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Complete Guide to Retiring in North Carolina

Table of Contents
Is Retiring in North Carolina Affordable?       Best Places to Retire in North Carolina Getting to Retirement  

Is NC a good state to retire in? 

It certainly could be. 

There are plenty of affordable places to retire in North Carolina. Plus, the weather is rather palatable. It rarely drops below freezing in winter, and mostly stays in the 80s in the summer. The state also has access to a variety of landscapes, from coasts to mountains. 

Given all that, it’s easy to see why North Carolina is a popular retirement destination. 

If spending your twilight years amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains seems ideal to you, keep reading. We’ve put together a full guide on what retirement in the Tar Heel state could look like.  

Is Retiring in North Carolina Affordable?


The short answer is “yes.” 

According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), North Carolina is the 25th most expensive state in terms of cost of living. 

NC scored a 96.1 on MERIC’s cost of living index. That means it’s about 4% cheaper to live there compared to the national average. 

Cost of living in North Carolina breakdown


The MERIC index puts NC housing at 92%, which is significantly below the national average.

How does that bear out in actual home prices? The US average is nearly $420,000, whereas in North Carolina, homes go for $320,000 on average. 


NC’s utility index is 94.5%. The relatively mild winters mean residents need less heat than, say Buffalo, NY. In the summer, because temperatures tend to stay below 90, A/C is less necessary than in the deep South. 

Forbes estimates that North Carolinians spend an average of $353 per month on utilities (including internet and cable). That’s around $80 less per month than the national average, which is $430. 

Food and Groceries

MERIC indexed NC grocery costs at 99%, which is slightly below average. However, SoFi cites data that estimates North Carolina residents spend $303 per month per person on groceries. That’s about $135 less than the $438 spent by the average American


Keep in mind that these figures are all state averages, and will vary depending on where in the state you live. (For example, the average home price in Chapel Hill is above $600,000.) 

North Carolina retirement taxes

North Carolina’s taxes for retirees are quite reasonable, relatively speaking. The sales tax rate is 4.75%, and the income tax rate is 5.25%, both of which are below average.  

The best news for retirees is that, in North Carolina, tax on social security income isn’t a thing. 

Property taxes are also low in NC. The average effective property tax rate is 0.77%, whereas the national average is 0.99%. 

Best Places to Retire in North Carolina

Best places to retire in NC

Yes, the generally low cost of living and tax-friendliness are plusses. North Carolina actually has even more going for it.

Are you a retiree seeking larger cities or small towns? Do you prefer easy access to beaches or mountains? Either way, you’ll find what they’re looking for in the Tar Heel state. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the best places to retire in NC. 

Scenic small towns

Asheville: in the mountains


With a population of just under 100,000, Asheville may not technically be the small town we’re saying it is. 

And yet, Asheville feels like a town half its size. 

The town is incredibly walkable, scoring a 91 from (“a walker’s paradise”). The downtown area is chock full of cute shops, phenomenal restaurants, and acclaimed breweries. 

Asheville is also smack dab in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a result, it’s one of the most scenic places to retire in the state. 

Edenton: on the coast


Are you looking for a nice, quiet town on the water? If so, Edenton is about as good a North Carolina retirement town as you could hope for.

Nestled into a crook of the Albemarle Sound, this town of under 5,000 has a lot to offer. 

There’s a charming main street with coffee shops, restaurants, and bakeries. Even better, it leads directly to Colonial Waterfront Park, which looks out over the sound. 

There’s an adorable old-timey trolley tour. Free boat slips to get you in the water? Yes. Plus, a pristine colonial lighthouse. 

Chapel Hill: vibrant college town

chapel hill

Chapel Hill is home to the Ackland Art Museum, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, and one of the most renowned institutions of higher learning in the US. Of course, that’s the University of North Carolina.

Because of the college’s presence in the community, Chapel Hill has a lot going on for a town of 61,000. From botanical gardens to farmers markets to a lively restaurant scene, it would be hard to run out of things to do in Chapel Hill. 

The downside to all this excitement is that a home in Chapel Hill won’t come cheap. As we noted above, the average price of a house in this college town is over $600,000. Of course, there are homes available for quite a lot less than that, but they may be few and far between. 

World class big cities

Durham: Chapel Hill but bigger (and cheaper)


With a population of just over 285,000, Durham is nearly five times the size of Chapel Hill. Despite that, the two towns have more in common than you might expect. 

Durham is also home to a top-tier college in Duke University. Durham also boasts all of the amenities of Chapel Hill (botanical gardens, art and science museums, farmers markets, etc.), but in greater variety due to its size. 

Durham also happens to be quite a lot cheaper to live in than its little neighbor. The average home price is just under $400,000. 

Finally, because of its larger size and because Duke has an excellent medical school, health care is a bit more accessible in Durham than in Chapel Hill. 


Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina, is a very good place to retire in North Carolina. In fact, it has consistently been recognized as one of the top places to retire in the U.S., and for good reason. 

As far as retirement communities are concerned, Raleigh is about average in terms of affordability. The average house costs just over $420,000 (which is the national average). 

The city is also brimming with exciting things to do and see. Nature lovers will appreciate the miles of greenway trails and the beautiful Pullen Park. 

For the culturally inclined, there’s an array of theaters, museums, and galleries. The North Carolina Museum of Art and the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts are the most notable.

Raleigh is also home to a vibrant dining scene, teeming with everything from traditional Southern cuisine to innovative fusion fare.

Getting to Retirement

Getting to Retirement  

As of 2023, the average retired American has $75,000 in annual expenses, yet lives on under $50,000 per year.  

If you’d like to beat those odds, it’s high time you started planning for your retirement.

Whether retirement is 2 or 20 years away, it’s never too late to make a plan. 

If you’d like to secure your financial future, Planswell can help. In just 3 minutes we can give you a snapshot of what your retirement might look like, and provide suggestions for improving it. 

The best part? It’s totally free.


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