Which are the most popular retirement states to relocate to in the U.S.? Well, before we get to answering that question, let's look at some broader migration trends across the country.

If you live in Vermont, Oregon or Idaho, it's possible you've had to make room for more neighbors. These states are among the nation’s top moving destinations overall, according to the 2017 United Van Lines’ National Movers Study, which tracks state-to-state migration patterns over the previous year. In Oregon, which topped the list as the most popular moving destination of 2017, nearly 68% of moves in and out of the state were inbound.

The Northeast continues to lose people, experiencing what United Van Lines calls a "moving deficit." Illinois had the greatest percentage of outbound moves for 2017 at over 63%, but it was followed closely by the northeastern states of New Jersey (63%), New York (61%) and Connecticut (57%).

The 2017 survey marked the 41st year United Van Lines released results tracking which states people are moving to and from and their motivations for moving, said Melissa Sullivan, the company's director of marketing communications. "As the nation’s largest household goods mover, the data we collect is reflective of national migration trends," she said. 

Zooming in on the movers who are retired, the survey showed a trend toward retirees moving to the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West regions, as well as relocating to southern states. 

Most Popular States to Retire To

Below is a list of the top 10 states where retirement was cited as the main reason for the highest percentage of inbound moves:

  1. Florida
  2. Nevada
  3. South Carolina
  4. Arizona
  5. Maine
  6. Vermont
  7. Wyoming
  8. Delaware
  9. Arkansas
  10. New Mexico

While the Southern states of Florida and South Carolina represented two of the top three retirement relocation destinations, United Van Lines noted that the Mountain West was the most popular region for retirees to move to, with roughly 25% of movers to this region citing retirement as their primary motivation. For No.2 spot Nevada, 35% said retirement was the reason for their move.

"This year's data reflects longer-term trends of movement to the Western and Southern states, especially to those where housing costs are relatively lower, climates are more temperate and job growth has been at or above the national average, among other factors," said economist and professor Michael Stoll.

United Van Lines also noted that the popular retirement locations in the Western United States tend to offer a plethora of outdoor activities, along with art and educational opportunities, making them ideal for active retirees. 

Best States for Retirement

Bankrate’s "Best and Worst States to Retire" list supports United Van Lines’ findings. The list ranks all 50 states based on cost of living, crime rate (violent and property crimes), health care quality, culture, state and local taxes, community well-being for seniors and weather. A number of the states that ranked in the top 10 on both retirement lists were located in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West regions. 

According to Bankrate's ranking, the top states to retire in are:

  1. South Dakota
  2. Utah
  3. Idaho
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Florida
  6. Montana
  7. North Carolina
  8. Wyoming
  9. Nebraska
  10. Mississippi

Interestingly, while United Van Lines' survey shows where people are actually moving and Bankrate's survey shows where they possibly should be moving based on a number of factors important to retirees, the only states that appear on both top 10 lists are Florida and Wyoming.

The Bottom Line

While these studies point to where retirees may be likey to move, it is worth noting that most people end up staying in place when they retire. Only 1.6% of retirees between the ages of 55 and 65 moved across state lines, according to an analysis of 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data by Richard W. Johnson, director of the Urban Institute’s Program on Retirement Policy. The vast majority of retirees either stayed in their existing homes or made in-state moves.

Those retirees who do venture out of their home states often do so to settle in locations that have favorable taxes (Florida and Wyoming, the only states on both top 10 lists, don’t tax individual income, for example), better weather and plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. (For more, see Reasons to Stay Put During Retirement and Least Expensive States to Retire In.)