10 Pros and Cons of Living in North Carolina

North Carolina’s southern hospitality and killer barbecue might outweigh the high tax burden and the threat of hurricanes—you decide with these top pros and cons.
Written by Abbey Orzech
Reviewed by Claire Beaney
Updated on Oct 14, 2022
North Carolina has some serious pull factors, including a reasonable cost of living, a healthy dose of southern hospitality, and excellent barbecue options. But the high tax burden, sub-par public education system, and threat of extreme weather may deter some from making a home in The Tar Heel State. 
There is a lot to love about North Carolina and its rich history. From the “original” barbecue to the majestic mountains and sea, it can be easy for many to happily exist there. Still, before you pack up all your bags and gleefully fly there on the backs of all the pros, you’ll also need to consider the cons.  
And to make your deliberation a bit smoother,
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We’ll also disclose some expert tips for easy ways to save on your
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Pro: Reasonable cost of living

For all the good North Carolina has to offer, it does so at a relatively reasonable price. Although it’s not the cheapest state in the US, North Carolina’s cost of living index (COLI) sits at a comfortable 90.6. For context, the US average COLI is 100, making the cost of living in North Carolina a bit cheaper than the average US state.  
According to a 2020 report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, $38,295 annually would be enough to get you by with the essentials in NC. The biggest expense factored in that cost is housing—the median home price is $315,331—but even here, it’s cheaper than the country’s average of $349,816. 
Plus, as long as you like the outdoors, there are so many free things to do in this state! Spend your time off on the beach or up in the mountains, they won’t charge you. 

Con: Heavy tax burden

Yes, North Carolina has a reasonable cost of living that shows its face in many facets of NC life. However, the tax burden is not one of them. 
Residents in this state are seeing a combined state and local sales tax sitting up high at 6.98%. They also have to succumb to the flat 4.99% personal income tax that positions the state in 11th place for the highest tax burdens in the nation. The specific amount you’d pay in taxes as a North Carolina resident will depend on the county you settle into (which can add an additional 2% to 2.25% burden) but expect to shell out about $711 annually in sales tax

Pro: An outdoorsy paradise

We mentioned the North Carolina beaches and mountains earlier, but they exist in such wondrous abundance that they deserve their own category. If you’re a fan of outdoor recreation, this state is basically one big playground. 
North Carolina has
41 state parks
13 national parks
, access to the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains subranges of the Appalachian Mountains, 300 miles of beaches, and tons of hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, running, promenading, swimming, scenic photography opportunities, and more within them. 
Enjoy the outdoors but like a little civilization too? Take in North Carolina’s gorgeous natural beauty while shopping at one of the state’s many flea markets throughout the year!
The Raleigh Market
is one of the most popular and is open year-round for over 500 vendors and their customers. 

Con: The country’s third most hurricane-prone state 

While you’re out there reveling in all the natural wonders of North Carolina’s soil and sand, be sure to keep a watchful eye on the weather report. NC is the third most hurricane-prone state in the country. 
Official hurricane season in North Carolina is from June to November, but most hurricanes make landfall between September and November. But that doesn’t mean major storms are unlikely to happen during other times of the year, so stay vigilant as you make your outdoor plans. 

Pro: Strong job market

If you’re heading to North Carolina sans employment, you may be in luck. The Tar Heel State’s current unemployment rate is 3.5%, a cozy 0.2% below the national average. On top of that, the NC job market is projected to experience a 6% growth by 2028, forming over 300,000 new jobs, particularly in work sectors like technical services and science. 
Although it depends on your career choice and whether or not you’d be open to trying something new, you could have a pretty easy time finding a job in North Carolina.  

Con: Lacking public transportation

It should be counted upon that your move to North Carolina should also include a personal vehicle. This state, like many other US states, is lacking a comprehensive public transportation system. Unless you settle into a major metro area like Raleigh or Charlotte and don’t have to go too far, you’ll need a car to get yourself around. 
However, things may be looking up for North Carolina public transit! The U.S. Department of Transportation is injecting federal funds into public transportation systems across the country and North Carolina is getting $176 million of it. 

Pro: Dripping with southern hospitality 

Y’all ever hear of that sweet southern charm? North Carolina is built upon it. The Tar Heel State is well known for the family values and welcoming arms held by many of its residents that take southern hospitality to a new level. Take a lazy stroll along the beach and make a friend or two with the passersby. Expect a warm introduction from your neighbors when you move into your new home, and maybe even an offer to help you bring in the last of your furniture. 
Of course, the type of welcome you’re likely to receive will depend on where you move, as the bigger metro areas typically come with more anonymity than a tight-knit small town. Regardless of where you settle, though, you’re sure to get at least a taste of some warm southern charm.

Con: Poor public education ratings

Although the universities in North Carolina are among the best in the nation, K-12 public schools can’t claim the same rep. In a U.S. state ranking for best overall public schools, North Carolina takes 29th place. When broken down by safety and quality, North Carolina slides a bit lower at 30th and 32nd respectively. 
This is not to say that all North Carolina public schools will be low quality and unsafe, but it is certainly something to consider, especially for families with school-aged children. 

Con: Higher-than-average crime rate

Another important con to consider is North Carolina’s higher-than-average crime rate. Although the average crime rate in NC doesn’t top the US average by very much, it is worth it to note that specific crimes occur at much higher rates than elsewhere. For example, the homicide rate in North Carolina is about 10% higher than the national average. 
You have a one in 44 chance of becoming a victim of a property crime and a one in 235 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime in The Tar Heel State. But keep in mind that crime happens everywhere, and any areas with more poverty and fewer resources are less likely to receive holistic crime intervention than higher-income areas. 

Pro: A serious barbecue scene 

Okay, let's bring out the major, mouthwatering pro we’ve all been waiting for: North Carolina barbecue. Your brain (and stomach) might immediately jump to Tennessee or Texas when you’re dreaming of your barbecue fix, but North Carolina’s BBQ scene cannot be overlooked. It’s even referred to as the “Cradle of the ‘Cue”!
NC’s first sit-down barbecue joint was opened in 1924 and it’s been a loving relationship since then. The barbecue game in The Tar Heel State is deep enough that there is a North Carolina Barbecue Society and an established
historic barbecue trail
And unless you’ve already dedicated yourself and your descendants to Eastern or Lexington barbecue—there is quite the rivalry between the two—be sure to give them both a try! 

Is North Carolina a good state to live in?

Yes, North Carolina is a great state to live in! However, there are some drawbacks to NC living that are worth considering because not everyone will be able to make a comfortable home there. 
North Carolina is a great state for: 
  • Folks on a budget 
  • Outdoors enthusiasts
  • People in tech services or science careers
  • Barbecue buffs
But anyone majorly turned off by extreme weather, lacking public transit options, and a higher than average crime rate may not find life in North Carolina up to their standards. 

How to upgrade your car insurance in North Carolina

We established that anyone living in or moving to North Carolina will be better off with their own vehicle, and unfortunately, that means you’ll need to factor car insurance rates into your living expenses too. But fear not!
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