Best Small Towns To Retire: Here are the 5 Most Affordable and Awesome

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An older couple eats ice cream while walking down the street in their small town retirement community.
What do small towns have to offer for retirees looking for lifestyle and affordability?

Baby Boomers are flocking to small American towns for retirement. And the team at 55places understands the allure. Lower crime rates, less traffic, and a cozy camaraderie with the neighbors are the big draws to the best small towns to retire in the US.

There was a time when small towns — those with a population under 5,000 per the US Census Bureau — got a bad rap. Even the best small towns for retirement were considered boring. And the worst was, frankly, backward!

But the magic of technology has changed all that. While fast access to health care should still be high on your list of priorities when choosing a retirement community, issues like grocery shopping and public transportation have become less poignant, thanks to the apps like Instacart and Uber.

Today, we will cover the best affordable small towns to retire to in the states. We’ll highlight criteria that matter most, like:

  • Population
  • Overall affordability
  • Safety
  • Access to quality healthcare
  • And other amenities unique to a location

Let’s dive in!

Wofford Heights, CA, Population 1,600

Scenic view of mountains against sky as seen from Wofford Heights, CA.

Wofford Heights is a scenic little town situated 45 minutes away from Bakersfield, CA. With a population of 1,600 souls, stunning views of Lake Isabella, and an average home price of $200,000, it’s no wonder retirees love it here. The average home price in the state is $430,000, so Wofford Heights feels very affordable to Californians.

  • Wofford Heights retirees enjoy about 300 sunny days yearly, very mild winters and blistering hot summers.
  • It’s a safe neighborhood with very low violent crime rates.
  • There are no hospitals in Wofford Heights, but outstanding medical care is available in Bakersfield.

Reasons To Retire Here

Wofford Heights is among the best small towns to retire because it is quiet, casual and unassuming compared to other CA towns. Other than a little movie theater and some greasy-spoon diners, this town doesn’t offer much for cultural entertainment or shopping. But hiking, fishing, boating, and motorsports are popular. So if you’re outdoorsy, this might be the perfect place to spend your free time.

  • One setback — if this matters to you — is the distance to international airports.
  • The tiny Bakersfield airport is 45 minutes away, but LAX is a five-hour drive.
  • Also, California is known for expensive gasoline and high homeowner’s insurance costs.

Pendleton, NY, Population 6,397

Backlit fog in fall-colored trees on old road.

If blistering hot weather doesn’t appeal to you, the four distinct seasons and snowy winters of Pendleton, NY, might be more your style. Located in Western New York — think Niagara Falls and the Great Lakes — this small town is 20 minutes from Buffalo and mere miles from the Falls. That means you have fast access to international airports and some of the best research hospitals on the planet.

Reasons To Retire Here

“Foodies” in WNY enjoy easy access to some of the best food in the world, very safe neighborhoods, and affordable homes compared to the rest of New York. The average home price in Pendleton is about $350,000, compared to the state average of $411,000. That’s a little high for our list of affordable retirement towns, but we believe the safety and outstanding healthcare make it worth the investment.

  • Pendleton is 20 minutes from Buffalo-Niagara airport, so it’s great for international travelers.
  • Gasoline and homeowners insurance are usually cheap, but auto insurance prices can be high.
  • Culturally, Pendleton has a tremendous football following. Buffalo “Bills Mafia” fans will find themselves right at home with chicken wings and chilly tailgate parties.
  • The only setbacks to living here are the price of homes compared to others on our list and the frigid winters.

Kernville, CA, Population 791

Dry grass mountain plain with snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background.

Turning our gaze back to California, Kernville is a picturesque, western-style town in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and it’s only six miles from Wofford Heights. Technically, it’s not a town but a census-designated place (CDP.) Residents there enjoy stunning mountain views, adorable wildlife encounters, and a few extraordinary events during the year, like a rodeo and Christmas craft show.

Like Wofford Heights, Kernville is only 50 minutes from Bakersfield. Getting to an excellent hospital or shopping mall will take you that long.

Reasons To Retire Here

Kernville has a tiny private airport for aviators, very little traffic, and stunning scenic views.

  • Fly fishing, horse sports, and photography are among the most popular hobbies here.
  • High-end, boutique shopping experiences abound in Kernville’s Circle Park.
  • Violent crime rates are very low.

Compared to the rest of California, Kernville is very affordable. But this tiny cowboy town is expensive compared to the rest of the nation. In 2021, the average home price was about $250,000, but home prices are increasing.

Kimmswick, MO, Population 157

Snowy red covered bridge at Sandy Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site.

The tiniest retirement town on our list is Kimmswick, Missouri. Nestled in the stunning Ozark Mountains, this little gem is only 25 miles out of St. Louis. That means you’ll have access to everything the “Mound City” offers, like hospitals, airports, shopping, and cultural experiences.

But you don’t need to head into the city for a good time. For such a small town, Kimmswick offers plenty of tourist attractions, shopping, and dining experiences. The Apple Butter Festival and Strawberry Festival are significant annual events.

Reasons To Retire Here

Missouri is known for its affordable cost of living. Kimmswick is BY FAR the most affordable retirement neighborhood on our list! At the time of writing, the median home price here is $116,000.

The only issue we see with Kimmswick is the short drive to St. Louis, which is a blessing and a curse. St. Louis has alarming crime rates, among the worst in the nation. Retirees should plan city outings thoughtfully, leave valuables locked at home, and tell friends and family about their plans before venturing into the big city.

Discover the Best Small Towns To Retire

At 55places.com, we know everyone seeks something different for their retirement plans. Some of us hope to travel abroad, while others would prefer quiet fly-fishing opportunities at hand. What does your perfect neighborhood look like?

We hope you’ve enjoyed our unbiased discussion of the best small towns to retire. And we hope it inspires you to consider the amenities that mean the most to you. Check out our blog for more inspiration, and contact us to learn about affordable retirement places.

Discover what’s next with 55places.com.

Can you spot the $207,744 difference between these identical homes?

Financing is the difference!

Get the details in The 62+ Loan Homebuyers Guide.

55places Mortgage is a joint venture between Mutual of Omaha Mortgage and 55places.com.
Details here.

We're here to help! (800) 928-2055

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I agree that 55places and its affiliates, partner providers or agents may call, text, or email me about my inquiry, which may be made with automated means. I understand that my consent is not a prerequisite for buying a property. I may revoke my consent at any time by contacting optout@55places.com. Message/data rates may apply. I also agree to 55places.com’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

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About 55places

We’re changing the way people 55 and older are searching for their perfect next place. With a national network of hand-selected real estate experts, plus comprehensive information, unbiased content, and on-the-go insight about thousands of communities across the country, we’re a trusted resource paving the way from here to home. Whether you’re interested in a low-maintenance single-level residence, an active lifestyle or age-qualified community, an intimate enclave, or anything in between, we can help you make your next move the best one yet.

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