Feeling the burden of living in California? Yes, it’s a state filled with many possibilities, but it also has its downsides (especially when it comes to the super high price tag). Whether you’re looking for a slower pace of life, affordable cost of living, or a chance to enjoy Southern hospitality & charm, North Carolina captivates the souls of its residents. There’s something magical that sets this Southern Atlantic state apart. From the mountains of Asheville to the exceptional urban amenities, job opportunities, and stellar schools of Raleigh and Charlotte, the Tar Heel State has something for everybody!

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What to Know About Moving from California to North Carolina

North Carolina and California might seem like complete opposites. However, they share more in common than you might think – breathtaking landscapes, booming job market, prestigious universities, and even gorgeous sandy beaches! The difference? NC takes it easy on your wallet and offers a dose of Southern charm. Here’s a list of things to know before you move.

Taxes

Yep, we all have to pay them. The good news is that overall, taxation is lower in North Carolina than in California. This Southern state has a flat income tax rate, which means everyone pays the same rate no matter their earnings (compared to the Golden State’s top marginal rate of 12.3%, the highest in the US). On top of that, the NC rate was reduced from 5.499% to 5.25% in 2019. As for sales tax, North Carolina has a state base rate of only 4.75% (compared to California’s 7.25%). According to SmartAsset, the overview of North Carolina taxes shows that NC has an average property tax rate of 0.86%, which is lower than the US average (1.08%). Surprisingly, California state’s average is slightly lower (0.77%).

Economy and Job Growth

California is a big state with a huge economy, but North Carolina is no slouch. For instance, the state capital of Raleigh (also known as the City of Oaks) has one of the fastest-growing job markets in the United States. Yes, California does rank #4 overall in state economic rankings, but NC currently sits in the Top 20 at #14. It also ranks #4 in terms of fiscal stability. Pretty impressive! At the beginning of 2020, unemployment in North Carolina was 3.9% (lower than California’s rate of 4.2%). Projections anticipate North Carolina’s future job growth over the next decade at nearly 38%, higher than its West Coast counterpart’s 34%.

Weather and Climate

With a humid subtropical climate, North Carolina offers a wide variety of weather due to its three main regions (the Appalachian Mountains, central Piedmont, and Atlantic Coastal Plain). Overall, winter low is about 29°F and summer high is 88°F (compared to a winter low of 39°F and summer high of 87°F in CA). Currently live in a dry part of California? The Southern state sees about 48 inches of annual rainfall, which is more than double the paltry 22 inches the West Coast state sees.

Geography

Sitting between Virginia to the north and South Carolina to the south, along the Atlantic Ocean, North Carolina can be split into three primary geographical regions. These regions include the eastern Atlantic Coastal Plain, the central Piedmont Plateau, and the Appalachian Mountains in the western part of the Southern state. You could also add a fourth region, the Outer Banks, which is comprised of barrier islands along the Atlantic coastline. The state is also home to numerous rivers, including the Yadkin, Roanoke, Neuse, and Cape Fear. There are also several lakes, including Lake Norman, which is the largest at nearly 33,000 acres.

Housing and Cost of Living

So, you’re most likely pretty curious about living expenses. You may have even jumped to this section first. With the ever-rising costs of California, many folks are looking for affordable alternatives to the Golden State. Great news! Let’s start with housing. According to Zillow, California has a median list price of $533,500. Care to guess the median list price in NC? Nearly half at $274,490. Homeownership is much more attainable here. Next, let’s take a look at living expenses. North Carolina enjoys a cost of living index of just 90.6, lower than the US index of 100 and much lower than the CA average of 149.9.

Things to Do

Let’s be completely honest; it’s nearly impossible to beat California when it comes to the endless list of stuff to do. That said, whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, history buff, or lover of sandy beach adventures, North Carolina holds many awe-inspiring experiences. As one of the deepest gorges in America, Linville Gorge is home to gorgeous waterfalls and the Linville River. The Biltmore Estate is another top attraction, consisting of a 250-room mansion built by the Vanderbilts that sits on an impressive 8,000 acres. And for beach lovers, there are many lovely coastal towns, including Edenton, Nags Head, and Kitty Hawk. Looking for something cool and unusual to do in North Carolina? Check out the Cryptozoology & Paranormal Museum.

Educational Opportunities

Are you looking for top education in North Carolina? You’ve come to the right state! NC is home to some of the finest universities & colleges in the country. These institutions include Duke University (#10 national university), Wake Forest University (#27 national university), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (#29 national university), and Elon University (#84 national university), to name a few.  According to the Pre-K–12 Rankings by US News & World Report, North Carolina ranks #28 overall (compared to #7 for California). The Tar Heel State also ranks #21 among states in high school graduation rates and #17 in college readiness.

Culture, Diversity, and Demographics

Jump in, the water’s fine! There’s a quality of life in North Carolina that you have to experience to appreciate fully. From Southern hospitality to a slower pace, North Carolinians know how to savor things and not rush. This attitude is quite a departure from many parts of California, which can be super competitive, congested, and unsafe. The Golden State does offer greater diversity, but NC is increasingly more diverse ethnically and economically. The most diverse cities in North Carolina include Charlotte (#21 in the US), Durham (#30), High Point (#36), Winston-Salem (#44), and Raleigh (#69). Raleigh, for example, is 53% White, 27% Black, 11% Hispanic & Latino, and 5% Asian.

Transportation and Traffic

Overall, North Carolina is currently #29 in transportation rankings. California, on the other hand, sits in the Bottom 10 at #41. One aspect that gives NC an edge is its road quality (coming in at #12 in the US). Comparing the best and worst commuter cities in North Carolina, the state has an average commuter time of only 23.4 minutes (with 25 NC cities offering times of less than 20 minutes). Now, that might come as a pleasant shock to you, especially if you’re coming from the Bay Area, LA (with an average commute time of nearly an hour!), or another wildly congested CA metro area.

Crime Rates

As for public safety rankings, North Carolina comes in at #28 in the United States. This ranking is higher than California’s ranking of #35. NC’s score derives from two main subcategories: low property crime rate (#29) and the violent crime rate (#27 overall). Comparing state capitals, crime in Raleigh is lower than in Sacramento, CA. Raleigh has a violent crime index of 20.3 (compared to 35.6 in Sacramento) and a property crime index of 44.4 (compared to 46.9 in Sacramento).  

Food

Last but certainly not least, we end our list with the food of North Carolina. You have delicious eats in your future! Whereas California offers an endless list of cuisines, North Carolina specializes in mouthwatering Southern delights ranging from the state’s famous smoked pork barbecue to shrimp n’ grits. Home of Pepsi, Cheerwine (wild cherry soft drink), Krispy Kreme donuts, Texas Pete hot sauce, and Bojangles’ Famous Chicken N Biscuits, the Tar Heel State keeps on knocking it out of the park with its unique & tasty food, drinks, and more. Of course, the only way you’ll truly understand how good it is here is by coming on over. North Carolina is waiting with open arms!

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Best Places to Live in North Carolina

So, you’ve settled on moving to the Tar Heel State, but where do you want to put down roots? Here are some of the best places to live in North Carolina.

Charlotte

Also known as the Queen City, Charlotte, North Carolina, is the largest city in the Tarheel State. With a rapidly growing job market focused on technology and an established reputation as one of the financial capitals of the country, it’s no wonder Charlotte has become one of the twenty most populated cities in the United States. Learn more about moving to this metro area of nearly 2.7 million in our moving to Charlotte guide.

Durham

The fourth-largest city in North Carolina, Durham, is best known as one point of the Research Triangle, a geographical “triangle” that also includes Chapel Hill and Raleigh. While this area is home to some of the most prominent research and development centers in the country, Durham itself is so much more. Find out more about moving to historic Durham here.

Fayetteville

Settled on the historic Cape Fear River, Fayetteville is an up-and-coming mid-sized city in southeastern North Carolina. Fort Bragg, the largest military installation in the world, is the area’s top employer adding tens of thousands of soldiers and their dependents to the city’s population. Learn more about moving to Fayetteville, NC, with our helpful guide!

Raleigh

Known as the “City of Oaks” for its abundant oak trees, Raleigh, NC, forms one point of the famous Research Triangle along with neighboring cities Durham and Chapel Hill. If you’re longing for the comforts of Southern hospitality mixed with one of the fastest-growing job markets in the country, look no further than Raleigh. Be sure to check out our Raleigh moving guide to discover everything there is to love about this happening city.

Wilmington

Wilmington is an important port city with just over 122,000 residents who enjoy easy access to some of North Carolina’s best beaches. This internationally recognized surf town also enjoys a strong economy and a reasonable cost of living. Find out more about living in Wilmington!

Greenville

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Pitt County, Greenville has transformed from an industrial textile town into a lively metropolis. Known as the capital of East Carolina, Greenville is the 10th largest city in the Tar Heel State. Find out more about moving to Greenville, NC here.

Chapel Hill

Pining for a smaller community that offers the perfect environment for a great college experience, climbing the corporate latter, or raising a family? This small town of 60,000 might just be the place for you! Learn about living in Chapel Hill here.

Asheville

Located in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains in Buncombe County, this artsy yet outdoorsy city has something for everyone. The western town of less than 100,000 attracts tourists and outdoor enthusiasts year-round with its picturesque nature and four distinct seasons. Find out more about Asheville.


Cost of Moving from California to North Carolina

On average, it costs about $5000-$7500 to move from California to North Carolina. Though this might sound expensive, consider that you are hauling your stuff about 2647 miles across the country. The total cost of your move will depend on several variables, including your origin and destination cities, the time of year you’re moving, the size of your household, and which services you require. The best way to get an accurate estimate is by scheduling an in-home or virtual (no contact) walkthrough with a licensed and insured interstate mover. Get free moving quotes from the best California to North Carolina movers now!

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Devin Barroga

Ever been bitten by the wanderlust bug? It's a powerful force, one which has captivated Devin for his entire life.... Read More