Halfway between New York and Florida, North Carolina is in a great coastal location and has three distinct regions: the Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Appalachian Mountains. Each landscape has added to the climate, environment, and human life that developed and continues to develop in the region.
From spectacular mountains to gleaming beaches, North Carolina is a hot spot for natural beauty. Whether you’re in the capital of Raleigh or one of the many rural or coastal towns, North Carolina has diverse cultures and lifestyles that make it appealing to a range of people.
If you’re thinking of moving to North Carolina, you’re probably wondering, “Is North Carolina a good place to live?” North Carolina offers a low cost of living, a good job market, stunning landscapes, and pleasant weather; for those desiring these qualities, North Carolina can create a high quality of life.
Read on to learn more about what makes North Carolina a great place to live, and what may make you hesitant to lay down roots in the Old North State.
North Carolina at a Glance
North Carolina was established as the 12th state on November 21, 1789, but it was colonized long before that, and it was home to indigenous Americans for at least 15,000 years before that. North Carolina is home to more than 10 million people, making it the 9th most populated state.
Nicknamed “The Tar Heel State,” North Carolinians are often proud of their state and embrace their humble origins and have turned a derogatory term for unclean laborers into a source of state pride and identity.
People who want city amenities or natural charm can both embrace everything North Carolina has to offer. While Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, Charlotte is the biggest city and is home to more than 800,000 people. From the Outer Banks beaches to the peak of Mount Mitchell, North Carolina offers several exciting environments to explore.
There is plenty that North Carolinians have to be proud of and what makes North Carolina unique also makes it stand out. Here are some fun facts you may not know about North Carolina:
- Pepsi was invented in North Carolina by Caleb Bradham, a drugstore clerk who wanted to make a beverage that helped with indigestion.
- Lexington, North Carolina, is known for being a barbeque hotspot.
- The popular Outer Banks area has been called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” because of the thousands of shipwrecks that have occurred in this area.
- One of America’s most visited mansions, the Biltmore Estate, stands proudly in North Carolina.
- Kitty Hawk, North Carolina is known for being where the Wright Brothers took flight, which is why the state’s license plate proudly says, “First in Flight.”
- North Carolina is home to the Cape Hatteras, the United States’ tallest lighthouse and second tallest in the world.
With its rich landscapes and fascinating cultural history, there’s always more to explore in North Carolina.
What Matters to You?
When it comes down to it, what is a con for one person, may be a pro for you, but there are some common pros and cons that may attract your attention and help you make a more informed decision. North Carolina tends to be a happy medium between many extremes, which is why it is the fourth most popular state to move to. You may find that North Carolina also gives you a little of everything you want, or it may lack what you want most.
Pros of Moving to North Carolina
- Education is a big part of North Carolina’s status as a good place to live. North Carolina is home to many renowned higher education institutions like Duke and the University of North Carolina. The U.S. World News & Report ranks North Carolina #16 for education. It is #9 for higher education and #18 for Pre-K to 12.
- The cost of living is about on par with other states, and North Carolina is about the middle of the pack with the 24th lowest cost of living among all states.
- Housing costs are reasonable, and at a median of approximately $340,000, North Carolina housing costs remain below the national median. North Carolina’s mortgage rates are also lower than the national average.
- Temperate weather that does not become too frigid in the winter.
- Lots of things to do if you love being outdoors and it has a range of environments, including coastal and mountainous. Home to 41 state parks, 10 national parks, and 4 national forests, North Carolina continues to preserve its natural resources while also accommodating its growing population.
- North Carolina also has a long history that makes it culturally rich. It is known for its BBQ culture and two distinct BBQ styles that are sure to please your tastebuds.
- Like other Southern States, North Carolina is known for its southern hospitality. In many towns, it’s common to greet your neighbors and get to know the community around you. It’s also common for folks to use Southern etiquette, such as calling people ma’am or sir.
- North Carolina gives you the choice between city or rural life or something in between.
- With a technology-driven economy, North Carolina’s industry remains prominent. There are jobs most available in industries such as finance, furniture, aerospace, information technology, or education.
- For those who want to retire to a nice place, Forbes has selected both Asheville and Charlotte as two of the best places to retire.
Cons of Moving to North Carolina
- Risk of damaging storms like hurricanes and other severe weather events. Coastal communities are most at risk. The North Carolina Hurricane Guide can give a better idea of risk zones, precautions, and other helpful information about the risk of hurricanes and how to handle them.
- Snow lovers may want colder winters with more snow. If you want clearly defined seasons, you may be disappointed. Four seasons exist, but they may not be as dynamic as some people may like and tend to blur together.
- North Carolina’s tax burden is lower than some states near it, such as Tennessee, South Carolina, or Georgia.
- In North Carolina, public transportation is lacking compared to other states. The bus systems do not cover all areas, even in the city. Many areas are not walkable either. Thus, if you do not have a car, getting around may be stressful and prevent you from engaging fully in the community.
- Much of North Carolina has road infrastructure issues that lead to potholes and generally poor road conditions. However, places like the Research Triangle have better-kept roads.
- The summers get hot and humid, which some people may find off-putting.
- If you choose to live in an urban area, you are going to get more traffic. While more traffic is true for most cities, of the major cities in the United States, Charlotte is the 50th most congested while being the 22nd largest city in the United States.
- Ranked as the 21st state based on violent crime, many families are concerned about the potential for crime. You want to be careful where you choose to live and be sure to choose an area that meets your safety standards when moving to North Carolina.
- Some school districts struggle in North Carolina, so if you have kids, you’ll want to be choosy to make sure you have good schools where you choose to settle down.
- With a 3.3 unemployment rate as of July 2023, finding work may be challenging in certain industries, but this rate is still lower than the national rate of 3.5.
How to Decide if North Carolina is a Good Place to Live For You?
There are a lot of factors that go into determining if a location is the right fit for you. Fortunately, when you take the time to review several factors, you can make an informed decision and ensure that you do not regret either moving or not moving to North Carolina. There’s no way to be 100% sure about any big decision, but it’s smart to leave as little to chance as possible because once you move, it’s hard to undo that move.
Consider Your Current Location
One of the best ways to decide if North Carolina is right for you is to think about the things you love and hate about the location you’re currently in. When you look at these factors, you can see what you’d miss most and what you currently yearn for.
If you love winters with lots of snow, you may miss that when you go to North Carolina, where most areas only get a few inches each year. However, if you hate shoveling snow, North Carolina can offer you the chance to escape.
Understand the pros and cons of your current location and then compare them to the pros and cons of North Carolina. If you’re thinking about moving to other places as well, add those to your comparison to ensure a logical decision.
Writing everything down in one place can help you more easily make comparisons. If you have a partner, it’s good to each make a list separately and then come together to combine a list. This way, you can clarify your personal wants first and then establish your joint wants.
What’s Your Budget?
Before making a move, you always have to think about your budget. When thinking about money, you have to think about more than the estimated living costs of your new location. You also have to budget for moving costs and other expenses that may correlate with a new home. Thus, you’ll want to have more money in your budget for the first year or so to guarantee hidden or unexpected expenses don’t drag you down.
When factoring in how much you’ll have to pay in North Carolina, also create a moving budget because a long-distance move can cost $5,000 or more. You may also have other upfront costs like registration fees for schools, clubs, or other organizations. Some communities will also have Home Owner’s Associations that may add additional expenses. That’s why you should always have a contingency budget for any move to make sure the move is feasible.
Career and Retirement Goals
Before moving, it’s important to think about your long-term plans. What you might want now may be different from what you want when you’re retired, or if you are already retired, you may be looking for a place you can stay in for the rest of your life. How do you envision your life in the long term? Make sure that your move will help you reach your goals, not make it harder for you to get to them. Think about the goals of each person in your family, and determine if everyone will be happy and able to flourish in North Carolina.
If you’ve got a family, you must think about so much more than just what you want. You also have to think about the needs and wants of each family member. For example, if you have kids, you may want them to live in a place with great schools.
North Carolina is hugely driven by higher education in its economy, reflecting the role of universities and colleges like the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Duke, and North Carolina State. Thus, North Carolina offers great educational opportunities for kids as they get older; yet, people without kids or with grown kids may not see North Carolina’s educational prominence as such an important feature.
The Lifestyle You Want to Live
Certain lifestyle choices will make you feel most like yourself. Thus, determining the lifestyle that works for you is crucial before moving. Are you looking to go on outdoor adventures? North Carolina is known for its outdoor experiences, but if you’re looking for challenging ski slopes, for example, your options will be much more limited.
Do you want to live close to the center of action? If you’re looking to live in a huge city like New York, North Carolina can’t give you a city of that scale, but it can give you a different pace of city living; the sprawling city of Charlotte has pretty much everything you’d see in any other city.
Weather and Climate Concerns
For many, the mild climate of North Carolina makes it appealing. Different regions have different weather in North Carolina, so you can expect different weather based on where you want to live.
For example, higher altitude areas will have cooler weather and will have slightly more snow than coastal regions, but the state average amounts to only 5 inches. However, the mountains at the highest elevations can get more than 80 inches each year, and these areas are home to popular ski resorts.
Overall, North Carolina has a humid subtropical climate, and the state tends to have hot, humid summers and mild winters. In coastal regions, the weather tends to be more moderate because ocean breezes help keep the temperatures comfortable.
You will see a good amount of rain, and North Carolina gets more precipitation than the United States average with about 47 inches on average each year, but you can expect more than 200 sunny days each year, so there will be plenty of sunshine to go with the rain.
It’s up to you to determine what climate and weather you prefer. Those looking for warmer weather while still getting a taste of all four seasons will enjoy North Carolina’s warm summers and cool winters, but they won’t be burdened by as many low temperatures or snow storms as more Northern states.
Special Needs and Requirements
Think about any special needs you require. For example, if you’re in a niche career, North Carolina may not have as many career opportunities, or if you have special medical conditions, you may want to know that there are specialists nearby who will be able to help you with your treatment.
Whatever your special needs or requirements, you want to carefully consider what sacrifices you’re willing to make and what sacrifices would cause more stress in your life. It’s easy to think you can live with something when you’re only thinking about it, but these challenges may become more burdensome when you have to deal with the reality and not the romanticization of your situation.
Tips for Moving to North Carolina
There’s no doubt that moving is an overwhelming process for most people because it’s such a big change, especially if you are committing to a long-distance move. It’s hard to move away from what you know, even if you know that the move is the right choice for you. The following steps can help make the moving process smoother and reduce the amount of stress you will feel.
Start by finding the right location for you:
- Consider the general area you want to be in that has the amenities and environment that you want.
- Think about industries and educational institutions that may be good for you in that area.
- Establish a budget. This budget will shape the more specific neighborhood and region that will best work for you.
- If your career is more niche, you may want to find your job first and then determine the location later.
Determine your plan for employment and housing:
- If you are planning on getting a job, you’ll want to put that in place as soon as possible. Look for job openings and begin to apply based on your desired area. Sometimes, the employment opportunities may come before you have decided to move.
- Start looking for housing that reflects where you want to be and where there are employment opportunities.
Establish moving goals:
- Set a timeframe for moving.
- Determine factors like how much you want to take with you, how much you want to spend, and what stages you will use to keep your moving on track.
Put your plans into action:
- Moves are a big deal, so hiring professional movers can help you move effectively, especially if you are moving long distances.
- Organize your possessions and sort them into the proper boxes.
- Ensure that all your arrangements, such as housing and employment, are in order before taking the plunge.
Being organized is the best thing you can do for yourself when moving. While some people tend to be more spontaneous, it’s good to have at least some kind of order in your moving process so that you don’t forget to deal with anything important and aren’t wasting time just trying to figure out what to do next.
The following FAQs represent some of the greatest concerns people have when determining the pros and cons of living in North Carolina. These common questions can help you clarify what is most important to you and whether North Carolina has the necessary traits to be a suitable living location for your wants and means.
North Carolina and South Carolina each have their pros and cons. Both have oceans and mountains that are beautiful. North Carolina is the more populated state, and it offers more opportunities for city living, while South Carolina is often less busy. South Carolina tends to be warmer, while North Carolina experiences more seasonal differences. Neither state is better or worse, but they each offer their own lifestyle. What you like will depend on your preferences.
Living in North Carolina can give you a range of experiences depending on where you settle down. You can enjoy mountain views, beach days, or be in the heart of the city. North Carolina is a great place to have a taste of everything.
What is expensive to you is relative to you, based on your current living costs. However, as the 19th lowest-costing state, North Carolina is affordable compared to many of the other states. The cost of living also depends on where in North Carolina you are living.
Again, the answer to this question depends on where you want to live, what your lifestyle is, and other personal factors, but this living wage calculation for North Carolina by MIT can give you a better idea of the money you may need as an individual or household, including wages needed, typical expenses, and typical annual salaries.
Both Florida and North Carolina are popular destinations for people looking to move to a warmer environment with access to amenities like beaches, but deciding between the two states can be a challenge, especially when individuals or families are looking for the most affordable price. Affordability will depend on your lifestyle and where in each state you live, but overall, the U.S. News & World Report ranks North Carolina #23 in affordability, while Florida is less affordable at #38.
North Carolina has a huge range of houses, some cost less than $100,000, while others cost millions. According to Smart Asset, the average cost of a home in North Carolina is $174,380. However, if you look at urban areas like Raleigh or Charlotte, you can expect averages to be closer to $400,000. Beachside homes are also more costly, so location is the biggest factor in how much you will pay for a home.
In North Carolina, the coldest month tends to be January, with the max temperature averaging 52 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Weather & Climate. Even in its coldest month, North Carolina isn’t frightfully cold.
For many people, having reliable healthcare is at the top of their list of priorities. The U.S. News and World Report ranks North Carolina’s health care at #26, putting it in the bottom half of the states. However, it is home to renowned medical facilities like Duke University Hospital, UNC Hospitals, and Atrium Health Carolinas Medica Center.
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Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn