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Cost of Living in Tennessee

So you’re wondering how much it’d cost to live in Tennessee—the land of southern barbecue, smooth whiskey, honky-tonks, the Vols, Elvis, Dollywood and the Great Smoky Mountains.

To figure out if you can afford to live there comfortably, you’d have to compare the cost of living in your current city with the Tennessee city of your dreams. To help you make a confident decision on whether Tennessee is the right move for you cost-wise, we’ll show you how much the state charges for “super fun” grown-up stuff like housing, food, taxes and bills.

Here we go, y’all!

What’s the Average Cost of Living in Tennessee?

Living in Tennessee is relatively affordable! In fact, the most popular Tennessee cities rank 3–16% lower in cost when compared to the average U.S. city.1

To get these numbers, we use a cost of living index that compares around a dozen cities in Tennessee with the average U.S. city for several expense categories. An amount below 100 means Tennessee has a lower cost of living than the U.S. average for that category—take a look!

Cost of Living

Tennessee

U.S.

Total

90

100

Housing

81

100

Utilities

92

100

Groceries

94

100

Transportation

88

100

Health Care

90

100

Miscellaneous

95

1002

To better understand this index, let’s take a closer look at each category.

Housing Costs in Tennessee

Okay, let’s start with housing costs. At the start of 2022, median home prices in Tennessee were nearly $350,000—almost 7% lower than the national median of $375,000!3 Meanwhile, the median monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment was nearly 12% lower than the national median of almost $1,300.4

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With prices like those, you might be wondering why you haven’t booted, scooted, and boogied your way over to Tennessee sooner! But don’t forget, not all of Tennessee costs the same. When you consider total housing cost factors, the Nashville metro area is 6% lower than the national average, while the northeastern city of Morristown is a whopping 31% lower!5

To find the Tennessee city that fits your budget, check out the cost differences between these greater metro areas:

Tennessee Metro Area

Median Home Price

Median Apartment Rent*

Nashville

$453,000

$1,457

Knoxville

$349,900

$1,235

Clarksville

$336,900

$1,194

Chattanooga

$314,999

$1,158

Memphis

$220,500

$1,1826,7

*Median Apartment Rent numbers refer to two-bedroom apartments in the surrounding metro area.

Utilities

Utility costs like energy and phone use in Tennessee range from 13% lower than the national average in the far northeastern city of Kingsport (bordering Virginia), to only 1% higher in Morristown. Maury County, located south of Nashville (think Columbia and Spring Hill), is somewhere in the middle range among Tennessee cities for utility costs at 11% lower than the national average.8

Trust us, you’re going to want to crank up the AC during those hot and humid summers.

utility prices in Tennessee

Groceries

In Tennessee, you might find yourself doing your grocery shopping at Kroger or Publix. Groceries in Tennessee range from around 1% lower than the national average in Chattanooga to 13% lower in Knoxville.9

Maury County sits somewhere in the middle price range among Tennessee cities for groceries. In Maury County, you can purchase a half gallon of milk and some cereal for $6.19, which is only 0.8% less than the national average.10 Not exactly a thrilling difference—but we’ll take it.

grocery prices in Tennessee

Transportation

Tennessee transportation costs range from around 5% lower than the national average in the Nashville metro area to 18% lower in the southeast city of Cleveland. Memphis slides into the middle range for transportation costs among most Tennessee cities, which is 12% lower than the national average.11

Since Tennessee is mostly a driving state, you’ll want to keep transportation costs low by getting the right coverage. Try bundling your auto insurance for a discount by talking to one of the independent insurance agents we recommend.

transportation costs in tennessee

Health Care

Tennessee health care costs range from around 4% lower than the national average in Chattanooga to 18% lower in the western county of Madison (an area located between Nashville and Memphis). Meanwhile, Kingsport sits in the middle range among Tennessee cities, with health care costs around 8% lower than the national average—not too shabby.12

Here’s a breakdown of how Kingsport health care costs compare to the average city in the country:

Health Care Type

Kingsport, TN Cost

Average U.S. City Cost

Cost Difference

General doctor

$95

$117

19%

Dentist

$95

$101

6%

Eye doctor

$86

$109

22%

Advil

$10.36

$9.90

5%

Prescription drug

$471

$470

0.34%13

Taxes

Guess what? Tennessee has no state income tax!14 Now, before you splurge on those genuine leather cowboy boots for line dancing, there is a downside. Tennessee still has a state sales tax rate of 7%—or 9.55% if you include its average local rate. That percentage ranks Tennessee as the highest in the country for total sales tax—cue the eye roll.15

If all this tax talk makes your head spin, don’t worry. You can find out exactly how moving to Tennessee will impact your taxes by connecting with one of our trusted tax advisors.

Miscellaneous Goods and Services

Miscellaneous costs refer to a wide range of goods and services, including things like common restaurant foods, clothing, entertainment, activities and personal care. In Tennessee, these costs range from 15% lower than the national average in Cleveland to 5% higher in east Tennessee’s Johnson City.16

Smack dab between Nashville and Knoxville, the city of Cookeville represents most Tennessee cities for miscellaneous costs. Home of the beautiful Cummins Falls State Park, Cookeville’s goods and services cost around 4% lower than the national average. In Cookeville, you can order a pizza for $10, get a haircut for $17, and buy a shirt for $39. For reference, those prices are $11, $20 and $31 for the average U.S. city.17

miscellaneous costs in tennessee

How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, the median household income is $53,320.18 But if you make that much, it doesn’t automatically mean you can afford to live anywhere in Tennessee—at least not comfortably.

If you want to live comfortably in Tennessee, first make sure you can afford your biggest expenses—namely, your housing costs.

Whether you decide to rent or buy in your new city, stick to the 25% rule—never move into a home that comes with a monthly payment that’s more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay.

For home buyers who are getting a mortgage, that 25% limit includes principal, interest, property taxes, home insurance, private mortgage insurance (PMI) and homeowners association (HOA) fees. Use our mortgage calculator to enter your down payment amount and try out different home prices within your budget.

For a mortgage you can pay off fast, talk to our friends at Churchill Mortgage about getting a 15-year fixed-rate conventional loan. Any other type of mortgage will cost you extra in interest and fees and keep you in debt for decades. Trust us, following the 25% rule will give you enough room in your budget to balance housing costs and your other living expenses with ease.

Tennessee’s Lowest Cost of Living by County

If you want some ideas on the most affordable places to live in Tennessee, check out these counties that rank for the lowest cost of living:

  • Van Buren County
  • Perry County
  • Decatur County
  • Grundy County
  • Wayne County19

Keep in mind, moving to a part of the state with the lowest cost of living could mean you’ll be farther away from the more popular cities and suburbs. But even a less popular area might have just what you need for your specific season of life. Plus, saving money and making serious progress with your financial goals will make it all worth it!

Compare the Cost of Living in Tennessee With Your Current City

Now you know the cost of living in Tennessee—but can you afford it? If you want to be sure, try our free Cost of Living Calculator to determine how much more or less expensive it would be for you to live in the Tennessee city that’s calling your name.

If Tennessee has a higher cost of living than you can currently afford, not all hope is lost. Try one of these ideas:

  • Adjust your standard of living
  • Try to bump up your salary when you find a new job
  • Move to an affordable zip code that’s within range of your desired city

Ready to Move to Tennessee?

If you know the area in Tennessee where you want to move, your next step is to work with a real estate agent. For a fast and easy way to find Tennessee agents we trust, try our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program. The agents we recommend have earned the right to be called RamseyTrusted by always serving with excellence. So get started and find a Tennessee real estate agent we trust!

Once you have your new home sweet home locked in, be sure to check out what our friends at PODS Moving & Storage can offer to make your move to the Volunteer State smooth and convenient. With 6 million moves under their belt, PODS has become the expert in helping people like you move on your terms.

Find a Tennessee real estate agent we trust!

Where Did We Get Our Data?

The data that drives most of these numbers and our Cost of Living Calculator comes from the Cost of Living Index published by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER). Since the cost of living in any area is constantly changing, you can always check our calculator to find the most recent data. If you want to learn more about C2ER, get the scoop here.

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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