So your eyes are set on Tennessee—where Elvis, Johnny Cash and Taylor Swift became legends. Who wouldn’t want to live near all that hot chicken and whiskey—not to mention Dollywood and the Smokies?
Still, moving to Tennessee is a big deal. And you’ll have a ton of decisions to make before and after you move there.
But don’t worry. We’ll help you unpack all the relocation info you need—including Tennessee’s pros and cons, cost of living, job market, college programs, places to live and things to do—so you can make confident decisions all along the way.
Slip on your cowboy boots!
What Should I Know Before Moving to Tennessee?
Located in the upper southeastern region of the U.S., Tennessee is a landlocked state that stretches across two time zones and sits between North Carolina and Arkansas.
Tennessee earned its nickname as the “Volunteer State” during the War of 1812 when a call for 3,500 volunteers to join the Tennessee militia was answered by almost 28,000 Tennesseans! Then, in the Mexican-American War of the 1840s, a call for 2,800 volunteers was answered by 30,000 Tennesseans!1 Now, if that alone doesn’t show you the spirit of Tennessee, there’s plenty more to share.
Here are 14 things to know before moving to Tennessee:
1. Why People Are Moving to Tennessee
- Job (32%)
- Family (29%)
- Retirement (22%)
- Lifestyle (17%)4
2. Job Market in Tennessee
The Tennessee job market is looking on par with the average state in the nation. Leading into 2022, the Tennessee unemployment rate was at 3.8%, which is 0.1% lower than the national average of 3.9%.5
So, as we learned earlier, it makes sense that the top reason people are moving to Tennessee is for work. Still, when it comes to the unemployment rate, Tennessee holds a middle rank compared to other states as the 24th lowest.6
If you don’t already have a gig lined up, you can find jobs in Tennessee using online job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed. Who knows, you might even be the right fit to join our team here at Ramsey!
Now, if you’re an entrepreneur and plan to start or expand a business in Tennessee, make sure to register your company with the state and county. This is a must whether your business is at home or online.
Want help growing your business in Tennessee? Learn the Ramsey way of building a successful business through our coaching and training solutions like EntreLeadership.
3. Major Cities in Tennessee
There are a ton of great options when it comes to finding a dream location in Tennessee. For inspiration, research and compare lists on the best places to live in Tennessee to see which city stands out to you most.
To get you started, we’ve listed some popular Tennessee cities with a few highlights on each:
- Nashville: In middle Tennessee, the Music City is where many of the music industry’s brightest stars earned their fame. Sidenote: Nashville is also the home of Ramsey Solutions! (But don’t ask us to sing.)
- Knoxville: In east Tennessee, Knoxville is home of the University of Tennessee (UT) where spirited fans go crazy cheering for the Volunteers.
- Chattanooga: In southeast Tennessee, Chattanooga is known for its beautiful sights and endless outdoor adventures like white water rafting and mountain hiking.
- Memphis: Over in southwest Tennessee, Memphis is known for its blues, soul and rock ’n’ roll—not to mention Elvis Presley’s Graceland Mansion.
4. There’s No State Income Tax—but Sales Tax Is Heavy
Okay, taxes are when we really start getting into more of the pros and cons of living in Tennessee. One of the best perks is that Tennessee has zero state income tax!7 So you get to take home more of your hard-earned paycheck on payday compared to most states.
Find expert agents to help you buy your home in Tennessee.
On the downside, Tennessee has the highest combined state and local sales tax rate in the nation—womp, womp.8 And before you head out for a wild honky-tonk weekend, keep in mind that Tennessee also taxes beer at a higher rate than any other state.9
Moving to a new state can sometimes complicate your taxes. If you want help knowing exactly how moving to Tennessee will impact your taxes, connect with one of our trusted tax advisors.
5. Year-Round Weather in Tennessee
Tennessee has a mostly humid subtropical climate and experiences all four seasons. Summers are typically the longest season and tend to feel hot and sticky. But in general, you’ll probably enjoy the sunny, blue skies and warm weather.
Winters are pretty short. If you’re moving to Tennessee from a northern region with a lot of snow, Tennessee winters might feel a little silly to you. It rarely snows in the state. But when it does snow, it’s not much and only stays on the ground a few days. Still, since snow isn’t common, usually only main roads get plowed. So schools and businesses tend to shut down even after a light snowfall.
While winters aren’t so bad, Tennessee does have plenty of rainy days. In fact, Tennessee recently ranked sixth in the country for most rainfall at a statewide average annual precipitation of 65 inches (more than twice compared to the U.S. average of around 30 inches).10 Unfortunately, this leads to some serious flooding in local areas around the state.
And not to scare you, but tornadoes are a thing in Tennessee. So crazy windstorms and heavy damage can occur. But there are live weather services available to help keep you advised and safe.
6. Tennessee’s Music Scene
You already know Tennessee is famous for country music. And it’s true! Most of the music stars from Tennessee are known for singing country. But the state is also famous for rock ’n’ roll, blues, jazz, R&B and gospel. You might be surprised that Tennessee also gave rise to non-country music artists like Aretha Franklin, Justin Timberlake, Skillet, Kings of Leon, Paramore, Kesha, and The Civil Wars. Crazy, right?
Nashville, the Music City, hosts the annual CMA Music Festival and is home to iconic live performance venues like the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry. Memphis is famous for Sun Studio (the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll!) and Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion.
To this day, up-and-coming musicians move to Nashville to make a name for themselves. And you can support them (or join them) as they earn their stripes at the honky-tonks of Broadway.
7. Smooth Tennessee Whiskey
Yes, Tennessee whiskey is as smooth as they say. Its unique taste is the result of distilling a variety of grains, which are then aged in wooden barrels (usually white oak). One sip of this honey-like liquid and visions of campfires, hillbillies, hipsters, beards and flannel will flash through your head.
Located in the south-central city of Lynchburg, the Jack Daniels Distillery is world-famous for its whiskeys. The funny thing is, while the distillery does offer tours and tastings, it's actually illegal to buy or sell alcohol there—since Lynchburg is located in a dry county.
8. Tennessee’s Southern Barbecue
Oh yeah, baby! You knew moving south would mean all the southern barbecue you can eat! And if there’s one style Tennessee is famous for, it’s Memphis-style barbecue. Memphis is known for its wet and dry rub pork, ribs, and brisket smothered in a tomato-based barbecue sauce with spices that give it a sweet and smokey taste. This style has spread throughout the entire state—so anywhere you move in Tennessee will likely feature a Southern barbecue joint that can become your own mouth-watering paradise.
9. The Great Smoky Mountains
Moving to Tennessee gets you up close and personal with the Great Smoky Mountains! The Smokies are a range of mountains sprawled across the southeastern corner of Tennessee and the North Carolina border. In 2020, the Smokies were the most visited national park out of more than 400 parks—with a total of over 12 million visits!11
Living near the Smokies gives you access to gorgeous views, endless hiking trails, camping, horseback riding, fishing, rivers and waterfalls. You can try and spot local wildlife like black bears, bobcats, elk, deer, coyotes and salamanders. And if you rent a cabin on the mountain side during autumn, the popping fall colors will make you cry tears of joy into your pumpkin spice latte.
10. Dollywood Family Amusement Park
Just a little southeast of Knoxville, in the mountain town and vacation destination of Pigeon Forge, you’ll find Dollywood. This Appalachian-inspired theme park was country singer Dolly Parton’s way of giving back to her childhood home by bringing jobs to the community. The park features roller coasters, water rides and a museum—fun for the whole family!
11. Free College Through the Tennessee Promise Program
If you’re moving to Tennessee with kiddos, finding the best school districts and college programs is probably on the top of your list. Well get this: The state’s Tennessee Promise Program provides scholarship and mentoring to eligible students—if they attend a Tennessee community college or technical college. The only requirement is that they graduate from a Tennessee high school and are a Tennessee resident. Just imagine making a move that’d set your kids up for success to go to college debt-free!
12. Tennessee Sports
In Tennessee, there are a ton of great pro sports teams to cheer for like the Tennessee Titans (NFL), Memphis Grizzlies (NBA), Nashville Predators (NHL) and Nashville SC (MLS). And if college sports are more your thing, there’s no shortage of college teams to root for across the state—including the University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt and the University of Memphis.
13. How Much to Save Before Moving to Tennessee
If your moving cost estimates start sounding too high, tighten up your budget and search for the cheapest ways to move out of state.
14. How to Tackle Driver’s License and Registration in Tennessee
As you start punching off your moving checklist, you’ll eventually need to go through the annoying hassle of getting a new driver's license and vehicle registration—same as moving anywhere else. You’ll probably have to knock this out within the first month of moving there, and it costs new residents $28 for the license and $26.50 for the registration.13,14
Whether you’ll be driving a car, van, motorcycle (or bus?), here are the documents you’ll need to bring to your local county clerk or driver services center to get your Tennessee license and registration:
- Proof of U.S. citizenship (e.g., birth certificate)
- Two proofs of Tennessee residency (e.g., posted mail and utility bill)
- Proof of Social Security number
- Current state license/ID
- A completed application for a Tennessee driver’s license
- Passed emissions certificate (depending on county)
- Most current out-of-state registration
- Your out-of-state title or the name and address of the lienholder—(hint: make settling in easier by paying off your car early).15,16
Is Tennessee the Right Move for You?
If the pros outweigh the cons for you, then go for it! But to follow what we teach at Ramsey, make sure you can afford the cost of living in Tennessee before you move. Relocating can impact your budget big time! So you’ll want to know you can afford changes in living expenses like housing, utilities, food and health care.
If you already have some Tennessee cities in mind where you’d like to live, use our cost of living calculator to instantly compare average expenses between your current city and your potential new city.
What’s the Cost of Housing in Tennessee?
Here’s a snapshot of what housing prices are like in Tennessee:
Tennessee Median Housing Prices
Start of 2022
*Rent refers to a two-bedroom apartment.
Let’s say you have a general idea of where you’d like to live in Tennessee. Now what? Unless you’ll be renting for a while, your next step is to find your Tennessee home.
Again, just make sure you can afford the area. To figure out your housing budget, use the 25% rule—never buy or rent a home that comes with a monthly payment that’s more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay.
If you’re 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.
If you want a mortgage you can pay off fast, talk to the home loan specialists we trust at Churchill Mortgage about getting a 15-year fixed-rate conventional loan. Any other type of mortgage will cost you so much more in extra interest and fees and keep you in debt for decades.
Find a Tennessee Real Estate Agent
If you’re ready to move to Tennessee, the next step on your relocation journey is to find a real estate agent. For a fast and easy way to find Tennessee agents we trust, try our RamseyTrusted program. The agents we recommend have earned the right to be called RamseyTrusted by always serving with excellence.