The 10 Cheapest Places To Live In North Carolina For 2021


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

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the cheapest places to live in North Carolina.

When you think of affordable, does it take you back to your childhood?

Do you remember your mom making you wear your sister or brother's old clothes?

Most people think that North Carolina's cities are filled with a bunch of fancy shrimp and grits restaurants, snobby Tar Heel fans, and a plethora of wealthy tobacco plantation owners.

While all this might be true for some North Carolina cities, the NASCAR fans and BOGO lovers of North Carolina would beg to differ. North Carolina's cities have a lot to offer to all income levels; and surprisingly, it is actually extremely affordable. If you ask any North Carolinian, they will say hands down that North Carolina is one of the best states in the country. And in order to be one of the best, they have to have some of the nicest, most affordable places to call home, right?

Now, don't get your hand-me-downs in a bunch. Just because North Carolina is affordable, doesn't mean it's all Dollar Store 'cheap'. It means the cost of living is doable. And that means that you have more money to do the fun stuff that the Tar Heel State has to offer: like renting a summer beach house in the Outer Banks or taking a snowboarding trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

So, grab yourself some of great granny's sweet tea and a basket of hush puppies and read on to see where the cost of living is the lowest.

The 10 Most Affordable Places To Live In North Carolina

  1. Sawmills
  2. Marion
  3. Hamlet
  4. King
  5. Archdale
  6. Newton
  7. Winterville
  8. Nashville
  9. Trinity
  10. Albemarle

Yes, North Carolina is the best state for those looking for a little good 'ol fashioned, inexpensive fun.

It seems like North Carolinians are always on the go having fun around every turn. This fun happens because the Tar Heels know the value of a dollar. More importantly, they know the North Carolina cities where your dollar will go the furthest.

So, where is the cheapest place to call home in North Carolina? Well, after crunching the US Census median housing costs, median income, and overall cost of living data, Sawmills is the most affordable place to live in North Carolina.

If you care about home values, cost of living, and high quality of life, take a look at the list below to find the most affordable places in North Carolina, where, yes, you can have it all.

And if you already knew these places were cheap, check out some more reading about North Carolina and the cheapest places in the country:

The 10 Cheapest Places To Live In North Carolina For 2021

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,165
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.0x (most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 78.6x (62nd cheapest)
More On Sawmills: Real Estate | Cost Of Living

The most affordable city in North Carolina for 2021 is Sawmills. Kudos to the "Biggest Little Town in the Foothills'. They have held strong at number one from last year to become a Caldwell County gold star city.

Located in the northeastern corner of The Tar Heel State, agriculture and forestry have kept their economy moving in right direction. The median income in this town is around $52,951 with average home prices up around $108,300. Sawmills scored off our charts scoring an 8/10 on our affordability scale. They are the most affordable city when we looked at home price to income ratio.

Marion, NC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 7,834
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 4)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.3x (4th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 64.0x (89th cheapest)
More On Marion: Real Estate | Cost Of Living

Marion, North Carolina's gateway to the West, is our second most affordable city in the Tar Heel State for 2021. Marion scored an 8/10 for affordability on our snackability scale, and we think it has something to do with the fact that their median income is pushing $38,280.

When residents aren't busy cheering on their hometown hero, Coach Roy Williams, during UNC's basketball season, they are working in one of Marion's very profitable industries that includes healthcare, education, and retail. If affordability equals happiness, we're pretty sure you'll want to call the city 'Where Main Street Meets the Mountains" your next happy home.

Hamlet, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 6,331
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.6x (12th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 60.1x (113th cheapest)
More On Hamlet: Real Estate | Cost Of Living

Where North Carolina State HWY 74 meets North Carolina State Hwy 177, is our third most affordable city in the Old North State: Hamlet. This little North Carolina gem is 12th when it comes to home price to income ratio. We are not surprised considering they have such a strong economy led by a railroad hub with an emphasis in manufacturing and warehousing.

Now if a job in manufacturing is not your thing, it seems there will always be a need for train conductors. And with a median household income close to $35,221, we're sure you'll find Hamlet super inviting and super affordable.

King, NC

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 6,961
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.4x (7th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 87.8x (39th cheapest)
More On King: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

If your city has a Walmart Supercenter, you can bet you are living where it's affordable; and we might add, convenient. This is only 'one' of the reasons our fourth most affordable city in North Carolina, King, has made the list. But not the only reason for this north-central Tar Heel city to crush our snackability scale. King received an 8/10 on our snackability scale: the highest score on our top ten list.

Major employers like Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Novant Health, and Wake Forest University, help to keep King's median household income competitive and the city affordable.

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 11,510
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.6x (14th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 74.3x (6cheapest)
More On Archdale: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Just a stone's throw from Trinity is our fifth most affordable city in North Carolina: Archdale. You don't have to live on ramen noodles and the McDonald's dollar menu to afford this little North Carolina treasure. This city in Guilford/Randolph County is our 14th most affordable city for home ownership in line with median income.

Once a city with an agricultural-based economy, this Archdale has gravitated towards the traditional with most jobs, now, in manufacturing, healthcare, and tech services. We get why your city's motto is 'Crossroad of Progress'.

Newton, NC

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 13,059
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.4x (6th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 61.1x (56th cheapest)
More On Newton: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Newton ranks as the sixth most affordable city in North Carolina, mostly thanks to its relatively cheap homes. Folks in Newton earn a median income of $46,063 and pay $110,200 for homes on average. This gives Newton the sixth best ratio of home price to income in the state. Renting in Newton isn't as attractive, as the median rent is $754, which is fairly steep given the city's median income. In any case, with loads of parks to choose from, you can have fun in Newton without spending a dime.

Newton is located about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte.

Winterville, NC

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 9,645
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.2x (2nd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 82.5x (3cheapest)
More On Winterville: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Located in Pitt County, Winterville ranks as the seventh cheapest cities in North Carolina. Home prices are pretty steep in Winterville, with a median price tag of $161,300. But Winterville also has plenty of high-paying jobs that'll make coming up with the cash seem like a piece of cake. In fact, for the ratio of home price to income, Winterville ranks as the second best in the state. Even if you decide to rent in Winterville, the income to rent ratio ranks as the #11.0 spot in North Carolina.

All this extra expendable income is part of the reason we named Winterville one of the best places to live in North Carolina.

Nashville, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 5,516
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.4x (9th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 65.1x (128th cheapest)
More On Nashville: Real Estate | Cost Of Living

Nashville, North Carolina is NOT like Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville, North Carolina is super safe and super affordable. Nashville is small city located 36 miles East of Raleigh in north-central North Carolina. This little city in Nash County is our eighth most affordable city in the Tar Heel State for 2021.

This city that claims to be 'The Original Town of Nashville,' scored an 8.5/10 in affordability on our snackability scale with a 7/10 for jobs. Jobs in manufacturing, healthcare, and waste management support Nashville's economy. Nashville's $56,288/year median income provides stability, affordability, and some extra cheddar for a beach trip or two.

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 6,579
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.6x (16th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 73.0x (46th cheapest)
More On Trinity: Real Estate | Cost Of Living

Trinity is one of the coolest Tar Heel cities. It's also our ninth most affordable city in North Carolina for 2021. Trinity's overall HomeSnacks snackability was an 8/10! Not surprising considering their employment status and degree of affordability both scored off the charts. Busy people don't have time to waste their money on nonsense.

Why is Trinity super affordable? They are the world's largest manufacturers of bedding products. And if we know anything about bedding testers, they know proper thread count. More importantly, proper thread count can make or break a solid work day. With a $54,598/year median income, we're pretty sure the residents in Trinity are getting their rest.

Albemarle, NC

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 15,980
Rank Last Year: 29 (Up 19)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.7x (24th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 64.9x (100th cheapest)
More On Albemarle: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Albemarle might be the tenth cheapest place to live in North Carolina, but don't let that lead you to believe that there isn't a lot of class here. In Albemarle, you have a choice between wines from three local vineyards: Dennis, Stony Mountain, or Uwharrie).

Albemarle's overall cost of living score is 11% lower than the national average, but housing is 36% cheaper than your typical American city.

The median home price in Albemarle is $119,000, while the median rent is $682. With a median household income of $44,269, those housing costs are a piece of cake for Albemarle's residents.

Albemarle is located about 40 miles east of Charlotte, so you're also easily able to get to a The Bank of America Stadium for a Panther's game or concert.

How We Determined The Most Affordable Places To Live In The Tar Heel State For 2021

Map Of The Cheapest Places To Live In North Carolina
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 2015-2019 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 North Carolina 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 136 places in North Carolina that have more than 5,000 people.

The place with the lowest cost of living in North Carolina according to the data is Sawmills. You can download the data here.

There You Have It Mr. Or Mrs. North Carolina Cheapskate

If you're looking at the cost of living numbers in North Carolina, this is an accurate list of the most affordable places to live in North Carolina for 2021.

Here's a look at the most expensive cities in North Carolina according to the data:

  1. Boone
  2. Asheville
  3. Carrboro

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

The Most Affordable Places To Live In North Carolina

Rank City CheapScore Population Home/Income Ratio Income/Rent Ratio
1 Sawmills 12.0 5,165 2.0x 78.6x
2 Marion 17.0 7,834 2.3x 64.0x
3 Hamlet 25.0 6,331 2.6x 60.1x
4 King 27.33 6,961 2.4x 87.8x
5 Archdale 27.33 11,510 2.6x 74.3x
6 Newton 28.0 13,059 2.4x 61.1x
7 Winterville 28.0 9,645 2.2x 82.5x
8 Nashville 29.33 5,516 2.4x 65.1x
9 Trinity 30.33 6,579 2.6x 73.0x
10 Albemarle 30.67 15,980 2.7x 64.9x
11 Stokesdale 33.0 5,396 2.4x 94.5x
12 Lewisville 33.33 13,861 2.5x 90.9x
13 Gibsonville 33.67 7,127 2.6x 82.7x
14 Williamston 34.0 5,312 2.6x 56.2x
15 Siler City 34.33 8,078 2.8x 60.3x
16 Eden 37.33 15,055 2.5x 52.4x
17 Conover 37.33 8,452 2.8x 71.1x
18 Unionville 39.0 6,959 2.7x 94.4x
19 Erwin 39.0 5,035 2.2x 49.4x
20 Ayden 39.33 5,132 3.0x 64.8x
21 Boiling Spring Lakes 42.33 6,021 2.7x 68.6x
22 Thomasville 42.67 26,784 2.9x 58.7x
23 Kannapolis 43.67 48,630 2.7x 62.3x
24 Cherryville 45.0 5,956 2.9x 58.3x
25 Roxboro 45.33 8,298 2.7x 48.1x
26 Mount Holly 45.33 15,610 2.8x 70.2x
27 Lenoir 46.0 17,879 3.0x 58.7x
28 Bessemer City 46.33 5,471 2.7x 52.7x
29 Rolesville 47.0 7,488 2.6x 151.8x
30 Spring Lake 48.33 12,119 2.4x 38.3x
31 Mebane 49.33 14,952 2.9x 69.1x
32 Belmont 51.67 12,054 2.9x 70.7x
33 Sanford 51.83 29,456 3.0x 62.3x
34 Lumberton 52.33 20,928 3.0x 53.2x
35 Rocky Mount 52.67 54,548 2.8x 51.2x
36 Rockingham 53.67 8,865 3.0x 51.9x
37 Hope Mills 54.67 15,769 2.8x 52.7x
38 Indian Trail 55.33 38,822 2.6x 59.5x
39 Havelock 55.33 20,086 2.6x 52.1x
40 Concord 55.67 91,980 3.0x 70.6x
41 Asheboro 56.0 25,852 3.2x 57.0x
42 Harrisburg 56.33 15,806 2.7x 66.7x
43 Mocksville 56.67 5,213 3.3x 64.4x
44 Roanoke Rapids 57.33 14,741 3.0x 52.0x
45 Wesley Chapel 57.33 8,974 2.8x 80.4x
46 Holly Springs 57.67 34,874 2.9x 79.1x
47 Shelby 58.0 20,007 3.1x 54.5x
48 Knightdale 59.0 16,001 2.8x 60.0x
49 Clemmons 59.67 20,313 3.2x 81.6x
50 Apex 60.0 51,370 2.9x 80.8x
51 Huntersville 60.67 55,980 3.0x 78.2x
52 Salisbury 61.0 33,727 3.1x 53.3x
53 Kinston 62.33 20,398 3.1x 47.0x
54 Waxhaw 62.33 15,237 3.0x 77.2x
55 Kings Mountain 62.67 11,028 3.2x 52.9x
56 Garner 63.0 29,462 2.9x 58.0x
57 Wadesboro 63.33 5,305 3.0x 34.3x
58 Burlington 64.0 53,063 3.1x 53.0x
59 Fayetteville 64.33 210,432 2.9x 47.5x
60 Henderson 65.0 14,948 3.2x 46.9x
61 Zebulon 66.0 5,404 2.8x 40.7x
62 Wake Forest 66.67 42,111 3.2x 82.6x
63 Gastonia 67.33 75,887 3.1x 56.3x
64 Butner 67.33 7,727 3.0x 49.2x
65 Reidsville 67.67 13,915 3.2x 46.4x
66 Walke 68.0 5,099 3.3x 55.5x
67 Winston-Salem 68.33 244,115 3.2x 56.8x
68 Kernersville 68.67 24,576 3.5x 65.0x
69 Hickory 69.0 40,634 3.5x 64.9x
70 Matthews 69.0 32,044 3.1x 66.1x
71 Wendell 69.33 7,308 3.2x 61.4x
72 Clayton 69.67 21,681 3.1x 57.9x
73 Greensboro 70.33 291,303 3.2x 55.8x
74 Whiteville 70.67 5,386 3.4x 49.3x
75 Fuquay-Varina 70.83 27,426 3.2x 68.1x
76 Stallings 71.33 15,554 2.9x 58.2x
77 Angier 71.67 5,893 3.3x 57.6x
78 High Point 72.67 111,714 3.2x 53.7x
79 Laurinburg 73.33 15,119 3.3x 44.5x
80 Summerfield 73.33 11,151 3.5x 108.0x
81 Wilson 73.67 49,272 3.4x 55.2x
82 Cary 74.0 166,268 3.4x 84.0x
83 Aberdeen 74.33 7,595 3.7x 67.0x
84 Morrisville 74.33 26,280 3.3x 72.8x
85 Oxford 75.0 8,721 3.6x 55.1x
86 Mount Airy 75.33 10,193 4.0x 62.9x
87 Oak Ridge 77.0 6,901 3.0x 62.0x
88 Oak Island 77.17 7,851 3.5x 67.9x
89 Mooresville 77.33 37,835 3.4x 62.4x
90 Forest City 77.67 7,155 3.7x 46.6x
91 Morganton 77.67 16,481 3.8x 61.5x
92 Monroe 77.67 35,105 3.2x 52.8x
93 Lexington 78.0 18,861 3.5x 42.5x
94 Davidson 79.0 12,735 3.6x 98.8x
95 Fletcher 79.67 8,117 3.3x 58.0x
96 Cornelius 79.67 29,256 3.6x 74.3x
97 Mills River 83.67 7,251 3.9x 69.7x
98 Clinton 84.0 8,504 3.8x 48.7x
99 Tarboro 84.33 10,915 3.8x 45.7x
100 Graham 85.0 14,925 3.7x 48.6x

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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.