Memphis is a metropolitan city in Tennessee where urban living meets the slow rhythm of the rural south. It’s a close-knit neighborhood with a small-town charm, making it an ideal place to live. You may be wondering if it’s the right place for you; therefore, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons. Is Memphis a good place to live?
Memphis is an inexpensive city to live in, and it doesn’t levy a personal income tax. Job opportunities abound, and its music scene is hard to beat. However, crime is high in the city. Poverty is also a social issue, and summertime can be extremely uncomfortable.
This article dives into factors that make up the livability score of Memphis. We covered crucial information about the cost of living, crime, weather, and the job market. In addition, we listed neighborhoods that may appeal to you based on your preferences and interests.
We also included some comparative points between Memphis and another music hub, Nashville.
Is Memphis a Good Place to Live?
Cost of Living in Memphis
In 2018, the Council on Community and Economic Research (CCER) ranked Memphis as one of the least expensive cities (7th) to live in across the US. Memphis’ cost of living is 20% lower than the national average across the following factors:
As of 2020, the average home purchase in Memphis is about $170,000. It’s below the national average but an increase of 25.5% from 2019. However, home prices can be as low as $100,000, even for a 3-bedroom home.
Interestingly, most Memphians are renters, and according to RentCafe, the average for a 900-square-foot apartment is less than $900. Rent averages vary among Memphis neighborhoods, but they are below the US average of almost $1,500.
Is Memphis Safe?
The Memphis police constantly patrol the downtown area (particularly Beale Street). However, the city struggles with violent crime.
For the past two decades, Memphis has been among the most dangerous cities in the US, although serious crime has declined since 2006.
The Memphis Police Department states that the seemingly high crime rate is due to its detailed crime reporting (FBI National Incident-Based Reporting System) compared to how most cities do.
Areas considered dangerous include:
- Beale Street
- Frayser (North Memphis)
- Downtown Memphis
- Oakhaven (Parkway Village)
- Berclair Highland Heights
Memphis’ climate is humid subtropical with four seasons.
Summer is long in Memphis, happening from May to September. Hot and muggy, the average temperature often reaches more than 90 degrees and is coupled with high humidity. It is the city’s peak tourism season, but heatstroke is a dominant concern, particularly for people unaccustomed to the southern climate.
Spring is mildly warm, accompanied by rains (54 inches annually) in April. Winters are wet, chilly (50 degrees average high), and short with very little snow (4 inches). Autumn is often dry and warm but perfect for outdoor exploration. Memphis has 218 days of sun and 108 days of rain.
Walking isn’t ideal in Memphis, so the best way to move around is by car. 88% of people in the city are car-dependent.
Transportation options include:
- Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) buses and trolleys
- Bike-Share Program
- Car rentals
- Uber and Lyft
Memphis is divided into four general areas.
This is the city’s oldest part, home to the main entertainment center Beale Street, holding Bike Night every Wednesday. Museums like the National Civil Rights and Memphis Rock ‘n Soul are here, including the popular attraction where Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash recorded their music, the Sun Studio.
Elvis’ mansion is here, less than 10 miles south of downtown. The streets, which are often populated by The King’s fans, have budget-friendly accommodations but driving a car is a necessity.
The east offers a younger, laid-back ambiance. It’s home to the University of Memphis, Lichterman Nature Center, Memphis Botanic Garden, and Shelby Farms Park.
At its heart is Overton Park, with 342 acres of green space to stroll and ride a bike. The park’s Memphis Zoo is popular among families, while Overton Square in the south has live-performance theaters, restaurants, art shops, and a multi-screen movie theater.
There’s no state income tax in Memphis and across Tennessee.
However, the sales tax rate is high at 9.75%, broken down into:
|Tennessee Sales Tax
|Shelby County Tax
|Memphis Sales Tax
This means that you pay an additional 10% on everything you buy.
Property tax is $3.20 for every $100 assessed value, higher than other Tennessee cities.
Living in Memphis: Pros and Cons
Apart from a low cost of living and no state income tax, here are more reasons why Memphis is an ideal choice to live in.
Memphis has a large public school system, and you can find great schools in East Memphis, Germantown, Midtown, and The Poplar Corridor.
Top colleges and universities include:
- Rhodes College
- Christian Brothers University
- The University of Memphis
The Tennessee Promise Program also brings high school students closer to higher education through scholarships. It is also a mentoring program for students transitioning from high school.
Beale Street constantly grooves to the tunes popularized by Elvis and the music of up-and-coming musicians, especially in May during the Beale Street Music Festival. Memphis bars also offer audiophiles the unique sounds of Issac Hayes, B. B. King, and Johnny Cash.
Popular music attractions include the Sun Studio, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis Rock’ n Soul Museum, and Graceland. You can get a Backstage Pass to visit all four destinations for a consolidated price.
Street art is popular around town. There are six ‘I Love Memphis’ murals alongside a collection of sculptures and other murals in areas like South Main Street.
Memphis is home to several well-attended celebrations:
- Bluff City Jazz Festival
- Cooper-Young Festival
- Indie Film Festival
- Memphis in May
- River Arts Fest
- Chicken & Beer Festival
- Craft Food & Wine Festival
- Italian Festival
- Mempho Music Festival
- Tequila Festival
In March 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. peacefully led a protest for the equal rights of Black sanitation workers in Memphis, birthing the National Civil Rights Museum.
The city’s finger-lickin’ barbecue is a favorite for foodies. Memphis has about a hundred barbecue joints, each serving distinct versions. Every May, Memphis hosts the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
Among the popular barbecue spots are:
- Central BBQ
- Corky’s BBQ
- Interstate Barbecue
- Cozy Corner BBQ
Pork is Memphis’ specialty, which you can have as a slow-smoked rib or pulled and stuffed into a bun. It’s served with tangy and sweet sauces, prepared in different dry rubs.
For other cuisine destinations, try:
- The Four Way (oldest soul-food restaurant)
- Evelyn & Olive (Jamaican and southern with live music)
Traditional Memphis treats include:
- Fried pickle
- Fried peanut butter-and-banana sandwich
As the anchor city of the Mid-South, Memphis has been a major shipping hub for over 150 years. It also has some of the best employers, including FedEx, employing more than 30,000 Memphians.
Other top employers are:
- Baker-Donelson Law Firm
- Shelby County Government and Schools
- St. Jude
- Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (largest health provider in Memphis)
- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (among the Best Workplaces for Millennials)
- First Horizon
- International Paper Co.
Memphis is among the fastest-growing job markets in the US. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 2020, the following are the top employment sectors with their corresponding staffing:
|Trade, Transportation, and Utilities
|Professional and Business Services
|Education and Health Services
|Leisure and Hospitality
More than summers being hot and humid and the city’s high crime rate, here are additional reasons why living in Memphis isn’t the better choice.
An average of 1 for every 4 individuals and families live below the poverty line in Memphis.
The highways can quickly transform into parking lots within minutes.
Public transportation is limited in Memphis, making commuting a challenge, mainly since the city is pretty spread out.
There aren’t nearby mountains in Memphis, so hiking and climbing are off the table.
Due to Memphis’ heat and humidity, bugs and mosquitoes are common, so bug zappers (view on Amazon) are among the necessities.
The rainy season, which spans from spring to early summer, encourages flooding in low-lying areas. Tornadoes and harsh storms are also common at any time of the year.
Other noteworthy severe weather includes hail and hurricanes.
Neighborhoods in Memphis
Memphis has neighborhoods that offer distinct appeals.
Midtown is an artsy community with small, grand, and historic homes. Overton Park has a golf course, forest area, and lake, and Overton Square offers restaurants, live-music venues, and dive bars.
The average home purchase in Midtown is $270,000, while rent is less than $1,000.
Harbor Town is a relatively new planned community on the sandbar called Mud Island. Walkable trails and ponds surround upscale homes with a list-price average of $575,000.
The South Main is popular among millennials and financially stable young professionals. It’s an arts district and the oldest community in Memphis, home to the Civil Rights Movement, the Blues, and Rock’ n Roll.
The average home purchase in South Main is $450,000, making it among the most expensive areas in Memphis. Rent ranges from $850 to $1,200, but 3-bedroom apartments in The Landing Residences are up to $4,200 a month.
Cooper-Young is a vibrant community in Midtown with beautiful architecture, a craft-brew scene, and excellent restaurants. It’s also the home of the first rainbow crosswalk in Tennessee.
Is It Better To Live In Nashville Or Memphis?
Nashville is often compared with Memphis because they are both ‘musical’ cities. Let’s differentiate these cities based on crucial factors that may define the ‘better’ place to live in between the two.
Nashville’s cost of living is 10.77% more expensive than in Memphis. Buying a Home is about 28% higher, while groceries and basic clothing costs aren’t far behind. Property tax in Nashville is 25% higher than in Memphis.
You’d pay more for ready-to-eat food like chicken and hamburgers in Memphis. Newspapers, trips to the vet, and haircuts are also more expensive than in Nashville. The crime rate is also higher than in Nashville.
Conclusion: Is Memphis a Good Place to Live?
If music, low cost of living, and great weather rank high on your list, then yes, Memphis is a good place to live.
Memphis is considered The Cradle of American Music. The U. S. News & World Report ranks it as the second-best place to visit in Tennessee and among the best weekend getaways in the south.
The city’s history and culture are rich, alongside a diverse cuisine offering and a vibrant nightlife. However, there also are ‘downsides’ to living in Memphis.
The city’s high crime rate is a significant downside for many people, making it the Most Dangerous Place to Live, according to the U S. News. Memphis’ hot and humid summer is also a turn-off for those who enjoy a balance between warmth and cold.