Best Cities for Renters in 2022

Austin suburb Round Rock is crowned the best city for renters in 2022, reconfirming Texas’ rising appeal as a coveted place to live. The Houston metro’s hidden gem Conroe, TX is in second place, followed by other small cities located mainly in the South and Southeast. These are the findings of our new annual ranking of best cities for renters based on proprietary data and a mix of 17 metrics that best define a great renting experience: from cost of living and the quality of rental housing, to the local economy and the quality of life.

We analyzed 115 cities across the nation to identify the ideal locations to live your best life as a renter in 2022. We used a unique combination of 17 metrics based on our proprietary data that covers more than just affordability. Besides what it costs to live there, we looked at the selection and quality of the apartments available in each city, the quality of the neighborhoods where rentals are located, occupancy rates, opportunities for job growth, air quality; and much more. You can check out the full list of metrics used for our index here.

So, without any further ado, here are 2022’s best cities to live in as a renter:

Small cities make for the best locations to rent in, led by Round Rock, TX

The best cities to rent in are a mix of large, established renter hotspots like Atlanta, balanced mid-sized cities like Raleigh, NC and serene, small places like Greenville, SC. Although larger cities are expected to suit renters’ needs the best, we noticed that small cities tend to offer the best life for renters, representing half of our top 50. Many of these smaller cities are, in fact, suburbs in large metros and are clustered in the Southern and Southeastern United States. What they all have in common is a healthy pace of new apartment construction and a great selection of amenity-rich properties.

City General Rank Cost of Living & Housing Rank Local Economy Rank Quality of Life Rank
Round Rock, TX 1 13 10 12
Raleigh, NC 2 16 12 9
Conroe, TX 3 3 36 24
Greenville, SC 4 2 25 45
Orlando, FL 5 22 17 21
Jacksonville, FL 6 8 47 25
Charlotte, NC 7 24 19 30
Charleston, SC 8 32 8 38
Atlanta, GA 9 39 21 17
Austin, TX 10 55 7 10
Sarasota, FL 11 44 26 13
Savannah, GA 12 1 73 58
Plano, TX 13 66 1 5
Knoxville, TN 14 4 82 39
Tampa, FL 15 40 35 23
Columbia, SC 16 10 78 35
Lincoln, NE 17 19 42 68
San Antonio, TX 18 27 62 28
Houston, TX 19 33 41 47
Fort Worth, TX 20 37 38 43
Lubbock, TX 21 13 65 72
Columbus, OH 22 17 43 96
Amarillo, TX 23 29 69 28
Nashville, TN 24 41 20 74
Huntsville, AL 25 12 55 95
Kansas City, MO 26 26 50 70
Stamford, CT 27 77 11 8
Lafayette, LA 28 31 54 59
Fort Lauderdale, FL 29 63 26 22
Chattanooga, TN 30 21 78 54
Birmingham, AL 31 14 97 44
Lexington, KY 31 36 37 79
St. Louis, MO 32 25 71 56
Tallahassee, FL 33 30 59 63
Arlington, VA 34 84 2 14
Boise, ID 34 57 29 41
Westminster, CO 35 76 18 11
Denver, CO 36 79 9 18
Little Rock, AR 37 52 40 40
Des Moines, IA 38 11 79 85
Odessa, TX 39 51 52 26
Asheville, NC 40 54 30 53
San Marcos, TX 41 15 79 80
Kalamazoo, MI 42 9 87 90
Augusta, GA 43 5 103 78
Oklahoma City, OK 44 28 51 99
Omaha, NE 45 47 44 64
Memphis, TN 45 7 96 86
Colorado Springs, CO 46 78 31 7
Salt Lake City, UT 47 62 24 60

As a small Texan city just 15 miles north of Downtown Austin, Round Rock is the nation’s best place to rent. An up-and-coming tech center and the “sports capital of Texas”, the state where renters have the most access to sports amenities, Round Rock benefits from great year-round weather, a suburban feel — much sought-after in recent years — as well as many parks and great outdoor areas. Round Rock scores high in all three categories: ranks 13th in cost of living, 10th in terms of local economy and 12th in quality of life. At the same time, three-quarters of the apartments in Round Rock are classified as high-end, which means they check the most important features for modern renters, from large spaces to quality amenities and finishes. Put all of that together and you get a pretty good idea of why this charming city is the best place to be as a renter.

The runner-up is Raleigh, NC, a city that ranks high in quality of life metrics, such as a high share of apartments located in top neighborhoods, while also boasting a booming job market. The city abounds in highly-educated residents, the 10th highest share on our list. Raleigh has that increasingly popular urban-suburban mix feel, which allows people to enjoy the benefits of the big-city life, as well as the quiet and safety of suburbia. In 2021, Raleigh was one of the top 20 U.S. cities with the most apartment construction, thanks to a five-year high of approximately 4,800 new apartments delivered – a sign of constant development and demand that make this North Carolina city a thriving apartment scene.

Yet another city with a suburban feel, Conroe, TXlocated in Houston metro — is third best city for renters in 2022. Conroe comes in third place in terms of cost of living and housing, which makes it very appealing to renters. Over 70% of Conroe apartments are high-end, ensuring a great selection of high-quality housing for apartment dwellers. Additionally, the warm weather and variety of lakes and green spaces create the perfect location for active residents and nature-lovers.

Voted in 2021 the best city in the nation for Gen Z renters, Greenville, SC is fourth among the top places for renters of any age. A renter-majority city (56.9%), Greenville, SC is the second-best U.S. location in terms of cost of living among the cities analyzed, while also boasting a high share of college-educated residents. Additionally, Greenville is home to many large companies that provide jobs in health services, technology and the automotive industry. In fact, the city has the second-lowest unemployment rate on our list, topped only by Arlington, VA and Madison, WI.

Florida’s presence in our top comes as no surprise, as its ideal weather, access to beaches, and great housing options make it the state of perpetual sunshine in every way and an all-time favorite destination for renters. Orlando is the nation’s fifth-best city to rent in, as it benefits from an urban-suburban feel, a strong local economy, a solid apartment market and countless entertainment options, including world-class theme parks, golf courses, and a vibrant nightlife. What’s not to love about it?

Large cities across the South and Southeast are the best ones for renters

The best large cities, with a population over 600,000, are led by Jacksonville, FL, Charlotte, NC, Austin, TX, San Antonio, TX and Houston, TX.

Rank Large Cities City General Rank Cost of Living & Housing Ranking Local Economy Ranking Quality of Life Ranking
1 Jacksonville, FL 6 8 47 25
2 Charlotte, NC 7 24 19 30
3 Austin, TX 10 55 7 10
4 San Antonio, TX 18 27 62 28
5 Houston, TX 19 33 41 47
6 Fort Worth, TX 20 37 38 43
7 Columbus, OH 22 17 43 96
8 Nashville, TN 24 41 20 74
9 Denver, CO 36 79 9 18
10 Oklahoma City, OK 44 28 51 99

Jacksonville, FL, is the country’s best large city for renters, also making the overall ranking as the sixth best place among cities of all sizes. Due to its attractive cost of living, great weather and plenty of entertainment options, Jacksonville is a popular hotspot for renters who are looking for that perfect combination of lively social scenes and serene outdoor areas.

As the most populous city in North Carolina, Charlotte is the 7th best city overall and has a place in the top 20 best large cities with a great local economy. Known for its many beautiful lakes, the city is also for being the corporate headquarter of Bank of America and other financial giants. Charlotte is the second-best large city for renters and is home to many young professionals and families. The city boasts an urban-suburban feel, ensuring that its residents get the best of both worlds: business opportunities and big city life perks, but also a tranquil and safe environment.

Austin, TX is the third-best large city for renters, which is to be expected given its reputation as an emerging tech hub. Austin is known for its thriving local economy (the 7th best among large cities), great weather, many parks, rivers and bike trails, as well as the apartment boom that has taken place in the past years. In fact, as many tech giants have relocated from California to Texas, Austin has registered impressive growth in apartment construction, now catering to renters better than ever before. The city ranks 10th in the overall top of best cities for renters and 7th in local economy among large cities.

Mid-sized cities like Raleigh, NC offer renters the best of both worlds

The best mid-sized cities, with a population between 300,000 and 600,000, are led by Raleigh, NC, Atlanta, GA, Tampa, FL, Kansas City, MO and Lexington, KY.

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Raleigh, NC, apart from being the second-best city for renters, is also the number one best mid-sized city in our top. Among mid-sized cities, Raleigh comes in 9th place in terms of quality of life, making it a perfect location for renters who are looking to live a healthy, happy lifestyle.

The second-best mid-sized city for renters is Atlanta, Georgia’s most populous city and the one with the highest number of business applications, which goes to show its rising appeal as a business and economic hub. Atlanta is known for its many urban parks and walking areas, which helped the city score the 17th position in our top cities with the best quality of life. Atlanta also makes the top 10 best cities for renters in the nation, all sizes considered.

As the economic center of Western Florida, Tampa sure is a good place to rent. Residents here enjoy great weather year-round, lots of flora and fauna, as well as an urban-suburban feel. The city has a cost of living that is lower than the national average and scored the 23rd place in terms of quality of life. Tampa’s neighborhoods are generally good for families and given its third position in the top best mid-sized cities and the 15th in the general ranking, it’s also a great place to be as a renter.

That small city charm draws renters to gems in Texas, Florida and South Carolina

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Small cities, with a population under 500,000, dominate the main ranking of the best cities for renters, claiming four spots out of the top five. Conroe, TX, Round Rock, TX, Greenville, SC, and Orlando, FL, take the first four positions. The fifth small city in the ranking is Charleston, SC. With one of the lowest unemployment rates (3.4%), a large number of high educated residents, as well as a historic charm, beautiful beaches and world-renowned restaurants, it’s no wonder Charleston is the fifth-best small city to be in as a renter and also, the 8th best in general, as well as in local economy.

Leaders by Category

The city of Savannah, GA is the absolute best in the nation in terms of cost of living, while the local economy champion is Plano, TX. Residents of San Francisco, CA are the ones that benefit from the best quality of life, based on our analysis.

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 considered “suitable candidates for best cities for renters” only cities with an apartment stock of at least 10,000 apartment units. Cities with a lower apartment stock were excluded. A total of 115 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 3 main categories: Cost of Living & Housing, Local Economy and Quality of Life.
  • The three main categories were compiled from 17 relevant metrics. Each metric received a score based on rank position, the best value from each metric received maximum points, then the result was multiplied by the metric’s given weight.
  • To create the categories index, the process of ranking was repeated and then the results were multiplied by each category’s overall weight.
    1. Cost of living and housing: Weight: 50% Source: The Cost-of-Living Index
    2. Apartment average size: Weight: 15% Source: Yardi Matrix
    3. Apartment occupancy: Weight: 15% Source: Yardi Matrix
    4. Share of new apartments: Weight: 10% Source: Yardi Matrix
    5. Share of high-end apartments: Weight: 5% Source: Yardi Matrix
    6. Share of renter-occupied households: Weight: 5% Source: Bureau of Census – American Community Survey 2020 – 5 – Year Estimates
    7. 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: 50% Source: The Cost-of-Living Index
  2. Apartment average size: Weight: 15% Source: Yardi Matrix
  3. Apartment occupancy: Weight: 15% Source: Yardi Matrix
  4. Share of new apartments: Weight: 10% Source: Yardi Matrix
  5. Share of high-end apartments: Weight: 5% Source: Yardi Matrix
  6. Share of renter-occupied households: Weight: 5% Source: Bureau of Census – American Community Survey 2020 – 5 – Year Estimates

Category 2: Local Economy, Category weight: 30%

  1. Unemployment rate: Weight: 25% Source: Bureau of Census – American Community Survey 2020 – 5 – Year Estimates
  2. Share of population with high-education degrees: Weight: 20% Source: Bureau of Census – American Community Survey 2020 – 5 – Year Estimates
  3. Renter median income: Weight: 25% Source: Bureau of Census – American Community Survey 2020 – 5 – Year Estimates
  4. Job growth: Weight: 15% Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
  5. Number of business applications: Weight: 15% Source: Bureau of Census – Business Formation Statistics

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

  1. Apartment building location quality: Weight: 25% Source: Yardi Matrix
  2. Average school rating: Weight: 15% Source: GreatSchools
  3. Annual hours spent in traffic: Weight: 20% Source: Texas Transportation Institute
  4. Share of car users: Weight: 10% Source: Bureau of Census – American Community Survey 2020 – 5 – Year Estimates
  5. Natural Amenity Rank: Weight: 15% Source: Economic Research Service – Department of Agriculture
  6. Air Quality: Weight: 15% Source: EPA Air Quality

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 [email protected]

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