Where Americans are moving this year

Moving is exhausting, time-consuming and tedious, and can be frustrating, especially if you’re moving to a new city or state. But once you’re moved in, living in the city you’ve always wanted to call home makes it worth the hassle.

These 10 metros were the most popular moving destinations from January to March of 2012 based on inbound shipments, according to the American Moving and Storage Association.

Their popularity is understandable: they offer plenty of job opportunities, a reasonable cost of living and have plenty to do for singles, couples, and families. It’s probable we’ll see many of these cities on the list throughout the year, and perhaps into 2013.

My number one suggestion to anyone moving to a brand new city is always the same: rent before you buy. Try out a few different neighborhoods before deciding where you want to live for good, and make sure your new job is secure before committing to a mortgage.

And if you’re tired of where you’re living, and are looking for a new locale, you might find what you’re looking for in one of these top 10 moving destinations:

10. Chicago
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $1,423
Average rent for 2 bedrooms: $1,991

Photo: Shutterstock

Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods have every kind of food and entertainment a local could want, and the vast lakefront is home to gorgeous beaches and the jogger- and biker-friendly lakefront path. If you’re a sports fan, you could do worse than the Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox and Cubs.

As the third-largest city in the U.S., Chicago has plenty of job opportunities. Industries are varied and include manufacturing, trade, education and health services. The financial sector is particularly strong, with the Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank calling Chicago home.

9. Los Angeles-Long Beach
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $1,646
Average rent for 2 bedrooms: $2,029

Los Angeles-Long Beach
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Los Angeles is best known as the entertainment capital of the world, and together with Long Beach and Santa Ana is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the nation.

There are obvious perks to living in L.A. – celebrity sightings, great nightlife, miles of beaches and hot new restaurants – but the city also offers plenty of opportunities in a wide variety of industries.

If you’re not looking to break into the movie business, you should have luck in other popular sectors including the finance, business, professional services and hospitality industries. Local government also employs a large portion of the workforce.

8. Denver
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $819
Average rent for 2 bedrooms: $989

Photo: Shutterstock

Denver is home to a wide variety of industries, including information technology, education services and manufacturing. Once you’re done working hard, you can play hard no matter what your interests. Catch a concert at the Red Rock amphitheater, the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. Or, spend the day biking part of Denver’s 850 miles of trails.

Weekends can’t be beat. Denver is located at the foot of the Front Range, in the Colorado Rockies. With around 300 days of sunshine, there’s plenty of outdoor activities to fill up your weekends.

7. San Diego
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $1,281
Average rent for 2 bedrooms: $1,550

San Diego
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San Diego is an outdoor lover’s dream. It has a mild climate, great beaches and a large number of nature reserves. Sporty types will find something to do here every day of the week. And if you’re in the mood for some Salsa, you’re just a short drive from the Mexican border.

The U.S. military is a major employer in San Diego; the city hosts U.S. Navy and Marine facilities, as well as the headquarters of five defense contractors. Other growing industries include professional services, education and health services. Tourism is a big part of San Diego’s economy, so the leisure and hospitality industry is also growing.

6. Dallas-Fort Worth
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $779
Average rent for 2 bedrooms: $938

Dallas-Fort Worth
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There’s always something to do in Dallas. Whether you’re catching a Cowboys game in the new stadium, eating amazing barbeque, or enjoying the distinct flavor of each of its neighborhoods, Dallas is a fun place to be.

This Texas town boasts a variety of industries, but the one which showed the most recent growth was leisure and hospitality. Other popular industries include defense, financial services, information technology and data, education and health services and trade, transportation and utilities. No matter your skill set, you should be able to find something to do in Dallas.

5. Atlanta
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $852
Average rent for 2 bedrooms: $976

Photo: Shutterstock

The greater Atlanta metropolitan area offers a wide variety of neighborhoods. Potential residents should not only explore all of them fully before settling down, but also drive the commute during morning and afternoon rush hours. If nothing else, Atlantans have a love affair with their cars, probably because they spend so much in them navigating traffic.

The city’s economy is growing, despite slips in home values and increases in foreclosures over the past few years. It is fast becoming a technology hub, and the service, trade and manufacturing industries employ much of the Atlanta population. Metro Atlanta is also home to a large number of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 company headquarters, not to mention the busiest airport in the world.

4. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $1,205
Average rent for 2 bedrooms: $1,644

Photo: Shutterstock

Like the other cities on this list, Seattle has a number of diverse neighborhoods to choose from. Housing is varied, but if you’re feeling really adventurous try renting out one of Seattle’s unique houseboats, a la “Sleepless in Seattle.” They cost more than a traditional apartment, but the experience of living on the water is worth the added expense.

Seattle’s economy is based on innovation, and information technology is an enormous industry in Seattle. If you want something you can do with your hands, Boeing still builds a huge number of aircraft in the local area. In fact, Boeing’s Everett facility is home to the 747, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner production lines, and is open for tours. Many other Seattle-area residents find jobs in the education, health services and construction sectors.

3. Houston
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $764
Average rent for 2 bedrooms: $998

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Like most of the other cities on this list, the combination of reasonable housing prices and good job opportunities draw people in from every area of the country. And for most of the year, the weather is pretty darned good.

According to City-Data, energy is the main industry in Houston and that means jobs in exploration, production, oil field service and supply and development. The city is a production center for specialty chemicals, and almost all the major players in the chemical industry have a plant near Houston.

2. Phoenix-Mesa
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $623
Average rent for 2 bedrooms: $773

Photo: Shutterstock

Phoenix was hit hard by the housing crash and is only beginning to rebound. Rental rates and home values have followed a similar trend, falling hard from 2008 to 2010, but they’ve slowly started to climb in the last two years. Of course, that means if you’re moving to this sand state, there’s plenty of cheap real estate to choose from, whether you’re buying or renting.

This desert town is a great place to move if you have experience in the tourism or manufacturing industries. The trade, transportation and utilities sectors employ much of the population, but education, health and business services are also popular industries. And if you like baseball, there’s nothing better than spring training in Mesa. (Can you tell I’m a die-hard Cubs fan?)

1. Washington, D.C.
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $1,736
Average rent for 2 bedrooms: $1,744

Washington, D.C.
Photo: Shutterstock

The top city on the list has more to offer than just the White House and Washington Monument. Our nation’s capital is also home to a great nightlife scene and fantastic restaurants. Rents are high, and home prices haven’t adjusted much over the course of the Great Recession, but salaries tend to follow suit.

Not surprisingly, the federal government is the biggest employer in the city. Education, health services and the trade, transportation and utilities industries also employ a large part of the population. With plenty of job opportunities and cultural attractions, it’s no wonder Washington is number one on the list.

Economy specs provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics unless otherwise noted. Average rental rates from ApartmentRatings.com unless otherwise noted.