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10 Cheapest Places to Live in North Carolina, 2023

September 26, 2023
Are you making a move to the Tar Heel State on a budget? Learn more about the cheapest places to live in North Carolina, from beachfront to city centers.

North Carolina is known for its sandy beaches, rich marine history, railroad roots, and gorgeous landscapes. The Tar Heel State is also affordable if you know where the cheapest places to live in North Carolina are.

From metropolitan urban centers to smaller cities with a laid-back vibe, you can find something for everyone in North Carolina. Here’s where to get started. And don't forget to check out Nick Johnson's thoughts on some of North Carolina's most budget-friendly cities that also happen to be hidden gems to most people.

Note: The data provided below comes from our rent estimates. These numbers expand beyond those listed on our platform. For further information, learn about our methodology.

The Most Affordable Places to Live in North Carolina

1. Greenville

  • Population: 88,728
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $950
  • Rent Change in the Past Year: 17.09%
  • Median Household Income: $42,612

Greenville is the 11th-most populous city in North Carolina and is known as the state's health, entertainment, and educational hub. As one of the best places to live in North Carolina, Greenville ranks high for young professionals, business development, and families for its affordable lifestyle and world-class amenities. Greenville is also an affordable city for Carolina University students, with plenty of breweries and places to explore for creole catfish and oysters.

Learn more about the average rent in Greenville.

2. Winston-Salem

  • Population: 250,320
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,114
  • Rent Change in the Past Year: 10.1%
  • Median Household Income: $47,269

Winston-Salem flourished during the heyday of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company's Camel cigarettes but is now known for Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State. The city attracts college students, young professionals, and retirees looking for a moderate climate and a booming downtown while retaining a small-town feel. You'll find a healthy job market with healthcare, public education, financial services, and higher education positions.

Learn more about the average rent in Winston-Salem

3. Fayetteville

  • Population: 208,778
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,282
  • Rent Change in the Past Year: 10.9%
  • Median Household Income: $46,321

Fayetteville is among the cheapest cities in North Carolina. Locals work in government, commerce, healthcare, and trade. Plus, you’re also not far from Fort Bragg and Pope Army Airfield, so you’ll feel right at home with other young professionals looking for a low-cost lifestyle without compromising on dining, pubs, and a laid-back vibe.

Learn more about the average rent in Fayetteville

4. Kannapolis

  • Population: 54,446
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,654
  • Rent Change in the Past Year: 26%
  • Median Household Income: $55,923

Kannapolis was a thriving textile center in the early 20th century and is now among the largest and best-preserved mill towns in the U.S. The city is home to eight universities with opportunities fueling the biotech industry, offering a desirable job market. You’re also not far from stunning mountains, coastlines, and larger city centers.

Learn more about the average rent in Kannapolis

5. Greensboro

  • Population: 298,263
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,287
  • Rent Change in the Past Year: 13.1%
  • Median Household Income: $49,492

Greensboro once had one of the biggest railway hubs and transportation centers in the South and is now known as one of the cheapest places to rent in North Carolina.

The diverse population is home to young professionals looking for opportunities in textiles, manufacturing, wholesale trade, real estate, and the service sector. Students attend the nearby University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro College, and North Carolina A&T University.

Learn more about the average rent in Greensboro

Concord, NC, USA: Kyle Busch (18) and Kevin Harvick (4) lead the field behind the Toyota Pace Car before the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC.

6. Concord

  • Population: 107,697
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,201
  • Rent Change in the Past Year: 5.4%
  • Median Household Income: $70,973

Concord grew from being a bustling mill town to becoming one of the best places to live in the Carolinas. Today, it’s an affordable North Carolina city in the Charlotte metropolitan area with quality schools and green space and is home to nearby universities like Cabarrus College of Health Science. If you’re a young professional, you can work in finance, healthcare, and tech before heading out to local breweries and barbecue joints.

Learn more about the average rent in Concord

7. Wilmington

  • Population: 117,643
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,434
  • Rent Change in the Past Year: 15.2%
  • Median Household Income: $53,830

For a beach town, the port city of Wilmington is among the most affordable cities in North Carolina. It’s home to the University of North Carolina Wilmington, with a growing population of 30-somethings and young professionals working in film, healthcare, banking, trade, hospitality, and government. The beach is always a draw, with seaside dining and a floating bar and grill.

Learn more about the average rent in Wilmington

8. Wake Forest

  • Population: 49,657
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,389
  • Rent Change in the Past Year: 7.3%
  • Median Household Income: $100,162

Wake Forest got its start in 1832 when the North Carolina Baptist Convention purchased a 615-acre plantation to create a place to train future ministers. Despite its sleepy reputation, Wake Forest boasts an incredible food scene and job opportunities at its namesake university, Lenovo, Duke Energy, Wells Fargo, and other major employers.

Learn more about the average rent in Wake Forest

9. Chapel Hill

  • Population: 61,128
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,463
  • Rent Change in the Past Year: 15.4%
  • Median Household Income: $75,249

Chapel Hill is synonymous with higher education and one of the cheapest places to live in North Carolina. Despite its small-town, southern charm, Chapel Hill is still a college town with plenty of pubs, restaurants, and cultural hotspots. Locals work at the local university, healthcare, social assistant, and scientific and technical services.

Learn more about the average rent in Chapel Hill

10. Durham

  • Population: 285,527
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,458
  • Rent Change in the Past Year: 7.4%
  • Median Household Income: $61,962

Like much of North Carolina, Durham was established in 1849 as a railway depot but is celebrated today as the home of Duke University and North Carolina University. Beyond the college scene, Durham is known for its position in the Research Triangle Park, along with Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

Learn more about the average rent in Durham

Final Thoughts

From coastal gems to modern cities, these are the cheapest places to live in North Carolina. The best places to live in the state are steeped in history, Southern charm, and promising job markets. Ready to make a move to the Tar Heel State? Sign up for Apartment List to find affordable apartments in North Carolina.

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Susan Finch
AUTHOR
Susan is an accomplished freelance writer whose passion for rental real estate, travel, and digital marketing has been the driving force behind her nearly 15-year career. Throughout her professional journey, Susan has become a seasoned veteran in creating compelling and informative content focused on the tenant/landlord relationship. Read More

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