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Downtown Phoenix vs. Scottsdale: What’s the Difference? Which is Right for Me?

By Megan

With the extensive amount of housing options available in downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale, it can be overwhelming to navigate which area is right for you.

Both downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale has its own distinct personality and allure, making these two cities cater to different preferences and needs.

At the Moontower leasing office, we often get questions about how downtown Phoenix compares to neighboring cities, including Scottsdale.

To help you narrow down which city is for you, we’ve put together a comparison article highlighting the key similarities and differences between downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Housing and Neighborhoods

Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix share similarities and differences in terms of the city’s housing and neighborhood options. It’s important to consider what type of housing you are looking for, as well as the type of neighborhood you want to live in.

Downtown Phoenix is known for vibrant, urban living. The neighborhood offers sleek, high-rise apartments and historic neighborhoods. Living here means being in the heart of the city’s hustle and bustle, with easy access to cultural hubs like Roosevelt Row. The area is ideal for those seeking an energetic, connected lifestyle.

Read Next: Ultimate Guide to Living in Downtown Phoenix

Three friends smiling and chatting over coffee on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix.

In contrast, Scottsdale offers a more suburban feel with its luxury resorts, sprawling golf courses, and upscale neighborhoods. It’s a mix of modern housing developments and charming older homes. Scottsdale is perfect for those who prefer a quieter, more laid-back environment with a touch of elegance.

Read Next: 4 Reasons to Live in Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix is more populated with high-rise apartments and condos than Scottsdale, while still offering historic homes. The most common type of housing in downtown Phoenix are traditional apartments. The most prevalent housing options in Scottsdale are single-family detached homes, with the second most popular being apartment complexes. If you are hoping to live in an apartment, downtown Phoenix may be a better fit for you, while if you are leaning towards a home, Scottsdale could be the preferable option.

Another notable difference in housing between Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix is the presence of homeowners associations. Many Scottsdale neighborhoods have HOAs that are an added expense. If you prefer HOAs and are willing to pay the extra cost, Scottsdale may be the best spot for you. Generally, HOAs are less common in downtown Phoenix.

Cost of Housing

Both downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale have offerings from around $1,400 to $3,000 for one-bedroom units and around $2,000 to $4,500 for two-bedroom units depending on the type of housing, size and layout, the age of the building, as well as the amenities and packages offered at the property.

The cost of housing in the downtown Phoenix area ranges greatly, from budget-friendly apartments to more luxurious living spaces, catering to a diverse demographic. You will find housing options across the entire price range listed above.

Moontower Phoenix Kitchen

Kitchens at Moontower feature marble look quartz countertops and glazed zellige look tile backsplash. Pictured here is the Palo Verde floor plan.

Scottsdale, known for its upscale neighborhoods and luxury housing options, tends to have a higher cost of housing compared to downtown Phoenix. Scottsdale features various upscale homes, condos and apartments, contributing to a higher average rent or home purchase price. You will find most housing options on the mid-to-high end of the price range listed above.

While there are also upscale options in downtown Phoenix, there may be more affordable housing options compared to Scottsdale. The downtown area is full of new, luxury apartment complexes and condominiums, while also featuring historic and older developments. Ultimately, downtown Phoenix’s wider range of housing options relates to its wider range of housing prices.

Read Next: Base Rental Rate vs. Total Monthly Cost for a Downtown Phoenix Apartment

When looking at just apartment rental rates, the average rate for a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Phoenix is $1,872, while the average rate in Scottsdale is $1,886.

For more information on how much it costs to live in downtown Phoenix specifically, reference our article on what does it cost to live in downtown Phoenix.


Another important aspect to consider is the transportation available in each of these cities, and whether or not you will need a car in either downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale.

Downtown Phoenix is well-connected, with an efficient public transportation system that includes light rail, buses, and bike-sharing programs. It’s a walkable area, making it easy for residents to commute and explore the city without a car. Downtown Phoenix offers effective public transportation through its Valley Metro, which includes buses and the Valley Metro Light Rail. The buses allow individuals in downtown Phoenix to easily commute around the downtown area, while the light rail connects various parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area, including Tempe, Mesa, and parts of Scottsdale.

Scottsdale, while offering public transportation options, is more car-dependent. The city is spread out, and many residents find having a car is necessary for commuting and accessing different parts of the city. Though parts of Scottsdale are included in Valley Metro transportation, Scottsdale’s most popular public transportation is the city’s Trolley System. The Trolley System primarily runs within the city limits but offers routes with connections to Valley Metro Transit and the Tempe Orbit.

Ultimately, if you want to get away with car-free living, downtown Phoenix may be the best choice for you. If you don’t mind bringing a vehicle, check out both downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Dining and Nightlife

Both Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix offer an array of dining and nightlife options, each offering a mix of restaurants and entertainment venues to suit various tastes.

Friends at Cham Pang Lanes having drinks in downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix has an eclectic and urban feel, blending historic and modern elements. The dining scene in downtown Phoenix embraces a diverse range of cuisines, reflecting the city’s cultural richness. With so many options to choose from, we have put together a list of the 14 best restaurants in downtown Phoenix near Roosevelt Row.

Scottsdale, known for its upscale and resort-like ambiance, tends to offer a more luxurious and refined dining experience, with its nightlife mirroring an exclusive and upscale vibe.

Read Next: 10 Best Happy Hours in Downtown Phoenix

Local Attractions and Culture

Downtown Phoenix is the urban heart of the city, featuring iconic cultural spots such as the Phoenix Art Museum, Heard Museum and Arizona Science Center. The dynamic arts and entertainment scene flourishes in the lively Roosevelt Row district, featuring an array of galleries and music venues. Additionally, downtown Phoenix is home to the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, catering to the interests of avid sports enthusiasts.

Read Next: The Best of Downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row

Scottsdale, known for its upscale environment, boasts attractions like Old Town Scottsdale, where Western charm meets contemporary art galleries and high-end boutiques. The city is well-known for its luxury spa resorts and prestigious golf courses. Embracing the outdoors, Scottsdale provides a scenic escape at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, featuring hiking trails with stunning views of the desert landscape.

Girl taking a photo with a camera with Phoenix desert views

Choosing between Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix ultimately depends on your individual preferences and needs. If you seek upscale, resort-like vibes, Scottsdale may be the ideal choice. If you prefer a more diverse, budget-friendly living option with a mix of laid-back and energetic social scenes, downtown Phoenix is likely the better fit for you.

We hope this article gave insight on the similarities and differences between living in downtown Phoenix versus Scottsdale.

If you have any questions about Moontower or downtown Phoenix living, contact our leasing staff! We would love to help you with your housing search.

Megan headshot


Megan is a regular contributing author for, covering leasing tips and all things downtown Phoenix. She has 3 years of experience in multifamily leasing and marketing. In her free time, you'll find Megan on a run, trying out new restaurants, or attending a yoga class.

January 05, 2024

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