Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.
South Carolina is an appealing place to live in the southeast as you can stay near the beach in the Lowcountry or enjoy the tranquility of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Upcountry.
The state also has a reasonable cost of living, making it an affordable place for working professionals and retirees.
If you’re wondering where the best places to live in South Carolina are, this guide should make it easier to find your ideal place. We analyzed cities by pulling recent data on key lifestyle factors such as the area’s median home price, personal income per capita, and the unemployment and crime rate.
Sumter is very affordable and conveniently located near the center of the state. It’s not too far from Columbia, Myrtle Beach or Charleston which offer more benefits for residents but can also have higher housing costs.
The city has several employment avenues ranging from advanced manufacturing, aviation, data centers, food processing and medical devices. Shaw Air Force Base is also an anchor of the community.
Keep in mind, the city’s crime rate is above average and you may consider other cities on this list with a similar population to easily find a quiet neighborhood.
One of South Carolina’s best small towns is likely Clemson. It offers several amenities that typically belong in bigger cities thanks to being the home of Clemson University.
The university is a national leader in college athletics. Residents can also see many performance art productions on campus and explore the South Carolina Botanical Gardens.
Education, healthcare and manufacturing are key industries in Clemson. The town also offers a mild climate as it’s in the Upcountry.
Spartanburg is a pleasant place to live amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Sparkle City” is home to seven colleges and universities while being an opportune place to raise a family.
In addition to higher education, other employment sectors include Adidas America and the automotive industry. You’re also less than an hour away from Greenville for additional economic and leisure amenities.
Bluffton is one of the best places to live in South Carolina for families: you’re close to the beach, the area has a low crime rate and you can avoid the flocks of tourists that typically go to Myrtle Beach or Charleston.
However, Hilton Head Island, which is just across the bridge, is a popular beach getaway and retirement community. Thankfully, the local area isn’t as commercialized and it’s easy to relax.
The city is located on the inland May River and you can be to one of Hilton Head Island’s beaches within 30 minutes. It’s also possible to get to Savannah, Georgia within 45 minutes for leisure, work or flying from a commercial airport.
Like most of the South Carolina Lowcountry, tourism is an economic boon and the target industries in Bluffton include healthcare and aerospace.
6. Rock Hill
If you’re looking to live on the South Carolina side of Charlotte, Rock Hill is an excellent option as the major metroplex is only an hour away. Rock Hill is the largest city in York County and you can enjoy a lower cost of living and reasonable state taxes. There are also many city parks and outdoor activities to enjoy at any time of the year.
The area’s primary employment industries are healthcare, logistics and manufacturing. The city also has a technology incubator and several business parks.
Related: South Carolina Income Tax Calculator
Summerville is a thriving and affordable suburb approximately 30 minutes outside Charleston. While this neighboring city is within commuting distance, local employers include Google, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. Bioscience, logistics and marine are thriving industries as well.
Living here lets you enjoy modern amenities like easy access to an international airport or the beach. At the same time, you can enjoy the enticing historical charm of the Carolina Lowcountry.
South Carolina’s capital city of Columbia sits in the state center and is roughly three hours from sandy beaches and less than two hours from the Upcountry. Fun things to do include visiting the Congaree National Park nearby, touring city museums or enjoying a sports event.
The metro area is South Carolina’s second-largest and is home to the University of South Carolina and the Fort Jackson army base. Insurance, software and biotechnology are pivotal industries in Columbia.
However, the summers can get quite toasty as it’s the hottest place in the state.
The Greenville metro area is one of the best places to live in upstate South Carolina as it has a promising job market, plenty of outdoor activities and a family-friendly atmosphere. While it’s the largest city upstate, you can still enjoy the slower pace of a mid-size town.
If you’re looking to enjoy the outdoors, a bike trail covers the entire town which passes through the iconic Falls Park on the Reedy in the downtown area. There are also several state parks in the area to enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains and you’re only four hours from the beach.
Influential employers in the area include BMW, Lockheed, General Electric and IBM. The city also has an affordable cost of living.
2. Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach is one of the most affordable South Carolina coastal towns and it also has an encouraging job sector for year-round residents. Some of the most influential industries here include aerospace, healthcare and technology.
Admittedly, this is a tourist town with approximately 12 to 20 million visitors per year seeking to enjoy the various restaurants, boardwalk attractions and 60 miles of beachfront access. If the constant activity doesn’t bother you, the area has everything you need along with mild winters.
South Carolina’s most significant economic hub and tourism area is Charleston. The greater Charleston metro area has approximately 813,000 residents and its notable employers include Boeing and Joint Base Charleston.
Nicknamed the “Holy City” for its many church steeples dating back to the 1700s, this coastal city offers numerous walking tours and museums. There is also a vibrant nightlife for college students, young professionals and the like.
Charleston is also one of the best places to live in South Carolina near the beach. Some of its best beaches include Isle of Palms, Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island.
We compared the various South Carolina metropolitan areas using data from several platforms to measure variable criteria for home affordability, healthy employment and population growth.
The metro areas we chose are spread across the Palmetto State and can be excellent places to call home for couples or families. The Lowcountry and Upcountry areas provide many economic opportunities but offer different climates and outdoor activities.
Our ratings take into consideration the city size, crime rate, unemployment rate and cost of living. Community amenities such as outdoor activities, public transit and healthcare access also play a factor.
The comparison criteria and corresponding sources include:
Faster, easier mortgage lending
Check your rates today with Better Mortgage.