Charlotte Vs. Raleigh: Cost of Living, Crime Rates & More

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart
When it comes to living in the South, the age-old debate is whether you should live in Raleigh or Charlotte. Both are fantastic cities with lots of job opportunities. But which one is safer and has a better job market? Let’s take a look together.

Ah, the South. This is the part of the United States where people speak with a delightful twang, say “y’all,” and offer Southern hospitality. Charlotte and Raleigh are two cities that combine the best parts of the South with good jobs and a lively atmosphere. Both North Carolina cities rule, but which one is the belle of this ball?

The average salary in Charlotte vs Raleigh is about the same, just about $68,000 per year. Raleigh has a lower crime rate with just 256 violent crimes and 1,783 property crimes per capita, whereas Charlotte has 739 violent and 3,926 property crimes per capita. The median home cost in Raleigh is $350,000, about 15% higher than in Charlotte. Overall, Raleigh is the better choice as it’s a safer city.

We’ll dig below the surface charm of these two cities to compare the quality of life, job opportunities, crime rates, and more. Then it’s up to you to decide which city is the best match for your lifestyle.

Charlotte vs. Raleigh: The Pros and Cons of North Carolina’s Biggest Cities

North Carolina can certainly make a pretty city, but what is life on the inside like? Let’s compare some of the pros and cons of each city.

The Pros of Living in Charlotte, NC

Although Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, Charlotte is the state’s largest city. Charlotte has about twice the population and twice the land area of Raleigh. Here are some of the top reasons people would choose to move to the Queen City.

History and Charm

Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and also a very old city. It was chartered by English-Irish immigrants in 1768 and was named after the English Queen Charlotte. This is why this city is often named “the Queen City.” Charlotte offers skyscrapers and a modern lifestyle, for those who want it. However, when you want to take a step back in time, Charlotte has six historical districts.

Here you can enjoy the quaint Victorian architecture, find out some history about the houses, and visit craft breweries and art galleries. You can even take an open-air golf cart tour of Uptown Charlotte, which includes sites such as NASCAR Hall of Fame, BB&T Ballpark, and Spectrum Stadium.

Nine Universities and Good School Districts

Are you are interested in finding good schools for your kids? Or, are you looking for higher education opportunities for yourself? Charlotte, NC has got the education scene covered. Charlotte is a University town with 9 colleges in Charlotte and 30 more within easy driving distance. Almost 30,000 students are enrolled in the University of Charlotte alone.

If you are wanting a good school district for your kids, you are sure to find one in Charlotte. Charlotte schools were ranked first place out of all of North Carolina’s elementary, middle schools.

Ranked #7 in the U.S. for Job Opportunities

Some of the top areas of employment in North Carolina are banking, financial services, and manufacturing. The average salary is $68,216 and ranks the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia area as #7 in the top cities for job seekers. Charlotte is also above the national average for future job growth. So, if you are looking to land a solid job, Charlotte may be a good choice.

The Cons of Living in Charlotte, NC

While Charlotte has a lot to offer in jobs and education, no city is perfect. Here are some of the cons of life in Charlotte.

Narrow Job Market

While Charlotte has a healthy job market, most of these jobs revolve around finance or tech. So, if neither of these areas is part of your skillset, you may find yourself with more limited options. However, there are universities very close if you are looking for a career change.

All about Business

Charlotte can seem very businesslike and impersonal. This may be because the workplace is a very vital part of this city and the residents are pretty laid-back and independent. It can be a bit hard to find your place among the locals if you don’t already have an established group of friends here. However, as a tradeoff, Charlotte does offer places where you can relax and enjoy a craft beer or listen to local musicians.

The Traffic

Charlotte actually has less traffic than most U.S. cities its size. However, when compared to Raleigh, you are more likely to get bogged down at rush hour. You can always choose to skip the mad rush by taking public transportation to where you need to go.

The Pros of Living in Raleigh, NC

Raleigh was founded as the capital of North Carolina in 1792 and named after Sir Walter Raleigh who attempted to settle the first colony in the New World. It has been nicknamed the “City of Oaks” for the oak trees that are established in the city center. Although half the size of Charlotte, some residents think it has twice the charm. Here are some of the pros of living in Raleigh.

A Family-Friendly City

This more suburban town has a bit more warmth and caters to family life. Often called the “Smithsonian of the South” you can get free access to a variety of free museums and visit historic sites. There are also more green spaces and outdoor activities in this city. To top it off, the crime rate in Raleigh is well below the national average so you can feel good when you tuck your kids in at night.

Job Opportunities in the Research Triangle

Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill come together to form the “Research Triangle Park” ( RTP). North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill specialize in research and are a vital part of this triangle. The RTP is a hub for over 300 biotech and technology companies and provides jobs to over 55,000 employees. The average salary in Raleigh is $65,051, which is just slightly lower than in Charlotte.

Closer to the Wind and Waves

Raleigh is set in the sweet spot a few hours between the mountains and the beach. You can pick your destination and take a day trip to get some fresh air. A two or three-hour drive north will lead you to the mountains, while a two to three-hour drive east will allow you to dip your toes into the waves. Luckily, Raleigh is far enough inland to miss a lot of the action when hurricane season hits the North Carolina Coast.

The Cons of Living in Raleigh, NC

While there is a lot to love about Raleigh, there are still some drawbacks to this capital city.

Not Big on the Nightlife

Raleigh offers a lot of activities that encourage family fun. However, if you are single and ready to mingle, you may find the nightlife a bit lacking. You will find some late-night bars, but you won’t have the same options that you might have in other large cities.

Humidity and Mosquitos

Raleigh has pretty temperate winters that usually stay between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. However, since it is relatively close to the coast, you can get a lot of humidity. You can also get a lot of mosquitos. In the summer months, you may want to close your windows and let the air conditioning run.

Plan on a Commute

Living in a more suburban environment has its pros and cons. One of the cons here is that you may need to put more miles on your car to get from place to place within the Triangle. However, this may be preferable to sitting in backed-up traffic in Charlotte. In either city, you will spend about the same amount of time on the commute.

Cost Of Living: Charlotte vs. Raleigh

When you are looking at the location of your next home, you’ll want to know how expensive it is to live there. Both Charlotte and Raleigh score right at the national average when it comes to the cost of living.

Currently, Raleigh has a cost of living index of 102.4, and Charlotte’s is at 99.7. This means that Raleigh’s cost of living is 2.4% more than the national average, while Charlotte hits the national average almost dead center. These overall indexes compare well with other major cities in the U.S.

While the overall cost of living index is slightly in favor of Charlotte, one of the big considerations in a move is the cost of housing.

Housing Costs

Whether Raleigh or Charlotte will be cheaper depends on whether you’re renting or owning. If you are looking at buying a home, many will find Charlotte to be the cheaper market. However, renters may find cheaper rates in Raleigh.

Avg Cost of Apartment Rent$1,522$1,510
Median Home Price$346.600$301,300

The day-to-day cost of living in Raleigh and Charlotte is pretty comparable. Since you won’t notice much difference in your wallet in either place, this frees you up to decide which city fits into your style.

Other Factors to Consider


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. While you might be more likely to get stuck in traffic in Charlotte, in Raleigh you may need to commute a bit further to a job. Both cities have comparable public transit systems, but you’ll still need to have a car in most parts of the city.


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.


Charlotte and Raleigh both give you opportunities to cheer on a home team. Charlotte has three pro sports teams. You can catch a football game at the Bank of America Stadium and watch the Carolina Panthers play. For basketball fans, there is their NBA team, the Charlotte Hornets. Or if you prefer soccer, there is their team Charlotte FC. Charlotte is also known as the home of NASCAR and you can explore the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Raleigh is a bit more limited in professional sports teams. Their claim to fame is their professional hockey team, NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. Or, a drive to Charlotte is not that far away if you want to cheer on other North Carolina pro teams from the stands.

Crime Rates

As you make your final decision, it’s also a good idea to take into consideration the crime rate of the area.

Raleigh is 72% safer than other cities in North Carolina. It also compares well with the national average and is 43% safer than other cities in the U.S. according to a recent study. However, no city is perfect! Here is a look at some of the worst neighborhoods in Raleigh.

Taking a look at Charlotte, this city has 2.3 times the national average for violent crime. When you compare Charlotte to other North Carolina cities, its crime rate is 54% higher. If you move to Charlotte, perhaps a self-defense class may be in order?

Charlotte and Raleigh run neck and neck in many categories. However, Raleigh comes out as the clear winner in this one.

Quality of Life

When measuring the quality of life we look at many factors. Some of the top concerns are healthcare, safety, climate, traffic, pollution, and more. Both Charlotte and Raleigh are measured to have a very high quality of life. Charlotte is rated as moderate for safety and cost of living. However, it rates better than most cities for low pollution, low traffic, and good healthcare.

Raleigh is considered to have an even higher quality of life than Charlotte. Raleigh is has a moderate cost of living, a high safety level, good healthcare, low pollution, and low traffic.

Both cities also have a favorable property price to income ratio.

The Verdict

When it comes to living in a place like North Carolina, it’s hard to go wrong. Even though both Charlotte and Raleigh are large, well-populated cities, they still have history and charm. Both Charlotte and Raleigh have a similar cost of living, an average salary, and a good quality of life index. The average salary for both cities is above the U.S. average wage.

Charlotte is a college town with more nightlife opportunities and a good job market. However, the crime rate is higher. On the other hand, Raleigh is more focused on suburban life, is close to the beach, and has that small-town feel. For Raleigh, though, you may need to make the commute out of suburbia to your job.

We’ve given you a side by side of these two top cities and listed some of their pros and cons. Now, which one will you call home?

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Ossiana Tepfenhart
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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