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These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In North Carolina

Thinking of punching out your timecard permanently? Want to make the most of your golden years? Here are the best places to retire in North Carolina.

David Cross

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Not everyone wants to spend their retirement in Florida; some of us want to move to other states, where we can be close to friends and family. But where? As part of Movoto Real Estate’s ongoing mission to find the the best, safest, and most affordable cities in each state, we are taking to trip to North Carolina to learn which 10 places are best to put down your stakes and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

What did we find? Let’s just say we hope Morrisville’s more than 18,000 residents don’t mind us spreading the word. Here are our top 10 places to retire in North Carolina:

  1. Town of Morrisville
  2. City of Mount Holly
  3. Town of Apex
  4. Town of Holly Springs
  5. City of Kings Mountain
  6. Town of Mint Hill
  7. Town of Stallings
  8. Town of Harrisburg
  9. City of Sanford
  10. Town of Matthews

Why did Morrisville take the No. 1 spot–and what happened to Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro? To find out why, get your frequent flyer cards ready and take a trip down our list. First, however, here’s how we created our ranking.

How We Did It

To create our list of the best places in North Carolina to retire, we first used Census data to find all places in The Tar Heel State with a population of at least 10,000. This left us with 82 places from across the state. We then ranked each of these places based on a number of criteria from one to 82, with the lowest number being the best. Finally, we took the average rank across these criteria. The place, in this case Morrisville, with the lowest average rank was crowned the best of the best, a place for North Carolinians to start their second careers.

Still, you probably have more questions, particularly in terms of criteria. As we did with the our Best Small Cities to Retire To In America post, we looked at five criteria. There were:

  • Cost of Living
  • Total Crime
  • Total Amenities
  • Weather
  • Distance from nearest international airport

After everything was organized and ranked, Morrisville took the No. 1 spot. If you want to find out more about each place in our 10 top list, keep reading for virtual tour and breakdown of what makes these places shine. If you’re too busy enjoying your newfound free time, swing down to the bottom of our list for an in-depth chart.

1. Morrisville

Morrisville, NC

Source: Town of Morrisville

While Morrisville is our No. 1 place in our list, it reached this great height by the narrowest of margins. Still, it’s the best place to retire in North Carolina. What helped Morrisville rank above 81 other places? Morrisville placed well in four of our five criteria: weather, crime, amenities, and distance to nearest international airport. Of these four high-scoring criteria, this town in Wake County ranked the highest for its distance to an international airport—just five miles.

Unfortunately, Morrisville–while still a great place to retire–didn’t shine in all our criteria. This town of more than 18,000 took the No. 76 spot for its cost of living. In this case, the town scored a 100, which is the same as the national average. For comparison, the place with the lowest cost of living is Edna, which has 21 points lower than the national average of 100.

2. Mount Holly

Mount Holly, NC

Source: Greg Beal – City Planning Commission

As we mentioned above, it was a close call between Mount Holly and Morrisville. Nonetheless, the No. 2 spot is a coveted position. Unlike Morrisville, Mount Holly placed well in all five criteria, though it had no top three finishers.

The criteria this city in Gaston County excelled at were twofold: travel and amenities. Mount Holly took the No. 4 spot for each of these criteria. Again, as with Morrisville, living in Mount Holly can be expensive when compared to other places in the state. Mount Holly is the 29th least expensive place on our list, with a cost of living score 23 points lower than the national average.

3. Apex

Apex, NC

Source: Town of Apex

The Town of Apex in Wake County rounded out our top three best places to retire. Three criteria helped push Apex near to top of our list: travel, weather, and crime.

Again, what kept this town of more than 37,000 from placing higher was its cost of living rank, which was among worst in the state. Apex took the 72nd spot for cost of living, with a score of 99, putting it about on par with the national average.

4. Holly Springs

Holly Springs, NC

Source: Flickr user bumeister1

Holly Springs achieved in two criteria, taking the No. 3 spot for its low crime rate and the No. 4 spot for its overall weather.

According to our analysis, there were 1,393 crimes per 100,000 people in Holly Springs in 2012. For comparison, the place with the most crimes was Lumberton, which had 15,118 crimes per 100,000 people. As for Holly Springs’ overall weather, the town tied with a number of other places. Why? It has an average summer temperature of 77 degrees and an air quality rate of 40 (with 1 being the best).

5. Kings Mountain

Kings Mountain, NC

Source: Flickr user sylvar

Is Kings Mountain retirement royalty? We think so. Out of the five pieces of criteria we used to judge each place, Kings Mountain ranked well in four, with the only criterion harming the locale’s ascent up our listing being its cost of living rank. For this criterion, Kings Mountain took the No. 76 spot, with the area’s cost of living on par with the national average.

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6. Mint Hill

Mint Hill, NC


It was a close call between Kings Mountain and Mint Hill for our No. 5 spot, with Mint Hill narrowly missing out on moving up one spot on our list. What kept this town near Charlotte from climbing higher? Its cost of living and weather ranks.

Mint Hill’s cost of living is 7 points below the national average of 100, which earned the locale the No. 58 spot for this criterion. The area’s overall weather rank was good enough for the No. 26 spot, and while this isn’t terrible it certainly isn’t the best, either.

7. Stallings

Stallings, NC

Source: ActiveRain

This town in western North Carolina had two individual criterions rank in the top 10: amenities and crime rate. According to our analysis, there are total of 2,075 places in Stalling to patron; this includes restaurants and shops. Why did Stallings fall short in this criterion? The town took the No. 2 spot, behind Belmont. As for crime, this town of about 14,000 took the No. 7 with 1,799 per 100,000 people. Excuse us for the pun, but if you’re thinking of moving here, quit stalling.

8. Harrisburg

Harrisburg, NC

Source: Flickr user James Willamor

Just like Stallings, Harrisburg made our list thanks in part to its rankings for amenities per capita and crime of No. 3 and No. 8, respectively. According to our data, there are 1,634 places to shop and dine in in Harrisburg. At the same time, there were just 2,016 crimes per 100,000 people, meaning your night out on the town will be safe. Where the city didn’t do so well was in its cost of living, ranking 69th out of 82. The cost of living in Harrisburg was a 95, five points below the national average.

9. Sanford

Sanford, NC

Source: Flickr user Donald Lee Pardue

The penultimate place out on our top 10 list, Sanford barely topped Matthews for the No. 9 spot. This was on the back of the area’s overall weather rank, which was good enough to give it a No. 4 rank in that category. The average summertime temperature here is a pleasant 77 degrees, while its air quality scored a 44 (lower is better). How could Sanford climb this list? The locale did the poorest in our amenities criterion. In this instance, this city in Lee County brought home a No. 55 rank. While not the lowest on our list, there is certainly room for improvement.

10. Matthews

Matthews, NC

Source: Matthews Chamber of Commerce

The final place on our list was Matthews, a suburban town near Charlotte. As with many of the places on our list, Matthews’ cost of living rank kept it from ranking higher. It’s worth nothing, however, that the high price of living in Matthews, at least compared to the rest of the state, is offset by its amenities. We tallied Matthews’ amenities at 2,171 per its about 27,000 residents, or No. 10 for this criterion.

Where Not To Retire

Not all places in North Carolina could make our top 10. Some places, just aren’t ready for retirees. At the bottom of our list–the worst places to retire–were, in descending order, Rocky Mount, Reidsville, Hendersonville, Burlington, and Winston-Salem.

(click to enlarge table)

The 10 Best Cities To Retire To In North Carolina

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posted on: February 7, 2014
206,521 views, 5 comments


  1. Suzanne Pomeranz

    Sanford? While I wish that was true, it’s not such a great place at this moment, though I do know a few people who are trying to make things better there.

    I was born & raised in Sanford though have lived abroad for the better part of the past 33 years. Even so, I spent lots of vacation time visiting family & friends there over the years and was just back in Sanford this past November 2013 for a 3-week visit. And was I SHOCKED! It seems the #1 shop downtown (and there are lots of them) are THRIFT STORES… The whole of downtown looks like a thrift store… while some improvements have been made, the shops are low-priced, discount types which gives the whole place a bad aura (IMHO).

    The only bright spots are The Temple Theater and a couple of nice cafes. But otherwise, there is simply no reason to shop on Steele Street or surrounding blocks.

    Of course, if lower property values is what will draw retirees, then, yes, Sanford might just be the right place… ugh.

  2. Mt. Holly Born & Breed

    Mt. Holly isn’t that great. I live here. The traffic is stupid heavy in the mornings and quittin’ time. Don’t let this list fool you.

  3. Kelly

    Having lived in various regions and cities/towns in North Carolina all my life, I can honestly say that all of these places are kinda terrible. lol. They might look good on paper, but the “feel” isn’t that great. I guess it just depends on your goal and criteria, which is of course different for everyone. Also, at the end of your article – it should read Rocky Mount not “Rocky Mountain” – it’s a tiny town in Eastern NC that has little to nothing going for it. So that’s at least right about this list!

  4. Mark

    Unbelievable list. Looks like the “researcher” just looked at a map for suburbs of Charlotte and Raleigh. Sanford, really?
    Anyone who would choose to retire in Mount Holly or Belmont over Asheville, Boone, or Wilmington needs his head examined.

  5. Marmara c

    Where are some good places to retire that has theaters and nice activities. I do like college towns they seem to have more fun.someplace within 1 or 2 hours from beach. Thanks


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