“. . . is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?” Sure, Chattanooga may have become famous for the first song ever to earn a gold record, but there’s so much more to “Scenic City.” Once voted Outside magazine’s “Best Town Ever” and Lonely Planet’s “Best in the US” and “10 US Destinations You Need to See in 2018”, Chattanooga is one of those rare cities that does have it all.
Chattanooga is widely known for a few “Americana” natural wonders like Rock City and Ruby Falls, but that’s only scratching the surface of what this Southern city has to offer. A thriving downtown, professional sports teams, access to top-ranked colleges and universities, the state’s multi-story aquarium, and a significant place in the nation’s history all come together to make Chattanooga the ideal city. Best of all, you can have all this for an affordable cost of living that beats out many other major metropolitan cities.
Living in Chattanooga, TN: What to Know Before Moving to Chattanooga
Located in southeastern Tennessee, directly north of the Georgia border, Chattanooga has about 180,700 residents. A lot of places may claim to “have it all,” but Chattanooga actually delivers. Sitting among ridges and mountains of the Appalachians, “Scenic City” is known for amazing outdoor recreation among abundant scenic beauty. With a thriving industrial and business center, respected colleges and universities, plenty of arts and cultural activities, and easy access to much of the rest of the country, Chattanooga offers something for everyone. Newcomers be warned: life in this Southern town is all about getting outside and enjoying nature. If you’re not an avid outdoors enthusiast, you soon will be!
Pros and Cons of Living in Chattanooga
There are a lot of great things about living in Chattanooga, as well as a few downsides that you might want to know about.
- Affordable cost of living lower than the US average
- No state income tax
- Healthy economy
- Easy access to other parts of the country
- Thriving tourism and entertainment
- Scenic beauty, abundant outdoor activities, natural wonders
- Mountainous terrain, which may be problematic in the winter
- Violent crime and property crime rates are both higher than the US average
- Significant income disparity between residents
- Hot, humid summers
- Humidity and allergy indices can be problems for people with health issues
- Property Tax: Hamilton County’s property tax rate is 0.878%, a bit higher than the state average of 0.738%. The taxes on a home valued at $150,000 would be $1,318 per year.
- Sales Tax: Tennessee’s state sales tax is 7%, and Hamilton County levies an additional 2.25%. The city of Chattanooga, however, doesn’t levy a sales tax, so your total sales tax when making purchases in Chattanooga will be 9.25%. The US average sales tax is 7.3%.
- State Income Tax: Tennessee doesn’t have a state income tax. However, it levies a hall tax of up to 6% on earned interest and dividends.
The median home value, as of December 2019, was $168,398. The home list price during the same period was $264,350, and according to zillow.com, the market is ‘very hot.’ Home values increased by 5.9% in 2019 and are forecast to go up another 3.7% in 2020.
The median age of homes in Chattanooga is 45 years, slightly older than the country’s median home age of 40. Renters make up 40.5% of the city’s population. The median rent price, as of December 2019, was $1,350.
Like most cities, the further you go from downtown, the more affordable housing will be. Residents in nearby Rossville, Georgia, can find twice the house at half the price compared to some of the newer construction located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga by the Riverwalk.
Cost of Living
Chattanooga, TN, has a cost-of-living score of 83.8, making it a more affordable city than the national average. Bestplaces.net calculates a city’s cost of living compared to a US average index of 100. Therefore, you’ll save money on many living expenses in Chattanooga. Expenses that run lower than the US average are grocery at 97, housing at 65, utilities at 95, and transportation at 81. However, health care costs are higher than average at 101.4.
The Family Budget Calculator from EPI.org reports that a Chattanooga family of four would need about $6,424 per month, or $77,094 per year, to live a moderate lifestyle.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Living in Chattanooga, you’ll experience a humid subtropical climate with four seasons. According to US Climate Data, the average annual high temperature in Chattanooga is 72 degrees, while the average annual low is only 50 degrees.
The hottest months are typically July and August when the average high reaches 90 degrees with significant humidity and cools down to an average 70-degree low. The coldest months tend to be December and January with average highs of 50 degrees and average lows of 32.
Chattanooga gets about 52 inches of rain annually, with 3 to 4 inches falling every month. You’ll have dustings of snow between January and March that add up to only 4 inches, but snowfall can be variable year to year.
Tornados and flooding are the major natural disaster threats. With the Tennessee River running right through the heart of the city, there’s always a chance for rising water levels, but there’ve been no recent recorded major floods. Be prepared for a potential natural disaster by becoming familiar with the Hamilton County emergency preparedness website.
Economy & Job Market
Chattanooga’s economy is healthy. Unemployment, at 3.7%, is slightly below the national average of 3.9%, and the job market has grown by 2.8% over 2019. Future job growth looks optimistic at 44% over the next ten years, which is noticeably higher than the forecast national average rate of 33.5%.
The median household income of a resident is $39,683, considerably below the national average of $53,482, but keep in mind that Chattanooga’s cost of living is also lower than the national average.
Major industries include advanced manufacturing, automotive, retail, food and beverage production, healthcare, insurance, and tourism. Some of the top job providers in the city include BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Cigna, CHI Memorial, Erlanger Health System, Volkswagen, Amazon, and Parkridge Medical System.
While sites like LinkedIn and Monster can help you find employment, Chattanooga is proactive in recruiting job-seekers. The city and various businesses host numerous job fairs throughout the year. You can also be proactive yourself by shining up your resume and practicing your interview skills.
Traffic & Transportation
For car-free commuting, Chattanooga operates a CARTA bus transit system as well as a very popular bike-share program. While rideshare options are also available, you can access the many paid parking lots in downtown; leave your car and bike share to your destination. A free, downtown electric shuttle conveniently connects you with centrally-located amenities.
WalkScore doesn’t think too highly of the way people get around in Chattanooga, rating the city 29 for walking and 25 for public transit. Biking scored slightly better at 35, but the number of hilly routes may have something to do with that. Interestingly, Chattanooga recently passed a bike-friendly “three-meter law” that fines drivers for coming within three meters of a cyclist. Several major intersections are also a mandatory right of way for cyclists. Walkscore.com labels Chattanooga a “car-dependent city,” however, the most walkable neighborhoods are North Chattanooga, Hill City, UTC; Downtown; and Cedar Hill.
As a major transit hub, Chattanooga provides an extensive transportation system of interstates and railroads. The main highways include east-west I-24 and north-south I-75 and I-5. Major state and national routes include north-south US 27 and SR 153. With Chattanooga sitting practically on Georgia’s northern border, residents can get to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in less than two hours.
Commute times can be difficult if you fail to plan, especially if you’re traveling on the outer ring. Roadwork has been a common staple of Chattanooga living for the past many years, too, so plan accordingly.
What To Do
There’s no shortage of amazing things to do in Chattanooga; in fact, vacationers often have trouble squeezing it all in. As a local, you’ll be able to take your time enjoying all that Chattanooga offers. While Chatt or Chattown, as it’s referred to by locals, is an outdoor paradise, you’ll find tons of arts and culture, innovation, and historical activities to enjoy.
The very first thing any newcomer to Chattanooga must do – and by must, we mean practically a state law! – is take a trip to Ruby Falls, Rock City, and the Incline Railway. These exquisite natural wonders are the stuff of Americana legend, and no local can get by without ever having seen them.
Once the weather warms, Lake Winnie is the place to be. Formally known as Lake Winnepesaukah, this family-owned amusement park is one of the best and oldest in the nation, opening to the public in 1925. The founders’ granddaughter often rides throughout the park on a golf cart and waves to visitors, while her grandchildren are the current owners who run this incredible piece of thrill-seeking history. Its wooden roller coaster is on the Historic Register, and at one time, its swimming pool was the largest in the Southeast.
If you’re looking for something a bit more cerebral, the Hunter Museum of Art, the Tennessee Aquarium, IMAX, and the Children’s Discovery Museum will tickle your brain cells. One of the best ways to see Chattanooga is to take part in a Chattanooga Ghost Tours event. This dusk-to-dark walking tour will take you to some of the most historical places in the city, including the actual start of the Trail of Tears and Ross’ Landing.
Chattanooga also houses Booker T Washington State Park, Prentice Cooper State Forest, and the Audubon Island in the middle of the Tennessee River with a nature trail and bird sanctuary only accessible by boat. The entire region is known for its incredible cave system, and the immense cave at Raccoon Mountain is an exciting and popular venue.
The 13 mile-long Riverwalk winds along the southern banks of the Tennessee River. As you explore the paved path, you’ll come across restaurants, cafes, opportunities for all kinds of water-based recreation, cultural institutions like the Hunter Museum of American Art, Bluff View Sculpture Garden, and Tennessee Aquarium.
Two professional soccer teams, several rugby teams, semi-pro, and minor league baseball, and college sports will keep sports fans busy. You’ll also find the Ironman Triathlon and professional cycling in Chattanooga.
Schools and Universities
Hamilton County School District governs Chattanooga’s public system with 79 schools, K – 12. Ten of the schools are rated 8/10 and 9/10 by GreatSchools.com, including Westview Elementary School, Chattanooga High Center for the Creative Arts, Chattanooga State Mid College High School, and others. The remainder of schools rate average or below.
Hamilton County School District spends $8,841 per student annually, well below the $12,383 national average. Student-teacher and student-counselor ratios are also below the national average. The high school graduation rate, at 86%, is slightly above the US average of 84.6% and 29% of Chattanooga students complete a four-year degree program.
If you’ll be considering higher education, Chattanooga offers a variety of colleges and universities, including the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which is the University of Tennessee’s second-largest campus; Richmont Graduate University; a branch of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine; and Chattanooga State Community College. Institutions located in nearby Chattanooga suburbs include Southern Adventist University and Covenant College.
Compared to the Chattanooga metro area, the state, and even the country, Chattanooga has a crime problem. BestPlaces.net ranks crime on a scale from 1 to 100. While the US has an average violent crime rating of 22.7, Chattanooga’s rating is 50.3. Nationwide, the property crime rating is 35.4, while Chattanooga’s is 83.
Fortunately, Chattanooga law enforcement is working on several initiatives to get to the root of the problem, and residents claim it’s no more dangerous than any other city of its size. Like anywhere, pockets of criminal activity exist. The neighborhoods of Ridgeside, East Ridge, and south of Brainerd Park see more crime than other areas.
Be sure to open your new utility accounts well before your move date. Chattanooga cityof.com provides a very handy one-stop website for finding all of the utility providers you’ll need. These include:
- Gas service – Chattanooga Gas
- Electric service – Electric Power Board, AKA EPB
- Water service – Tennessee American Water
- Trash pick-up/recycling service – City of Chattanooga public works department
- Internet/Cable service – AT&T, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Cricket Wireless
Best Neighborhoods in Chattanooga, TN
While living right in the heart of the beautiful downtown amid all the cultural centers, museums, restaurants, brewpubs, and the famous Riverwalk would be a dream location for many people; it’s also not for everyone. Families with children, for example, might not be drawn by the fast-paced city vibe and the lack of play spaces. Older residents may find the traffic issues and parking to be a little more than they wanted. Hopefully, this list of best neighborhoods and communities will guide you toward the right neighborhood.
Fort Wood Historic District
Directly east of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus, about a mile east of downtown, this historic neighborhood is bound by the shaded tree-lined McCallie Ave on the south, E 3rd St on the north, Palmetto St on the west, and O’Neal St on the east. Fort Wood, constructed by the Union Army, was a Civil War fortification. After the war, Fort Wood became a sought-after neighborhood. Today you’ll see a thriving district of Tudor Revival, Queen Anne, and Romanesque Revival architecture. Most homes have been beautifully restored and converted into apartments popular with UTC students.
- Population: 215
- Median home value: $315,107
- Median rent: $790
- Schools: Hillcrest Elementary School; Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, K-8; Chattanooga State Mid College High School
- Crime: Property and violent crime rates are higher than US averages
- Things to do: Shopping, festivals, late-night entertainment, dining, craft breweries, and clubs, will keep you busy around the Fort Wood district
Something to try: Stroll through the neighborhood streets; the majestic trees are protected by historic district guidelines and form the Fort Wood Arboretum.
Chattanooga’s top-rated neighborhood, Lookout Mountain, is only seven miles south of downtown Chattanooga and is one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in the area. Be prepared for a little higher cost of living, though, as Lookout Mountain is in high demand and the median household income is over $106,000 a year.
- Population: 1,983
- Median home value: $342,100
- Median rent: $1,173 per month; only 19% of residents rent
- Schools: Fairyland Elementary School, Chattanooga Valley Middle School, and Ridgeland High School serve this community, and they are all A and B-rated schools according to niche.com
- Crime: Property and violent crime in Lookout Mountain is higher than the national average.
- Things to do: Head up to Lookout Mountain on a clear day to see seven different states. Rock City is also nearby, as is the internationally famous and breathtaking underground Ruby Falls.
Something to try – The Incline Railway was an engineering marvel in its day, and now it gently glides passengers up and down the steep slope of Lookout Mountain.
Located significantly outside the city limits on the north side of the Tennessee River from downtown, Fairmount is an upscale neighborhood without the upscale price tag. While the median home value is a lot higher than in other parts of the state, the median household income is also higher than average at $94,227 per year.
- Population: 2,681
- Median home value: $352,800
- Median rent: $851 per month; 15% of residents rent
- Schools: The Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences (CSAS) – Upper School, Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, STEM School Chattanooga, Signal Mountain Middle/High School, and Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts are all A-rated schools that serve Fairmount.
- Crime: According to areavibes.com, Fairmount has only 1.88 crimes per 100K residents, and is 75% safer than the national average.
- Things to do: For history buffs, Fairmount is within easy highway access of the Chickamauga Battlefield and Historic Site, as well as Ross’s Landing.
Something to try – Grab your canoes or kayaks and head to the downtown Riverwalk. Launch from the Chattanooga Ducks boat ramp just down from the Tennessee Aquarium and paddle out to the Audubon Island (donations appreciated) for a day of wildlife watching and hiking. Be on the lookout for otters that like to play alongside your vessel!
This slightly larger neighborhood ranks in the top ten for three different Tennessee “best of” lists, including ‘best place to raise a family’ and ‘best place to retire.’ Located about eight miles northwest of downtown on the north side of the river, Signal Mountain sits at the base of one of the region’s many beautiful vistas. It borders the Prentice Cooper State Park and one of the larger bends in the Tennessee River.
- Population: 8,507
- Median home value: $337,800
- Median rent: $1,730 per month; 15% of residents rent
- Schools: Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences (CSAS) – Upper School, Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, STEM School Chattanooga, Signal Mountain Middle/High School, and Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts are all A-rated Hamilton County School System schools.
- Crime: Niche.com gives Signal Mountain a B-rating for crime, with 69.8 violent crimes per 100K residents per year, and about 530 property crimes per 100K residents per year.
- Things to do: Make plans to attend the open-air theater and musical performances offered each summer, and when the weather cools off head to Fairmount Orchard for homegrown apples and cider made on site.
Something to try – The Mountain Opry bluegrass music hall is open throughout the year with foot-stomping Appalachian music.
Almost nine miles due north of the downtown area and located right next to Hwy 27, Walden has everything you’d expect from a small community while still being a stone’s throw from central Chattanooga excitement anytime you feel like heading south. Walden has a very rural feel despite its location close to Chattanooga and offers a lot of natural beauty.
- Population: 1,873
- Median home value: $369,500
- Median rent: $996 per month; 23% of residents rent
- Schools: The A-rated Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences (CSAS) – Upper School, Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, STEM School Chattanooga, Signal Mountain Middle/High School, and Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts.
- Crime: NeighborhoodScout reports Walden has 1.05 violent crimes and 5.96 property crimes per 1,000 residents annually, with a safety score of 81 (safer than 81% of the country).
- Things to do: The Main Street Farmers’ Market makes sustainability and organic fare a focus year-round, and the Rainbow Lake Trail offers hiking opportunities to some of the area’s most accessible waterfalls.
Something to try – Schedule a Sleep in the Deep family sleepover inside the Tennessee Aquarium!
Just east of Chattanooga along I-75 but not quite to the city of Cleveland, TN, Collegedale is home to Southern Adventist University. That means you’ll live among a somewhat diverse population, at least from an age demographic, and enjoy better opportunities for affordable housing, good schools, arts and culture, and more. Major businesses have also recently hung out their shingles as this community continues to grow.
- Population: 10,902
- Median home value: $191,400
- Median rent: $914 per month; nearly half (43%) of residents rent
- Schools: Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences (CSAS) – Upper School, Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, STEM School Chattanooga, Apison Elementary School, and Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts are all A-rated Hamilton County School District schools that serve Collegedale.
- Crime: Niche.com rates Collegedale a B- for crime.
- Things to do: From whitewater rafting to hiking the trails, Collegedale is filled with outdoor adventures. Rock Creek Aviation can give you a bird’s eye view of the beauty during a helicopter tour, and Red Clay State Historic Park is not to be missed.
Something to try – Head over to Holes To Go mini golf for some nighttime, glowing fun!
Quality Moving Services from Chattanooga Movers
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Intrastate & Local Moves
Relocating from one area of Tennessee to another? Then local moving companies are your best bet. We match you with top-quality in-state movers for your Chattanooga move. They know Tennessee, and they know Chattanooga inside out, which means your move will go smoothly and efficiently.
Small Load Moves
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Art & Antiques
Do you collect fine art? Did you inherit some family heirlooms? It’s important to protect those special items with extra care. A Chattanooga arts and antiques moving service uses trained teams who specialize in fine art and priceless heirlooms. They’ll alleviate the worry of shipping your valuables when you relocate to your new home or gallery.
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Same Day/Emergency/Short Notice
Emergencies and the unexpected are just part of life. If you need to move right now, a same-day mover can be at your door before you know it. Just click Get Movers Now, and you’ll be underway.
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Great Guys Long Distance Movers is your FREE go-to source for help with your move to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Get free quotes now from licensed and insured moving specialists