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Cost of Living in North Carolina

Considering a move to the Tar Heel State? You’re probably wondering about the cost of living in North Carolina and whether it’s an affordable state. North Carolina’s state income taxes operate on a flat rate, meaning everyone pays an identical percentage. We go over other major considerations, like median home values and rent, food prices and more.

Housing Costs in North Carolina

According to NeighborhoodScout, the median home value in North Carolina is $174,380. That means there are plenty of home buying deals to be had there. In larger cities like Charlotte and Raleigh, though, the median home value is higher at $208,791 and $282,237, respectively.

NeighborhoodScout data also indicates that more than 63% of North Carolina residents are homeowners. The report also shows that the majority of these homes are three bedroom, single-family residences. North Carolina homes also seem to be appreciating overall, as NeighborhoodScout again shows that from 2017 to 2018, home values increased by 7.5%. To see how much a mortgage may cost you in your town, take a look at our North Carolina mortgage calculator.

Rent in North Carolina is generally more affordable than the national median. 2019 data from Apartment List has the state’s median two bedroom rent at $907, which is $268 less than the $1,175 U.S. median. The same goes for studios, one bedrooms and three bedrooms.

On a city to city basis, these medians can vary wildly. Charlotte has a $1,130 median two bedroom rent, while Matthews sits at $1,376. Fayetteville holds a low $769 median two bedroom rent.

Cost of Living in North Carolina

Food

According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, an adult with no children would need to spend $249.50 per month on food. A family of two adults and two children would need to spend $735 a month. This is the bare minimum, however.

Actual food prices can vary from to city to city, though. In Charlotte, a dozen eggs and a pound of bread go for $2.40 and $2.10, respectively, based on May 2019 data from Numbeo.com. Greensboro residents pay a little less. Here, a dozen eggs costs $1.95, but a loaf of bread is the same price.

Transportation

GasBuddy data from May 2019 shows that a gallon of gas in North Carolina carries an average price of $2.71. That’s a little under the national average of $2.90. Commute times in North Carolina are right around the national average, too. According to the Census Bureau, the average time to travel to work in North Carolina is 24.3 minutes, compared to a national average of 26.4 minutes.

Prefer to take public transportation? You may have a tough time of it, depending on where in North Carolina you live. A monthly pass on Charlotte’s local bus will cost you $88 for the basic route. The Monthly Express pass costs $121 and the Express Plus costs $176.

Healthcare

According to a 2017 report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, North Carolina is almost exactly average in terms of annual employee contributions for single coverage healthcare at private companies. In fact, the national average is $1,415 and North Carolina comes in at $1,391.

Aside from the Charlotte metro area, North Carolina’s median healthcare prices appear to follow a similar pattern. For example, Raleigh is 1% above the national median, Greensboro is right in line with it and Durham is 7% below it. The Charlotte metro is the only outlier, as its prices are 18% higher than the national median.

Taxes

North Carolina is one of eight states with a flat income tax. Of those eight states, North Carolina has the highest flat tax rate at 5.25%

You might think that a flat-tax state like North Carolina would make up for it with high property taxes. Not so. The average effective property tax rate in North Carolina is 0.86%. Local governments are in charge of setting property tax rates, though, so there is variation from city to city. Durham has the highest average effective property tax rate in the state, at 1.22%. Macon’s are the lowest at just 0.44%.

Miscellaneous Cost of Living Facts

Cost of Living in North Carolina

Did you know that the University of North Carolina (UNC) was America’s first public university? Founded in 1795, it’s still going strong. North Carolina residents get a much better deal when it comes to UNC tuition and fees.

For the 2018-2019 school year, full in-state tuition at UNC is $24,266, according to the UNC Office of Undergraduate Admissions. It includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, travel, loan fees and personal spending. Conversely, tuition for out-of-state students jumps to $52,026.

North Carolina boasts the oldest public university in the country, but it also boasts the largest privately-owned house. That’s the Vanderbilt family’s Biltmore Estate, located in Asheville, North Carolina. The home is a whopping 178,926 square feet of floor space. In the off-season and if you buy seven days in advance, a ticket to visit the majestic estate will cost you $60. In the summer, adult ticket prices can go up.

Next Steps

  • There’s almost nothing more nerve-racking than picking up and moving to an entirely new area. Financial advisors can help ensure you manage your money well through this time, while also helping you plan for long-term goals. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can pair you with as many as three local fiduciary advisors. Spend a few minutes answering our short questionnaire about your current financial state and any objectives you may have for the future.
  • It can be comforting to keep your money at a bank that you’ve known for a long time. But when you move, a switch to a new bank might be in order. Here’s an initial selection of five local banks in North Carolina: Live Oak Banking CompanyThe Fidelity BankAquesta BankCarolina Trust Bank and Uwharrie Bank.

Photo credit: © iStock.com/RickSause, © iStock.com/ChrisBoswell

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia's work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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