Chattanooga is the fourth-largest city in the state of Tennessee. It sits near the southeast border, just a short drive from the state of Georgia, and has so much to offer both visitors and permanent residents alike.
If you’re considering moving to Chattanooga, it’s essential to know what you’re getting into before packing up your house and paying the movers. You don’t want to be caught off guard by the weather or high taxes, so we have the insider’s look for you.
From activities to housing and everything in between, we’ll explore the pros and cons of living in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
1. Pro: Affordable Housing Program
The Chattanooga affordable housing program is one of the best in the nation, making it easier for the everyday U.S. citizen to find great housing for an excellent price.
This program was made possible through grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, along with general city funds, and has revitalized low-to-moderate income neighborhoods.
Not only does this program allow for-profit and nonprofit entities to develop and preserve affordable housing, but it also gives landlords assistance up to 50 percent in renovation costs so the city can offer livable and beautiful rentals.
2. Con: Income Disparities
The median household income in Chattanooga is just under $40,000, which is well below the national average. Additionally, the poverty rate in Chattanooga is 20.7%, which means that about 1 in every 5 residents lives in poverty.
Compared to the rest of the state of Tennessee, these numbers are pretty bad and very telling about the income disparities in the city.
3. Pro: No State Income Taxes
Yup – you heard that right. Because Chattanooga is in the great state of Tennessee, residents don’t have to pay any individual state income taxes. This rule applies to wages earned through employment, dividends, interest, and investments.
Tennessee is one of only nine states in the country that currently does not have a state income tax. Tennessee, along with Texas, South Dakota, and Washington, allows its residents to keep every penny they’ve earned.
This perk is a nice offset, considering Chattanooga and the rest of Tennessee have high sales tax rates.
4. Con: High Crime Rates
Unfortunately, Chattanooga has one of the highest crime rates in the country. It scores a 580 on the City-Data crime index, more than twice the national average.
Overall, the number of homicides and other violent crimes has increased since 2018. The city has seen a decrease in property crime, which is good news, but that’s not enough to dub it a safe place for families.
5. Pro: Stunning Fall Season
They don’t call Chattanooga “The Scenic City” for nothing. You don’t have to look much further than the Tennessee River Gorge to experience the stunning fall season in Chattanooga.
Chattanooga sure is pretty in the spring and summer, but it simply comes to life during the fall season. Unlike many places in the country that have been cut down and overrun with cities and shops, Chattanooga still has plenty of nature left to enjoy.
In this city, you can enjoy the colorful, changing trees on a riverboat, a train ride, or a simple bike ride. The mountains and state parks have plenty to offer in the way of a simply stunning fall season.
6. Con: Rough Allergy Seasons
This disadvantage may seem small in the grand scheme of things, but anyone who suffers from allergies might say otherwise.
Chattanooga is full of beautiful foliage and tons of flowers, trees, and other plants. However, these stunning natural surroundings of the city can make for some immense pollen counts.
7. Pro: Tons of Festivals
Chattanooga is a superb choice if you’re looking for an exciting city that offers lots to do. This city seems to always have some sort of festival going on, from the 4 Bridges Art Festival and the Chattanooga Beer Fest to the Street Food Festival and the Tennessee Whiskey Festival.
Though the city is on the smaller side, the community ensures there’s always something fun going on. Its blossoming art scene is fun to explore.
8. Con: Hot and Humid Summers
The summer months in Chattanooga are some of the most uncomfortable of the year. From May to September, the monthly average temperatures sit anywhere from the 80s to the 90s. July is the hottest month of the year.
The humidity in Chattanooga can also be extremely uncomfortable. It doesn’t change much, meaning you have to deal with humidity around 60 to 70 percent all year round.
9. Pro: Easy Access to Nature and Outdoor Activities
It’s no secret that Chattanooga, and the state of Tennessee as a whole, is home to some of the most beautiful sights you could ever hope to see – and not just during the fall.
Not only can you visit Booker T Washington State Park, Auburn Island, and Prentice Cooper State Forest, but you can also do fun things like walking Chattanooga Ghost Tours and visiting Lake Winnie.
There’s also a 13-mile riverwalk perfect for walking, running, hiking, and biking. The cave at Raccoon Mountain is very cool, and the Bluff View Sculpture Garden is a beautiful place to visit.
10. Con: Major Natural Disaster Threats
Those who live in Chattanooga may very well be at risk of experiencing damage due to natural disasters. The state of Tennessee as a whole sees a yearly average of 18 tornados, with five tornado-related deaths per year.
The risk level for floods in Chattanooga is also significant, given its proximity to the Tennessee River Gorge and the chance of heavy rains.
11. Pro: Proximity to Nashville and Knoxville
Chattanooga is just a quick two-hour drive away from one of the greatest music and party cities in the world: Nashville. If you’re looking for easy access to fun weekend getaways or day trips, Chattanooga is a great choice.
The city is also just under two hours from the city of Knoxville, which is another fun Tennessee city to explore. Both cities are full of music, shopping, food, bars, and more.
12. Con: Below Average School Districts
While it’s not impossible to find a decent school for your kids in Chattanooga, it does seem like there are only a few top-notch options – many of which are private schools. A significant number of schools in this city have average or below average student progress rates and test scores, and the teacher-to-student ratio is also low.
13. Pro: Multiple Higher Education Options
While only about 29 percent of students in Chattanooga complete a 4-year degree program, the city still offers some excellent options in terms of higher education. Chattanooga is home to one of the University of Tennessee’s campuses. The Chattanooga campus is the university’s second-largest site.
Students can also choose from Richmont Graduate University, University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Southern Adventist University, and Chattanooga State Community College. These various options are great for any students in the area who would like to attend their higher education close to home.
14. Con: Lots of Rain
If you’re not a fan of rainy days, then you may want to stay away from Chattanooga. This area records an average of 51 inches of rain each year. That number far surpasses the national average of just 38 inches per year.
As we mentioned above, the rain in Chattanooga contributes to its high risk for flooding – especially around the river.
15. Pro: Plenty of Sunshine
Despite Chattanooga seeing an above-average amount of rain each year, it still manages to provide tons of sunshine to its residents. The city gets about 207 sunny days per year – two over the national average.
Considering how impactful sunshine can be on an individual’s mental and physical health, this is certainly something to keep in mind!
16. Con: Long Commute times
Over the last several years, Chattanooga has become a city where a lot of people move to and visit. Because of this uptick in the number of residents, traffic in the city’s center has become quite bad.
Of course, this leads to longer commute times for anyone who travels to and from the city.
The increased traffic can also be at least partly to blame for a jump in traffic-related deaths in the city over the last couple of years. Chattanooga saw a 63 percent increase in these deaths between 2018 and 2019.
While busy roads and accidents are a given in most cities, it’s something to consider in smaller cities like Chattanooga.
17. Pro: Great Cost of Living
Although there are some disparities among the income of residents of Chattanooga, the general cost of living is pretty decent. In comparison, it is about 3 percent lower than the rest of the country.
The overall cost of living in this area is well below the national average. Other expenses, including transportation, groceries, and utilities, are also more affordable.
The best part is that housing costs in Chattanooga are almost half of the national average, which is good news for any potential homeowners.
18. Con: Small Size, Less Anonymity
A lot of people who live in Chattanooga enjoy that it gives you a city-like feel while still being a smaller community to live in. However, if you’re looking for the business and anonymity that comes with a big city, you won’t find it here.
Chattanooga is about 143 square miles. That’s about one-quarter of the size of New York City and one-fifth of the size of Los Angeles, which are two of the country’s biggest cities.
This Tennessee city is by no means a tiny community, but if you’re hoping to get lost in the everyday crowd, you might want to aim for someplace a little bigger.
19. Pro: Good Economy
The economy in Chattanooga is looking solid and productive for the time being. The city’s job market has increased by almost 3 percent in the last year, and it has a promising outlook for the next decade.
The outlook for job growth is better in Chattanooga than in most of the rest of the country.
Chattanooga has also proven to be a great city for entrepreneurs and start-up companies. Many young business people have traveled to Chattanooga seeking great opportunities. Because the city was one of the first in the country to offer internet service in homes and offices, it’s become a hub for technology firms.
20. Con: Car-Dependent
The majority of people travel in Chattanooga by car, making it a very car-dependent area. This point is bad news for anyone who doesn’t own a vehicle or simply prefers to walk.
If you live in or plan a day in the downtown Chattanooga area, then you’re bound to have pretty good luck walking or even riding a bike. However, once you get outside the downtown area, the walk score drops to a mere 29 out of 100.
Additionally, there’s not a ton of public transportation in Chattanooga. You can always hitch a ride on the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority’s free buses, but these buses have very general routes and don’t make many stops.
21. Pro: Abundant Indoor Entertainment
It’s hard to get tired of the great outdoors, but if you happen to get to this point, you’ll find Chattanooga has plenty of indoor activities and entertainment as well.
For instance, the city is home to the Hunter Museum of Art, which has stunning exhibitions and art displays for those interested. You can also visit the IMAX theater, the Tennessee Aquarium, and the Children’s Discovery Museum.
As you can see, there’s a pretty even number of pros and cons about living in Chattanooga. The information is there for you to read through and consider, but the final decision is up to you! Perhaps the scenic beauty and impressive cost of living will draw you in, or the crime rates and tornado threats will turn you away.
Are you from the Chattanooga area? Have you spent time in or around the city? If so, let us know in the comments below if we’ve missed anything. We’d love to hear from you!
Related: 25 Pros and Cons of Living in Tennessee