These Are The 10 Best Places To Live In North Carolina


These are the cream of the crop in the Tar Heel State.

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Where are the best places in the state of North Carolina? They are the places that have awesome economies. They’re the places where people have the best jobs, where residents are happily married, and where the sun shines the most.

And certainly, since crime is really low, every one wants to be there. It’s, literally, all sunshine and rainbows.

We looked at the 146 most populated cities in the Tar Heel State for this study. The cities at the top are places where things are going swimmingly right now, at least according to data, which measures the good things that people say they want in a city in North Carolina.

There might be some surprises on this list, but when you look at the unbiased data, it’s hard to argue against. We had more than 10 million people read our worst cities in a state series, which was featured in hundreds of media outlets, including an NPR feature.

So we know what we’re talking about.

Here are the 10 best places to live in North Carolina:

  1. Chapel Hill
  2. Cary
  3. Apex
  4. Wake Forest
  5. Morrisville
  6. Holly Springs
  7. Carrboro
  8. Matthews
  9. Raleigh
  10. Davidson

We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty, ‘friendly people’ and community involvement), these are the best options in North Carolina for making a place home. And it looks like almost all of these are in the Triangle area of the state. Is that a surprise?

The worst city to live in North Carolina? Spring Lake. More on that later.

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How do you decide if a place is amazeballs or not?

In order to rank North Carolina’s best cities, we had to determine what criteria people like or dislike about a place. It isn’t a stretch to assume that people like low crime, good weather, things to do and a stable economy.

So we scraped the internet for those criteria, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.

How we crunched the numbers for North Carolina

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data, the government census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Sperling’s Best Places, this is the criteria we used:

  • Strong schools
  • Low unemployment rates
  • High incomes
  • High home prices
  • Lots of sunny days a year
  • Low crime
  • Low cost of living

If you’d like to see the complete list of cities in North Carolina, scroll to the bottom of this post to see a link to the entire data set.

Note: We get the crime numbers from the FBI, which gets its crime numbers from the cities themselves. This list is based on data, and is entirely unbiased. In terms of the cost of living numbers below, they are based on a national average of 100, so anything below 100 is more affordable.

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1. Chapel Hill

Best North Carolina

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 57,088
Crime Index: 88
Cost Of Living Index: 128

When you look at the data, Chapel Hill is the best place you can live in North Carolina. The two cities below are also usually mentioned in national discussions for great cities as well.

2. Cary

Best North Carolina

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 136,627
Crime Index: 58
Cost Of Living Index: 118

It’s a lot safer in Cary than it is in Chapel Hill. Plus, you’re closer to Raleigh.

3. Apex

Best North Carolina

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 37,589
Crime Index: 74
Cost Of Living Index: 113

Apex is even more affordable than Chapel Hill and Cary. There’s a lot less to do in downtown Apex, entertainment wise.

4. Wake Forest

Best North Carolina

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 29,889
Crime Index: 78
Cost Of Living Index: 112

Wake Forest is a quiet town north of Raleigh. It’s relatively safe, but in terms of entertainment options, you might have to make the short drive to Raleigh for far more options.

5. Morrisville

Best North Carolina

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 18,566
Crime Index: 71
Cost Of Living Index: 110

This western Raleigh suburb is really safe and relatively affordable as well.

6. Holly Springs

Best North Carolina

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 24,663
Crime Index: 49
Cost Of Living Index: 107

Like many of the cities in the entire Triangle region, Holly Springs is exploding in population. When you look at the overall numbers, you can tell why.

7. Carrboro

Best North Carolina

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 19,702
Crime Index: 103
Cost Of Living Index: 110

Carrboro is an Orange County city that’s a lot more affordable than Chapel Hill, but there are still plenty of entertainment options.

8. Matthews

Best North Carolina

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 27,516
Crime Index: 85
Cost Of Living Index: 106

Matthews is the first Charlotte suburb to make this list. It’s pretty safe, and a bit more affordable than other Charlotte suburbs.

9. Raleigh

Best North Carolina

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 405,007
Crime Index: 105
Cost Of Living Index: 101

It’s not often that a city’s capital makes a ‘best places to live list,’ but Raleigh is simply a great place to live if you need to be near a major city center.

10. Davidson

Best North Carolina

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 10,903
Crime Index: 77
Cost Of Living Index: 116

Another Charlotte suburb, Davidson is safe, and there are lots of educated people here due to nearby Davidson College.

There You Have It

Looking at the data, you can tell that anything within a 25-minute drive of Chapel Hill is the most desirable, according to science and data. But as most North Carolina residents would agree, almost every place here is awesome.

Other notable cities:
3rd Worst: Rockingham
2nd Worst: Forest City
Worst: Spring Lake

We also wrote about the 10 worst places to live in North Carolina if you’re interested in reading it.

Detailed List Of Best Places To Live In North Carolina

City Rank Population Crime Index Cost Of Living Index
Chapel Hill 1 57,088 88 128
Cary 2 136,627 58 118
Apex 3 37,589 74 113
Wake Forest 4 29,889 78 112
Morrisville 5 18,566 71 110
Holly Springs 6 24,663 49 107
Carrboro 7 19,702 103 110
Matthews 8 27,516 85 106
Raleigh 9 405,007 105 101
Davidson 10 10,903 77 116
Cornelius 11 24,818 77 110
Harrisburg 12 11,360 36 106
Ogden 13 6,688 46 114
Clemmons 14 18,680 72 99
Marvin 15 5,484 23 170
Knightdale 16 11,567 93 93
Boone 17 17,261 89 104
Garner 18 25,784 91 95
Asheville 19 83,796 124 102
Fuquay-Varina 20 18,143 81 99
Stallings 21 13,638 91 102
Durham 22 229,963 128 98
Indian Trail 23 33,246 55 97
Black Mountain 24 7,885 66 103
Myrtle Grove 25 8,652 56 107
Wesley Chapel 26 7,462 23 121
Weddington 27 9,577 32 138
Huntersville 28 46,656 70 109
Porters Neck 29 5,873 60 154
Winterville 30 9,117 106 93
Murraysville 31 13,850 79 99
Mills River 32 6,806 45 106
Silver Lake 33 5,622 90 97
King 34 6,659 99 87
Oak Ridge 35 6,202 33 121
Charlotte 36 740,931 123 94
Carolina Beach 37 5,755 118 110
Clayton 38 16,078 78 97
Kings Grant 39 8,201 81 96
Summerfield 40 10,160 36 116
Lewisville 41 12,785 47 97
Pinehurst 42 14,000 41 112
Fletcher 43 7,089 89 106
Hillsborough 44 6,114 134 107
Concord 45 79,171 101 93
Seven Lakes 46 5,533 27 101
Gibsonville 47 6,377 62 91
Elon 48 9,354 84 99
Siler City 49 7,967 113 96
Etowah 50 6,865 43 101
Brevard 51 7,566 100 99
Mint Hill 52 22,890 87 104
Kernersville 53 23,062 112 92
Unionville 54 6,020 47 100
Hendersonville 55 13,122 138 95
Woodfin 56 6,044 113 100
Waxhaw 57 9,743 100 98
Wendell 58 5,892 75 91
Wilmington 59 107,116 134 100
Kannapolis 60 42,845 84 85
Archdale 61 11,205 88 87
Kill Devil Hills 62 6,714 138 113
Lake Norman Of Catawba 63 6,907 65 127
Mooresville 64 32,462 127 101
Morehead City 65 8,720 137 104
Stokesdale 66 5,002 47 92
Winston-Salem 67 230,030 134 86
Mebane 68 11,502 116 96
Greensboro 69 270,619 129 88
Boiling Spring Lakes 70 5,329 62 106
Greenville 71 84,445 170 87
Waynesville 72 9,864 105 87
Mount Holly 73 13,506 117 91
Leland 74 13,732 127 104
Graham 75 14,152 106 86
Wrightsboro 76 5,487 79 101
High Point 77 104,394 124 86
Nashville 78 5,319 115 91
Fayetteville 79 200,439 132 90
Trinity 80 6,639 54 88
Oak Island 81 6,899 102 107
Half Moon 82 8,374 92 96
Hope Mills 83 15,139 133 94
Belmont 84 10,156 118 92
Elizabeth City 85 18,645 117 96
Monroe 86 33,101 126 90
Southern Pines 87 12,439 120 110
Thomasville 88 26,760 115 80
Salisbury 89 33,548 132 92
James City 90 6,013 83 90
St. Stephens 91 8,751 68 84
Piney Green 92 13,975 118 96
Hickory 93 40,075 132 86
Clinton 94 8,640 121 91
Conover 95 8,118 94 86
Asheboro 96 25,109 119 86
Lincolnton 97 10,536 111 92
Burlington 98 50,355 145 84
Mocksville 99 5,034 119 81
Gastonia 100 71,865 129 85
Albemarle 101 15,913 121 86
Roanoke Rapids 102 15,783 124 88
Butner 103 7,566 102 87
Edenton 104 5,037 123 93
Washington 105 9,731 142 96
Cherryville 106 5,765 111 85
Havelock 107 20,670 142 90
Mount Airy 108 10,449 131 92
New Bern 109 29,420 130 88
Aberdeen 110 6,311 116 93
Sawmills 111 5,200 100 85
Kings Mountain 112 10,835 131 84
Wilson 113 49,086 122 91
Williamston 114 5,484 155 84
Bessemer City 115 5,372 113 81
Jacksonville 116 69,393 145 92
Laurinburg 117 15,965 140 87
Morganton 118 16,932 93 86
Smithfield 119 11,118 134 89
Rocky Mount 120 57,523 155 82
Sanford 121 28,081 142 90
Henderson 122 15,389 181 90
Shelby 123 20,331 128 81
Pineville 124 7,562 161 91
Marion 125 7,997 133 82
Newton 126 12,991 124 82
Selma 127 6,125 139 81
Ahoskie 128 5,074 131 85
Oxford 129 8,518 171 86
Lexington 130 19,038 111 80
Lenoir 131 18,171 112 86
Goldsboro 132 36,738 154 91
Roxboro 133 8,400 140 87
Lumberton 134 21,595 198 87
Reidsville 135 14,463 125 81
Dunn 136 9,310 139 85
Eden 137 15,488 130 80
Wadesboro 138 5,795 155 84
Whiteville 139 5,347 165 87
Kinston 140 21,746 148 86
Hamlet 141 6,554 167 85
Tarboro 142 11,401 116 80
Statesville 143 24,803 144 84
Rockingham 144 9,524 159 86
Forest City 145 7,480 160 86
Spring Lake 146 12,465 198 88

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