Shocking Comparison: South Carolina vs Florida Cost of Living Revealed!

Dated: March 6 2024

Views: 19

Are you wanting to move to a state with more warm, sunny days, top tourist attractions and beautiful beaches? There are 2 states I can think of with all of these qualities: Florida is an obvious one, but South Carolina shares these qualities too! 

If you are thinking of moving to either of these beautiful states, or from Florida to South Carolina or vice versa, I’m going to tell you all you need to know about the cost of living in both states. I’ll tell you how these states’ costs compare for housing, utilities, taxes, transportation, food, and education. And later on, I’ll let you know which state is more affordable to live in overall. But first, let’s compare their housing values. 

Housing Costs

If you’re thinking of moving to Florida or South Carolina, it’s important to know what you can expect to pay for housing or rent. When it comes to home prices, South Carolina homes cost significantly less on average. For example, the median property value for a home in South Carolina is $264,000 while the median property value in Florida is just over $378,000, so that’s a difference of $112,000! 1 

Rental costs are also lower by over 17 percent in South Carolina. For instance, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center would cost an average of about $1,500 per month in South Carolina compared to about $1,750 monthly in Florida.2 

Of course when you’re considering home costs, you’ll also need to factor in what you can expect to pay for property taxes. Property taxes vary from state to state and sometimes even from county to county. So I’m going to tell you the average tax rate of what you would pay in both states. 

Property Taxes

The good news is that both of these states’ property taxes are lower than the national average. Florida's average real property tax rate is 0.98%, which is slightly lower than the U.S. average of 1.08%.3 The average Florida homeowner pays $1,752 each year in real property taxes, although that amount varies between counties.3

So how do South Carolina property tax rates compare? Actually the Palmetto State has some of the lowest property taxes of any state in the U.S. The average effective property tax rate in South Carolina is just 0.55%, with a median annual property tax payment of $980.4 Now let’s take a look at income and sales tax rates in both states. 

Income and Sales Taxes

One reason that so many people choose to move to Florida when they retire is because it has no state individual income tax which is great news! The Sunshine State also has no taxes on Social Security, and no inheritance or estate taxes.7 

However, Florida does have a 5.50 percent corporate income tax. And as far as sales taxes go, Florida has a 6 percent state sales tax rate and an average combined state and local sales tax rate of 7.002 percent.5 Sales tax in South Carolina is pretty much the same with a rate of 6 percent. Counties may impose an additional one percent local sales tax if voters in that county approve the tax.13 

So what about South Carolina’s income tax? According to the South Carolina Department of Revenue, Individual Income Tax rates range from 0% to a top rate of 6.4% on taxable income for the 2023 tax year. Tax brackets are adjusted annually for inflation and have lowered each year since 2021.6 

South Carolina also has no Social Security taxes, and income deductions are available for retirees. Plus, property taxes in South Carolina are some of the lowest rates in the nation. If taxes are a consideration for you when deciding where to retire, both Florida and South Carolina are great options.7

Utilities

If you’re planning to buy or rent a new home, it’s always wise to consider what you will pay each month for utilities. So what can you expect to pay for utilities in Florida? According to Sofi.com, the average home electricity bill will cost about $130 per month. Natural gas costs about $136 monthly, and water costs about $34 per month.8

This gives us a total of $300 per month average for those basic utilities.

Now, what do utilities cost in South Carolina? According to Unbiased.com, on average, you will pay about $139 monthly for electricity, $96 for natural gas, and $33 for water per month.9 So, even though the average electricity costs are slightly higher in South Carolina the average total on utilities adds up to $268 which is lower than the average in Florida by $32.

Transportation

What about transportation costs? The truth is, neither of these states are known for having extensive public transportation or metro systems. However, both states provide plenty of public transportation by bus and of course by private services like taxis, Uber or Lyft. 

So a monthly transit pass in Florida will cost about $52.60 per month and will cost about $41.60 per month in South Carolina, according to MyLifeElsewhere.com.10 But most people drive cars in these states, so it’s helpful to know how gas prices compare. Gas prices are always fluctuating and can even vary from city to city, but right now gas costs an average of about $3.17 per gallon for regular-grade fuel in South Carolina while in Florida you’ll pay slightly more at about $3.44 per gallon for regular-grade gasoline.10

Food

As food costs soar across the country, you may be wondering how to get the best meals for your money. So how do South Carolina and Florida compare when it comes to grocery and restaurant prices? 

According to MyLifeElsewhere.com, groceries in Florida cost an average of 12.9 percent more than groceries in South Carolina.2 For example, a loaf of bread costs an average of $2.83 in South Carolina but will cost about $3.21 in Florida.2 And according to 247WallStreet.com, Florida ranks 12th highest in the nation for grocery costs with an average expense of $10,385 per year for a family of four. Compared to this, South Carolina ranks 40th in the nation with an average annual expense of $9,086 for a family of four.11

Restaurant prices have also increased across the U.S., and if you enjoy dining out like I do, you’ll see that restaurant prices have risen in Florida and South Carolina. In fact, compared to other states, these two are among some of the most expensive for dining out in the country according to TopNutritionCoaching.com.12 In both states you can expect to pay on average about $20 per meal for dinner at sit-down restaurants.12 But based on my experience, it’s not hard to find other restaurants with lower dinner prices.

Education 

If you are thinking of continuing your higher education or are planning to move to either state to go to college, or if you have children you want to put in private school, it’s helpful to know what you can expect to pay. I’ll start with tuition rates for colleges and universities. 

College Tuition Rates

Both states have a variety of many great universities and their own flagship university, such as the University of South Carolina in Columbia and the University of Florida in Gainesville. For a deep dive on colleges and universities in South Carolina, click the link to this video…

In South Carolina, the average annual in-state college tuition was $14,097 for the 2021-2022 academic year. This is $1,033 lower than the U.S. average and ranks South Carolina just below the middle as the 28th most expensive state to attend college according to CollegeSimply.com.14

Attending college in Florida is slightly more expensive. For example, the average annual in-state college tuition in Florida was $14,531 for the 2021-2022 academic year. This is $599 lower than the U.S. average and ranks Florida in the middle of the pack as the 26th most expensive state to attend college.14 

Private School Tuition Rates

If you’re planning to send your student to a private school, here is what you can expect to pay in each state. In Florida, private school tuition is more expensive with an average tuition cost of $10,555 per year as of 2024. Private school tuition is significantly lower in South Carolina with an average cost of $8,180 per year in 2024 according to Privateschoolreview.com.15 Keep in mind these are just averages, so certain schools will cost more or less. 

So now that I’ve covered the cost of living in each state, which state is less expensive to live in? When it comes to more affordable living overall, South Carolina wins. In fact, when all cost of living categories are weighted, the Palmetto State is 8.2 percent cheaper than Florida.10

I hope this has helped you know what to expect for your budget and if the cost of living is worthwhile. If you live in South Carolina or Florida, do you think it’s affordable to live in or not? Let me know in the comments. 

****

Written by Vanessa Pham

Sources

1https://www.ezhomesearch.com/blog/florida-vs-south-carolina-which-is-the-better-state/#:~:text=help%20you%20decide.-,Cost%20of%20living,100%20as%20the%20national%20average.

2 https://www.mylifeelsewhere.com/cost-of-living/south-carolina-usa/florida-usa

3https://www.hrblock.com/tax-center/filing/states/florida-property-tax/#:~:text=What%20is%20the%20Florida%20Property,that%20amount%20varies%20between%20counties.

4https://smartasset.com/taxes/south-carolina-property-tax-calculator#:~:text=South%20Carolina%20Property%20Taxes,-Photo%20credit%3A%20%C2%A9&text=If%20you're%20buying%20a,property%20tax%20payment%20of%20%24%20980.

5https://taxfoundation.org/location/florida/#:~:text=Florida%20does%20not%20have%20a,tax%20rate%20of%207.002%20percent.

6 https://dor.sc.gov/tax/individual-income

7https://www.kiawahisland.com/the-island/south-carolina-vs-florida-retirement/#:~:text=In%20fact%2C%20Florida%20has%20no,lowest%20rates%20in%20the%20nation.

8 https://www.sofi.com/cost-of-living-in-florida/

9https://www.unbiased.com/discover/banking/what-is-the-cost-of-living-in-south-carolina

10 https://www.mylifeelsewhere.com/cost-of-living/south-carolina-usa/florida-usa

11https://247wallst.com/state/how-much-food-costs-in-south-carolina-compared-to-the-nation/

12 https://www.topnutritioncoaching.com/blog/cost-of-eating-out-vs-eating-in

13 https://dor.sc.gov/tax/sales

14 https://www.collegesimply.com/colleges/south-carolina/college-cost/

15 https://www.privateschoolreview.com/tuition-stats/florida

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Sandra Sturkie

 Originally from Colombia, South America, I now proudly call Columbia, South Carolina, my home.With a degree in Accounting from the University of Quindio in Colombia, I bring a solid educational ....

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