What's it like to live in Charleston, SC?


Amy Deck

Profile written by local expert:

Amy Deck

There is no place quite like Charleston. The region features a unique blend of historic preservation and new development, displayed in its cobblestone walkways and eerie cemeteries, buzzy nightlife and sophisticated art galleries. Its unique brand of Southern style shines in the bespoke boutiques that line downtown's King Street, while Southern hospitality radiates from the award-winning dining establishments.

Not only is the area overflowing with entertainment and good food, but this low country locale is also gorgeous. Although summers are hot and humid, the rest of the year features pleasant temperatures that allow residents to soak in the area's scenery. A handful of beaches within striking distance make a day at the shore a commonplace activity for Charlestonians. 

Whether it's Spanish moss dangling from oak trees or the smell of shrimp and grits wafting downtown – Charleston is sure to charm you.

Rankings

U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Charleston, South Carolina is ranked:

#38 in Best Places to Live

#22 in Best Places to Retire

6.7

Overall

Scorecard

Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
    7.5
  • Value
    6.2
  • Job Market
    6.6
  • Quality of Life
    6.2
  • Net Migration
    8.7

Read how we rank places

Charleston, SC Quick Stats

  • 728,271

    Metro Population

  • $44,500

    Average Annual Salary

  • 76.1° / 55.5°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 36.3

    Median Age

  • $232,983

    Median Home Price

  • 51.0 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 3.5%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $1,009

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 25.1 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in Charleston, SC?

The average Charleston resident earns less than the average American. Also, the region's cost of living is noticeably higher than the national average, which makes Charleston a difficult place to live for those on a budget. Housing costs are fairly high in the area, and Charlestonians tend to pay more for everyday expenses – such as food and transportation – than residents of other U.S. metro areas.

Value Index

Index Score: 6.2 /10

How we calculate this.


Charleston offers a lower value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs this Year


Charleston
$232,983

USA
$222,408

Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Charleston, SC.

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What's the weather like in Charleston, SC?

Heat and humidity sometimes make it tough to enjoy Charleston's outdoor spaces, generally between May and September. These summer months can prove unbearably hot, soupy and mosquito-filled. The other three seasons offer comfortable temperatures that residents enjoy; however, Charleston's location on the Atlantic Ocean makes it susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms.

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)

50.3°F


Winter

65.1°F


Spring

80.7°F


Summer

67.2°F


Fall

Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

3.7 in


Winter

3.7 in


Spring

7.2 in


Summer

6.1 in


Fall

Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around Charleston, SC?

Downtown Charleston is small, covering just under 8 square miles. Most people drive to get around and, unfortunately, this leads to traffic congestion. Traffic is a particularly large problem in the summer when the region teems with tourists.

Public parking is available almost everywhere; however, there are usually high costs or long walks involved. There is no metro rail or subway, but there is a trolley and public bus service offered through Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority. Biking is also a viable means of transportation, and because the region is very flat, it makes it easier to get somewhere by bike. 

The Charleston International Airport is only about 12 miles from downtown Charleston. Amtrak trains stop in North Charleston (about 10 miles northwest of downtown), while Greyhound buses stop about halfway between the city center and the airport.

Commuting in Charleston, SC

Means of Transportation
Driving
90%
Above national average

Bicycling
1%
Equal to national average

Walking
3%
Equal to national average

Public Transit
1%
Below national average
Average Commute Time

25.1 minutes

1.0 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Charleston, SC?

Charleston's median age skews slightly older, though the downtown area features large pockets of younger residents, particularly around the College of Charleston. The region also bursts with youth during the summer months, as the service industry hires extra employees to handle the influx of seasonal tourism.

Charleston, nicknamed the Holy City, is home to more than 400 places of worship for various religions and different denominations.

Downtown Charleston caters more to millennials and residents without children at home, though there are families who call the region home. Neighboring communities like Mount Pleasant, James Island and Daniel Island are popular among families who need more space without the premium cost.

Homelessness remains an issue in Charleston, with about 16 percent of residents impoverished. The area offers several emergency shelters for these individuals.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown


About the same number of single people in Charleston as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in Charleston, SC?

Charleston is a foodie's heaven. The booming food and beverage industry provides countless places to eat, drink and be entertained. After a delicious meal, residents can catch a performance at the area's new Gaillard Center, or they might walk off their calories with a stroll at the waterfront Battery Park.

Speaking of exercise, the town is very active. Outdoor yoga classes are quite popular, as are water sports like surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking and fishing. The surrounding towns – Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach and Isle of the Palms – offer additional outlets for such outdoor activities, too.

Charleston also has a long, intriguing past, leaving many historic places to tour and visit: Fort Sumter, various plantations and historic homes, Charleston City Market, Charles Towne Landing and the famous Angel Oak Tree are just a few of the must-see places.

Find out more about what there is to see and do in Charleston, SC