On or Off Base Housing: Which is Better?

You found out your next military assignment. Next comes the hurdle of choosing where in the area you are going to live.

On base? Or off base? In some situations, you will have the chance to choose.

(Some of the exceptions include short, unaccompanied trainings or TDY’s, as well as limited on base housing options. Some enlisted service members are also required to live on base until a certain point.)

Off Base Housing

This simply means that you live off base. That could mean a home, an apartment, a duplex, you name it. If it’s off base, it counts.

When you live off base, you are given BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing), which is intended to partially cover your housing costs. You can read all about how BAH works here.

On Base Housing

This housing option varies from base to base. On base housing can look like dorms (aka barracks), homes, or townhomes.

PRO TIP: If you are even thinking about living on base, get on their waitlist ASAP! Some bases can have a waitlist of up to 6 months. On the base’s website, there will be a phone number for the main housing office, or at least a general questions number to call.

With this option, the military automatically covers your expenses such as water, gas, electricity, and rent.

Some bases will also provide you with a small housing allowance in addition to covering your expenses. This only happens if living on the base costs significantly less than the local BAH.

How will I know which is better?

Do your research!

Here are 6 factors you should consider when choosing between on or off base housing.

1. Length of stay

How long will you be in the area? Will you be moving all of your belongings with you, or will you need to stay somewhere furnished?

Along with that is the consideration of buying a home versus renting/living on base. If you will be stationed somewhere for 2 or more years, it could be a good idea to look into purchasing a home.

Purchasing a home near the base can open up many opportunities for you down the road, such as renting out the home once you‘ve moved, as well as building equity.

2. Pricing in the area

Using this BAH calculator, you can see an accurate estimate of the BAH you will receive each month.

Once you know this, look at websites like apartments.com or zillow.com to find a place to rent. Zillow will also give you a monthly mortgage estimate if you chose to buy a home.

PRO TIP: Your car insurance and renters insurance may be significantly lower when living on base. Consult your insurance provider for more info.

3. Schools

Do you have any children that will be attending school? Or will you want to attend a trade school/college?

Look up the school options in the area. Many bases have primary schools (K-12) located on the base.

However, each base is unique in this aspect. To learn more about the schools in the area, this will require some independent research on your part.

Need help? You can alway reach out to me with questions!

4. Commute time

How long will it take your spouse to get to work every day? And if you also have a job, how long will your commute last?

Do you have more than one car to make this work?

All of these should be taken into consideration when choosing your living situation.

5. Local area offerings

These are things like grocery stores, hospitals, parks, gyms, the beach, the mountains…look into your new area!

What is there to do? And is it important to you to be near any of these things?

6. Safety

Military bases are an incredibly safe place to live in regards to break-ins and crime rates.

The question of safety does, however, arise when you consider living off base.

One helpful website is areavibes, which scores each area with a “livability score” that includes crime, school ratings, and more.


Getting ready to move? Check out more moving tips, like changing your Tricare region online!

I also have a free change of address checklist for you!

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