An Honest Comparison of San Antonio vs. Dallas (After Living in Both Cities for 10+ Years)

dallas vs. san antonio

Are you contemplating a move to the Lone Star State?

I’ve lived in Texas since 1999, splitting my time evenly between Dallas and San Antonio. After living 10+ years in both cities, I’ve compiled a definitive list of the pros and cons of living in these two major metro areas.

(Oh, and if you’re looking for more info like this, don’t miss my article about the pros and cons of living in San Antonio.)

Dallas versus San Antonio: Population

Dallas is the ninth most populous city in the US and the third-largest city in Texas. In 2019, Dallas had a population of just over 1.3 million people

San Antonio, on the other hand, is the second most populous city in Texas (Houston is the most populated). With over 1.5 million residents, San Antonio is also the seventh most populous city in the US.

But here’s the thing: Dallas is part of the larger Dallas-Forth Worth Metro, which is actually the fourth largest metro area in the entire country with a total population of 7.7 million people. San Antonio, on the other hand, is only the 24th largest metro area with just a fraction of the population, at 2.6 million people.

Plus, Dallas is 383 square miles and San Antonio is 505 square miles, which means San Antonio has a lower population density per square mile than Dallas. To get exact, there are 3,965 people per square mile in Dallas while there are 3,261 per square mile in San Antonio.

Overall, while San Antonio is technically more populated, it doesn’t feel as crowded as Dallas. Personally, I need elbow room, and San Antonio certainly provides it.

The winner: San Antonio

Traffic

Look, both San Antonio and Dallas are major cities. You can’t live in either location without rush hour traffic. But if I’m honest, Dallas has the only traffic that’s bad enough to make me cry. Studies say that San Antonio has better traffic than other major cities in Texas, and as a person who’s driven in all of those major cities, I can confirm it’s true.

Dallas drivers tend to be more fast and aggressive. San Antonio drivers are slow, meandering, and have a hard time staying in their own lane. When I first moved here from Dallas, I was so frustrated at San Antonio drivers, who frequently go 5 miles under the speed limit. Despite that, I’ve grown to love San Antonio for its lighter traffic and shorter rush-hour wait times.

The winner: San Antonio

Weather

Both of these cities are in Texas, so you’re going to see heat, cold, and extreme weather no matter what. With that said, Dallas and San Antonio definitely have their weird weather quirks.

Dallas is hot in the summer (100+ degrees) and temperatures can dip below 20 degrees in the winter. That might sound like nothing if you’re from the north, but for a state that isn’t prepared for ice, the cold temperatures can shut down the city. Our pipes aren’t insulated, either, which means if you don’t let your taps run during a freeze, your pipes could burst. However, the upside to Dallas is that it tends to have less humidity than San Antonio.

San Antonio is hot. Like, really hot. The thermometer might say it’s 100 degrees, but the humidity makes it feel like 200 degrees. Aside from the heat, San Antonio is actually located in a valley, which means it floods any time we get a good rain. (Confession: I was so afraid of flooding that I made sure to buy a house on top of a hill.) You won’t see as many tornadoes or ice storms in San Antonio as you would in Dallas, though, so that’s nice.

To be blunt, both cities can have awful weather. It comes down to how you prefer to suffer. If you’re okay with more storms but less humidity, Dallas is probably better. If you don’t mind the heat and hate hail, tornadoes, and ice, San Antonio is better.

The winner: None

Cost of living

If you want your dollars to go further, consider moving to San Antonio instead of Dallas. Everything costs more in Dallas, and that includes food, housing, utilities, and transportation. As a whole, Dallas is 13.3% more expensive than San Antonio.

I paid a mere $145,000 for my home in San Antonio. Our home would have easily cost $185,000 or more in the Dallas market. Of course, there are big upsides to living in the Big D, so if Dallas feels like home to you, know that you’ll spend a little bit more to live there.

The winner: San Antonio

Crime

I’ve been robbed several times since moving to San Antonio—and the stats back this up. On BestPlaces.net’s scale of 1 – 100, Dallas has violent crimes at 37 while property crimes are at 50.7. San Antonio is also at a 37 for violent crime but property crimes are at 72.4.

Since the national average is 22.7 for violent crime and 35.4 for property crime, both cities are slightly more dangerous than your average American town. That makes sense, though, because Dallas and San Antonio are some of the largest cities in the US. And where more people gather, you’ll naturally see more crime.

If you move to San Antonio, I recommend investing in cameras, burglar alarms, and other safety measures to deter property crimes. As always, lock your cars, secure your fences, and shut all of your windows.

The winner: Dallas

Sports

I admit I’m not a huge sports person, but both Dallas and San Antonio have devoted followings for their hometown teams.

I still don’t understand it, but I admire how fervently my fellow San Antonians support the San Antonio Spurs basketball team. It seems like the entire city has a single-minded focus when the Spurs hit the court. Some businesses will even offer free tacos and coffee when the Spurs win a game!

Growing up in Dallas, I lived in a Cowboy-loving home. I even attended Troy Aikman’s last game! While I still love the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas residents aren’t afraid to critique the team when they make a mistake (or literally anything Jerry Jones does).

Of course, the Cowboys are only one of the shows in town. Unlike San Antonio, Dallas has a professional sports team for every major sport, including the Texas Rangers (MLB baseball) Dallas Mavericks (NBA basketball) Dallas Stars (NHL hockey) and even FC Dallas (MLS soccer). Dallas is definitely a sports lover’s dream!

While this gives Dallas a more diverse roster of teams and impressive collection of stadiums, my heart still can’t say no to San Antonio’s passion. Once you move here, you can’t help but feel hometown pride every time the Spurs play, and that’s something special.

The winner: Dallas for variety, San Antonio for the hometown support

Transportation

Trying to get around town? In my experience, Dallas is more traveler-friendly. Let’s take a closer look, though…

Public Transit

I recommend owning a car whether you live in San Antonio or Dallas. However, if you need to go car-free, Dallas is the better place to do it.

Dallas has the DART light rail system that’s pretty reliable, fast, and affordable. If you work downtown, there’s also a good chance that your employer will pay for your DART pass.

San Antonio, on the other hand, has a horrible VIA bus infrastructure that’s slow and inefficient. The city is trying to improve public transit, but San Antonio is woefully behind Dallas. If you need to get around without a car in San Antonio, I recommend walking, hailing an Uber, or renting an electric scooter.

The winner: Dallas

SAT versus DFW airport

The San Antonio airport is … small. Surprisingly small for a town that hosts millions of convention-goers each year. It’s a rinky-dink airport where lines are long and amenities are few. It’s definitely not a layover-friendly sort of place. The city has plans to renovate the airport, but that won’t happen for another 20 years, so you’ll just have to suck it up in the meantime.

Dallas, on the other hand, has a robust international airport that’s large enough to be its own city. DFW is complex to navigate, but the airport has plenty of amenities that make international travel more comfortable.

Oh, and if you want to avoid the busyness of DFW, Dallas also has a smaller airport, Love Field. It’s a tiny airport that function’s as Southwest Airline’s major hub, so if you frequently fly Southwest, Love Field is the place to go.

The winner: Dallas

San Antonio Locals versus Dallas Locals

I hate comparing the residents of San Antonio and Dallas against each other. Although we’re five hours apart, we’re all Texans, and that means we share a common identity and love for the Lone Star State. With that said, there are some noticeable differences between the two cities.

In terms of diversity, both cities have an even split between the sexes and the average age is 32. Both cities have a majority Latino population, although Dallas has a larger percentage of white, Asian American, and African American residents. San Antonio has 22.3% more Latinos in the community, so although we have less diversity among racial categories, our city is still proud of its Latin heritage.

In terms of politics, both cities are surprisingly liberal. Don’t let the news fool you: Texas isn’t a staunchly conservative state. We’re actually more “purple” with a mix of conservatives and liberals.

The Dallas of my youth was decidedly more conservative, but this has changed over the past 10 years. In fact, 64.9% of the county voted liberal in the last election. San Antonio has more of an even split between the two parties, with just 58.2% of the county voting liberal. If you’re an independent voter, both Dallas and San Antonio have 1.8% of voters choose an independent party.

If I have to choose between Dallas or San Antonio in terms of its people, I would choose San Antonio. It might be a major metro area, but San Antonians are warm, friendly, and neighborly. The metropolitan feel of Dallas is impressive, but it can feel isolating if you’re new in town.

The winner: San Antonio

Dallas versus San Antonio: Which is better?

San Antonio clearly won out in this list, but then again, there’s a reason why I now call San Antonio home. After moving from Dallas to San Antonio 10+ years ago, I quickly fell in love with The Alamo City, so I’m more than a little biased.

But Dallas is also a great place to live. For example, if you want a lower crime rate, better public transportation, and more of a “big city” feel, you’ll love living in Dallas.

If you want to enjoy the amenities of a major city with a hometown feel, you’ll love San Antonio.

It all comes down to the features and overall vibe you’re going for.