Best Cities for Renters to Live in 2024: Charleston Tops the Charts for Second Year in a Row

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Key Takeaways

  • Charleston, SC, is this year’s best city to rent in for the second year in a row, followed by Atlanta in second place and Sarasota, FL, in third place.
  • San Marcos, TX, ranks best for cost of living and housing; Miami leads in local economy; and Washington, D.C., has the best quality of life.
  • The South claims 38 of the top 50 best places for renters to live in 2024.

When looking for the best place to rent in 2024, factors such as the size of apartments, employment or the quality of schools can really make a difference in the vetting process. And while no city has everything, there are quite a few that come close and rank high for renters searching for options that better fit their wallets and lifestyle. This year, Charleston, SC, stole the show again, followed by other promising places along the Sun Belt.

With that in mind, RentCafe’s annual ranking reveals 2024’s best cities for renters. To help renters identify their ideal city, we looked at 20 relevant metrics across 150 U.S. cities. These metrics — which include apartment quality, economic strength, traffic, air quality and natural amenities — were then grouped into three categories: cost of living and housing; local economy; and quality of life.

 

Table showcasing the metrics used in the report.

Whether you’re drawn by the energy of a big city or the relaxed vibe of a small town, there’s a place that’s perfect for your housing needs while still staying within your budget. Here’s a look at where Americans get the most out of their renting experience in 2024.

Charleston, SC, takes the lead again, as the South outshines all other regions

Claiming 38 out of 50 positions in our ranking, the South establishes itself as the best region for renters in 2024. From popular rental hotspots like Atlanta and highly competitive Miami to smaller locales — such as McKinney, TX; Marietta, GA; and Daytona Beach, FL — the South offers options that cater to nearly every renter’s preference.

Map of the top 50 best cities for renters to live in 2024. Interestingly, the common thread for both smaller and larger cities is their high potential for job growth and generally lower living costs compared to other parts of the U.S.

Top 5 best cities for renters to live in 2024

1. Charleston, SC

For the second year in a row, Charleston is first among the best cities for renters, due to its strong local economy (ranked #2) and affordability (ranked #7). Plus, on top of having a cost of living that’s lower than the national average, the city is teeming with career opportunities from major employers such as Boeing, Benefitfocus, Blackbaud and BoomTown — earning it the nickname of Silicon Harbor. Additionally, Charleston’s thriving tourism industry provides plenty of job opportunities.

Golden sunrise light bathes downtown Charleston, South Carolina, with historic buildings and streets visible from an aerial view.

The city also excels in quality of life by offering spacious apartments, quality schools and abundant green spaces, making it all the more appealing to renters. Furthermore, young adults can look forward to living in a socially active city, with plenty of fitness centers, cultural events and fairs, as well as museums to keep them busy — clear reasons why Charleston remains the #1 city for renters in 2024.

2. Atlanta

The second spot on our list is claimed by Atlanta, Georgia’s capital city, which has risen in our ranking since last year. Besides its high scores in local economy and cost of living and housing — ranked #4 and #9, respectively — the City in a Forest has been a recurring presence in our rental activity report, proving itself as a prime renting spot to many apartment seekers.

View of Atlanta, GA downtown skyline on a spring day.

Living up to its nickname of “Silicon Peach,” Atlanta reflects a career-focused mindset with numerous entrepreneurship opportunities, as well as steady income growth for renters. Job opportunities are also plentiful in Atlanta, supported by major employers like Delta Air Lines, Cox Enterprises, The Home Depot, and UPS. Moreover, with a cost of living below the national average, large apartments (more than half of which are high-end) and plenty of opportunities to get involved in the community, it’s no that wonder the city is such an attractive destination for many renters.

3. Sarasota, FL

Sarasota, FL, is third on our list of best cities for renters in 2024 and for good reason: Ranking fifth in cost of living and housing and sixth in local economy, this Florida gem is the perfect spot for renters looking for a city that strikes the perfect work/life balance.

View of Sarasota, FL downtown bayfront park.

Embodying its motto of “urban amenities meet small-town living,” Sarasota provides renters with a comfortable level of affordability and convenience. This is reflected in its spacious, high-end apartments; gorgeous green spaces; and quality schools. Career opportunities also abound, thanks to the presence of companies such as PGT Innovations, Xfinity and Sun Hydraulics. At the same time, Sarasota’s thriving arts scene ensures that renters will never tire of living in this aptly nicknamed “Paradise.”

4. McKinney, TX

McKinney, TX, takes the fourth spot on our list after ranking high in cost of living and housing (#2) and quality of life (#9). This is due to a mix of lower-than-average cost of living, high-end apartments in top locations and quality schools.

A storefront of old building in historic downtown McKinney, TX.

With its small-town feel and a strong sense of community, McKinney is an ideal choice for renters who want to escape the bustle of the city without compromising on urban comfort. Boasting a variety of parks, farmers markets and local businesses — all centered around its historic downtown — McKinney is a big draw for both young professionals and students.

5. Scottsdale, AZ

Rounding out the top five best cities for renters in 2024 is Scottsdale, AZ, which slipped two spots from third place last year. Specifically, the city ranks seventh in local economy and eighth in quality of life, making “The West’s Most Western Town” a promising option for renters who are eager to balance work and leisure.

Aerial view of Scottsdale, AZ city center.

With major employers such as GoDaddy, Voya Financial and Nationwide Insurance present in the area, Scottsdale appeals particularly to young professionals looking to expand their horizons. And, thanks to its quality schools, ideal climate and lively cultural scene, the city has something to offer almost any renter looking to move here.

Best cities for renters in the South: A welcome respite for renters seeking affordable living options

With nearly half of the cities in our ranking located in the South, it’s no surprise that this region has managed to outshine all others. Notably, Charleston, SC; Atlanta; Sarasota, FL; and McKinney, TX, not only dominate the top four spots nationwide, but are also the premier picks in the South as well.

These locales are joined by Round Rock, TX — which ranks third in cost of living and housing nationwide for its lower-than-average cost of living, spacious apartments and high share of newly built units — making it perfect for renters looking to stay within budget.

Other notable cities include Austin, TX, (ranking 15th in cost of living and housing) and Chapel Hill, NC (claiming eighth and third in cost of living and housing and quality of life, respectively.) Close behind is Miami, which leads in local economy, followed by two North Carolina cities — Charlotte and Raleigh — which rank sixth and 13th in cost of living and housing, respectively.

Best cities for renters in the West: Sunny weather & strong local economies offer a haven for career-focused renters  

Renters looking for cities where they can both work hard and keep fit need look no further than the West. Home to 32 of the 150 spots on our list, the region stands out with cities like Scottsdale, AZ, (ranked seventh in local economy) and Gilbert, AZ (ranked fourth in cost of living and housing.)

Other noteworthy mentions are Boise, ID, which ranks fifth in local economy due to the presence of employers such as Albertsons, Micron Technology, and WinCo Foods. Similarly, Denver and Salt Lake City rank high in local economy — fifth and ninth, respectively. Meanwhile, tech-driven Seattle strikes a balance between a healthy local economy (ranked #8) and quality of life (ranked #12).

Best cities for renters in the Northeast: Stamford, CT, & Boston are ideal spots for renters seeking a lively social scene  

With competition heating up in the Northeast renters are finding it harder to snag an apartment in the region.

Nevertheless — and despite the higher cost of living and housing compared to other regions — the Northeast stands out with desirable locales such as Stamford, CT, and Boston, which rank high in quality of life (10th and 11th, respectively). These cities also boast large shares of apartments in prime locations, offering renters the advantage of picturesque surroundings.

Best cities for renters in the Midwest: Strong local economies & ample social opportunities make this region an oasis for renters

Striking a great balance between affordability, local economy, and quality of life, the Midwest claims 27 cities on our list, with Rochester, MN, and Sioux Falls, SD, in the lead.

Here, Rochester holds true to its motto as "America's City of Care and Innovation" by scoring high in all three categories: It ranks 16th in quality of life; 15th in local economy; and 32nd in cost of living and housing, thanks to a lower-than-average cost of living, spacious apartments, and short car commutes. For comparison, Sioux Falls, SD, prioritizes affordability (ranked 25th in cost of living and housing).

Leaders by category

San Marcos, TX, tops the list for cost of living and housing, thanks to its large apartments and lower-than-average cost of living. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Miami leads when it comes to local economy, with many renters-turned-entrepreneurs enjoying a steady income growth.

Image of best and worst cities in cost of living and housing, local economy and quality of life.

Lastly, Washington, D.C. ranks first when it comes to quality of life. Renters here have plenty of opportunities to stay fit, thanks to the numerous fitness centers and sports clubs throughout the city.

Methodology

The Best Cities for Renters ranking was compiled by RentCafe.com, a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States.

We only considered “suitable candidates for best cities for renters” as those cities with an apartment stock of at least 10,000 apartment units and a population of at least 50,000. Cities with lower apartment stock were excluded. A total of 149 cities were the final candidates for the ranking.

To determine the best cities for renters, the RentCafe analytics team used a composite index to compare cities across three main categories: Cost of Living & Housing; Local Economy; and Quality of Life.

The three main categories were compiled from 20 relevant metrics. Each metric received a score based on a minimum and maximum value multiplied by the metric's weight.

To create the categories index, the process of ranking was repeated and then the results were multiplied by each category's overall weight.

Data from Yardi Matrix, a RentCafe sister division, covers apartment buildings of 50 units or more. All other sources used as cited below.

Ranking metrics and data sources:

Category 1: Housing & Cost of Living, Category weight: 50%

  1. Cost of living and housing: Weight: 40%; Source: The Cost of Living Index
  2. Apartment average size: Weight: 10%; Source: Yardi Matrix, average size of all inventory, excluding affordable apartments
  3. Apartment occupancy: Weight: 10%; Source: Yardi Matrix
  4. Share of new apartments: Weight: 10%; Source: Yardi Matrix
  5. Share of high-end apartments: Weight: 10%; Source: Yardi Matrix
  6. Share of renter-occupied households: Weight: 5%; Source: Bureau of Census - American Community Survey 2021 Five-Year Estimates
  7. Market Competitivity: Weight: 5%; Source: RentCafe Market Competitivity Report - Q1 2024
  8. RentCafe ILS Property Ratings: Weight: 10%; Source: RentCafe

Category 2: Local Economy, Category weight: 30%

  1. Unemployment rate: Weight: 25%; Source: Bureau of Census - American Community Survey 2021 Five-Year Estimates
  2. Share of population with high-education degrees: Weight: 20%; Source: Bureau of Census - American Community Survey 2021 Five-Year Estimates
  3. Renter household median income growth: Weight: 25%; Source: Bureau of Census - American Community Survey 2022 Five-Year Estimates vs 2017
  4. Job growth: Weight: 15%; Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
  5. Number of business applications per 10,000 residents: Weight: 15%; Source: Bureau of Census - Business Formation Statistics - 2024 vs 2023

Category 3: Quality of Life, Category weight: 20%

  1. Apartments in top locations: Weight: 25%; Source: Yardi Matrix
  2. Average school rating: Weight: 15%; Source: GreatSchools
  3. Long commutes driving alone: Weight: 10%; Source: County Health Data 2024 (Long commutes - more than 30 minutes)
  4. Share of public transportation users & walking: Weight: 10%; Source: Bureau of Census - American Community Survey 2021 - 5 - Year Estimates
  5. Natural amenity rank: Weight: 5%; Source: Economic Research Service - Department of Agriculture
  6. Average air quality: Weight: 10%; Source: EPA Air Quality
  7. Social association rate: Weight 25%; Source: County Health Data 2024

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the research, graphics, and images presented in this article. When doing so, we ask that you credit our research by linking to RentCafe.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology. For more in-depth, customized data, please contact us at media@rentcafe.com.

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Adina Dragos is a creative writer at RentCafe, with a passion for reading, research and cats. As a fellow renter, Adina's articles cover various topics such as the state of the real estate market or how creative interior design choices improve the experience of living in a rental. She also enjoys exploring subjects like urbanization, green living and historical buildings. Adina has a BA in English and Norwegian Language and Literature.

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