is home to many wineries and casinos. Still, Arkansas could be the better option for retirees who rely on public transport or enjoy visiting nature parks.
The best way to determine which of these states (both in the Southwest Region) might be a better place to retire is to perform an in-depth comparison. I’ve researched everything you should know about moving to these states to help you choose between them. Keep reading to learn more.
Oklahoma vs. Arkansas: A Comparison
Choosing the best place to retire can be challenging, especially with the whole world at your feet.
To make selecting between Oklahoma and Arkansas easier, I’ve created an easy-to-read comparison chart listing their various features and resources:
|Property Values and Taxes||$157,331 / 0.87%||$156,347 / 0.61%|
|Cost of Living||83.7||79|
|Community Age Demographics||15.1% of population 65+||17% of population 65+|
|Crime and Safety||Property Crime: 28.45 per 1,000 residents
Violent Crime: 4.32 per 1,000 residents
|Property Crime: 28.58 per 1,000 residents
Violent Crime: 5.8 per 1,000 residents
|Climate and Natural Disasters||High of 94℉ (34.44℃), low of 27℉ (-2.78℃); Tornadoes and flooding||High of 93℉ (33.89℃), low of 29℉ (-1.67℃); Ice storms and tornadoes|
|Health Care Access||165 hospitals||122 hospitals|
|Transportation Options||Buses, streetcars, ferries, paratransit, bike-shares (4 cities)||Buses, streetcars, paratransit (9 cities)|
|Entertainment and Recreational Activities||Museums, parks, wineries, casinos, senior-specific events||Parks, museums, limited wineries, and casinos|
Property Values and Taxes
The first concerns that retirees may have when considering a retirement location are property values and taxes. After all, many retirees prefer to buy and maintain a home rather than rent.
The median home cost for Oklahoma and Arkansas are almost identical. According to Zillow, the average price for a home in Oklahoma is $157,331. And the average cost for a home in Arkansas is only slightly lower at $156,347. That’s a difference of only $984.
However, property taxes do differ between these two states. For example, Oklahoma’s annual property tax is 0.87%, while Arkansas homeowners can expect to pay a 0.61% yearly property tax. It’s worth noting that both of these rates fall below the US average of 1.1%.
Still, those looking to reduce post-retirement expenditures may want to purchase a home in Arkansas, as it offers residents a slightly less punitive property tax rate. But, of course, property values and taxes are only one aspect of finding the ideal retirement location.
Cost of living is another crucial factor to consider, especially for those looking to stretch their retirement funds as much as possible.
Cost of Living
A retiree’s expenses don’t end after they’ve purchased a home and moved. There are several everyday living costs to prepare for, including groceries, utility payments, and medical bills. As such, it’s essential to consider your chosen state’s average cost of living.
Overall, the cost of living in Arkansas is slightly less than the cost of living in Oklahoma. On a scale of 0 to 100 (with 100 representing the US average), Arkansas rates 79, while Oklahoma rates 83.7.
Some of the most noticeable differences in typical expenses include grocery, health care, and utility expenses. Store-bought groceries tend to be slightly pricier in Arkansas, but health care services and utilities tend to be less costly than in Oklahoma.
Still, it’s crucial to note that a precise cost of living tends to vary depending on population size and location. And you may prefer to live in either an urban or rural environment, a preference that is bound to affect your future cost of living.
As such, I’ll compare the cost of living of four distinct places: The two largest cities in each state and two relatively rural areas in each state.
Oklahoma City, OK vs. Hennessey, OK
Those looking to retire in Oklahoma’s largest city, Oklahoma City, may be pleasantly surprised to learn that the cost of living here is only slightly higher than the state average. Moreover, housing costs are comparatively low, with a median home cost of only about $165,000.
However, the cost of health care services in Oklahoma City is higher than the national and state average. Naturally, this can be problematic for individuals with chronic illnesses or debilitating injuries.
But the cost of living in Oklahoma’s biggest city is far less than the cost of living in one of its smallest: Hennessey.
Homes here average about $120,000. But while groceries and home prices here fall beneath the national average, health care services and utilities in this rural area are just as pricey as the services available in Oklahoma City.
Little Rock, AR vs. Hot Springs Village, AR
Little Rock is the largest and most populated city in Arkansas. It has a slightly higher-than-average (for the state) cost of living index of 82.5. However, ordinary expenses such as groceries and health care services still fall below the national average.
Hot Springs Village has a population of only about 15,000 people. But, somewhat counterintuitively, it features a higher cost of living than Little Rock. The average home here costs about $220,000, and grocery and utility costs are nearly level with the national average.
Consequently, retiring to cities or larger suburbs in Arkansas may be more affordable, especially over time.
Community Age Demographics
Yet another thing that retirees will need to consider is community age demographics. While this particular factor may not be important for some, it could also significantly impact your experience living in a new place.
Remember, some areas are attractive to young families, and others draw in thousands of single adults. So if you’re hoping to form new community-based relationships after retiring, you’ll want to choose a location that caters to your personal preferences and expectations.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, Arkansas has a higher percentage of retirement-age residents than Oklahoma. Approximately 17% of the population of Arkansas consists of individuals or couples aged 65 or older.
In comparison, Oklahoma’s retirement-age population is only about 15.1%. As a result, Arkansas may be the better choice for those looking to integrate themselves into retirement communities or participate in local senior-friendly activities.
Crime and Safety
Protecting your home and health is of utmost importance, and retirees won’t want to ignore crime statistics when choosing a retirement destination. But, unfortunately, both Arkansas and Oklahoma have seen an increase in violent crime over the last few years.
Both states have a similar annual property crime rate, averaging about 28.45 households affected per 1,000 residents. These crimes include home burglaries, car theft, and non-violent pickpocketing.
But Oklahoma has a slightly lower rate of violent crime, with approximately 4.32 out of every 1,000 residents experiencing some form of assault, armed robbery, rape, or murder. Arkansas’s violent crime rate is 5.85 per 1,000 residents. That’s an increase of about 26.2%.
Climate and Natural Disasters
Crime can significantly impact your retirement years, but a harsh climate can also result in significant damage to your health and property. Natural disasters are also something to be aware of.
After all, nearly every US state is prone to at least one type of natural calamity, ranging from annual hurricanes to intermittent wildfires. Still, some retirees may be more willing to handle certain climates and disasters than others.
So, let’s find out what kinds of weather you can expect while living in either Oklahoma or Arkansas!
Weather in Oklahoma
Oklahoma has a relatively dry climate throughout most of the year, with a brief rainy season in April and May. The most humid areas tend to lie in the southeastern portions of the state.
Wintertime temperatures tend to bottom out at about 27℉ (-2.78℃), and summertime highs reach their peak at about 94℉ (34.44℃). But because Oklahoma consists of high mountainous regions and areas at sea level, annual temperatures vary greatly depending on your precise location.
Snowfall is minimal, with depths ranging between 4in (10.16cm) and 6in (15.24cm) per year, often varying depending on location. Still, the Oklahoma Panhandle in the northwestern part of the state can see up to 30in (76.2cm) of snow each year.
The most common natural threat facing Oklahomans is tornadoes. The Sooner State typically experiences more than 50 tornadoes each year.
Those living in the northwestern parts of the states may also experience severe snowstorms, while those in the southeast occasionally experience flooding. Therefore, retirees may want to consider moving to one of the more temperate areas, like Oklahoma City.
Weather in Arkansas
Like Oklahoma, Arkansas also offers residents a variety of climates. There are mountainous regions (The Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains) in the northern and western parts of the state, and the southeastern areas sit at a far lower elevation.
Consequently, Arkansas can be dry and warm for those living in basin regions but cool and wet for those living in the mountain valleys or hillsides. Summer droughts are pretty common throughout the state, and snowfall is minimal.
That said, the mountainous areas of Arkansas can see between 10in and 15in (25.4cm to 38.1cm) of snowfall each year. For these regions (Fayetteville, Fort Smith), ice storms and blizzards are the most common natural dangers.
Wintertime lows can reach about 29℉ (-1.67℃), and summertime highs average about 93℉ (33.89℃) throughout Arkansas. Unfortunately, this state is also home to recurrent tornado activity, averaging about 33 tornadoes per year. And this number may be on the rise.
Overall, Arkansas’s climate is slightly milder than Oklahoma’s, and it experiences fewer natural disasters. This combination makes Arkansas the better choice for retirees looking to enjoy warmer weather and fewer natural dangers.
Health Care Access
The amount of hospitals and clinics in any given state is relatively indicative of health care access. After all, retirees that need to travel out of town to receive decent health care services may be more prone to falling ill or suffering from potentially life-threatening diseases.
Oklahoma has a total of 165 hospitals, most offering general care services. Arkansas has 122 hospitals, many of which are either military or critical access (rural) hospitals. Consequently, Oklahoma provides greater access to health care services.
A lack of personal transport can make it challenging for seniors to attend doctor’s appointments and receive adequate care. That’s why it’s an excellent idea to consider local public transportation options.
While many retirees choose to continue owning and driving a personal vehicle, others may rely on public transportation. Going car-free is an excellent way to reduce monthly expenses, and it may be necessary for those with poor eyesight.
If you’re considering selling your vehicle and switching to public transport, choosing a retirement location that offers such services is crucial. So, let’s explore the public transport options available to residents of Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Public Transportation in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) maintains four different public transport systems:
- Oklahoma City EMBARK
- Norman EMBARK
- Tulsa Transit
- Lawton Area Transit System (LATS)
Oklahoma City EMBARK consists of buses, ferry rides, streetcars, and downtown bike-share options. Reduced bus fare is available to those aged 65 and older, with reduced-price monthly passes totaling only $25 per rider. This system has also branched out to include the nearby city of Norman, Oklahoma.
Tulsa Transit is a slightly more complicated public transport system, utilizing several buses and routes to keep residents mobile. However, individuals aged 75 or older can ride these buses free of charge.
Additionally, those aged 62 or older can apply for a reduced pay card. With this card, you can expect to spend only about $22.50 per month on public transport around Tulsa.
The Lawton Area Transit System (LATS) consists of a handful of bus routes and paratransit services. They also maintain a shuttle service to nearby Fort Sill. As with the other public transport systems in Oklahoma, reduced fare passes are available to retirement-aged residents.
So, if you’re 62 or older and planning on moving to Lawton, OK, you’ll spend about the same on monthly transport services as someone living in Tulsa. A monthly pass costs $22.00 for seniors.
Public Transportation in Arkansas
Arkansas offers far more public transportation options than Oklahoma, nine in total:
- Rock Region METRO
- Fort Smith Public Transit
- Hot Springs Intracity Transit
- Jonesboro Economical Transportation
- Ozark Regional Transit Authority (ORT)
- Pine Bluff Transit
- Razorback Transit
- Texarkana Urban Transit
Rock Region METRO serves the Little Rock area and offers both bus and streetcar services. Of all Arkansas’s public transport systems, it’s the most developed. In addition, those aged 65 or older qualify for discounted fares, and a monthly bus pass only costs $18 for retirement-aged individuals.
Fares for other transit systems vary, with the average cost for monthly transport coming to $20 for retirees, those on Medicare, and individuals with disabilities. Overall, Arkansas is the better destination for those who rely on public transport services to get around.
Entertainment and Recreational Activities
Hobbies are a fantastic way to enjoy your free time and keep your mind and body fit. Let’s take a moment to explore some of the most popular activities and entertainment options in Oklahoma and Arkansas to discover which might suit your tastes and interests.
Fun Things To Do in Oklahoma
The bulk of entertainment options available to those living in the Sooner State are squarely situated in Oklahoma City. For example, OKC residents can enjoy a stroll through the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum or soak up some sun at the Myriad Botanical Gardens.
The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, located in the OKC-adjacent city of Norman, is also a treat for visitors of any age. There are 250+ museums in Oklahoma and 42 wilderness parks (35 are state parks, while 7 are national parks).
The annual Oklahoma Senior Games also attracts many athletic, fun-loving retirees, making it an excellent opportunity for newly arrived residents to interact and form new bonds. Of course, the 50+ wineries and 100+ casinos also keep retired folks entertained and pleasantly satisfied!
Fun Things To Do in Arkansas
Hot Springs National Park tends to be a favorite destination for those living in Arkansas, especially retirees. This popularity is due, in no small part, to the warm spring waters found throughout the park. Visitors are welcome to take a dip and enjoy the natural splendor of this outdoor spa.
However, museums are also popular destinations, and Arkansas has plenty of them. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (located in Bentonville) is one of the more popular options, but there are more than 150 from which to choose.
But The Natural State’s true claim to fame is its wild beauty. If you enjoy spending time outdoors, surrounded by gorgeous views, you’ll fall in love with Arkansas’s 52 state parks and 7 national parks. The Ozark Mountains are stunning, especially during the spring and summer seasons.
Unfortunately, those looking to enjoy some local wine and take in the natural splendor may be slightly disappointed. Arkansas is home to only 15 wineries, which is far less than neighboring Oklahoma.
There are also far fewer casinos (only 6), and they’re located in three cities (Pine Bluff, West Memphis, Hot Springs).
Both Oklahoma and Arkansas could be the ideal retirement destination. After all, these states both offer comparatively low property prices and tax rates and similar climates.
Oklahoma may be the better choice for those seeking:
- Greater access to health care services
- Closer proximity to wineries and casinos
- Lower crime rates
Arkansas may be the better choice for retirees looking for:
- A lower cost of living
- Plenty of national and state parks
- Lower property taxes
- Increased access to public transportation
- Arkansas Times: Tornadoes increasing in Arkansas due to climate change, researcher says
- NeighborhoodScout: Arkansas Crime Rates and Statistics
- NeighborhoodScout: Oklahoma Crime Rates and Statistics
- OfficialUSA.com: Arkansas Hospitals
- OfficialUSA.com: Oklahoma Hospitals
- Oklahoma Climatological Society: Climate of Oklahoma
- Oklahoma Department of Transportation: Public Transportation
- Oklahoma Senior Games: Home
- Population Reference Bureau: Which U.S. States Have the Oldest Populations?
- Sperling’s Best Places: Arkansas Cost of Living
- Sperling’s Best Places: Oklahoma Cost of Living
- Zillow: Oklahoma Home Prices & Home Values