Bullhead City, which dubs itself the “West Coast” of Arizona, is once again the No. 1 most affordable city in the state, according to the 2019 Cost-of-Living Index.

Like Southern California, the city offers beaches, water sports, fishing, and championship golf courses. But at a fraction of the price.

“Bullhead City consistently, of the cities that are surveyed, has always been the low-cost leader in Arizona and we pride ourselves on that, and it’s especially important for people who are thinking about relocating and retiring and, obviously, the dollar is important in retirement,” said longtime Mayor Tom Brady, who added that keeping costs down is a community-wide effort between government, businesses and other organizations.

The new Cost of Living Index (COLI) reveals that Bullhead City ranks below the state and national averages overall and in six categories from groceries to utilities to housing.

The COLI is published by the nonprofit Council for Community and Economic Research that has been issuing reports since 1968.

Researchers analyze data from the prices of more than 60 goods and services in 255 cities. There are seven categories: food, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, miscellaneous goods and services, and an overall composite index.

Bullhead costs less than national average in all categories 

Each cost of living index is based on a national average of 100 percent.

Bullhead City’s overall composite cost of living index is almost nine percent lower than the national average at 91.1 percent. Utilities are almost 14 percent lower at 85.7 percent, miscellaneous goods are 89.5 percent, health care, 91.6 percent, transportation, 96.9 percent, and grocery items, 98.4 percent.

Housing costs are almost 11 percent below the national average at 89.3 percent. In contrast, housing in Southern California’s Orange County is almost 50 percent higher than the national average at 148.6 percent.

Several other Arizona cities that participated also have rates below the national average: Surprise, 91.5 percent: Yuma, 94.7 percent; Tucson, 97.4 percent; and Phoenix, 99.1 percent.

Cost of living drives steady growth 

Brady, who moved here in 1982, said it was a dusty river town with only 8,000 residents at the time.

Today, it boasts a population of 118,000 and sits abreast the Colorado River directly across the water from the riverfront casinos and resorts in Laughlin, Nevada. More than a million visitors come for fun and sun every year to the region.

Housing permits spike 

For the past five years, the city has steadily grown with a flurry of new activity this past year.

Housing permits spiked this year, a sign of things to come, Brady believes. Families and retirees, many from California, are moving in.

“For close to a year and a half we waived all of our building fees and during that period we saw a significant increase in growth,” Brady said. “Even after we stopped, the growth continued.”

New development trickling in 

Economic development and construction are trickling in as well. Companies are finding that it is much less expensive than California and within 275 miles of three major metro regions: Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles, he said.

In a welcome arrival for city coffers, the largest food industry redistributor in the nation, Dot Foods, opened a 190,242-square-foot, $30-million facility last year adjacent the Laughlin Bullhead International Airport.

Other new activity includes:

• A new waterfront Holiday Inn Express.

• A second bridge over the Colorado River to further connect Bullhead and Laughlin cities.

• The grand opening of the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse, a $33-million facility approved by voters for high school sporting events and other activities. The facility is inside a designated opportunity zone. The zones are designed to attract investment to low-income and distressed areas.

• A riverside park and riverwalk is planned for new recreational areas, marinas, restaurants and other water-related retail. The plan is made possible through a land swap with the federal Bureau of Land Management to obtain 345 acres along the Colorado River for the project.

“Bullhead City is open for business and Arizona is open for business,” said the mayor, who gives much credit to Gov. Doug Ducey for working to “incentivize and lure” businesses to Mohave County.

“We believe we will continue to see that kind of growth as more and more companies leave California with its high taxes and high costs of living. They’re all coming to our doorstep now,” Brady said. “We have plenty of land for development and we have plenty of land for more residential and retail.”