Virginia vs. North Carolina: Which Is Better for Retirement?

Some of the links below are affiliate links, so we may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Check our disclaimer for more info. (* = affiliate link)

Retirement is an exciting period which most people look forward to. It’s the key to a new world of opportunities and possibilities such as discovering new hobbies, learning new cultures, and exploring different parts of the world. However, most retirees face a dilemma in choosing their ideal retirement destination, with the most popular choice within the United States being a toss-up between Virginia and North Carolina.

Virginia and North Carolina are next-door neighbors. Virginia is known for its friendly retirement taxes, ethnic diversity, vibrant nightlife, and safety. On the other hand, North Carolina boasts peaceful beach life, well-established professional sports, and education for the sophophile retirees.

 Category  Virginia  

North Carolina


 Geographical size and  population



42,775 square miles (110,787 square kilometers)


Current population 8,603,980


 53,819 square miles (139,391 square kilometers)


Current population 10,701,000

 Weather and climate  

Humid, subtropical



Ranges between medium continental to humid subtropical


 Cost of living  Above average  

Below average


 Healthcare  Quality and affordable  

The health sector is slightly underdeveloped


 Taxes  Friendly tax system  Slightly friendly tax system


If you feel overwhelmed choosing between these two states, relax! We’ve got all the information you need. Read on to learn some of the distinctive aspects between them to help you make an informed decision.

Geographical Size and Population

Retirees have different preferences when it comes to their retirement life. Some of them envision spending their golden years amid the hustles and bustles of busy states, while others look for a small-town feel.

A particular state’s geographical size and location have a lot to do with its atmosphere, either a dense urban or a semi-urban atmosphere.

In our case, these two southeastern states show disparity when it comes to their size and population. Virginia occupies 42,775 square miles (110,787 square kilometers) of land and has a current population of 8,603,980. These figures bring out a population density of about 202.6 people per square mile, ranking Virginia among the densely inhabited states.

On the other hand, North California rests on 53,819 square miles (139,391 square kilometers) and is home to approximately 10,701,000. Based on these figures, it has a population density of 196 people per square mile.

By comparing these figures, it’s clear that both states are populous with only a slight variation. As a result, folks in both states get an almost similar living atmosphere.

Your choice here depends much on your personal preference other than the statistics.

Weather and Climate

Retirees always seek to relocate to places with perfect weather and climate. Most of them avoid areas with sweltering weather or those whose temperatures drop below the freezing point. Generally, the climate of your chosen location determines your comfortability during retirement.

Despite VA and NC having striking similarities in relief and topography, they exhibit varying climatic conditions attracting different retirees groups.

Virginia’s climate is humid, subtropical, and dominated by relatively mild but pretty crisp winters and pleasantly hot summers. Additionally, Virginia, the Old Dominion state, receives moderate rainfall all year round.

If you choose NC, you’ll enjoy weather conditions ranging from medium continental to humid subtropical, depending on where you are. Most areas here have short, mild winters and sultry summers.

A detailed comparison between these two states shows that VA receives an annual rainfall of about 44″ (1,118mm), a yearly snowfall of about 14″ (356mm), and about 205 sunny days throughout the year. 

On the other hand, the annual rainfall in NC is about 48″ (1,219mm), the yearly snowfall amounts to 4″ (101mm), and there are about 213 sunny days per year.

Although the weather in North Carolina seems more promising, this state is prone to hurricanes and tornadoes, which in extreme cases may cause destruction. These disastrous occurrences may necessitate you to vacate your home occasionally when they are about to hit.

If you don’t mind the 14″ (356mm) of snowfall, you may choose to retire in Virginia. However, if warm temperatures and moderate precipitation are on your must-have list, choose North Carolina.

All in all, the bottom line is, you’re set to find perfect weather in both states, depending on your climate needs.

Cost of Living


10 Best Places to Retire in Oregon on a Budget

Other factors remaining constant, the cost of living determines your retirement destination, especially if you intend to live on a budget. Both Virginia and North Carolina offer a variety of city and country life for all classes of retirees. However, you must be a little calculative if you want to save a few dollars.

The average cost of living index in Virginia stands at approximately 103.7. This figure is arrived at after comparing its various indices such as housing, groceries, miscellaneous, transport, and health costs against the US national average of 100. As for North Carolina, the average living costs index is slightly lower at 90.6 after comparing similar indices.

Without any debate, it’s clear that the cost of living in VA is above average and may be unfavorable for retirees living on a budget. On the other hand, VA is pretty much affordable.

If Virginia is your dream retirement destination and you’re ready to dig a little deeper into your pockets to afford living here, go ahead and make your dreams come true. However, if your budget is a little squeezed, do yourself the favor of finding a place in North Carolina that matches your needs.


Most retirees are susceptible to old age illness, and thus their ideal retirement destination should have a sound healthcare system. The healthcare system should be affordable, offer quality services, and be evenly distributed throughout the state.

Despite Virginia’s small size, it boasts 110 hospitals, which are evenly distributed throughout the state. These hospitals have specialists for various illnesses, and most of them have a good number of staffed beds.

Additionally, Virginia offers a state-sponsored health insurance cover, known as Medicaid, for older folks who fall within their stated income limits. Qualified retirees, children, and grandchildren are also eligible for FAMIS, a state-sponsored health care program.

This means that folks living in VA will have access to quality and affordable medical care regardless of their retirement location.

On the other hand, although North Carolina has some of the most modern medical facilities and a free state-sponsored Medicaid program, the services are not evenly distributed throughout the country. People living in the interior rural areas are a bit disadvantaged when it comes to cost and access to quality healthcare.

Therefore, if you need regular medical checkups and quality medical attention, ensure your chosen locality has access to a sound healthcare system. Virginia can be an ideal state for you to stay healthy as you age.


Taxes are another vital factor to consider when choosing between two relatively similar retirement destinations. The prevailing tax rates directly impact your income and the price of commodities within your locality.

Virginia has a retiree-friendly tax system, exempting the social security income from any state income tax. This tax-friendly state also provides retirees living here a deduction of up to $12,000 annually for all other retirement income forms. These other retirement income forms, such as 401(K), are subject to an income tax ranging between 2% – 5.75%.

Additionally, the VA’s sales tax lies between 5.3% – 7%, while the property tax is pleasantly low at a 0.80% average effective rate.

When it comes to NC, social security income is also exempt from taxes. However, unlike Virginia, North Carolina does not allow deductions on any form of retirement income. Here, income from 401(K) or any other retirement account is subjected to a state income tax of 5.25%.

Homeowners enjoy a low property tax of 0.77%.

Therefore, VA has a more friendly tax system compared to NC.

Virginia is also known for its amazing nightlife for those seeking to spend their golden years like youths. It’s also one of the most ethnically diversified states with friendly residents. Crime rates here are also low, making it a safe place to retire.

North Carolina has some of the well-established professional sports and offers free and subsidized learning for retirees above 65 years seeking to quench their thirst for knowledge.


Virginia is smaller in size and population, has a tax-friendly system, and access to quality healthcare, but it’s a bit expensive for retirees living on a budget. On the other hand, North Carolina offers an affordable cost of living but, in turn, has a slightly underdeveloped healthcare system, which is vital for retirees.

If you feel overwhelmed, consider the following factors when making up your decision:

  • Climate
  • Taxes
  • Cost of living
  • Population
  • Access to healthcare



Hey there, my name is Ruth, I'm in my late fifties. My life was turned upside down a few years ago as I experienced a burn-out. But I saw it as a sign that something had to change in my life. I'm happy I used this tough experience as a stepping stone. I now feel happier than ever and hope to inspire you to do the same, no matter how old you are.

Recent Posts