Charlotte vs. Raleigh: Which City Is Better To Live In?

When it comes to living in the South, the age-old debate is whether you should live in Raleigh or Charlotte. Both are fantastic opportunities with lots of amenities to offer. Follow along as we explore 12 factors that determine where you should live between Raleigh and Charlotte.

charlotte vs raleigh

Ah, the South. This is the part of the United States that people think of when they think of grits, okra, and taking life slowly. It’s a place where people have that delightful southern twang in their accents and a place where you can always find a Southern belle. Two of the most popular places in the South are Charlotte and Raleigh. Both North Carolina cities rule, but which one is the belle of this ball?

While both Raleigh and Charlotte have excellent job opportunities and steadily rising incomes. They also have similarly warm cultures, good food, and great entertainment. However, Raleigh has better traffic and slightly higher prices across the board. It’s an even tie in most senses of the word.

Both of these cities are always worth a visit, especially if you love living it up Southern-style. Of course, it’s best to read up on which is the right city for your needs.

Which City Is Better: Charlotte Or Raleigh?

If there’s one thing that North Carolina seems to know how to do, it makes a pretty city. But, which one is the best? Let’s take a look at the play-by-play on each major life-changing factor.

Not sure if you want to live in Charlotte or Raleigh? Check out our guide comparing Chicago vs. Houston!

Quality Of Life

When I write about the quality of life, I tend to think of it as a measure of happiness. Believe it or not, both Charlotte and Raleigh are fairly upbeat cities. You could credit it with the delicious BBQ in both, or maybe it’s the pleasant weather. Or, maybe it’s the way that people here like to take it easy. Either way, they are both fairly friendly to people who are sensitive to their environments.

Winner: Tie

Cost Of Living

If there is one thing you’re going to like hearing about both cities, it’s that they are really good at being affordable. Both score fairly close to the national average when it comes to the cost of living. Raleigh has a cost of living index of 102.3 and Charlotte’s is around 98.9. This means that one city is a couple of pennies more expensive, and another is about a penny cheaper than the national index.

Most people won’t really notice the difference in prices that much, since prices fluctuate and the difference is negligible. Even so, Charlotte is cheaper.

Winner: Charlotte

Housing Costs

Whether Raleigh or Charlotte will be cheaper depends on whether you’re renting or owning. Owners will find buying a home in Charlotte to be cheaper, while renters will prefer Raleigh. Due to the fact that people tend to want to own more than rent, we’re going to cede this victory to Charlotte.

Charlotte Raleigh
Average Cost 1 BR Apartment $1,301 $1,258
Median Home Price $228,100 $273,100

Winner: Charlotte

Job Market

Honestly, people who want to get a good leg up on their careers will find the job markets to be a great help in both cities. Though Charlotte has a higher projected growth rate, the wages are higher in Raleigh. The unemployment rates are virtually identical to one another, though Raleigh’s is just a little lower. The win here, at least by the numbers, is Raleigh.

Charlotte Raleigh
Unemployment 4.9% 4.3%
Projected 10-Year Growth 45.2% 44.2%
Median Household Income $62,827 $67,266
Median Personal Income $33,990 $35,925

Winner: Raleigh

Culture

What do we really have to say? Both cities are in North Carolina, a state that is as true to the South’s lifestyle as you can get. The summers are hot, filled with lemonade stands, and fairly relaxed. Both Raleigh and Charlotte locals ascribe to the nicely slow-paced way that life is here. As a result, it’s pretty chill.

Food is incredibly important in both cities, especially when it comes to barbecue and baked goods. Cooking and having others over for dinner are staples in the way of life here. After all, they don’t call it Southern hospitality for anything. If you’re a fan of friendliness and fun, you will love this culture.

Winner: Tie

Leisure/Entertainment

Leisure is another part of both Charlotte and Raleigh. Both areas have a fair amount of restaurants to choose from, as well as beautiful parks. Both regions also have a pretty lively arts section, including a couple of museums dedicated to fine art. If you’re a fan of sports, you might find Charlotte to be better. If you’re a fan of nightlife, then Raleigh is better.

Most of the locals tend to provide entertainment for themselves via the community. So expect strong community bonds and lots of friends’ nights out.

Winner: Tie

Transportation

North Carolina is not exactly known for having heavy traffic, and this holds true for both Raleigh and Charlotte. Both cities have an average commute time of 23 and 25 minutes respectively. With that said, there are occasional instances where drivers get to be a bit too speedy. So, you still have to worry about driving safely. Accidents can and do happen in both cities.

Both cities have comparable public transit systems, but you’ll still need to have a car in most parts of the city.

Winner: Raleigh

Demographics

Both Raleigh and Charlotte have fairly diverse populations, especially when you consider that they’re in the South. Charlotte is primarily composed of 53.5 percent white people, 28.3 percent African American people, and 11 percent Hispanic people. Raleigh is actually more diverse, with only 34.5 percent of its population being white. (The difference is split between all other nationalities.)

Like many cosmopolitan groups in the South, there’s a lot of support for LGBTQIA+ people compared to suburbs around the place. Overall, it’s a good place to find your crew.

Winner: Raleigh

Education

Education is a must for any city that you pick, but these two areas seem to be fairly evenly matched here, too. Charlotte has a high school graduation rate of around 89 percent, while Raleigh has a high school grad rate of 91. Both rates are actually fairly promising, considering that the national average is only 87.3 percent.

There is a bigger difference between Raleigh and Charlotte’s college grad rate. In Raleigh, around 50 percent of locals have a 4-year degree. In Charlotte, that number dwindles down to 42 percent. Either way, it’s still above the national average. It’s a win for Raleigh due to the college choices.

Winner: Raleigh

Weather

In terms of weather, there’s really not much to say since the two cities are fairly close to one another. Both have similar rainfall, snowfall, and temperature averages year-round. Overall, the weather tends to be warmer and sunnier here. If you’re moving to either city from a place like Seattle or Minneapolis, then you are going to have a good time. You might not want to go back north!

Crime Rates

Crime is a little wonky here. Raleigh has a violent crime rate below the national average, but a property crime rate that is above the norm. Charlotte, on the other hand, has above-average occurrences of both violent and property crime. The basic gist here is that you should expect to see Raleigh win this round. But, let’s talk a little bit more about the crime, too.

Both Raleigh and Charlotte have some nominal gang activity, but that’s really not that bad. The police force has taken its time to make sure that crime rates are cut down. People often note that the area is improving all the time.

Winner: Raleigh

The Verdict

When it comes to living in a place like North Carolina, it’s hard to actually go wrong. Even though both Charlotte and Raleigh are large, popular cities, they still have that small-town feel. That’s a remarkably good thing, really. This is especially true when you are looking at a place that is affordable, has a good job market, and also makes a lot of memories happen every day.

If we had to pick just one city (and we really don’t want to have to pick here!), we would have to say that Raleigh is the better city to move to. It has better traffic conditions, safer streets, better schools, as well as better job opportunities. Even so, neither city is going to be that bad a place to stay.

Related Questions

What foods should you try out in North Carolina?

There are very few areas in the world that are as focused on barbecue as North Carolina. The area is famous for its BBQ ribs, wings, and just about everything else. North Carolina barbecue sauce is known for bringing tangy, sweet heat. Between regular wings and trying out some of the world-famous smoked brisket, you can’t go wrong with soul food here.

Grits, Texas toast, and any sort of pie will give you a good idea of the flavor profiles that are commonplace in North Carolina. Of course, you don’t have to stick to Southern fare here. Almost any food you’ll eat will be amazing.

What is a good salary in Charlotte?

“Good” is in the eye of the beholder, but we can tell you that the average salary in the area is $58,448. This means that making $58K or over tends to mean that you’re doing well in this southern city. Want to earn around the top 75th percentile? That will be $71,472 for a salary. That’s not too bad, really. It means that most people will have a good standard of life here.

Is Charlotte NC a good place to live?

Absolutely. In fact, it’s one of the best places to live. A recent article by U.S News ranked this city as #14 on their list of the best places to live in America. You can thank the friendly locals, affordable living, delicious food, and loads of entertainment. It’s no wonder why so many people are moving here and why so many North Carolinians love to visit this petite city.

Check Out These Guides To Compare Other Cities In The Same State

 

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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