The Ultimate Guide to Moving to Charleston

From its deep history and vibrant, diverse culture to its incredible beaches and friendly population, here’s all you need to know before moving to Charleston.
Written by Abbey Orzech
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Charleston is one of the most popular cities in the US for its natural beauty, deep history, vibrant culture, and friendly residents. But as you plan your move, be prepared for a relatively high cost of living and a near-constant tourist population.
For centuries, Charleston, South Carolina was a major hub of the trade and forced labor of enslaved people. A slow shift to wider-spread humanity began as the first shot of the American Civil War was fired on its soil. Today, the city is an important historical location in the US that is bolstered and celebrated by folks from all walks of life. You’ll find many history lessons as you walk its streets, but also many incredible restaurants, shopping districts, art galleries, and beaches.
But there are drawbacks to Charleston living that you should consider too—it’s expensive, crime rates are higher than the national average, and you’ll need a car to get to most places. Here to help you suss out all the details of moving to Charleston is
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What you need to know about Charleston before you move

Charleston, South Carolina has been awarded and recognized time and time again for its livability, charm, natural beauty, food scene, an air of romance, and business culture. With accolades from institutions like Forbes, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Travel + Leisure, and more, it can be easy to assume life here is fantastic. But before packing your bags and hitting the road that leads to Charleston, be sure to consider all the major aspects of living there. 

1. It’s not inexpensive 

While Charleston is certainly not the most expensive city you could ever move to—it’s still significantly cheaper than places like
New York
San Francisco
—one couldn’t really call it inexpensive either.
Rent prices in the city reflect the recent rent price hikes you’ve been seeing everywhere, with the average apartment costing $1,872 per month. Although there may be something to be said about the average apartment size in Charleston, a higher-than-average 956 square feet
Food costs are another non-inexpensive factor. In 2021, the average American was spending $355.50 per month on their groceries, but the average Charleston resident was shelling out $411.29 per month. A pint of beer is around $5.00, a cappuccino costs $4.90, and you can get a dozen eggs for $3.27
These are not exactly outrageous prices, but they certainly lean toward the higher end of the country’s averages. And with Charleston’s $7.25 minimum wage, it can sometimes be a challenge to pay for the necessities.

2. Relatively diversified job market

Although Charleston’s tourist draw does indeed make tourism, hospitality, and service industries quite big here, they’re not the only work you can find. Many folks are employed in medical work by the Medical University of South Carolina, and Bon Secours St. Francis and Roper hospitals. 
You could also attach yourself to aviation and aircraft industries through the US Air Force base Joint Base Charleston or The Boeing Company. The city is also seeing some growth in the tech industry, sales, marketing, advertising, and fine arts. Charleston residents see an average salary of $63,000 per year.

3. Both violent crime and property crime are higher than average 

Now in general, the larger the city, the higher its crime rate, so don’t automatically assume this means Charleston is a dangerous place to be avoided at all costs. However, it is definitely something worth considering before you move your whole life there. 
Both violent crime and property crime are more common here than in the average location in the US. According to
Neighborhood Scout’s report of Charleston
, residents of this city have a 1 in 227 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime and a 1 in 45 chance of being subjected to some kind of property crime. 
The highest percentage of crimes committed are personal theft, robbery, and assault, so maybe brush up on your theft deterrents and
vehicle anti-theft devices

4. Bring your pet (mostly) anywhere! 

Charleston is delightfully pet friendly with public bowls of water and containers of treats as far as the eye can see in some places! If you’re someone who would take their fur baby with them everywhere if they could, this town may be the ideal rooting ground for you. 
There are tons of beaches and trails that welcome your precious pets like
James Island County Park
Sullivan’s Island
, and several hotels that allow your pooch room and board. You could even opt for a day on the town shopping and eating your way through historic
King Street
and not have to go more than a few storefronts without seeing water laid out for any passing animals—be sure to stop in
Woof Gang Bakery
for a special treat for your beloved pet! 

5. Driving is a must

Unless you only need to travel between a handful of specific Downtown Charleston locations, you’ll need to drive. The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) implements a fixed bus route that costs between $2 and $14 for the different ticket levels, and the CARTA Dash Downton Trolley has free rides around the historic district. 
But in order to really see the whole city, its beaches and trails, the world-class restaurants and distilleries, and even to get to the walkable areas to explore its nooks and crannies, a car is a must. Charleston’s public transportation options will only take you so far. 

6. Hot summers, cold winters, coastal Atlantic storms

The typical weather in Charleston lets you experience a bit of everything. The standard is hot and muggy summers and cold and windy winters, with clouds and precipitation year-round, and about 209 days of sun each year. Daily temperatures tend to stick between 43°F and 89°F so there doesn’t seem to be many overwhelming extremes in weather…that is, unless it’s hurricane season. 
The Atlantic hurricane season is from June and November every year, but Charleston’s most vulnerable time is late summer to early fall. Although it’s rare for the city to be directly hit by a hurricane, the beaches and streets are susceptible to erosion and flooding, especially on the Charleston Peninsula. 
Only 19 feet above sea level, it doesn’t take too much for a major storm’s effects to be felt here, and the climate crisis is likely only to worsen the issue. 

7. Get used to tourists

If you’re a local or bust type of person, the ever-streaming crowds of Charleston tourists may rub you the wrong way. This city doesn’t really have an off-season and will typically see a few million visitors each year, and many different types of folks will come ashore in Charleston because there is so much to do and see there. 

Does Charleston live up to its stereotypes?

Charleston casts a wide net of appeal, but maybe you’re not one of the ensnared! If any of the features above make your “I’m-never-living-there” list, this city may not be for you. However, if the idea of a driveable, pet-friendly city with a diversified job market and loads of yearly tourists searching for amazing natural beauty, deep history, quintessential southern charm, and extreme friendliness excites you, Charleston might make the ideal home. 
Key Takeaway Living in Charleston is not inexpensive and can be packed with tourists, but there is plenty of work, natural beauty, and good food. 
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Finding a place to live in Charleston

If you spend some time considering Charleston living pros and cons and decide the pros way outweigh the cons, your first order of business before moving is finding a place to live.
And we’ll be honest, it’ll probably get expensive. There are plenty of homes on the market but be warned that the city’s median home listing price is $509,500. That easily surpasses the national average of $428,700, so if you’re thinking that price tag is a bit too steep at the moment, you’ll likely be renting. 
On average, you can find a one-bedroom apartment for $1,795, a two-bed for $2,131, a three-bed for $2,679, and a four-bedroom for $2,972. Of course, the exact amount you’ll be paying for living in Charleston depends on which neighborhood you settle into. Not sure which neighborhood is right for you? Consider these popular options:
  • Best neighborhoods if you’ve got kids: West Side, Hampton Park Terrace
  • Best neighborhoods for foodies: Upper King Street, East Central, NoMo
  • Best neighborhoods for art immersion: French Quarter, Cannonborough/Elliottborough
  • Most affordable neighborhoods: Hanahan, West Ashley, Ladson, Goose Creek
Before diving all in on a neighborhood, it will be good to spend some time getting to know your future stomping grounds. If it’s feasible for your time and budget, book a weekend trip or head that way for the day to explore the neighborhood and decide if it will support or snuff out your lifestyle. 

Moving to Charleston checklist 

Got a Charleston neighborhood in mind? Ready to make the commitment? Great! Now it’s time to plan for your move. Here are handy moving checklists for both before the move and after to make this process as seamless as possible:

Before you go

Before you move, make sure to: 

After you get there

It can be tempting to throw in the organization towel after you and all your things make it to your new digs, but follow these after-the-move steps to make settling in easier:
  • Register your vehicle
    and update your car insurance.
  • Consider getting
    renters’ insurance
    (some places will require it anyway) to add some protection to your belongings and your bank account.
  • File for a change of address for your mail, new voting registration, and healthcare needs.
  • Take some time to get to know your neighborhood! Scope out the coffee shop or lunch spot you want to become a regular at, or find the best open mic night in town to meet like-minded folks.

How to save on car, renters, and home insurance in Charleston

Moving house and all that entails can stretch the budget pretty thin. Whether you’re just concerned about meeting South Carolina’s car insurance laws for now or you want to pack on as much insurance coverage to your car and home as you can,
can help you find the best deal on your
Charleston car insurance
liability-only car insurance
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As a licensed broker, Jerry contacts your insurance company to get the details of your current coverage so you don’t have to scale a mountain of questions. You get all the best prices and coverage with none of the legwork!
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It depends, really! Moving to Charleston may well be worth it if you fancy a gorgeous coastal town with a deep history, steeped in southern charm, and full of friendly faces. If, however, you’re wary of storm damage, are on a tight budget, or severely dislike dogs, this city may not be for you.
For a single adult to stay on top of living necessities in Charleston, they should be making around $4,800 a month.
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