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Are you considering moving to North Carolina in the near future? If so, two of the best cities to put on your list are Charlotte and Raleigh. Charlotte is a huge city that’s easy to get around in, with plenty of things to do for Charlotte families, singles, and young professionals.
Raleigh is known as one of the best cities for families and easily one of the top places to move to in the U.S. Between the nice weather, Raleigh’s schools, and job prospects, it’s hard to beat.
That’s why we took the time to create this guide on living in Charlotte vs. Raleigh. We hope it helps answer some of your questions about relocating to either city in North Carolina and helps you with the moving process. Let’s get started!
Moving to Charlotte vs. Raleigh
Here’s everything you need to know about Charlotte vs. Raleigh before you make your move:
North Carolina is known for its top-rated education system, with the average high-school graduation rate being 86% for the most recent school year. Charlotte has a lower graduation rate at 81%, though some schools, such as Ardrey Kell High School, exceed the state average, flaunting an impressive 98% graduation rate.
Raleigh’s school graduation rate is higher than Charlotte’s graduation rate but lower than the state average, coming in at 85%. Like Charlotte, Raleigh also has many schools that exceed the city and state average, though, including Raleigh Charter High School, which has a graduation rate of above 95%. (Psst… It’s also been voted the second-best charter high school in all of the U.S.)
When it comes to schooling, another thing you might look at is the math and reading proficiency levels of the students. The math proficiency in Charlotte is the same as the statewide average (48%), while the reading proficiency is just below the state’s average at 50%.
Raleigh’s math proficiency is well above the state average at 58%. The same goes for reading (62%–to be exact). Raleigh schools are known for being among the best high schools in the state of North Carolina. Charlotte schools are also in the top half of North Carolina public high schools but lower than Raleigh when it comes to graduation rates, as well as math and reading proficiency levels.
Read more about Raleigh’s schools and Charlotte’s schools.
Traffic can get bad in Charlotte and Raleigh, considering they’re both major cities. The key is to avoid rush hour if at all possible, which is in the morning (about 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and late afternoon (4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.).
If you prefer not to be behind the wheel but still have to commute during those hours, consider public transportation. Charlotte has various options, including by bus or light rail. Raleigh also covers your bases (bus, train, shuttle, etc.). There are two airports in Charlotte (Charlotte Douglas International Airport and Concord Regional Airport) and one airport in Raleigh (Raleigh Durham International Airport), with multiple other airports nearby.
Charlotte is not considered the most bike-friendly city, though there are many neighborhoods and trails to accommodate bikers and pedestrians. Raleigh, on the other hand, has been called the “#114 best biking city in America” as of 2021.
Jobs and economy
Both Charlotte and Raleigh are known for strong job growth and economies. Approximately 19,900 jobs popped up in Charlotte in the second quarter of 2022 alone, according to one report. Some of the top industries in the area are government, manufacturing, trade, finance, education, health services, and business services.
What does Raleigh look like in terms of job growth? It has been called “the third-hottest job market in the country.” It’s also home to the famous Research Triangle, which has 300+ businesses operating out of it (e.g., government, education, nonprofit organizations, and science and tech). Some other notable industries in the region include manufacturing, trade, construction, and finance.
When it comes to Charlotte vs. Raleigh for nightlife, both cities rate well. However, locals generally prefer Charlotte nightlife, as there are more things to do. Whether you enjoy nightclubs, restaurants, or live music, both cities have you covered. (Charlotte also has sports, being home to the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, and more.)
Regarding the dating scene, one local says, “Raleigh is smaller and all the bars are right next to a university. I got tired of everyone being fresh out of college that I would meet. I know there are a lot of professionals there but they don’t come out, mostly everyone is married and having kids by 25. People in Charlotte are more career focused and so for late 20s / 30s there are more dating options.”
Charlotte has everything in close proximity when it comes to the outdoors. It’s only 20 miles from Lake Norman, North Carolina’s biggest man-made lake, which consists of a whopping 520 miles of shoreline. You can go there to fish, boat, or hike with your friends and family.
Another great thing about Charlotte is that it’s only about a four-hour drive to the ocean, specifically Ocean Isle Beach. That means that you can either hang out lakeside or oceanside, depending on what suits your fancy.
You can also head to the mountains if that’s more of your vibe. Some of the nearby mountain ranges include Morrow Mountain State Park, South Mountains, and Crowders Mountain State Park. You can also get to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in just under five hours.
Now, if you have kids or love a good picnic, you’re probably wondering about the parks. Charlotte has various parks, including Freedom Park, Romare Bearden Park, McDowell Nature Center and Preserve, and The Green.
Like Charlotte, Raleigh is known for being fun and outdoorsy. The city is a stomping ground for people of all ages because of the beautiful parks, lakes, and hiking trails. It only takes three hours or so to get to the mountains and two hours to get to the beach, with must-visit beaches to include Carolina Beach, Atlantic Beach, Wrightsville Beach, and Kure Beach. Local or nearby lakes that are worth checking out are Lake Johnson, Lake Wheeler, Lake Howell, and Shelley Lake.
If you’re into mountains, don’t forget to drive over to Medoc Mountain, which is roughly an hour and 15 minutes from Raleigh. Some highly rated parks in the area include Anderson Point Park, Fred Fletcher Park, and Lake Johnson Park–to name a few.
Cost of living
Charlotte’s cost of living is 0.3% less than the national average, making it more affordable in Charlotte than in the U.S. as a whole in most categories. That includes groceries, healthcare, transportation, and utilities. (Housing, on the other hand, is 3.3% higher than the national average.)
How does the cost of living in Charlotte vs. Raleigh compare? The overall cost of living is 2.7% higher in Raleigh vs. Charlotte. Raleigh is also more expensive in terms of food and utilities. However, it’s much cheaper for transportation and slightly cheaper for healthcare services in Raleigh.
Need a hand with your move to Charlotte or Raleigh?
The decision between Charlotte vs. Raleigh might not be easy, especially if you’re new to North Carolina. However, we hope we have given you some things to think about that can help with your choice. If you need help moving, we’d be delighted to help. We offer local moves in Raleigh and Charlotte movers, as well as long-distance moving services in Charlotte and long-distance moves in Raleigh. We can help you move in a jiffy, even if you’re looking for last-minute moves in Charlotte, or a same-day move in Raleigh.
Book a move online today.