From the beginning of the Missouri River to the final end of General George Armstrong Custer, Montana provides a wealth of natural resources and history for those who live there, as well as those who visit. It’s easy to understand why Native Americans referred to Montana as “The Shining Land.”
If you’re moving to Montana, read the following tips to help make your move to Big Sky Country a big success.
If possible, plan on moving to MT during the spring or fall. Winters can be harsh, with extreme cold and lots of snow, especially in the northeast, while summers can be very hot, especially on the eastern plains. In addition, in wintertime, you can run into severe fogs or low clouds in the western part of the state.
Due to the severe winters, most construction on roads is done during the summer, so make sure to check with the Montana Department of Transportation to see if your route is clear when moving to MT.
Cities often host festivals, rodeos and other events. Check your local city’s calendar before moving to avoid getting stuck in crowds.
You won’t need a moving permit, but check your city’s parking restrictions before moving to Montana. There could be bans on overnight parking for trucks or other local restrictions.
Montana is one of the least populated areas in the country. Plan accordingly when driving long distances; make sure you have a fully-charged cell phone with you, as well as plenty of water, a toolbox and a well-stocked first-aid kit.
Before moving to MT, don’t forget to change your address online with USPS.
Cities and Metro Areas
Throughout Montana, most cities were originally built as railroad or mining towns, but have all developed into unique communities. Montana offers a number of thriving place to call home, such as Helena, the state capital; Billings, a cosmopolitan; Great Falls, also known as Electric City; and Missoula, where you can ride your bicycle to get to work. Other cities to consider are college town Bozeman and historical Miles City, as well as Butte, Kalispell, Havre and Hardin.
Cost of Living
Compared to the US average, the cost of living in Montana is 6.29 percent lower. This is most likely due to the availability of energy resources such as coal, oil, gas and water, as well as the low taxation levels in the state. In fact, property taxes here are comparatively low, which makes owning real estate and vehicles much more affordable than in some other states. The average income for a household is almost $36,000, which isn’t the highest in the country, but again, low taxation levels and an average commute time of just under 18 minutes compensate somewhat for this.
Highways and Public Transport
Traditionally, roads led from east to west in Big Sky Country, but fortunately, its modern infrastructure is extensive. All roads are well-maintained in Montana, but traffic can get very busy around commuting times in the bigger cities, as well as in major tourist areas. Most cities are best navigated by foot when sightseeing or shopping, but outside of the cities you’ll definitely need your own vehicle. In addition, note that some cities use gates to close off roads in high winds. Check with the Montana Department of Transportation for weather conditions or construction (especially between May and September) that may cause delays.
- Roads: There are a number of interstates and US highways, as well as state highways and minor roads that provide access to Montana’s urban areas and parks. The state is crossed from east to west by I-90 and I-94, and from north to south by I-15.
- Railroads: Railroads have traditionally played a large part in Montana’s transportation. The BSNF Railways is a transcontinental route that crosses the entire state, and if you’re moving to MT, you can take Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which stops in two northern towns.
- Airports: When moving to Montana, you’ll discover that many cities feature regional airports. There are also five international airports, of which Billings Logan International Airport is the busiest.
- Public transportation: Passenger buses, vans, planes and trains serve 34 Montana cities, with Billings, Missoula and Great Falls having their own urban systems.
If you’d like to live in Big Sky Country, it’s a smart idea to have a job before packing your bags and relocating. Fortunately, at 7.1 percent, the unemployment rate in Montana is slightly lower than the US average of 8.5 percent, and the state government is actively promoting the creation of more jobs in Montana by creating a favorable business environment to attract more established companies, as well as start-ups.
The best place to start when looking for Montana job listings is the state website’s jobs pages, where employers and job-seekers can connect. You can create your own profile that includes your resume and cover letter, and browse Montana jobs by sector or location.
When moving to Montana, you’ll find the east and the west of the state have totally different climates. This is due to the Continental Divide, which effectively locks more temperate weather in the western part. The eastern part of the state has a semi-arid continental climate, with less precipitation than the west. The northeast has the harshest winters in Montana, with severe cold, snow and ice. In the west, you’ll find milder winters, less wind and cooler summers. Be prepared to encounter fog in the west during the wintertime.
The annual average precipitation is 15 inches and the entire state gets snow, particularly at higher elevations, throughout the entire year except July and August. Average temperatures range from 28 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to 84.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, but be prepared for extreme temperature swings at higher elevations.
Allergy sufferers moving to MT need to take precautions during the spring and summer, especially in the western part of the state where western water hemlock and western wheatgrass bloom. Check the pollen count before moving to Montana.
When moving to Montana with children, it’s important to know that Montana doesn’t spend as much on education as states with higher taxation. This has caused the state to rank as one of the lowest when it comes to educational results and teacher quality. Fortunately, there are still a number of schools that provide quality education.
- Elementary Schools: Three of the top-ranked elementary schools are Great Falls Elementary in Great Falls, Bozeman Elementary in Bozeman and Cold Springs School in Missoula.
- High Schools: Gardiner High School in Gardiner, Fort Benton High School in Fort Benton and Billings Central Catholic High School in Billings are among the best high schools.
- Higher Education: Students moving to MT can attend a number of institutions of higher education, including Montana State University, Salish Kootenai College (a Tribal College) and Rocky Mountain College, a private liberal arts college. There are three community colleges: Glendive, Kalispell and Miles City.
Montana’s Official State Website has a lot of useful information about moving to, living in, and working in Montana. For a smooth move, keep the following tips and resources in mind.
- You don’t need a moving permit in Montana.
- Montana doesn’t have an excise tax. However, you may have to pay a county option tax if you buy a vehicle after moving to MT.
- There are no toll roads in Montana.
- Once you’ve been a resident of Montana for 30 days, you can register to vote in person at your county election office or by mailing in a voter registration card. You can also fill out a voter registration form when you apply for your driver’s license.
- Trash and recycling are handled by private companies outside the cities, while in the cities, the Solid Waste Departments take care of it. Contact your local municipality for more information.
- The Motor Vehicle Division of the Montana Department of Justice regulates everything to do with vehicles. After moving to Montana, you have 60 days to apply for a MT driver’s license, or 30 days if you need a commercial driver’s license. You must register your vehicle within 60 days of moving to MT; costs vary per vehicle type and age. It costs $12 to transfer a title, but you might have to pay a $5 Montana Highway Patrol Salary and Retention fee and an optional $4 state park fee. It costs $8 to record a lien.