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

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by Upgraded Home Team

Tennessee is a varied state that is home to not one but two major cities. Both Nashville and Memphis are located in Tennessee, only separated by a three-hour drive. Although these two cities may be close, they couldn’t be more different from one another, offering unique advantages to living in each.

Nashville may have a higher cost of living but offers plenty of opportunities to those moving to this central city. With a higher projected job growth over the next ten years, a higher median income, and better opportunities for entertainment and leisure, Nashville is the clear winner in this intrastate battle.

Memphis, comparatively, offers a southern, suburban alternative to the urban center of Nashville. Lower housing prices may be more attractive; however, limited transportation options and high crime rates may deter those living in this city. Of course, consulting with the local chamber or a real estate agent familiar with Tennessee may better help answer questions related to relocation.

Which City Is Better: Memphis or Nashville?

With only three hours separating these two cities located in Tennessee, you would think there would be more similarities between the two. But, these two popular and upcoming cities couldn’t be more different from one another. Determining which city is better is difficult, but we can choose a clear-cut winner by comparing both some measurable essentials and some abstract concepts.

Quality of Life

It is essential to point out that quality of life has several components, and it is necessary to consider when moving to a new city. Quality of life is more than just being able to afford your new city and enjoying where you call home. Both Memphis and Nashville rank incredibly high in quality of life, and both are considered much higher than the national average.

However, Nashville is light years better than Memphis when looking at the components that help create a good quality of life. The city is much safer, has lower pollution, has a higher income level, and has better health care. However, residents may experience longer commutes and more traffic in Nashville compared to Memphis. Residents will also have a much higher cost of living for the average person.

Winner: Nashville

Cost of Living

Living in Memphis is hands down the cheaper option compared to Nashville. Overall, Nashville is about 20% more expensive than living in Memphis when examining everyday household expenses. Transportation, groceries, and healthcare are all marginally more costly in Nashville compared to Memphis. Utilities are about the same between Memphis and Nashville, with Nashville utilities costing only slightly higher.

Where the difference is really evident, though, is in the cost of housing. Memphis is 67% less expensive than Nashville for housing. The median cost of a house in Memphis is only $85,700, making it one of the more affordable cities in the United States. Comparatively, the median home price in Nashville is close to $262,000.

Winner: Memphis

Housing Costs

Housing is essential if you are relocating to a new city, and few city comparisons are as drastic as the difference between Nashville and Memphis. Not only are home purchase prices very different, but rental costs are also significantly different. In Memphis, about 53% of the population rents their home, while in Nashville, the opposite is true, with about 54% of the people choosing to purchase their home.

Median House Price$262,000$85,700
Average Rent 1 BDRM$1,100$901

Winner: Memphis

Job Market

The job market in both Nashville and Memphis provide plenty of opportunity for new residents. Nashville has a significantly higher unemployment rate and a higher median household income and personal income. The projected 10-year growth for Nashville is promising, especially within the healthcare, manufacturing, engineering, and architecture industries.
Memphis currently has a much lower unemployment rate, but the suburban city does not have as much growth potential or high pay rates that Nashville boasts. Still, Memphis has plenty of opportunities for residents working in retail trade, manufacturing, or food service.

Projected 10-Year Growth48.3%36.6%
Median Household Income$59,828$41,228
Median Personal Income$35,243$25,605

Winner: Nashville


One of the intangible metrics we use to determine which city is better is the culture, which can be hard to measure. Nashville is home to strong African American influences and has a famed music scene. Aside from their strong history in blues, residents can also find country, rock, and jazz music embedded in the very fibers that make up this city.

Comparatively, Memphis has a distinctly Southern culture. The culture features the Southern charm culture and character that people expect to find in the deep South. This culture is unique to Memphis alone, and the rest of the state doesn’t have the history, art, and culture of the South.

Winner: Nashville


There is plenty to see and do in both Nashville and Memphis. Nashville is home to some of the most historic and famous music venues, like the Grand Ole Opry House. Visitors can also enjoy the Country Music Hall of Fame, as well as the Johnny Cash Museum. Residents can also tour historic downtown, known as the District, which usually features live music by local artists.

Memphis, of course, has plenty of history and museums to visit as well. This city is home to the National Civil Rights Museum, as well as Graceland. Although primarily suburban, Memphis is home to a small downtown area with the famed Beale Street, home to plenty of nightlife and entertainment.

Winner: Nashville


Public transportation in Nashville is mostly via bus, but there is a very reliable public transportation system with extensive routes. Most people, however, choose to get to work by commuting in a personal car. There is a significant airport in Nashville that provides international flight options.

Comparatively, Memphis does not have much to offer in the way of public transportation. However, major highways help to connect Mephis to other major cities in the area. There are large airports in Memphis, including an international airport. The city of Memphis is the hub of FedEx, and several carriers and planes fly in and out of the area frequently.

Winner: Nashville


There are several varied cultures found in both Nashville and Memphis. In Nashville, 65% of the population identifies as white, while 28.6% identify as African American, and 3.5% identify as Asian. These demographics mark a significant shift in the population. Just as recently as 1970, almost 80% of the population was white. The majority of the people that live in Nashville are aged between 25 and 34, and most of them have some college education or have their Bachelor’s degree.

Memphis comparatively has a wide range of ages that live in the city, with most people graduating high school and attending some amount of college-level courses. 63% of the population is African American, 29% is White, and 1.4% are Asian or Native American.

Winner: Tie


Nashville is home to some of the most prestigious and famous schools in the country regarding higher education. Not only is Vanderbilt University located in Nashville, but students also have access to Belmont University. When it comes to grade school and high school, though, Nashville falls short. The public schools do not receive high ratings for academics and athletics, and private schools in Nashville do not fare much better.

Alternatively, Memphis has excellent grade schools and high school options for students. While the public schools receive top marks, private school options in Memphis are even better. However, there are few options for higher education in Memphis. Students may have the option of attending Rhodes College or go to the University of Tennessee’s branch campus.

Winner – Nashville for Higher Education, Memphis for Grade School and High School


Both Nashville and Memphis are in the southern part of the United States, and as such, are greeted with warm, beautiful weather for most of the year. The average summer temperature is about the same for Nashville and Memphis, ranging from 90 to 92 degrees F. Due to the northern location, Nashville winters will be a bit colder, averaging in the high 40s, compared to Memphis hovers around 55 degrees F throughout the winter.

Be prepared for some intense storms throughout much of Tennessee. Both Memphis and Nashville experience strong winds and tornadoes, even in these major cities. Since the mid-1850s, Tennessee has experienced more than 500 tornadoes in the area. If you are moving to either town, be prepared for intense storms through much of the warmer months.

Winner: Tie

Crime Rates

Compared to the national average in the United States, Nashville experiences significantly more crime. Violent crimes, like assault, rape, and murder, are more than double the national average in this major city. Even property crimes, like burglary and theft, are well above the national average, making Nashville a relatively high-crime area.

Memphis, however, does not do much better. In this city, violent crimes, especially assault, are sky-high. Assault numbers are four times the national average. Crimes like burglary and theft are also exceptionally high, and motor vehicle theft is twice the national average. Both cities in Tennessee experience higher than standard crime rates, but Nashville has fewer violent crimes than Memphis.

Winner: Nashville

Related Questions

What famous musicians live in Nashville?

Nashville has a fantastic music scene and strong history in music, so it makes sense that several famous artists choose to live in Nashville. Celebrity residents include Peter Frampton, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Kid Rock, Bret Michaels, and Justin Timberlake.

What is there to do on Beale Street?

One of the most popular attractions is Beale Street, famous for its nightlife and entertainment. The street runs from East Street to the Mississippi River and provides 1.8 miles of history, live blues music, bars, restaurants, and a lively social scene.


Even though the cost of living may be higher, Nashville, Tennessee, is the winner in this intrastate battle. Although housing may cost you significantly more compared to Memphis, the city offers plenty more. Not only is higher education better, with less crime, but you will have the opportunity to adventure and explore through endless entertainment and leisure venues steeped in culture and history. Nashville’s job growth projection is exponential and offers a higher starting income level to start.

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Upgraded Home Team

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