Are you considering the Tar Heel State your new stomping ground?
North Carolina has some cool things going for it: the great outdoors, small-town vibe, and decent cost of living. But how are the weather, crime rate, and employment opportunities?
Settling into a new zip code is no simple task. So, let’s weigh the pros and cons of living in North Carolina before you start packing your boxes and dialing up the U-Haul.
Pros of Living in North Carolina
Below are some compelling reasons that make North Carolina an appealing place to establish roots:
- Affordable Cost of Living
Living expenses in North Carolina are lower than the national average, although this can vary depending on your location within the state. Overall, NC is the 24th cheapest state to live in the US.
If you’re in the market for a house, the median home value is $315,331, less than any American would pay elsewhere. Meanwhile, rental costs can be higher than average, especially in Charlotte and Raleigh.
If you’re a childless, single adult, you should set aside around $289 for groceries and $504 for health insurance monthly. Getting around? Plan for about $426 a month for transportation and more for a larger household.
All in all, you should make $32,908 annually ($17.14/hour) to afford a comfortable life in the Old North State.
- Foodie Paradise
There’s so much the Southern state has to offer besides sweet tea and biscuits. From low-key BBQ joints to upscale farm-to-table restaurants, North Carolina is a foodie destination.
Three NC cities made it onto Yelp’s Small Town, Big Flavor list. Taking the lead is Asheville, a trendy tourist hub and a perpetual contender for the best beer city in the US.
Kill Devil Hills and Wilmington also boast some of the finest seafood and dessert spots.
And given that Krispy Kreme was born here, NC also takes the cake for having the best donut shops in the country.
- Southern Hospitality, Y’all
If you’ve ever wondered about genuine Southern charm, you’re in for a treat. Because, let’s admit it, there’s nothing quite like the comfort of a friendly face or two when venturing into new territory.
The cozy vibe isn’t confined to sleepy towns but extends to lively urban centers like Charlotte and Raleigh.
Of course, we won’t pretend there aren’t a few less-than-charming people in the mix. Even so, many locals have this unexpected charm that can rub off on any newcomer from the North.
- Robust Job Market
According to CNBC’s annual rankings, North Carolina is America’s best state for business for the second year in a row. The high in-migration rate is a big reason for this. Crowds are flocking to the Tar Heel State, and industries are tagging along.
The Research Triangle Park, spanning Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill, is the largest of its kind in the US. It’s home to over 300 companies, including startups and tech giants.
Manufacturing, banking, and tourism remain central to the state’s economy. Healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and data sciences also contribute to the job market.
If you’re seriously considering North Carolina, the prospects are promising. The current unemployment rate is 3.3%, a fraction below the national average of 3.5%.
Here is a great video explaining some pros of living in North Carolina.
- Breathtaking Beauty
Travel magazines everywhere agree: North Carolina is one of the most gorgeous states in the US. And prepare to pick your jaws off the floor when you witness the state for the first time; North Carolina feels like a painting come to life.
Here’s an inventory of North Carolina’s geographic features:
- four national forests
- five freshwater lakes
- ten national parks
- 25 beaches
- 41 state parks
- 332 miles of shoreline
- 800+ waterfalls
- 2700 named mountains
- Outdoor Activities Galore
If you’re the outdoorsy type, North Carolina will leave you spoiled for choice.
The Blue Ridge Parkway features stunning scenic routes with opportunities for picnics, photography, and serene walks. The Outer Banks, on the other hand, are a popular destination for water sports like surfing and kayaking.
With mountains at every turn, there are trails for hikers of all levels and tons of adventures to fill your weekends. For beach lovers, the mile-long coasts offer a megadose of sun and sand.
Anglers and boaters will find plenty of spots to cast their lines or set sail. Meanwhile, campers can choose from backcountry sites or RV-friendly campgrounds near popular attractions.
- Warm Weather and Mild Winters
Most of North Carolina has a warm and humid climate, except for the cooler mountain regions.
The state comes alive in the spring and fall, when temperatures are milder and daylight hours are longer. Sports season kicks into high gear, and it’s game on for outdoor fun.
Cold fronts lose some of their bite when they hit the Appalachians, making winters more manageable. Snowfall is less common, although central NC might see the mercury dip to 12°F now and then.
Peak summer months can be scorching, and the humidity can make it more intense. You’ll want to crank up the AC or head to the beach.
Check out: Pros and cons of living in Kansas
- Vibrant Art and Cultural Scene
Local art galleries and boutiques line the cobbled streets of Raleigh, Asheville, and Wilmington. Seagrove, the country’s pottery capital, has over 50 pottery shops.
The Tar Heel State also houses several performing arts venues. You can watch Broadway shows, ballets, and concerts at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) or the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte.
The state hosts various cultural festivals throughout the year, including:
- North Carolina State Fair
- Fayetteville Dogwood Festival
- Hopscotch Music Festival
- Carolina Balloon Fest
Cons of Living in North Carolina
There’s plenty to love about North Carolina, but let’s admit, it’s not a perfect state (if such a thing even exists!). The following downsides to living in NC might give you some pause:
- Poor Infrastructure
North Carolina’s roadways have weathered years of wear and tear, with over 1,460 bridges and 3,116 miles of roads demanding attention.
The state also grapples with a digital divide, leaving nearly 23% of its population without internet access.This gap hampers access to information and affects education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.
But brighter days await North Carolinians! The government plans to inject up to $4.9 billion in federal funds to revitalize the state’s infrastructure, so expect smoother commutes and faster internet in the years ahead.
- Slightly Above Average Crime Rate
According to recent data from SafeWise, 55% of North Carolinians worry about their safety, which is a tad higher than the national average (50%).
The state’s violent crime rate has inched up from 4.2 to 4.3 cases per 1,000 individuals this year. The property crime rate has also seen a slight uptick from 22.3 to 22.4 incidents per 1,000.
For context, the regional averages are 3.8 for violent crimes and 19.5 for property crimes.
We don’t mean to scare you off. There are still plenty of places in North Carolina where violent crimes are unheard of, and property crimes fall below state, region, and national averages.
If you’ve got your sights set on North Carolina, here are the safest cities to raise a family or set up shop:
- Holly Springs
- Underperforming Public Education
While North Carolina’s universities are among the nation’s best, its K-12 public schools need serious updating. North Carolina places 29th in a ranking of overall public school quality across US states.
Funding for public education has been a long-standing concern in the state. The teacher shortage has worsened post-pandemic as low pay continues to chase educators away. Bitter political rivals who can’t agree on educational policies further complicate matters.
This doesn’t imply that all North Carolina public schools fall short. However, it’s something to consider, especially if you have school-aged children.
- High Tax Burdens
Based on per capita taxes, North Carolina’s taxes are higher than its neighbors, except Virginia.
The personal income tax rate for 2023 is flat at 4.75%, while the combined state and local sales taxes average 6.97%. You won’t pay state sales tax on groceries, but local taxes of up to 2% might apply.
Here’s some good news for retirees: Social Security benefits are exempt from taxes. Plus, there are no inheritance and estate taxes, so you’ll leave more for your heirs.
That said, any other retirement sources are fully taxable.
- Hurricane Destination
While the weather is pleasant most of the year, North Carolina ranks third among the states most prone to hurricanes.
Storm season runs from June to November, and peak months for landfalls start around September. Still, thunderstorms can strike any time of the year.
Moreover, North Carolina receives about 54 inches of rain along the coast and 16 inches of snow up in the mountains. Because of this, the state has seen some of the worst flooding in American history.
After weighing the pros and cons of living in North Carolina, the state presents a strong case for new residents.
A few trade-offs are inevitable, but overall, North Carolina is a great place to call home. You only need to get your priorities straight, so what do you say?