From the shores of Wilmington to the landing strips of Fayetteville, from the quaint city streets and often-snow-topped mountains of Asheville to the industry-rich Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area, North Carolina offers something for everyone. An influx of Northeasterners moving to North Carolina in recent years gives the state a flavor unlike the other southern states, where North meets South in attitudes, culture and the overall pace of life.
Moving to North Carolina
When you move to North Carolina, expect southern hospitality at its best: helpful people, a reasonable cost-of-living, and your choice of cities, suburbs, beachfront property or rural areas in the mountains or on the coast.
Research carefully, since everything from population density to property taxes and even climate varies throughout the state.
The good news? The weather tends to be temperate while population density and taxes range from low to moderate—rarely, if ever, reaching the high end of the scale.
The housing bubble and subsequent slump barely hit North Carolina, and the state has been one of the first to recover. Single-family homes tend to hold their value, but for those moving to North Carolina for retirement, an apartment or condo complex may be a better choice. In the mid-90s, North Carolina began to rival Florida as a home for retired snowbirds, as well as for young families looking to make their start in a state with a lower cost of living, competitive salaries and a dynamic economy. In 2016, Raleigh-Durham was ranked as the 4th best place to live in the US, while Cary has tripled in size since the 1990s.
If you’re thinking of moving to North Carolina today, it’s best to move with a job already lined up or three to six month’s living expenses, on top of your moving costs, in savings. The unemployment rate in North Carolina was reported to be 4.6% in 2016, which is below the national average. If you are looking for a job in North Carolina, the best prospects exist in the technology and education sectors in the region known as “Research Triangle,” anchored by the cities of Raleigh and Durham, as well as across the Piedmont, the central area of North Carolina.
Places to Live in North Carolina
North Carolina is divided, broadly, in to three regions:
- The Piedmont covers close to half of the central part of the state
- The Coast comprises the Eastern seaboard part of the state
- The Mountains—the Appalachian Mountain Chain, including the Great Smoky Mountains—border the southwestern portion of North Carolina and neighboring Tennessee
Within these regions, you’ll find a mix of cities, suburbs and rural areas, with the highest population density and thriving economies in the Piedmont region and on the coast.
Major cities include Raleigh (the capital), Durham, Fayetteville, Cary, Winston-Salem, the port city of Wilmington and Charlotte, which is North Carolina’s largest city.
Cost of Living in North Carolina
The perception exists that North Carolina has a low cost of living and high quality of life. With options such as beachfront property or mountain homes, mid-size cities or suburbs, it’s true that North Carolina offers something for nearly everyone, at every income level or demographic.
Is life really less expensive in North Carolina? It is. The consumer price index (CPI) is 209, 6.7 percent lower than the US city average. This isn’t just statistics, either. There’s a huge difference in the cost of living between New York, NY, and Asheville, NC, a mountain city with rich cultural diversity, arts, music and nightlife.
According to Salary.com’s cost-of-living calculator, the cost of living in Asheville is 44 percent lower than New York City, while salaries are only 27 percent lower, resulting in more disposable income and a better quality of life. North Carolina is 16th in the country in per capita income, indicating a healthy economy.
Getting Around in North Carolina
North Carolina currently has no tolls roads, which will help keep costs low on a move across the state.
Like so many other things in North Carolina, commuting time varies widely depending on your occupation and where you live. Army bases like Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg have an average commuting time of just 11 minutes, while those in rural regions may have a commute of 40 minutes or more into the nearest city to work.
North Carolina is an eco-conscious state; tourism is the second largest industry. Preserving the natural environment to continue to attract tourists who love North Carolina for its mountains and beaches is important, so the state promotes commuting measures such as bicycling to work or carpooling.
Ferries on the southeast coast take workers across the rivers in that region, with nine different routes. As of this year, two critical routes that take workers across the Pamlico River, avoiding a 70-mile drive-around, now require tolls paid. If you’re moving to North Carolina’s coast and negotiating salary, keep commuting costs in mind.
As home to the birthplace of flight, Kitty Hawk, it’s not surprising that North Carolina boasts 74 publicly owned and 300 privately owned airports. Nine airports offer commercial service, and three of those are international airports.
North Carolina International Airports
- Charlotte Douglas International Airport
- Raleigh-Durham International Airport
- Piedmont Triad International Airport
More than 32 major cities are within just two hours flying time of a major North Carolina airport, so if you plan to transport your household goods via a major moving company and then fly to North Carolina, you should be able to find a reasonable flight for you and your family that lands not too far from your new hometown.
I-40 runs across most of North Carolina as a major thoroughfare. Traffic varies depending on the city or town. Some cities have bus lines, which also include space for bicycles for a “green” commute, although trips may be longer than by car. In general, North Carolina is a “driving state,” with the exception of the downtown areas of a handful of cities, such as Asheville, Charlotte and Chapel Hill.
Jobs in North Carolina
With little doubt or exception, the Research Triangle, the area of the Piedmont which includes the major cities of Raleigh and Durham, is the best area for jobs in North Carolina. Whether you’re looking to change careers, increase your job security or find a new job after relocating, North Carolina offers many opportunities.
With a wealth of universities in the region, it’s also a great place for young adults to relocate, attend school and step right in to a prosperous job market after graduation.
Experts predict that employment, business earnings and personal income will all rise over the next 15 years in the Research Triangle. Major employers include technology companies such as BASF, Cisco Systems, Verizon, IBM, General Electric, Qualcomm and Sony Ericsson, biopharmaceuticals such as Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, and a number of universities and research firms.
Charlotte, the largest city in North Carolina, also boasts a growing economy. It is the second largest banking city in the United States behind New York City, housing Bank of America’s headquarters and Wells Fargo’s east coast operations. Other top employers include Carolinas Healthcare System, Walmart, Lowe’s, Novant Health Care, and Duke Energy.
Climate in North Carolina
If you enjoy the four seasons, but not to any extreme, North Carolina’s moderate temperatures make the state a smart move. The state’s temperate weather averages about 50 F during the day in the winter and up to 90 degrees F in the summer. However, it is often about 20 degrees cooler in the mountains, where snow is normal during the winter. In parts of the Appalachians, temperatures drop below the average winter temperature in Buffalo, New York, one of the coldest cities in the North.
The biggest concern for residents of the Piedmont and southern coastal regions are tropical storms and hurricanes from May through October. Parts of North Carolina were devastated by Hurricane Irene in 2011. The state, although it is not in Tornado Alley, also sees two to three severe tornadoes each year. Keep this in mind when you buy a house in North Carolina; inquire about flood insurance if you live near the coast and build a storm kit that includes three-days’ worth of water for every person, candles and necessities in the event of a severe weather emergency.
When moving to North Carolina, track local weather conditions. If you’re moving to the Piedmont or coastal region, moving in winter is best, as you’ll enjoy cool, but not cold, weather and very little chance of snow. Moving in early spring or late fall is best in the mountain regions for optimal weather.
Education in North Carolina
North Carolina, especially the Piedmont region in the center of the state, is well-known for its universities. The Piedmont is home to the area known as “Research Triangle” or simply, “the Triangle,” home to a number of high-tech companies as well as research facilities of major universities.
Top Universities in North Carolina
- University of North Carolina
- North Carolina State University
- Duke University
- East Carolina University
- Appalachian State University
- Davidson University
Public elementary and secondary education schools are divided by county, with the largest being the Wake County Public School System, which is the 18th largest in the US. The quality of North Carolina’s schools vary widely depending on the county. Talk to other parents in the area as you plan your move to North Carolina with kids, and check out websites like SchoolDigger that provide school rankings.
Best Schools in North Carolina
- Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy
- Raleigh Charter High School
- Quest Academy
- Magellan Charter
- Triangle Math and Science Academy
- Endeavor Charter
- Sterling Montessori Academy
- Tiller School
- Exploris Middle School
- Greensboro Academy
Need to Know
Check out the following online resources to help you settle in after moving to North Carolina.
North Carolina DMV
If you are over 18 and hold a valid driver’s license from another state, you may not need to take another driving test when you move to North Carolina. Your new North Carolina driver’s license costs only $4 to obtain or renew, and is good for five to eight years, depending on your age. Liability insurance is required for car owners in North Carolina.
For faster service to register a newly purchased car, renew your North Carolina registration or change a vehicle’s title, you can visit one of the state’s 120 license plate agencies. Learn more about North Carolina DMV at NCDot.gov.
Taxes and Tolls in North Carolina
The North Carolina state sales tax is comparable to many states, and slightly lower than others, at 4.75 percent. Additionally, counties may add another 2 to 3 percent in tax. Gasoline and diesel fuel are currently taxed at 39.2 cents per gallon.
Property taxes in North Carolina, as of 2011, range from about 50 cents for every $100 of the home’s value up to more than $1 for every $100. This is low compared to areas such as New York and California. North Carolina has many state-owned roads, so local government is not facing the burden of paying for this infrastructure, keeping property taxes relatively low. However, the state’s income tax is higher than many states, especially for those in the highest of North Carolina’s three tax brackets.
Garbage Collection and Recycling
In many areas of North Carolina, trash collection is handled by the city or the town, so you probably won’t have to arrange garbage pick-up services. Recycling rules vary based on the city or town, but it is North Carolina law to recycle plastic bottles, either returning them for the deposit refund or putting them in your plastic recyclables container for pick-up.
North Carolina also enforces strict solid waste management guidelines for construction projects and charges hefty fines for illegal dumping. If you are performing home renovation work following your move to North Carolina, consider renting a dumpster for the projects. Waste disposal and management is handled by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources Waste Management Division.