What is the cost of living in North Carolina?

1 min read by Rachel Carey Last updated March 6, 2024

From housing, amenities, and transport to local taxation, we look at the cost of living in North Carolina.

Summary

  • The cost of living in North Carolina is not conspicuously cheap or expensive. However, it's about four percent lower than the average city in the United States.

  • North Carolina is one of 11 states with a flat income tax rate. This means everyone gets taxed the same percentage of their income.

  • The average cost of living in North Carolina was $38,295 a year.

  • In 2022, the median price for a family home in North Carolina was $369,500.

  • The average cost for electricity, water, and gas/fuel in North Carolina comes in at around $260 per month.

  • In North Carolina, a family currently pays around $9,091 per year for childcare.

How much does it cost to live in North Carolina?

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in Summer 2022, the average cost of living in North Carolina was $38,295 a year.

While this is significantly below the national average, managing your cost of living alongside your other financial responsibilities can still be challenging. How much should you put away from retirement? Are you paying the right amount of tax? Are you saving enough for an emergency?

A financial advisor can help you answer these questions. They work with you to create a unique plan based on your needs and goals. Finding a financial advisor is simple. By answering just a few questions, we'll connect you to an SEC-regulated financial advisor.

Get matched with an advisor here.

What are the average housing costs in North Carolina?

Prices can change quickly, but in 2022, the median price for a family home in North Carolina was $369,500. That's one percent lower than the national median price of $375,000.

For renters, the median monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in North Carolina was $1,137, compared with the national median of $1,286. That's 11 percent lower. However, it's a good idea to remember that there are quite significant differences between areas. For example, the prices will be higher if you head for the mountains, the beachside settlements, or a big city like Raleigh.

North Carolina Metro AreaMedian Home PriceMedian Two-Bedroom Apartment Rent
Asheville $499,900 $1,175
Wilmington $475,000 $1,295
Durham-Chapel Hill $469,750 $1,386
Raleigh $424,700 $1,468
Charlotte $399,950 $1,287
Winston-Salem $295,000 $1,056
Greenville $252,000 $880

What are the average utility costs in North Carolina?

The climate partly drives utility costs.

Live in the mountains, and you'll be dialing up the heating during the cold, snowy winters. Settle around Piedmont or down on the beach, and you'll be working the air conditioning to stay cool during those long humid summers.

Luckily, utilities cost around six percent less in North Carolina than in the average US city, but look carefully at the area you choose, as there are always variations.

The average cost for electricity, water, and gas/fuel in North Carolina comes in at around $260 per month. With the addition of cable and internet, this increases to nearly $400 per month.

Move to the ocean-side Kill Devil Hills, and you'll find that utilities are eight percent more expensive. Meanwhile, utilities cost ten percent less than the national average in Durham-Chapel Hill.

What are the average grocery and food costs in North Carolina?

There's no big headline news for this cost-of-living factor. So, when you're shopping, you'll find prices are much the same as elsewhere in the United States.

The highest grocery prices are in Chapel Hill, but they're only two percent above the national average. Interestingly, in Raleigh, groceries are a welcome 12 percent lower than average.

How much does transportation cost in North Carolina?

Gas is around three percent cheaper in North Carolina than in the average US city. The same goes for oil changes on your vehicle.

Once again, there are big differences within the state. Kill Devil Hills is seven percent more expensive than the national average, whereas the Thomasville-Lexington area benefits from the lowest cost — by miles. Gas and oil change prices are 27 percent less than average here.

A monthly public transport ticket in Raleigh is currently $78. You'll pay 46 percent more in Miami, Florida, but 38 percent less in Austin, Texas.

Remember to shop around carefully for your insurance. Getting a good local agent can reduce your transportation costs significantly.

How much does healthcare cost in North Carolina?

It's good news in terms of service. North Carolina is well known for its excellent healthcare system and is home to some major medical and pharmaceutical companies. So, what about the costs? They're 12 percent above the rest of the United States, but look for regional contrasts.

The cheapest healthcare is available in Raleigh, at around three percent below the US average. Meanwhile, in Thomasville-Lexington, it's a lofty 21 percent above.

Here's what you can expect to pay for common types of healthcare in Burlington, North Carolina — where prices are about average — compared with the average US city.

Healthcare TypeBurlington CostAverage US City CostCost Difference
General Doctor $176 $117 +50 percent
Dentist $100 $101 -1 percent
Eye Doctor $99 $109 -9 percent
Ibuprofen $10.44 $9.90 +5 percent
Prescription Drug $450 $470 -4 percent

Check out the the average cost of health insurance in US here.

How much does childcare cost in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, a family currently pays around $9,091 per year for childcare. This is quite a bit lower than the national average of $14,760. But this figure is misleading because of the high cost in a few states like California.

You can see how North Carolina compares with some of its neighboring states here:

US StateAnnual Childcare CostNumber of Childcare CentersAverage Students per CenterAverage Educators per Center
North Carolina $9,091 1,352 18 4
South Carolina $8,732 3,784 20 4
Florida $9,238 8,939 25 4
Georgia $8,520 8,790 25 6
Tennessee $9,945 1,531 20 4

How much tax will I pay in North Carolina?

North Carolina is one of 11 states with a flat income tax rate. This means everyone gets taxed the same percentage of their income.

The state income tax rate is currently 4.99 percent. By 2027, this should reduce to 3.99 percent.

Don't forget about sales tax. North Carolina has a relatively low sales tax rate of 4.75 percent.

The table shows the different income tax rates and ranges among some neighboring states:

StateIncome Tax Rate
North Carolina 4.99 percent [flat rate]
South Carolina 0 percent – 7 percent
Florida No state income tax
Georgia 1 percent – 5.75 percent
Tennessee No state income tax

Check out the complete guide to taxes in North Carolina here.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in North Carolina?

To live comfortably, you'll need at least $54,600, the state's median income.

However, it really depends on how you define "living comfortably." For most of us, this would mean enjoying treats and saving for your long-term goals, such as retirement — not just "getting by."

Overall, according to the Cost of Living Index (COLI), North Carolina is an affordable state to live in, so your dollars will go further than in an expensive state, such as California or New York.

The bottom line

Most living costs in North Carolina are below the United States average. Housing and transportation are significantly cheaper. But groceries, utilities, and miscellaneous costs are less so. Balanced against the state's wonderful natural assets and laid-back southern hospitality, it is assuredly a place with much to offer — whether you're seeking a fresh start for the family or a relaxed retirement.

Moving to a new state is a big step, with plenty to consider — especially regarding your finances. That's why we'd strongly recommend you talk to a financial advisor before taking the plunge.

Get expert financial advice and learn more about the cost of living and how to manage it with an SEC-regulated advisor. Let Unbiased match you with the best financial advisor for your needs. 

Senior Content Writer

Rachel Carey

Rachel is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She has nearly a decade of experience writing and producing content across a range of different sectors.