The Best Places to Live in South Carolina in 2021

The best places to live in South Carolina are cities filled with southern charm like Charleston, accented by pristine beaches like Myrtle Beach and brimming with opportunities like Greenville.

The Palmetto State has something for everyone interested in a chance at a new beginning. Known for their hospitality, South Carolinians will welcome you with open arms.

Here is our list of the best cities in South Carolina:

Aiken

Fountain in Aiken, SC.

  • Population: 30,869
  • Average age: N/A
  • Median household income: $56,199
  • Average commute time: 23.2 minutes
  • Walk score: 20
  • Studio average rent: N/A
  • One-bedroom rent: $825
  • Two-bedroom rent: $849

Named the "South's Best Small Town" by Southern Living, Aiken is no longer the best-kept secret in South Carolina. Home to world-class stables and equine training facilities, this fine equestrian town is sure to please.

In addition, Aiken boasts a mild climate that provides a nice break from the rest of the state's hot summers. It is also far enough inland that residents do not have to worry too much during hurricane season.

Interested in culture? The Aiken Center for the Arts holds events year-round. You will also love exploring the many independent galleries during a quiet stroll through its historic downtown.

Because of its affordable living, Aiken is a perfect spot for young people just getting started on their own. It is also great for retirees looking for a small town with a beautiful landscape that is ideal for travel.

Charleston

Aerial view of Charleston, SC at sunset.

  • Population: 130,593
  • Average age: 41.9
  • Median household income: $68,438
  • Average commute time: 26.6 minutes
  • Walk score: 63
  • Studio average rent: $1,654
  • One-bedroom rent: $1,495
  • Two-bedroom rent: $1,725

There may not be a city in the world more popular with tourists than Charleston. Imagine experiencing the beautiful beaches, historic buildings, rich culture and world-class restaurants as a resident.

The first thing you will notice about Charleston is the stunning landscape highlighted by the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. Residents walk or run the bridge for great exercise and exceptional downtown views, including its famous steeples. You can also watch as giant container ships sail to port through Charleston Harbor.

Second only to New Orleans in its southern culinary tradition, Charleston is home to some of the world's finest restaurants. The steak martini at Halls Chophouse and the collard greens at Rodney Scott's BBQ are a few of the many local favorites.

The cost of living is higher here than anywhere else in South Carolina, but the value of living in such a special city is priceless.

Columbia

Aerial view of downtown Columbia, SC.

  • Population: 133,734
  • Average age: 37.2
  • Median household income: $47,286
  • Average commute time: 19.2 minutes
  • Walk score: 35
  • Studio average rent: $1,083
  • One-bedroom rent: $961
  • Two-bedroom rent: $1,095

In the heart of South Carolina lies Columbia, the state's capital city. Columbia is one of the best places to live in South Carolina because it is a fast-paced metropolis that offers affordable living and a small-town feel.

The University of South Carolina is here along with its storied football traditions. As such, Columbia is a great place to catch a college football game.

If you're a fan of art and culture, Columbia is absolutely brimming with both. The Columbia Museum of Art holds many different annual events along with its year-round displays. And, after a trip to the museum, you can enjoy a southern-inspired lunch at Cola's Restaurant.

Lake Murray and Congaree National Park also offer Columbia residents a chance to get outside and enjoy more than 200 sunny days a year.

Greenville

Greenville, SC shopping center.

  • Population: 63,844
  • Average age: 41.4
  • Median household income: $56,609
  • Average commute time: 21.8 minutes
  • Walk score: 39
  • Studio average rent: $1,219
  • One-bedroom rent: $1,146
  • Two-bedroom rent: $1,384

Greenville is South Carolina's fastest-growing city because of its vast economic opportunities and beautiful landscape. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains foothills, Greenville has a higher elevation than most South Carolina cities, which makes for a milder climate.

Greenville's economy has experienced a boom in the last decade because of major corporations like Michelin and BMW installing factories here. It is also conveniently located near Interstate 85, which makes commuting and travel a breeze.

The river district in downtown Greenville is home to many fine restaurants and world-class shopping. The weekly Saturday farmers market is also a popular event for young families to enjoy with their children.

Greenville's cost of living is higher than in most South Carolina cities, but that is because of its excellent school system, healthy lifestyle and the many economic opportunities available.

Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant, SC.

  • Population: 81,788
  • Average age: 42.9
  • Median household income: $103,232
  • Average commute time: 26.2 minutes
  • Walk score: 29
  • Studio average rent: $1,364
  • One-bedroom rent: $1,459
  • Two-bedroom rent: $1,803

Mount Pleasant is one of the best cities in South Carolina because of its beautiful coastal landscape and its sprawling suburbs.

Sharing half of the famous Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge with its sister city, Charleston, Mount Pleasant affords its residents stunning views of Charleston Harbor and access to beach towns like Sullivan's Island.

Although living costs in Mount Pleasant are higher than almost anywhere else in South Carolina, it also has a six-figure median household income that is higher than any other city on this list.

If you prefer leisure activities and relaxation, Mount Pleasant is a prime choice. A boater's paradise, the city offers more than 12 miles of beaches and numerous rivers and creeks. And, after a busy day on the water, you can dock at Shem Creek and enjoy a fresh seafood dinner caught by one of the many resident shrimp boats that morning.

Myrtle Beach

The shoreline of Myrtle Beach, SC.

  • Population: 30,390
  • Average age: 45.7
  • Median household income: $43,200
  • Average commute time: 21.1 minutes
  • Walk score: 23
  • Studio average rent: $1,037
  • One-bedroom rent: $983
  • Two-bedroom rent: $1,264

Myrtle Beach has perfected the vacation lifestyle. More than 15 million people visit the Grand Strand annually, and the reasons they visit Myrtle Beach are also what makes it one of the best places to live in South Carolina.

With more than 100 golf courses, 60 miles of stunning sandy beaches and a breezy tropical climate, Myrtle Beach is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the United States. The city's tourism also means great economic opportunity for its residents. Myrtle Beach has more than 75,000 jobs connected to the tourism industry.

Myrtle Beach is also a popular destination for retirees because of its pleasing climate and excellent healthcare system. The cost of living is surprisingly affordable despite its popularity.

The local southern charm will woo you, as will its laid-back beach-town personality.

North Augusta

Lake in North Augusta, SC.

  • Population: 23,845
  • Average age: N/A
  • Median household income: $59,931
  • Average commute time: 22.7 minutes
  • Walk score: 33
  • Studio average rent: N/A
  • One-bedroom rent: $1,089
  • Two-bedroom rent: $1,665

Located across the Savannah River from Augusta, GA., North Augusta is a jewel on the riverfront and one of the best cities in South Carolina. The North Augusta Greenway traverses the city and adds a picturesque landscape to an already beautiful city.

Many events in North Augusta center around the river, including the Nike Peach Jam and the Savannah Riverkeeper's Paddlefest.

With a population of just over 22,000, North Augusta is a small town with a big heart.

Residents enjoy one of the highest-rated school systems in the state and access to superb healthcare. The city's proximity to major highways like Interstate 20 makes North Augusta a retired traveler's dream.

Rock Hill

Park in Rock Hill, SC.

  • Population: 69,939
  • Average age: 40.4
  • Median household income: $50,444
  • Average commute time: 28.7 minutes
  • Walk score: 32
  • Studio average rent: $835
  • One-bedroom rent: $914
  • Two-bedroom rent: $1,138

Twenty miles south of Charlotte lies the charming and affordable Rock Hill. The average commute time of under 30 minutes allows Rock Hill residents to benefit from the economic opportunities found in Charlotte without having to pay the costs or suffer the hassles of living in a large city.

Home to the Carolina Panthers' practice facility, Rock Hill is a short drive away from catching a National Football League, National Basketball Association or International Hockey League game or NASCAR race.

The cost of living in Rock Hill pales in comparison to Charlotte and is still among the lowest in the entire state of South Carolina. Residents take advantage of the mild year-round climate and enjoy the many outdoor activities available in Rock Hill, like boating and fishing on nearby Lake Wylie or the Catawba River.

Spartanburg

Aerial shot of Spartanburg, SC.

  • Population: 37,164
  • Average age: 42.3
  • Median household income: $40,053
  • Average commute time: 23.0 minutes
  • Walk Score: 29
  • Studio average rent: $727
  • One-bedroom rent: $888
  • Two-bedroom rent: $1,047

"Sparkle City," as Spartanburg is affectionately known, is the smaller sister-city to Greenville. What makes it one of the best cities to live in South Carolina is its small-town charm, quiet neighborhoods and increasing economic opportunities.

Home to the headquarters of national restaurant chain Denny's and one of the only BMW assembly plants in the United States, Spartanburg offers many employment opportunities to its residents. And, with its low cost of living and highly-rated school system, Spartanburg is a great landing spot for young families and career-minded millennials.

Downtown Spartanburg has enjoyed a renaissance in the last decade that has revitalized its landscape and brought art and culture back to the city. Ballet Spartanburg, one of the most celebrated arts organizations in the state, produces a dozen productions annually, including “The Nutcracker."

Summerville

River view of Summerville, SC.

  • Population: 46,612
  • Average age: 40.5
  • Median household income: $59,180
  • Average commute time: 35.4 minutes
  • Walk Score: 19
  • Studio average rent: $1,093
  • One-bedroom rent: $1,098
  • Two-bedroom rent: $1,380

Summerville gives nearby Charleston a run for its money when it comes to history, culture and landscape. A much more affordable option than the nearby No. 1 tourist destination, Summerville is the gateway to the Lowcountry.

With a population of just under 50,000 residents and an average annual income of over $80,000, Summerville is unmatched in the state of South Carolina in terms of cost of living and economic opportunity.

Summerville boasts one of the highest school ratings in the state, making it one of the best cities to live in South Carolina for education. The cost of living is higher than most smaller towns, but the location, beautiful coastal landscape and proximity to opportunity make up for it.

Find your own best place to live in South Carolina

If you are ready to call South Carolina home, we're here to help. Start your apartment search today.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com's multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments in March 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Other demographic data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.
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Thomas CochranThomas Cochran is a freelance copywriter and blogger living in Charleston, SC. He writes articles for corporate publications and blogs for contractors and home services companies. He also loves writing about travel, fishing and anything Charleston.

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