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10 Cheapest Places to Live in Virginia

By: Susan Finch
September 3, 2021

Virginia's location along the Atlantic Ocean, as well as its many riverfronts, made it a strategic site for our Founding Fathers, early settlers, and new industry. The state is filled with oceanfront cities and has plenty of history dating back to the 1600s. If you have some flexibility when moving, you can still find an affordable cost of living in Virginia that boasts beaches, culture, and a strong job market.

Ready to move to Virginia and enjoy outdoor wonders and endless historical spots? Discover some of the cheapest places to live in Virginia.

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

Roanoke

  • Population: 99,143
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $921.71
  • Median Household Income: $44,230

Roanoke, Virginia, is the largest municipality in the southwest region of the state. The area became popular for its salt outcropping and was eventually established as a town in 1852. Roanoke was also part of the Great Wagon Road that was heavily traveled during the 18th-century on a journey from Philadelphia through the Shenandoah Valley. The city eventually became a stop on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad and grew to prominence as a coal town manufacturing steam locomotives.

Today, Roanoke is known for its outdoor recreation, culture, and diverse population. Significant employers in the area include banking, insurance, manufacturing, and automotive suppliers. The city is also home to one of the state's largest healthcare systems, Carilion Clinic, as well as a number of biomedical research companies.

Although the job market isn't projected to grow as fast as the rest of the US over the next ten years, Roaonaoke still holds steady and welcomes newcomers with job opportunities and a relatively low cost of living. For college students, a mix of private and public four-year and community colleges are available in Roanoke, including Jefferson College of Health Sciences.

Roanoke earned the nickname "Star City of the South," thanks to its culture, museums, and outdoor wonders. The Taubman Museum of Art features giant metal and glass sculptures housed in a historic building for artwork. The whimsical Roanoke Pinball museum features rare and fascinating pinballs from the current day to high-tech models. To get a taste of the locomotive history of the country, the Virginia Museum of Transportation boasts the earliest models and modes of modern transportation.

Roanoke's position in the Blue Ridge Mountains makes it a pristine playground for outdoor exploration. Locals flock to the summit of Mill Mountain for a surrounding park with trails, picnic areas, and the Mill Mountain Zoo. The mountain's manmade 88-foot star sits along the cliff with dazzling views of the valley below.

Learn more about the average rent in Roanoke.

Hampton

  • Population: 134,510
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,112.43
  • Median Household Income: $56,287

Hampton, Virginia, was first discovered on an exploratory mission and was established as the first permanent English settlement in the present-day United States in 1607. The location was valuable for its strategic location along the Chesapeake Bay and Old Point Comfort. Hampton went through a series of battles, seizures, and attacks during the American Revolutionary War and Civil War. Today, Hampton continues its military history as the home of Langley Airforce Base.

Hampton's key industries include advanced manufacturing, aerospace, homeland security, healthcare, and retail, among others. Langley Air Force Base also provides military and civilian work to the community. Hampton's job market is growing steadily, although at a slower rate than the rest of the US average. The city is also home to four-year institutions such as Hampton University. Its proximity to Norfolk and Newport News offers additional educational options.

As a historic cornerstone of the country, Hampton is home to museums and specialty stops honoring its US and Virginian roots. Fort Monroe's Casemate Museum chronicles 400 years of history of Point Comfort and Fort Monroe, where decisions made impacted the country's future. The Virginia Air & Space Science Center offers over 100 exhibits, including the Apollo 12 command module. Interactive activities, large plans, and space flight info educate visitors of all ages.

Hampton's location along the waterfront provides locals with free and cheap recreation. Buckroe Beach and Park provide a relaxing shoreline, playground, and historic lighthouse. Watersports, boat charter rentals, fishing, and golfing are also popular pastimes around Hampton.

Learn more about the average rent in Hampton.

Norfolk

  • Population: 242,742
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,138.71
  • Median Household Income: $51,590

Norfolk was incorporated into jurisdictions and cities in 1619. It was eventually incorporated in 1730 and established a tobacco inspection site. Much of the town was destroyed in 1776 when British gunfire and fires destroyed nearly two-thirds of Norfolk. The Virginian Railway and Jamestown Exposition were established in 1907, helping to spur growth in the area. Norfolk was also the backdrop of a fight over racial segregation in schools.

Government, healthcare, social assistance, retail, hospitality, food services, and manufacturing are major industries around Norfolk. The city's waterfront location and higher education opportunities are also a popular draw for students and staff. Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, and private institutions welcome academics looking towards the future. Families often choose Norfolk for the job opportunities and decent public school system.

Learn more about Virginia's naval history at the Battleship Wisconsin at Nauticus, which served an integral role in the Second World War and Gulf War. For a cultural stop, the Chrysler Museum of Art features over 30,000 pieces of art and exhibits. Locals head to Nauticus for waterfront fun and experiential shows and learning at the maritime discovery center.

Norfolk Botanical Garden boasts the beauty of the state. Native plants, azaleas, plants, and flowers span across 150 acres. Visitors can hop on a wagon ride tour, walk the paths, or enjoy seasonal light displays. House museum fans and nature lovers get the best of both worlds at the Hermitage Museum and Gardens estate. The Pagoda & Oriental Garden is an idyllic spot to relax with friends or snag a photo, all while enjoying Norfolk's connection with Taiwanese culture and nature.

Learn more about the average rent in Norfolk.

Newport News

  • Population: 179,225
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,196.00
  • Median Household Income: $53,215

Settlers first came to Newport News in 1607, where it became a small fishing village and rural plantation area. During the Reconstruction era, the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company grew into the world's largest shipyard and transferred goods from train rails to boat cargo. Newport News' position along the James River and Hampton Roads Harbor waterfront helped usher in new development, coal piers, harbor facilities, and urban development.

Newport News attracts college grads and millennials working in advanced manufacturing, technology, shipbuilding, international commerce, and aerospace and aviation. Families settle in the area for award-winning schools and waterfront living, while college students find higher education opportunities at the prestigious William & Mary, Christopher Newport University, and nearby options in Hampton and Norfolk.

Newport News is home to cultural offerings, including concerts and touring acts, as well s the Ferguson Center for the Arts. The Mariners' Museum and Park is home to the Civil War Ironclads iconic gun turret with over 35,000 maritime artifacts and ship models to learn more about Newport News' history. The surrounding 550-acre park and 5-mile hiking trail include paddle boat rentals to get on the water.

Civil War battlegrounds and tours are available at Newport News Park for visitors to hike, play, and camp. A pier, playground, and kayaking opportunities make nature even more enjoyable, perfect for a break from the city. Locals spend the summer months at Huntington Beach along the James River adjacent to the Virginia War Museum.

Learn more about the average rent in Newport News.

Richmond

  • Population: 230,436
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,222.71
  • Median Household Income: $47,250

This area near Jamestown, Virginia, was first settled in 1607 by colonial Europeans. Richmond, which was set along the James River and was part of the backdrop of the American Revolution, didn’t become a town until 1737. Richmond's St. John Church was the site of Patrick Henry's famous speech, "Give me liberty, or give me death." Richmond emerged as an industrial center and was home to some of the country's most extensive manufacturing facilities, ironworks, and flour mills.

Unlike most of Virginia, Richmond's job market outlook is predicted to surpass the US average. Key industries in the greater metro area include advanced manufacturing, bioscience, corporate services, finance, insurance, food and beverage, IT, and supply chain services. College students settle in the area to attend the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, and other private institutions.

Richmond's historical backdrop and stunning green space make it a rewarding place to work, live, and play. Locals explore Carytown for walking, shopping, and touring local museums and galleries. The arts district is also home to the free Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, with 5,000 years of art from around the world. Tours are available at the Thomas Jefferson-designed Virginia Capitol building, which houses the only sculpture of George Washington produced during his lifetime.

For nature lovers of r all ages, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden features 15 themed gardens, a Healing Garden, four lakes, and an all-access treehouse along 82 acres. The 100-acre Maymont estate was given to the city as a gift by James and Sallie Dooley, who lived on the property from 1893 to 1925. Mansion tours, river otters, petting farms, and gardens are available for a budget-friendly ticket price.

Free attractions, such as the Riverfront Canal Walk, Hollywood Cemetery, and Three Lakes Nature Center, drive down the cost of living in Richmond.

Learn more about the average rent in Richmond.

Williamsburg

  • Population: 14,954
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,280.57
  • Median Household Income: $57,463

The picturesque Williamsburg, Virginia, served as the colonial capital of the state from 1699 to 1776. It was also the capital of the free state for three more years after Virginia declared independence from England in 1776. Williamsburgh fell to the Union during the Civil War, and various buildings were set ablaze and destroyed. The arrival of the railroads helped revive the city, but the area remained a sleepy town until the 1920s, when an Episcopalian Priest worked to restore and revive the historic buildings. Soon, Williasburgh turned into the world's largest living museum.

Job growth in Williamsburg is predicted to surpass the US average over the next decade. Major employers around the city include local government, the College of William 7 Mary, and the National Center for State Courts. History lovers work at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which offers authentic and immersive 18th-century programming. Williamsburgh also attracts families for its low crime, tight-knight community, quality schools, and kid-friendly reputation.

Colonial Williamsburg is the main draw in the city thanks to its combination of historic sites, museums, outdoor space, and themed reenactments. Historic Jamestown and the Jamestown Settlement also feature recently uncovered artifacts, gallery exhibits, and the colonist's fort. Beyond the history and colonial flavor, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a thrilling stop for amusement park rides, water parks, and themed activities. Locals can keep costs down with free ferry rides along the Jamestown River, which shuttles visitors and their automobiles across the water.

Learn more about the average rent in Williamsburg.

Charlottesville

  • Population: 47,266
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,346.86
  • Median Household Income: $59,471

Charlottesville, VA, also known as C'ville, was established in 1762 and managed to avoid the brunt of the Civil War. Jim Crow laws took root in the area after Reconstruction ended, but Charlottesville saw a victory in 1958 when it closed its segregated white schools.

The job outlook in Charlottesville is strong and predicted to outpace average US employment over the next ten years. The metro area is home to agriculture, oil and gas, mining, construction, manufacturing, wholesale, and more. Even with that said, the city draws more than Millenials College students attend the University of Virginithe a, and families settle in Charlottesville for the reasonable cost of living and highly-regarded schools.

Charlottesville is home to a mix of historic and modern amenities and attractions. The Historic Downtown Mall attracts locals and tourists looking for outdoor seating at restaurants, boutiques, and craft brews or cocktails. Visiting the historic Monticello, the old home of Thomas Jefferson, is also a must. The home features artifacts, furniture, and gadgets, offering insight into the life of a Founding Father.

Self-guided tours are available at the historic University of Virginia. The university also features information about the self-taught architect, Thomas Jefferson. Carter Mountain Orchard boasts apple and peach trees for picking, a market store, brewery dispensary, and their famous apple cider doughnuts.

Learn more about the average rent in Charlottesville.

Chesapeake

  • Population: 244,835
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,443.29
  • Median Household Income: $78,640

Chesapeake wasn't founded until 1963, though was originally part of the English settlement dating back to 1620 along the banks of the Elizabeth River. The city was mainly a suburban or rural area until the 1990s, when Chesepaked experienced significant growth. As a neighbor of Virginia Beach, the area attracts newcomers, businesses, and industry.

Job growth in Chesapeake is predicted to rise steadily over the next ten years, surpassing the US average. Significant employers and industries in Chesapeake include public city schools, local government, healthcare, and retail. College students settle in the area for proximity to the beach, as well as nearby Norfolk state University, Regent University, and private higher-education options. Beyond that, Chesapeake is a highly-regarded place to raise a family thanks to its public schools and idyllic, coastal Virginian backdrop.

Although the Garage Brewery is a perfect stop for cold beer, Chesapeake's big attractions are outdoor spots. Oak Grove Lake Park is a popular spot for strolls along the wide trails, tranquil lake, fishing docs, and play area. Over at Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, the peaceful nature trails offer picture-perfect views of the canal. The 48-acre Chesapeake Arboretum features a lake, pavilion, paths, and an 1830s farmhouse.

Learn more about the average rent in Chesapeake.

Fredericksburg

  • Population: 29,036
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,470.71
  • Median Household Income: $65,641

Fredericksburg, Virginia was established by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1728. Like most of Virginia, Fredericksburg played a crucial role in America's founding. George Washington's family lived in the area, and Thomas Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in Fredericksburg. During the 19th century, mills developed along the Rappahannock River with mills for grinding flour, weaving cotton, and other manufacturing.

Fredericksburg currently leads Virginia in job growth, outpacing the US average for employment. The city is home to the nationally-ranked University of Mary Washington, attracting students and millennials looking for academic jobs. Distribution, logistics, advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, and technology are vital industries around the metro area.

The city's colonial history blends with modern amenities. Locals and visitors stroll Old Town for its pubs, restaurants, and riverside strolls. The A. Smith Bowman Distillery is the oldest distillery in the state and serves award-winning spirits. History buffs get outdoors at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The grounds feature battlefield exhibits. You can also see the Chatham Manor that served as a hospital during the war and the Stonewall Jackson Death Site.

Learn more about average rent in Fredericksburg.

Virginia Beach

  • Population: 449,974
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,523.71
  • Median Household Income: $76,610

Virginia Beach was founded in 1606 and experienced growth during 1883 when the coastal rail service arrived. Hotels and amenities soon followed. During the 1920s, railroad, electric trolley service, automobiles, buses, and trucks brought visitors and locals to the waterfront resort area.

Job growth is promising in Virginia Beach, although slightly less than the US average. Virginia Beach's economy is bolstered by real estate, defense, and tourism. Real estate redevelopment and expansion are always at the forefront of Virginia Beach's plans. College students flock to the beach for private higher education universities, including Virginia Wesleyan University and Regent University.

Virginia Beach is also a prime spring and summer break location, attracting tourists during the warmer months. Families enjoy highly rated public schools and oceanfront living with a family-friendly vibe.

Virginia Beach's position as a coastal city along Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean makes it a prime location for water lovers. The 3-mile boardwalk stretches along the oceanfront with food stands, souvenirs, and tourist attractions. You’ll find plenty of locals and visitors at Neptune’s Park for its free oceanfront summer concert series.

Spending the day at the beach is a favorite pastime in Virginia Beach. Sandbridge Beach, which borders a wildlife refuge, is an ideal spot for animal viewing. Locals also explore the First Landing State Park to see 2,700 acres of hiking trails, cypress swamps, and nesting grounds. As the name implies, First Landing marks the landing spot of the first English settlers to America in 1607. The park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Seashore State Park Historic District.

Learn more about the average rent in Virginia Beach.

Final Thoughts - Where Should I Move to in Virginia?

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

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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