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Best Places to Live in South Carolina

South Carolina is known for golf, sandy beaches, Revolutionary War history and a whole lot more. It could be a great place for you to live. . . but which city is the best for you?

We’ll take a look at nine of the best places to live in South Carolina—and one that we think is way overrated. You’ll get to see the cost of living, home prices, fun things to do and more so you can make a wise decision about where to live in South Carolina. 

So grab some boiled peanuts to snack on and let’s go!

9 Best Places to Live in South Carolina

Real quick, let’s clear something up: The best place to live depends on what you need and want in a new city. Once you’re clear on that, you can start looking for cities that might work for you and your family.

It also depends on what you can afford—and part of that equation is how much it costs to move there, not just to live there. When you’re calculating the cost of moving, you’ll want to include everything, from the cost of gas to whether you plan to use a moving service or go the DIY route. By the way, if you decide to DIY, PODS is the way to go. You can pack a PODS container, and PODS will deliver it to your new place. It makes moving much more flexible than just shoving everything into your van.

To help you figure out what works best for you, we ranked the top nine places to live in South Carolina based on factors like income and affordability so you can better decide which one might be right for you.

See how much house you can afford with our free mortgage calculator!

south carolina's best cities

1. Fort Mill

Fort Mill sits on the North Carolina border, near Charlotte. But since Fort Mill is actually in South Carolina, it’s still some distance from Charlotte’s urban sprawl—making it one of the best places to live and buy land.

With its high incomes, low cost of living and reasonable home prices, Fort Mill is a great place to reach for your financial goals. It’s also a super quiet town, so you just may want to raise your family there.

Fort Mill offers fun family activities, like the Anne Close Springs Greenway and Fort Mill History Museum. You can head to local parks or the Catawba River for fishing and wildlife viewing. Or drive up to Charlotte (one of the best places to live in North Carolina) for a day. If you go to the city, be sure to check out Carowinds amusement park.

Population

19,9201

Median Annual Income

$101,6992

Median Home Price

$409,5003

Median Monthly Rent*

$1,4654

Cost of Living

5% below national average5

Local University

Winthrop University

Average Annual Rainfall

43.5”6

Features

Affordable homes and living expenses, quiet community, and close proximity to Charlotte

*Median Monthly Rents refer to two-bedroom apartments.

2. Lexington

Just outside Columbia, you’ll find Lexington. This suburb boasts affordable housing, low costs of living, and yearly salaries several thousand dollars higher than the national median of $64,994.7 Bonus: Lexington has the fewest rainy days of all the cities on our list!

Lexington is minutes from Lake Murray, where locals boat, swim and play with their kids and pets. You can also hike at Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve, watch a baseball game at the Lexington County Stadium, or head to the Icehouse Amphitheater for an outdoor concert.

Indoors more your thing? Have a grown-ups’ night out at Grady’s, or take the kids to the Lexington County Museum.

Population

21,8478

Median Annual Income

$71,8509

Median Home Price

$303,90010

Median Monthly Rent

$1,28411

Cost of Living

6% below the national average12

Local Career School

Carolina Career School & Training Institute

Average Annual Rainfall

43.3”13

Features

Lots of outdoor activities and sunny days, as well as affordable housing and a low cost of living

3. Tega Cay

Like Fort Mill, Tega Cay is between the Catawba River and North Carolina—in fact, these two cities are neighbors! And while Tega Cay is the smallest city on our countdown, it makes up for it with the biggest yearly salaries. Cha-ching!  

In Tega Cay, you can visit the Museum of York County. You can also expect to spend lots of time outdoors: The city has multiple parks, a golf club and a boat marina. (It’s basically the best place to live in South Carolina for retirees.)

You’ll also find Nanny’s Mountain just outside town. During the Revolutionary War, people mined this mountain for iron ore to make cannons—and later, it may even have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.   

Population

10,83414

Median Annual Income

$125,84715

Median Home Price

$409,50016

Median Monthly Rent

$1,30017

Cost of Living

5% below national average18

Local University

Winthrop University

Average Annual Rainfall

43.5”19

Features

High yearly salaries, average housing prices, and outdoor activities like golf, hiking and boating

4. Clemson

Let’s head to the Appalachian Mountains! Clemson sits on the southwest side of the state, near Georgia, and it’s home to Clemson University. (Go Tigers!)

This small city ties with Greenville for the cheapest rent and lowest cost of living on our countdown. Thanks to its affordability and universities (Southern Wesleyan is also there), Clemson is one of the best places to live in South Carolina for young adults.

If you’re looking for something to do, you can always catch a game at one of Clemson’s athletic venues. There are museums about agriculture, geology, railroads, and the area’s African-American history. And you can visit the South Carolina Botanical Garden, Old Stone Church or Blue Hole Falls.

Population

16,91720

Median Annual Income

$46,07521

Median Home Price

$335,48022

Median Monthly Rent

$1,11323

Cost of Living

10% below the national average24

Local University

Clemson University

Southern Wesleyan University

Average Annual Rainfall

48”25

Features

Two universities, lowest cost of living, and tons of sports events, museums and outdoor activities

5. Columbia

Columbia—the state capital—is smack in the middle of South Carolina. It’s a big city with lots of neighborhoods, so do your research to find the one where you’ll feel most at home. (Locals rate Forest Acres, Irmo, Seven Oaks and Blythewood as four of the best places to live in South Carolina for families.)

Columbia has gobs of things to do! You can enjoy the Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina State Museum, or the four-story, interactive Richland Library. Take a historic tour of the city, or hop on a bicycle bar for a night to remember. Or shop your way through the Divine District and historic Five Points (without going into debt, that is).

Outdoor attractions include Riverbanks Zoo, Congaree National Park, and Columbia Fireflies baseball games. Want to do something unusual? Watch a live puppet performance at the Columbia Marionette Theater. With so much to see and do, Columbia is one of the best places to live in South Carolina for singles!

Population

134,05726

Median Annual Income

$47,41627

Median Home Price

$303,90028

Median Monthly Rent

$1,25429

Cost of Living

6% below the national average30

Local University

University of South Carolina

Average Annual Rainfall

43.9”31

Features

Endless opportunities to have fun with your friends and family, low home prices, and an overall low cost of living

6. Greenville

Compared to other South Carolina cities, Greenville runs in the middle of the pack for—well, almost everything. It’s medium-sized with reasonable salaries and fairly low housing prices. But it wins one category: Greenville ties with Clemson for the lowest cost of living in South Carolina. Woot woot!

In Greenville, you can find just about any outdoor adventure you want. America’s steepest, fastest zipline? Check. Whitewater rafting? Check. Classes that’ll teach you to tear up the track in a performance car? Check.

Greenville offers lots of laid-back options too. You can eat and drink your way through town on almost a dozen food and beer tours, attend the Carolina Ballet, or see the masterpieces at the Artists Guild Gallery—the oldest art co-op in town. For sports, take your pick from pro baseball, soccer or hockey. And for families, there’s always the zoo, children’s museum, and Mice on Main scavenger hunt.

Population

69,64832

Median Annual Income

$58,25933

Median Home Price

$335,48034

Median Monthly Rent

$1,25135

Cost of Living

10% below the national average36

Local University

Furman University

Average Annual Rainfall

47.9”37

Features

Low cost of living, outdoor adventures, pro sports teams and family-friendly activities

7. Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant has the second-highest incomes on our list—good thing, since housing is so expensive there! Monthly rents are nearly double the national median, while home prices are more than $170,000 above median.38,39

But if you can handle the housing prices, this Charleston suburb could be one of the best places to live in South Carolina. Mount Pleasant is minutes from the beach. It’s also near the Francis Marion National Forest and Bonneau Ferry Wildlife Management Area.

History buffs can visit the home of Charles Pinckney, who signed the U.S. Constitution, and historic sites at Sullivan’s Island and Moultrieville. Other points of interest include Palmetto Fort, Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, and Fort Sumter—where the first shot in the Civil War was fired.

Population

89,41040

Median Annual Income

$104,77241

Median Home Price

$576,75042

Median Monthly Rent

$2,01143

Cost of Living

Same as national average44

Local University and College

Medical University of South Carolina

Trident Technical College

Average Annual Rainfall

51.3”45

Features

National historic sites, beaches and islands, high incomes, and high home prices

8. Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is located between two other famous islands: Tybee and Parris. (Tybee Island’s just off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, and Parris Island is home to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.)

Hilton Head has the most expensive rent on our countdown, likely because it’s a beach town with lots of seasonal rentals. So you’ll want to figure out just how much rent you can afford before you move.

Since Hilton Head is an island, you can lounge on the beach to your heart’s content. You can also visit dozens of restaurants and shops. And while you’re at it, the King Neptune Sundial is worth seeing.  

Other cool places on the island include the Coastal Discovery Museum, Harbor Town Lighthouse and the Stoney Baynard Ruins. Or you can drive back to the mainland to visit Palmetto Oaks Sculpture Garden, Heyward House Museum or the Pinckney Wildlife Preserve.

Population

40,00046

Median Annual Income

$86,17147

Median Home Price

$552,00048

Median Monthly Rent

$1,54549

Local University

University of South Carolina Beaufort-Hilton Head Island

Average Annual Rainfall

45.7”50

Features

Beaches, lighthouses, boardwalks, historic ruins and high housing prices

9. Charleston

Charleston sits in the center of South Carolina’s coast. The biggest city on our countdown, it’s got the most expensive homes and highest cost of living. So if you’re heading to Charleston, make sure to plan your housing budget wisely.

Charleston’s catchphrase is “History loves company,” and if you love history, this could be one of the best places for you to live in South Carolina. Spend a romantic night in the historic Middleton Place, a plantation turned into an upscale inn. Or walk Rainbow Row, a street of beautifully painted Georgian homes. (Remember to go to the Pineapple Fountain for a photo op.)

Not feeling fancy? Head to the Audubon Swamp Garden to see some real live alligators. Or take a pirate-themed tour of Charleston—complete with a pirate captain who carries an actual parrot and tells ghost stories! (Don’t worry: If you’ve got little ones, you can sign up for the treasure hunt tour instead.)

Population

137,04151

Median Annual Income

$72,07152

Median Home Price

$576,75053

Median Monthly Rent

$1,57154

Cost of Living

Same as national average55

Local Colleges

College of Charleston

The Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina)

Average Annual Rainfall

47.9”56

Features

Historic plantations, pirate-themed tours and a high cost of living

Where Not to Live in South Carolina

There’s a lot to be excited about in most of the cities on our list, but this next one gets mixed reviews at best. It shows up on a ton of “best places” lists, and a lot of you have asked if it’s really as great as they say. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers so you can decide for yourself.

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach may be a vacation hot spot, but for residents, it’s tough to make a living there. The city’s housing prices are around the national median, but yearly incomes are more than $20,000 below the national median. 57,58 So it can be hard to save for a down payment or afford your mortgage.

Myrtle Beach also had 124 crimes for every 1,000 residents in 2019—that’s five times more than the national average crime rate.59,60 The sort-of-good news is that those were mostly property crimes, like home and car break-ins, and not violent crimes. But you work hard for your stuff, and you shouldn’t have to worry about some idiot stealing it!

Now, we’re not saying you can’t live in Myrtle Beach. We’re just saying you should weigh the pros and cons carefully—just like any other city you might move to—and know what you’re getting into.

If you do move to Myrtle Beach, you’ll get to enjoy living near the ocean. You can also check out Ripley’s Aquarium and Believe It or Not! Museum, Wheels of Yesteryear Vintage Auto Museum, and WonderWorks indoor amusement park. (The museums will come in handy on all the rainy days in Myrtle Beach.)

Population

33,63861

Median Annual Income

$43,37862

Median Home Price

$399,90063

Median Monthly Rent

$1,28564

Local University

Coastal Carolina University

Average Annual Rainfall

53.3”65

Features

Low incomes, lots of property crimes, cool museums and aquariums, and lots of beaches

Ready to Move to South Carolina?

Moving to South Carolina is exciting—it’s a great state! But before you start packing, you’ll need to find an expert real estate agent to help you pick the perfect home in your new city.

We recommend working with an Endorsed Local Provider (ELP). These RamseyTrusted real estate agents can help you locate the best place to live in South Carolina for you. From finding a family-friendly neighborhood to closing on your new house, they’ll walk you through the process from start to finish.

Ready to get started? Connect with a RamseyTrusted ELP today!

Fast Facts for the Top Places to Live in South Carolina

 

Population

Median

Annual Income

Median

Home Price

Median Monthly  Rent

Fort Mill

19,920

$101,699

$409,500

$1,465

Lexington

21,847

$71,850

$303,900

$1,284

Tega Cay

10,834

$125,847

$409,500

$1,300

Clemson

16,917

$46,075

$335,480

$1,113

Columbia

134,057

$47,416

$303,900

$1,254

Greenville

69,648

$58,259

$335,480

$1,251

Mount Pleasant

89,410

$104,772

$576,750

$2,011

Hilton Head Island

40,000

$86,171

$552,000

$1,545

Charleston

137,041

$72,071

$576,750

$1,571

Myrtle Beach

33,638

$43,378

$399,900

$1,285

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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