Most Affordable Places To Live In Virginia For 2020


We used data and science to determine which places in Virginia go easy on your wallet.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the cheapest places to live in Virginia.

Have you looked at your bank account recently and thought to yourself, “I really need to start saving more money,” but don’t know how? If you like beautiful mountains, weekend getaways in Washington, D.C, the beach, and historical sites, you may want to give living in Virginia a chance.

To make your feeble mid-20s cash supplies last longer, you have to think smarter. And what’s a smarter way to lower monthly costs than living in a place that is super cheap? You can have great careers and social lives in smaller towns that won’t take thousands away per month in rent alone.

“Virginia is for lovers” is a common phrase seen across the state. Perhaps you would enjoy drinking wine at one of Virginia’s many vineyards, sipping hot chocolate after an afternoon skiing on the slopes of Wintergreen, or even have a picnic on Virginia Beach on a sunny day.

Virginia is a great place for you and any date and the best part of it is that these dates won’t wreck your wallet. Have we caught your attention yet? We hope so because Virginia is a great state to live in for many reasons and it’s low cost of living is one of the state’s best attributes. Let’s get ready to explore the cheapest places in Virginia.

The 10 Most Affordable Places To Live In Virginia For 2020

1. PulaskiPulaski, VA

Population: 8,794
Median Household Income: $46,312

If you’re looking for the most affordable place to live in Virginia, look no further than Pulaski, a town about an hour southwest of Roanoke.

Housing in Pulaski is super cheap when taken as a proportion of income, whether you’re renting or buying. The median home price in Pulaski is $107,900 and the median rent is $628. With Pulaski residents earning a median income of $46,312, the mortgage or rent payments are a barely noticeable dent in the budget. If you move to Pulaski, you won’t know what people are talking about when they say that Virginia is one of the most expensive states in America.

2. CovingtonCovington, VA

Population: 5,582
Median Household Income: $39,432

Located in Alleghany County, Covington is the second cheapest city in Virginia.

While it’s impressive that you can rent a place in Covington for under $600/month, that’s not what lands Covington so high on this list. It’s because Covington has the #1.0 cheapest homes in Virginia, at a median price of $74,200. And it’s not like homes are cheap because the residents aren’t paid well — with a median income of $39,432, Covington residents enjoy the best ratio of home price to income in the state. Living in Covington, you’ll notice your savings growing as fast as the waters of the local Falling Springs Waterfall.

3. Big Stone GapBig Stone Gap, VA

Population: 5,326
Median Household Income: $44,013

Big Stone Gap ranks as the third most affordable city in Virginia, thanks to cheap housing options for both buyers and renters. The median income in Big Stone Gap is $44,013, which is more than enough to cover the median cost of a home, $122,100, or the median rent $639. You’ll be able to enjoy overlooking Powell Valley without stressing about the bills thanks to Big Stone Gap’s affordable housing.

Big Stone Gap is located in the far western part of the state, near the Kentucky border.

4. DanvilleDanville, VA

Source: Public domain

Population: 41,512
Median Household Income: $36,301

With a population of 41512, Danville is the biggest city to make this list, proving you don’t have to move to a small town to live economically. With a median rent of $659 and a median income of $36,301, renting in Danville won’t take full advantage of the city’s affordability. However, because home prices are cheap at a median price of $91,100, Danville has the third lowest ratio of home price to income in the state. If you stick to free hobbies like strolling down Danville’s Riverwalk Trail, you’ll have even more money in your pocket at the end of every week.

Danville is located in the south-central part of Virginia, on the border of North Carolina.

5. VintonVinton, VA

Population: 8,074
Median Household Income: $48,186

A bedroom community of Roanoke, Vinton ranks as the fifth cheapest place in Virginia. Vinton has the highest median rent you’ll see on this list at $727/month, but that’s still less than half than the statewide average, and taken as a proportion of income, it’s the 11th best place to rent in Virginia. Folks in Vinton earn a median income of $48,186 and pay a median home price of $145,600, putting Vinton in the top ten for most affordable places to buy in the state.

6. South BostonSouth Boston, VA

Population: 7,828
Median Household Income: $39,683

Located in the south-central part of Virginia, South Boston is the sixth most affordable place in the state. At $121,000, the town’s median home price is super affordable on a salary of $39,683, the median income in South Boston. In fact, it’s the 11th most affordable place to buy a home in Virginia. The median rent in South Boston is $661, so it’s also quite economical to be a renter here.

7. MarionMarion, VA

Population: 5,787
Median Household Income: $33,138

Marion takes the title of seventh cheapest place in Virginia with the lowest rent prices you’ll see on this list. With a median rent of $554, Marion residents pay less than a third what most Virginians pay for rent. Residents of Marion earn a median income of $33,138 and pay a median price of $104,900 for homes, giving the town a solid home price to income ratio. As a bonus, living in Marion puts you minutes away from the breathtaking Hungry Mother State Park. You can’t put a price on that!

Marion is the county seat of Smyth County in the southwestern part of Virginia.

8. BristolBristol, VA

Population: 16,843
Median Household Income: $37,904

Located in the southwestern part of the state on the North Carolina border, Bristol ranks as the eighth most affordable city in Virginia and is known as the birthplace of country music. Bristol’s median home price is $112,200 and median income is $37,904, giving the city the eighth best ratio of home price to income in Virginia. With a median rent of $702, it’s one of the least impressive cities for renters on this list, but it’s still way more affordable than most places in the state.

9. GalaxGalax, VA

Source: Public domain

Population: 6,638
Median Household Income: $31,938

Another southwestern VA city, Galax is the ninth cheapest place to call home in Virginia. The median rent in Galax is $585, the second lowest on this list. Homes in Galax go for a median price of $101,100 and residents earn a median income of $31,938, so it’s quite affordable whether you’re renting or buying here. And if you fancy fiddling or picking at the banjo, definitely check out the Blue Ridge Music Center.

10. MartinsvilleMartinsville, VA

Population: 13,101
Median Household Income: $33,224

Located about 50 miles south of Roanoke, Martinsville ranks as the tenth most affordable place in Virginia. With a median income of $33,224 and a median rent of $671, Martinsville is the least economical place to rent on this list, which is why it isn’t featured higher up. On the other hand, the median home price in Martinsville is $86,800, which makes the city the fourth most affordable place to buy a home in Virginia.

Living in Martinsville, you won’t feel like you’re in one of the most expensive states in the country.

How We Determined The Most Affordable Places To Live In The Old Dominion For 2020

Map Of The Cheapest Places To Live In Virginia
The two most important things to think about when it comes to being able to afford if you can live comes down to:

  1. How much do money do I make?
  2. How much do I have spend to live there?

You need to understand your costs in the context of how much money you make.

For example, if the median household earns $100,000 and spends $40,000 on housing it’s actually cheaper to live there than a place with a median income of $50,000 and housing costs of $21,000. You might spend more on housing, but you have more money overall to play with.

With that example in mind, we derived several statistics from the latest Census American Community Survey 2014-2018 around incomes and costs. They are:

  • Median Home Price / Median Income (lower is better)
  • Median Income / Median Rent (Higher is better)
  • Median Home Price

We added simply median home price because high home prices generally correlate with higher expenses for all costs related to homes (heating, electricity, etc).

You can then compare these metrics in each of the places in Virginia to figure out which is the least expensive.

What you are left with is a “Cost of Living Index” by taking the average rank of each of these metrics for each city.

So we used that cost of living index in order to rank all of the 61 places in Virginia that have more than 5,000 people.

The place with the lowest cost of living in Virginia according to the data is Pulaski. You can download the data here.

There You Have It Mr. Or Mrs. Virginia Cheapskate

If you’re looking at the cost of living numbers in Virginia, this is an accurate list of the most affordable places to live in Virginia for 2020.

Here’s a look at the most expensive cities in Virginia according to the data:

  1. Blacksburg
  2. Williamsburg
  3. Lexington

For more Virginia reading, check out:

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.