Considering a move? A new interactive tool helps you compare cities.

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I first moved to Seattle because of a dude. It was the mid-’90s and I was in my mid-20s. Don’t get me wrong, I lined up a job before I packed up my Ford Tempo and moved cross-country.

While I didn’t do much research before taking the plunge, the move and the job worked out even if the relationship bit the dust. Now, relocating is trickier. Just thinking about skyrocketing rents around the country is enough to put me into the fetal position.

Thankfully I’m not planning to skip town anytime soon. If I were, there’s a cool new interactive resource to help assess my options. The City Comparison Tool, based on research commissioned by staffing agency Robert Half and developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit, compares 25 U.S. cities across four factors: career prospects, cost of living, quality of life and cultural diversity.

How Seattle measures up

I was thrilled to see Seattle top the list (followed by Boston and San Francisco). I was sure we’d nail the quality of life segment.

Not so much. We came in dead last in that category. Come to find out, they don’t assess the view or the gorgeous smell of wet pine mixed with Elliott Bay’s brine. Nope, they look at things like number of sunny days, rental vacancy rates and commute times. Sigh. I accept drizzly days and the Mercer mess as part of the deal, but if you’re looking at the whole package from the outside, these factors might prove to be a dealbreaker.

On the bright side, we nailed it in a lot of other criteria, including a number-one ranking in cost of living and a solid second in career prospects. We’re ninth when it comes to cultural diversity. Wait, first in cost of living? Even though rent and meal costs are high, our lack of a state income tax shoots us up the ladder.

Research, research, research

If you are considering relocating, do your homework. The City Comparison Tool is a great place to start. Then hone in on specific job opportunities, network and schedule informational interviews. Ask about companies and their culture, but also ask practical questions about neighborhoods and public transportation. Research salaries across industries, position and geographic location.

I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Seattle. All come with their own quirks, delights and challenges. The East Coast cities have a higher number of historic landmarks and sunny days, but they also come with high temperatures and humidity. Why isn’t this taken into account? I will always choose Seattle grey skies over frizzy hair and sweat dripping down my back. Take that into consideration.

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at jen@jenniferworick.com.