What is the cost of living in North Carolina?

1 min readLast updated July 10, 2023by Rachel Carey

Legendary mountain ranges and endless Atlantic shoreline sound tempting, but if you want to move to North Carolina, you need to know how far your money will go. From housing, amenities, and transport to local taxation, we look at what your dollars will buy in the Old North State.

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.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in Summer 2022, the average cost of living in North Carolina was $38,295 a year, which is significantly below the national 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

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.

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.

Groceries 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.

Transportation costs 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.

Healthcare costs 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

Childcare costs 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

Taxes 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

So 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.

Whether you're retirement planning or considering relocating to chase a new career, Unbiased can assist you with your move's financial ins and outs. Find the right advisor for your needs today.

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.