Knoxville Vs. Nashville: Which City Is Better To Live In?

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by Upgraded Home Team

It’s one thing to compare two cities across the country from one another, but quite a different thing to compare two cities in the same state. While Nashville and Knoxville may both be in Tennessee, these two cities couldn’t be further from one another.

Knoxville is the clear winner in the battle of the best city in Tennessee. This city features rich culture, plenty of leisure opportunities, and a much more affordable cost of living. Couple these features with a fantastic school system, opportunities for growth, and low housing prices, and it is easy to understand why Knoxville is such a popular city.

Still, it can be hard to deny the fantastic heritage and music history found in Nashville, and for those music lovers at heart, this can be a hard city to turn down. If you are trying to decide which city to move to in Tennessee, it can help to talk to a real estate agent familiar with both cities to help you make a better, more informed decision before moving.

Which City Is Better: Knoxville or Nashville?

Comparing two cities is really tough, but it can be even more challenging when comparing two cities in the same state. To determine which city wins in this intra-state battle, we want to examine how an ordinary person lives and functions throughout the city. We will look at several measurable and unmeasurable metrics to find a true winner in this battle of Tennessee.

Quality of Life

Measuring the quality of life for a resident is more than just looking at the dollars and cents. Quality of life means residents should be happy and enjoy day-to-day activities. When it comes time to compare Nashville and Knoxville, these two cities are just about tied in every measurable metric. It should also be noted that both of these cities have a much higher than average quality of life, meaning you can’t go wrong with either city.

In Knoxville, residents will experience lower crime rates, better healthcare, and a better climate. Nashville, comparatively, gives residents more purchase power and less pollution throughout the city.

Winner: Tie

Cost of Living

Overall, Knoxville is the cheaper city to live in, costing about 15% less than Nashville. This city features much lower costs on food, housing, utilities, and transportation. The average resident can save up to 19% on transportation costs alone. When it comes to health costs, both Nashville and Knoxville will cost about the same.

Winner: Knoxville

Housing Costs

While the cost of living between these two Tennessee cities is relatively comparable, housing cost is a significant differentiating factor. Housing will be about 34% less in Knoxville than in Nashville, with both home prices and rent being significantly lower. In Nashville, about 54% of the population owns, despite being in a higher-cost area. Interestingly, 54% of the people in Knoxville choose to rent, despite low home sale prices.

Median House Price$173,300$239,000
Average Rent 1 Bedroom$845$1,100

Winner: Knoxville

Job Market

Measuring the job market is a good pulse check for the health of the city. Both Knoxville and Nashville feature unemployment rates that are well below the average. However, Nashville has amazing projected job growth in the next ten years. Couple this with Nashville’s higher median income and the job market is clearly set up for success in this city.

Nashville’s main industries include music production, healthcare, and tourism. The biggest employers in Nashville include the Kroger Company and Nissan North America. Knoxville is home to retail trade, healthcare, and food service.

Projected 10-Year Growth37.5%48.3%
Median Household Income$40,341$59,828
Median Personal Income$33,229$35,243

Winner: Nashville


While both of these cities are located in Tennessee, the cultures are dramatically different. Nashville has a strong African American culture and features many of the traditions in the culture today. Many famous blues musicians called Nashville home. Jazz, rock, and country are also prevalent throughout the city. Nashville is known for its southern hospitality and diverse culture.

Knoxville, comparatively, has a much more artistic vibe and regularly features art fairs and music festivals. This town has a solid and traditional cuisine that features southern food, comfort food, and authentic BBQ.

Winner: Nashville


Nashville is home to country music, and residents will have the opportunity to visit the Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame. This city is also home to the Johnny Cash Museum and the historic Ryman Auditorium. There is regularly the chance to listen to live music, and there is a booming nightlife scene.

Knoxville has something to offer for everyone. There is plenty of history with the Market Square district area. This area is filled with historic buildings and features the Museum of East Tennessee History. Visitors can also visit the James White Fort. Plus, outdoor enthusiasts will be pleased with the Ijams Nature Center, which offers 300 acres of nature and hiking trails.

Winner: Knoxville


Despite being a big city, Nashville lacks many of the significant mass transport options other cities have. While this city does have buses, the system and stops are somewhat lacking. There are major highways that help to connect this city to other major cities in the area. Nashville is also home to an international airport.

Comparatively, Knoxville has a phenomenal transportation system featuring buses, a rail system, and trolleys that will take residents throughout the downtown area. The mass transportation system will take people to the central shopping districts, the residential areas, and the international airport in the city.

Winner: Knoxville by a landslide


Most of the residents in Nashville have had at least some exposure to college or have earned an Associate’s degree. This city has a relatively young population, with most of the residence between the ages of 25 and 34. 65.5% of the population self-identifies as White, 29% Black, and 3.5% Asian in the city.

Knoxville has a slightly more educated population, with 13% of the population earning a Master’s degree, 19% achieving a Bachelor’s degree, and 29% of the people exposed to a college education. Unfortunately, the demographics are not as diverse as in Nashville. A whopping 76% of the population identifies as White, 17% Black, and only 1.8% are Asian. Like Nashville, Knoxville is a very young population, and 40% of the residents are between 25 and 44.

Winner: Nashville


For a major city center, Nashville does not have an excellent public school system. Compared to other schools in the nation, the public school systems test below average for nationally administered testing. The private schools are not any better, offering only mediocre education. Despite the struggling school system, there is an excellent opportunity for higher education. Nashville is home to the prestigious Vanderbilt University.

Knoxville has a pretty good public and private school system, regularly receiving high marks for academics and athletics. However, there are not very many opportunities for higher education in Knoxville, with only the University of Tennessee and Johnson University to choose between.

Tie: Nashville for higher education, Knoxville for elementary and high school education


Nashville is home to some dramatic weather swings and has a broader range regarding temperature fluctuations. Summers may reach the high 90s, while winters will hover around 40 degrees F. This area is also prone to some very intense thunderstorms that can produce high winds, lightning, and hail.

Although in the same state, Knoxville does not see nearly as much severe weather as Nashville. This area will only occasionally see a strong storm. Expect the summers to be milder, reaching the high 80s, while winters stay warmer, only dipping into the 50s for a few months in the height of winter.

Winner: Knoxville

Crime Rates

When it comes to crime statistics and rates, Nashville and Knoxville see much higher rates than the rest of the country. Nashville has an increased occurrence of violent crimes, including assault, murder, and rape. These crimes are about twice the national average. Property crimes like burglary and theft are slightly below the national average, yet motor vehicle theft is above the norm.

Strikingly similar, Knoxville also has higher than average crime rates. Assault, murder, and rape are all twice the national average. Slightly higher than Nashville, the property crimes are floating just above the national average, with motor vehicle theft about twice the national average.

Winner: Nashville

Related Questions

What are the most popular Nashville neighborhoods for families?

There are plenty of great neighborhoods to choose from if you are moving to Nashville. Neighborhoods such as East Nashville, Green Hills, and Downtown Franklin are popular areas for families. The neighborhood of Hillsboro Village is a great option for people who are attending college. This neighborhood is ideally located between Vanderbilt University and Belmont University.

Is there much to do outdoors in Knoxville?

Just outside the city itself, there is an extensive trail system at Ijams Nature Center. This area features 10 miles of trails and over 300 acres of preserved nature. There are also loads of outdoor opportunities on the Tennessee River. Visitors will be able to enjoy biking, boating, paddle boarding, and hiking. Tennessee has plentiful wildlife, birds, and abundant wildflowers to view.


While Nashville is the more famous city, Knoxville is clearly the winner in this intra-state battle. With a lower cost of living, better public school system, and amazing transportation infrastructure, Knoxville is an easy city to live in for single adults and families. The city has a very low unemployment rate and has a higher than average job growth projection for the next ten years.

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