From the State Capitol in Harrisburg, described by President Teddy Roosevelt at its dedication as “The handsomest building I ever saw,” to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution in the City of Brotherly Love, Pennsylvania has truly earned its nickname as the Keystone State.
Moving to Pennsylvania? The following guide is the keystone to making your move a success.
Roads are generally good here in nice neighborhoods, but in less affluent areas you might encounter roads that aren’t so well maintained. Drive cautiously and slow down if necessary.
If you’re moving to PA, you’ll likely encounter tolls, so be sure to bring change. If you’re on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, purchase an EZ Pass.
The entire state gets a lot of precipitation and winters can bring a lot of snow. Try to move outside of the colder months to avoid hazardous driving conditions, slippery sidewalks and trudging slush into your new home.
When moving to Pennsylvania, know that spring and summer can bring tornadoes. Listen to the weather reports and take cover if you hear a tornado warning.
Cities are generally very congested. Avoid busy commute times when navigating a moving truck through heavy-use areas. In addition, it’s a good idea to check parking restrictions or purchase a moving permit ahead of time.
If you’re allergic to any type of pollen, you might experience discomfort after moving to PA. Remember to check the pollen count in your area and take appropriate medical precautions during hay fever season!
Cities and Metro Areas
Moving to Pennsylvania will give you access to some of the most historically defining cities of our nation, as well as some of the most resilient.
There’s Harrisburg, the state capital; Philadelphia, the financial hub; Pittsburgh, with the Andy Warhol Museum and Heinz Hall; and Allentown, the state’s fastest growing city. Other places to consider include Reading, the agricultural hub, and Erie, Scranton, Bethlehem, Lancaster and Altoona.
Once you’ve decided on a new city or town to call home, fill out an online address change form so your mail gets to your new place as soon as you do!
Cost of Living
If you’ve made up your mind that you want to move to the Keystone State, it’s a smart idea to take a moment to determine how the cost of living in Pennsylvania will affect your financial situation.
The cost of living in a state is determined by a range of factors including housing and utilities prices, state and local taxes, the costs of education and healthcare, and the prices of food and other consumer products. In states with a high agricultural output with a low population density, and where taxes are relatively low, the cost of living will be lower than in a state with higher taxes and less resources.
It’s clear, therefore, that not only your income, but also how much you can expect to spend on the basics will affect your lifestyle after your relocation.
Highways and Public Transport
You’ll appreciate the Keystone State’s extensive infrastructure when moving to Pennsylvania. This consists of Interstate and state highways, turnpikes, county roads, railroads and air.
Roads are, however, busy around major cities and there are tolls, so check ahead of time with PennDOT to find out what traffic is like, and to calculate what you have to pay if commuting.
It’s helpful to know that public transportation in the major cities is generally dependable and affordable, but outside of urban areas you’ll need a vehicle to get around.
- Roads: The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is the nation’s 5th largest and maintains a large network of state routes. Besides the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the I-80 is an important east-west route.
- Railroads: Amtrak operates a number of trains that provide passenger service, including the Keystone Service to NYC and the Pennsylvanian, which also serves Pittsburgh.
- Public Transportation: After moving to PA, you can take advantage of public transportation provided by SEPTA, which operates rail transit and bus service in and around Philadelphia, while Pittsburgh is served by the Port Authority of Allegheny County.
- Airports: There are 134 public airports in the state, but the most important ones are Philadelphia International and Pittsburgh International Airports.
When you’re serious about relocating to Pennsylvania, the first thing to do is look at what types of Pennsylvania jobs are out there.
At 7.7 percent in December 2011, the unemployment rate here is slightly lower than the US average of 8.4 percent, which indicates the competition for available jobs in Pennsylvania is not as high as in some other industrial states such as Michigan.
However, as you’ll probably see when you look at Pennsylvania job listings, not all areas have an equal amount of employment opportunities, and some areas are even in economic decline.
That’s why it’s to be advised to not only look at the types of Pennsylvania jobs that are available, but also how strong the region’s economy is before you make up your mind to relocate.
After moving to Pennsylvania, you’ll find it has a humid continental climate, with the mountains in the center of the state being colder than the rest.
Summer daytime temperatures average around 82 degrees Fahrenheit, while temperatures in the winter are about 36 degrees Fahrenheit. The entire state gets a lot of precipitation, as well as snow, especially in the western part.
And if you’re moving to PA, listen to the weather reports, as tornadoes can cause severe damages between late spring and early fall.
While summer temperatures are uniformly warm throughout Pennsylvania, low lying areas and those nearer the Atlantic coast are milder in winter compared to the state's colder and snowier mountain regions.
For families with children moving to Pennsylvania, know that students consistently score well in standardized testing. In addition, the state has numerous excellent public and private educational institutions. What follows are some of the most notable:
- Elementary Schools: Three of the top-ranked elementary schools are Laboratory Charter School in Philadelphia, South Fayette Township Elementary School in McDonald and First Street Elementary School in Canonsburg.
- High Schools: Central High School in Philadelphia, Upper Saint Clair High School in Pittsburgh and Conestoga Senior High School in Berwyn are some of the best high schools.
- Higher Education: If you’re a college student, you’ll have access to many great colleges and universities after moving to Pennsylvania, among them Pennsylvania State University, Carnegie Mellon University and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
When moving to Pennsylvania, you can find answers to many of your questions on the official state website.
- Moving Permits: A number of cities in PA advise moving permits. These need to be requested at least three days before you move, and the cost is $25 for 40 square feet of space. Contact your city’s Street/Traffic Division to find out more. You can find more information about how to request a moving permit in Philadelphia here (scroll down to question 8).
- Excise Tax: You’ll have to pay an excise tax of between 6 and 8% if you own a previously untaxed vehicle. If you’ve paid taxes in another state, you can show your tax receipt to avoid paying double.
- Tolls: When moving to Pennsylvania, know the state has a number of toll bridges and toll roads, most notably the Pennsylvania Turnpike that runs from east to west. It also has a section running north to south, and serves most major urban areas. You can calculate fees here.
- Voter Registration: After moving to PA, you can register to vote when you apply for your driver’s license—in person at your local County Voter Registration Office or other appropriate government office, or by mailing in a voter registration form.
- Trash & Recycling: Trash and recycling are handled by your municipality.
- Driver’s Licenses: You have 60 days after moving to Pennsylvania to apply for a PA driver’s license. You’ll need to apply in person at your local Bureau of Motor Vehicles and take a vision test. The costs for a license are $29.50.
- Vehicle Registration: After moving to PA, you must register your vehicle within 20 days of establishing residency. The fees for a registration are $36; it costs $22.50 for a title and $27.50 for a lien recording.