dock over body of water in Charleston, South Carolina

Best Places To Live In South Carolina: Top 5 Across The State

Holly Shuffett9-Minute Read
UPDATED: November 08, 2022

Choosing a new place to call home is no easy decision, but having certain priorities in mind can help you narrow things down. For those who’d like to live somewhere with hot summer days and mild winter nights, South Carolina could be the perfect fit.

This coastal state not only offers subtropical beaches and scenic mountain ranges, but also cities, suburbs and small towns befitting any homeowner’s tastes. Explore more of what the Palmetto State has to offer by browsing our list of the best places to live in South Carolina.

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Where Is The Best Place To Live In South Carolina?

Hometown pride is very real and with over 30,000 square miles to cover, it’s important to find the best place to live in South Carolina for you. This means looking at crucial factors, like affordability, opportunity, desirability and safety. We’ve done our homework, so you can limit yours.

5 Factors To Consider When Deciding If South Carolina Is A Good Place To Live

Research is everything when it comes to deciding where to live. While there are many ways to approach your next big move, the main factors to consider are the area’s cost of living, job opportunities, neighborhood, public schools and things to do.

Let’s explore why these aspects are so crucial to the place you could call home.

1. Cost Of Living

Before you settle on a new place to live, you should investigate the area’s cost of living. The higher a city’s cost of living, the more money you’ll need to afford life’s basic necessities: housing, food and health care. Most states have a job market that reflects the cost of living within state lines, but if you plan to work remotely or out of a different area, you should understand how far your dollar will get you.

2. Job Opportunities

To afford necessary expenses, you’re going to need a job. Take some time to explore the local job markets of each new area you’re considering. Look at which industries are big to see if they align with your skillset. Unemployment rate is another factor worth investigating since it can reflect an area’s economic health and how likely you are to find work after relocating.

3. Neighborhood

We spend a lot of time at home. That’s why it’s important that our homes offer a safe place to work, relax and sleep. Crime rates can be a helpful indicator, but it’s important to be thorough in your research. Try researching the neighborhoods you’re interested in, not just the broader city.

If you can’t visit or speak with any locals before moving, try using crime mapping services or visiting a community Facebook page for more perspective on the neighborhood’s safety.

4. School District

Whether you have or plan to have children, having good public schools in the area is essential. School districts hold significant weight when it comes to a home’s resale value. In your research pay close attention to things like test scores, graduation rates and student-to-teacher ratios. You should also check out the school district’s overall reputation, especially if you’re planning to send your children there.

5. Things To Do

No matter how much of a homebody you are, it’s important that you have options when leaving the house. Local amenities, entertainment and activities offered can greatly impact your quality of life and how much you enjoy your home.

When considering a new location, research how far you’ll need to go to get to the following:

  • Doctors, dentists, or other health care providers
  • Dining options
  • Grocery stores and shopping centers
  • Nightlife
  • Places of worship or cultural hubs
  • Outdoor activities
  • Gyms or recreational sports areas

Top 5 Best Cities To Live In South Carolina

Our rankings for the best cities to live in South Carolina are based on factors related to comfortable living. Remember, what’s best for some may not be best for you. This list is just here to help you explore new cities and narrow down your home search. Let’s dive in.

1. Charleston

Aerial view of Charleston City.
  • Population: 151,612
  • Median household income: $72,071
  • Median home price: $349,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,318
  • Unemployment rate: 6%

Despite having the largest population in all of South Carolina, Charleston exudes a charming, nostalgic feel thanks to its cobblestone streets and quaint, historical homes. Founded 350 years ago, under the name Charles Towne, Charleston is the oldest city in the state and has a fascinating history.

Located on a peninsula, Charleston has ideal weather with balmy summers and mild winters. To become a part of this historic city, check out Charleston real estate listings or explore our Charleston trend report for more information.

2. Columbia

Aerial view of downtown Columbia.
  • Population: 137,541
  • Median household income: $47,416
  • Median home price: $186,000
  • Median monthly rent: $956
  • Unemployment rate: 8% 

This central city is home to the University of South Carolina, whose flagship campus stretches across Columbia and contributes $6.2 billion annually to the state’s economy. Grab your gear football fans, because games and tailgates play a big role in this city’s culture. In fact, with so many fans flocking to Williams-Brice Stadium to show their support, traffic can be tricky on game days.

If a few extra cars on the road doesn’t scare you off, check out Columbia real estate listings or explore our Columbia trend report for more information.

3. Greenville

Aerial view of park in Grreenville.
  • Population: 72,095
  • Median household income: $58,259
  • Median home price: $332,700
  • Median monthly rent: $1,013
  • Unemployment rate: 6% 

Situated at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville is flush with nature – without sacrificing the shopping centers or culinary offerings of a bustling city. In Greenville, southern hospitality blends with international flavor thanks to a thriving local economy. Major employers include powerhouses like GE Power, Michelin and Verizon Wireless.

If you’re looking to make the move to a metropolis, without the big city price tag, check out Greenville real estate listings or explore our Greenville trend report.

4. Tega Cay

Lake on a summer day.
  • Population: 13,278
  • Median household income: $125,847
  • Median home price: $358,000
  • Median monthly rent: $2,315
  • Unemployment rate: 1%

Located in the northern region of South Carolina, Tega Cay is actually considered a suburb of Charlotte. While residents may have to travel farther for work, this charming town makes up for it in other ways.

The quaint 3.87-square-mile peninsula is a close-knit, lakeside community, where residents gather throughout the year to take part in events like the City Birthday Party and Community Yard Sale. Boating and water sports are favorite pastimes and highly rated local schools make Tega Cay a great community for families.

If you want to be part of the fun, check out Tega Cay real estate listings or explore our Tega Cay trend report for more information.

5. Lexington

Lexington skyline.
  • Population: 24,208
  • Median household income: $71,850
  • Median home price: $199,400
  • Median monthly rent: $1,080
  • Unemployment rate: 0% 

Lexington is a town with a proud history. Back in the mid- to late 1800s, Lexington acted as a wholesale retail market that sold manufactured goods to merchants from Columbia. Today, Lexington honors that history through its commitment to small businesses. The quaint, small town offers residents the ability to shop locally through its wealth of mom-and-pop shops, like Four Oaks Farm, a 90-year-old, family-owned country store.

Lexington’s Old Mill is also a testament to the area’s desire to preserve its merchant-inspired past. The former site of the town’s prosperous textile mill now houses 20 local businesses. If you’re tired of being surrounded by big chain stores, explore some Lexington real estate listings or check out our Lexington trend report for more.

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Top 5 Cheapest Places To Live In South Carolina

Affordability can play a huge role in comfortably living somewhere. Here are some of our picks for the cheapest places to live in South Carolina.

1. Lake City

Bee hotel in city.
  • Population: 5,929
  • Median household income: $37,887
  • Median home price: $84,800
  • Median monthly rent: $759
  • Unemployment rate: 3%

Nestled in northeast South Carolina is the quaint town of Lake City. With a jam-packed calendar of year-round events, ranging from family-friendly holiday celebrations to beer fests and wine walks, Lake City is the perfect reminder that big cities don’t have all the fun.

Lake City is also teeming with culture and vibrant colors. Art murals and installations line the streets, paying homage to the city’s history and spotlighting the skills of local artists. Also called Bee City, USA, this town is first in S.C. to uphold sustainable pollinator habitats through its City Bee Program.

If the artistic or sustainable lifestyle is for you, consider exploring Lake City real estate listings or browse our Lake City trend report for more.

2. Gaffney

Main street in downtown Gaffney.
  • Population: 12,424
  • Median household income: $31,355
  • Median home price: $138,000
  • Median monthly rent: $711
  • Unemployment rate: 3%

Best known for its 135-foot-tall Peachoid water tower – the photos are worth the quick search, trust me – is Cherokee County’s small town, Gaffney. Attend one of the Gaffney Little Theatre’s numerous productions or feast on farm-fresh food straight from the Gaffney Station Farmers Market.

This community also has a rich history and currently houses the Cherokee Alliance of Visual Artists (CAVA), a nonprofit organization which continues to promote the work of local artists. Craving that farm-to-table food? Browse Gaffney real estate listings or check out our Gaffney trend report for more information.

3. Chester

Close view of family picking blueberries on a farm.
  • Population: 5,245
  • Median household income: $28,750
  • Median home price: $150,000
  • Median monthly rent: $599
  • Unemployment rate: 7%

This small, rural town is chock full of history, including the Aaron Burr rock, which got its name from when former vice president Aaron Burr stood upon it while under arrest. As one of South Carolina’s seven counties that makes up the Olde English District, you’ll find museums, monuments and an abundance of other historical markers throughout town.

Farms ripe for berry picking and historic bed and breakfasts are within driving distance, or stay local and enjoy the waterways and plentiful nature to hike, swim, fish and more.

Looking to disconnect from your busy life? Check out Chester real estate listings or browse our Chester trend report today.

4. Central

Distant view of Pinnacle mountain with lake.
  • Population: 5,296
  • Median household income: $31,233
  • Median home price: $156,000
  • Median monthly rent: $693
  • Unemployment rate: 1%

The small town of Central gets its namesake from its former glory days as the Central Station railroad stop. What began as lodging and eateries for railroad workers expanded into a thriving town, which still offers cuisines and shops fit for visitors and residents alike. 

With youth sports programs, a disc golf course and plenty of park trails and recreational areas to explore, Central is a great place to raise children or get outside with your four-legged friend. If you’re looking for wholesome fun, browse Central’s real estate listings or check out Central trend reports today.

5. Spartanburg

Aerial view of Spartanburg, South Carolina.
  • Population: 38,401
  • Median household income: $42,841
  • Median home price: $198,666
  • Median monthly rent: $839
  • Unemployment rate: 2% 

With over 20 playgrounds and parks – including a dog park, skate park and unique play structures perfect for adventurous kiddos – Spartanburg is a great community for families or those looking to settle down. This city also has its own system of public transportation, perfect for getting students to class or picking up some groceries.

Downtown Spartanburg offers an assortment of restaurants and attractions, from miniature golf at Sparkle City Mini Putt to weekly concerts with Music On Main. If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that you won’t get bored in this affordable city.

Explore Spartanburg real estate listings or check out our Spartanburg trend report for more.

The Bottom Line: South Carolina Has Many Great Cities To Live In

No matter how helpful “best places to live” lists may be, rankings are ultimately subjective. Everyone is different, so what makes a city or town seem best to you may not be the same for someone else. Remember to use our rankings of the best South Carolina places as a jumping-off point for your own exploration.

Be sure to consider the cost of living, job opportunities, public schools, amenities and more in your research. These factors can help make the search for your next hometown easier. Feel inspired to start packing? Get in touch with a local real estate agent and check out the Rocket HomesSM Home Buyer’s Guide for more information on moving to a new state.


The data used to create this article was sourced from multiple sources’ most recent information as of September 18, 2022. The U.S. Census Bureau was used to find the populations, median household income, median home prices and median monthly rent for each city in our “Best Places” ranking, except Tega Cay. Tega Cay’s median monthly rent was pulled from

The U.S. Census Bureau was used to find the populations, median household income and median monthly rent for each city in our “Cheapest Places” rankings. The median home prices for all “Cheapest Places” rankings were sourced from Rocket Homes trend reports.

The unemployment rates for Tega Cay, Lexington and all “Cheapest Places” rankings were sourced from the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce. The unemployment rate for all remaining “Best Places” cities were pulled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Holly Shuffett

Holly Shuffett is a staff writer who writes with a focus on homeownership and personal finance. She has a B.A. in public relations from Oakland University and enjoys creative writing and reading in her free time.