Cost of Living in North Carolina

cost of living in North Carolina 2021

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    (Last Updated – 03/2023)

    Families looking to make a move to a new state will likely appreciate that North Carolina has not one but two of the best cities for families.

    That’s right: You don’t need to give up city life to raise a family. U.S. News found that Raleigh and Durham are some of the best places for families to live in the entire country. It happens to be a pretty affordable state, too. Keep reading to learn more about the North Carolina cost of living.

    What’s the Average Cost of Living in North Carolina?

    Average Cost of Living in North Carolina: $43,959 per year

    North Carolina residents will find that they aren’t spending drastically more or less than they would in other states. According to MERIC data gathered in 2022, North Carolina has the 24th-lowest cost of living in the United States. What would it cost you to live a bit farther south? Residents of South Carolina can expect to spend less, as the state came in four spots ahead of North Carolina when looking at the least expensive states to live in. It can be hard to visualize what these rankings mean, so let’s take a closer look at 2021 data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis . The total personal consumption cost in North Carolina is $43,959 per year. Here’s how that breaks down.


    Average Annual Per-Capita Cost in North Carolina

    Housing and Utilities


    Health Care


    Food and Beverages (non-restaurant)


    Gas and Energy Goods


    All Other Personal Expenditures


    All told, North Carolinians may need about $3,663 per person, per month.

    Housing Costs in North Carolina

    Average Housing Costs in North Carolina: $892 to $1,844 per month

    There are plenty of housing units available in North Carolina (4.8 million, 2021 census data shows), which may explain why housing is fairly affordable in the Tar Heel State. Zillow gave a typical North Carolina home value of $302,275 in February 2023.

    Here’s what you can expect housing in North Carolina to cost on a monthly basis, according to 2021 census data:

    •   Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,397

    •   Median studio rent: $892

    •   Median one-bedroom rent: $942

    •   Median two-bedroom rent: $973

    •   Median three-bedroom rent: $1,115

    •   Median four-bedroom rent: $1,452

    •   Median five-bedroom (or more) rent: $1,844

    •   Median gross rent: $1,026

    Because the location of your home greatly influences its price, let’s look at the typical home values in 20 major North Carolina cities, according to Zillow, in January 2023.

    North Carolina City

    Typical Home Price

























    Rocky Mount






    New Bern








    Mount Airy


    Utility Costs in North Carolina

    Average Utility Costs in North Carolina: $371 per month

    No matter where you live, you’ll need to cover the costs of basic utilities.


    Average North Carolina Bill





    Cable & Internet




    Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Sales, Revenue, and Average Price, 2021;; DoxoInsights, U.S. Cable & Internet Market Size and Household Spending Report 2022; and, What Is the Average Water Bill?

    Groceries & Food

    Average Grocery & Food Costs in North Carolina: $302.50 per person, per month

    While your dietary preferences can play a big role in how much you spend on food per month, so can where you live. North Carolina’s average annual food cost per person is estimated to be $3,630, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s about $303 per person, per month. The area of North Carolina you live in can also play a role in your grocery costs. The Council for Community and Economic Research , outlined the grocery costs in major North Carolina cities for the second quarter of 2022. Here are those costs from lowest to highest.

    North Carolina City

    Grocery Items Index















    Chapel Hill



    Average Transportation Costs in North Carolina: $5,477 to $15,530 per year

    Whether you’re commuting to bustling downtown Raleigh or spending a weekend relaxing in the Outer Banks, getting around North Carolina costs money.

    How much money you expect to spend can vary based on what your household looks like. Here are a few examples of average transportation costs for different family structures from MIT’s Living Wage Calculator , based on data for the first quarter of 2023.

    Family Makeup

    Average Annual Transportation Cost

    One adult, no children


    Two working adults, no children


    Two working adults, three children


    Health Care

    Average Health Care Costs in North Carolina: $7,179 per person, per year

    The 2021 Bureau of Economic Analysis Personal Consumption Expenditures by State report found that the average per-capita cost of health care in North Carolina is $7,179 per year.

    Location, the type of coverage you have, and how often you need care will influence your bottom-line expense.

    Child Care

    Average Child Care Costs in North Carolina: $732 to $1,170 or more per child, per month

    The cost of child care is a large but necessary expense for most parents, though there is some wiggle room depending on what kind of care you’re seeking.

    If you’re struggling to afford child care costs, it’s worth looking into the Child Care Subsidy program for eligible families in North Carolina.

    According to 2021 data from , these are the average child care costs in North Carolina.

    Type of Child Care

    Average Cost Per Month, Per Child

    Infant Classroom


    Toddler Classroom


    Preschooler classroom


    Home-based Family Child Care



    Tax Rate in North Carolina: 4.75%

    In North Carolina, estimating what you’ll owe in state income tax is pretty simple, since this state has a single rate tax of 4.75% (starting in tax year 2023) instead of a graduated rate. As seen on the Tax Foundation’s State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets for 2023 , North Carolina’s rate of 4.75% isn’t super high or low compared with other states’ rates. In California, the top marginal tax rate is 13.3%, but some states like Florida don’t charge state income tax at all.

    Miscellaneous Costs

    Once you pay all of your bills, it’s understandable if you want to treat yourself to a little fun. If each North Carolinian spends about $24,661 a year on personal expenditures, some of these cheap thrills could factor in (costs accurate as of March 2023):

    •   A day at the North Carolina Zoo: $11 per child and $15 per adult

    •   Entrance to Chimney Rock State Park: $0 to $17 depending on age

    •   Breakfast at the beloved Biscuit Head restaurant: $11 for the “Full Breakfast”

    Museum lovers will appreciate that the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has free general admission.

    Recommended: What are the Average Monthly Expenses for One Person?

    How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably in North Carolina?

    While we all have varying definitions of what it means to live comfortably, U.S. News & World Report’s Affordability Rankings can give you a pretty good idea of how achievable that concept is in each state. North Carolina came in 24th in terms of basic affordability. According to MERIC, North Carolina also takes the 24th spot, sandwiched by Mississippi on the low end and Hawaii on the high end, when it comes to cost of living. So it looks like the state is smack-dab in the middle, which could mean comfortable to many.

    What City Has the Lowest Cost of Living in North Carolina?

    All states have their more expensive and more affordable spots to live in. If you have your eye on North Carolina, these are three of the major cities and metro areas with the lowest cost of living, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index for the second quarter of 2022.


    The Thomasville-Lexington area has a cost-of-living index of 84.1, which makes it the North Carolina area ranked lowest in the council’s most recent data. If you’re ready for small-town life, you’ll find that Thomasville and Lexington both hit the spot. Thomasville has a population of 27,203, and Lexington only has 19,516 residents, the 2021 census data shows.


    Salisbury (cost-of-living index of 94.0) is a part of historic Rowan County, which is home to 11 National Register districts, five local historic districts, and many museums. If you want to get a feel for the town’s history, you can’t miss the Salisbury Heritage Walking Tour and the Salisbury History & Art Tour.


    The fourth-most-affordable major North Carolina city to make the list is Raleigh, with a cost-of-living index of 96.1. As of 2021, this major city had over 469,000 residents. Raleigh has 10 traditional universities and colleges and an international airport. If you want a big-city lifestyle on a monthly budget, Raleigh may be the right fit for you.

    SoFi Home Loans

    The North Carolina cost of living falls in the middle of U.S. rankings. With millions of acres of forest as well as modern amenities and educational, medical, and research innovation, the Tar Heel State could prove enticing.

    Although there are many home loans on the market to choose from, SoFi offers a range of mortgage loans at competitive interest rates and with as little as 5% down.

    You can check your rate in just two minutes.

    Learn More

    Photo credit: iStock/Darwin Brandis

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