Aerial view of Charleston, South Carolina at sunset

Should you retire in Savannah or Charleston?

Savannah and Charleston are without a doubt two of the most popular destinations in the southeast—and they're very similar in many ways. Both are incredibly beautiful, historic cities with vibrant culinary scenes, community events, and cultural amenities. Plus, they both have easy access to the beach and comfortable temperatures for most of the year.

With so much to offer, it’s easy to understand why the two cities are so attractive to active adults looking for the perfect place to retire. So, how do you decide which city is the right one for you, if they’re so similar? This is where other important considerations come into the picture like the city’s cost of living, climate, health care access, and real estate options.

Here’s information you need to help figure out which city is better for your retirement:

Geography and Population

A fountain at the end of a path lined with tress covered in Spanish Moss in Downtown Savannah, Georgia

Both Charleston and Savannah are situated along the Atlantic Coast.

Both Charleston and Savannah are situated along the Atlantic Coast in what is considered the Lowcountry—a geographic region in the Southeast that stretches around 200 miles between South Carolina and Georgia. The area is known for its unique landscape made up of sea islands, marshland, and tidal basins.

Though the number of people in each city fluctuates dramatically because of the large number of tourists each year, their populations are comparatively close. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Savannah has a population of 147,780, while Charleston is slightly larger with a population of 150,227.

Charleston is the largest city in South Carolina, but Columbia can be reached within an hour and a half, and Charlotte (North Carolina’s largest city) is three hours away.

Climate

Palm trees and a street lamp in the historical downtown area of Charleston, South Carolina

Savannah and Charleston have sun-tropical climates with extremely comfortable temperatures.

Situated only 100 miles from each other, Savannah and Charleston have sun-tropical climates with extremely comfortable temperatures during the spring and fall. Both cities have short, mild winters and hot, humid summers. Average temperatures in Savannah and Charleston range from the low 60s during the winter months to the 90s during the hottest months of the year in July and August.

When the weather is nice, residents in both cities can be found packing up their cars to hit the beach for the day, exploring their historic downtown areas, or taking part in one of the many outdoor activities available to them like kayaking, paddle-boarding, fishing, and much more.

Popular outdoor areas in Savannah include Forsyth Park, the Wormhole State Historic Site, and Skidaway Park. Charleston’s popular outdoor areas include the Battery, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palm, and Folly Beach.

Cost of Living

A boat along a riverfront promenade at sunrise in Savannah, Georgia

Charleston’s overall cost of living is also much higher than Savannah’s.

While the two cities seem comparable on many fronts, there’s a big difference between the two when it comes to the cost of living and housing costs. According to bestplaces.net, Savannah’s housing costs are 45.3% less than Charleston’s. Savannah residents can expect to pay an average home price of around $211,300—which is less than the $291,700 national average—while Charleston residents can expect to pay much more with average home prices sitting around $386,600.

Beyond housing prices, Charleston’s overall cost of living is also much higher than Savannah’s. From food, groceries, and transportation to health care, Charleston residents can expect to pay more than people who live in Savannah. Bestplaces.net reports that the only category where Savannah’s costs are higher than Charleston’s is utilities—and it’s less than a 2% difference.

Culture and Entertainment

Sandy path with footprints leading to the Atlantic Ocean on Folly Beach near Charleston, South Carolina

Beach lovers can take their pick of one of the many popular beaches in the area.

What To Do in Charleston

In Charleston, residents can peruse the many retail shops and art galleries along King Street, enjoy a cold cocktail along East Bay Street, or meander around the picturesque Battery and take in sights like the 13 Crayola-colored houses that make up Rainbow Row.

History buffs can visit significant sites like Drayton Hall or Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie, while beach lovers can take their pick of one of the many popular beaches that can be found between Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, and Folly Beach.

What To Do In Savannah

River Street and Savannah City Market are go-tos for Savannah residents. Both places feature local eateries, retail shopping, and even a few galleries. Residents can easily take in the city’s rich history as well as the scenic sights by taking a ride on an Old Savannah Trolley Tour or spend a leisurely afternoon surrounded by the beauty of the 30-acre Forsyth Park that’s situated right in the heart of the Historic Landmark District.

Also, Tybee Island is less than 30 minutes away for those who prefer to spend time soaking up the sun.

Health Care and Education

View from the river of the skyline of Downtown Savannah, Georgia

A variety of health care options are easily accessible in both cities.

A variety of health care options are easily accessible in both cities with a wide variety of options ranging from small family practices to renowned medical colleges. Charleston boasts the nationally ranked Medical University of South Carolina that features four hospitals, the only organ transplant center in the Palmetto State, and the Level I Trauma Center.

Active adults who want to continue their education in Charleston can enroll in classes at MUSC and the College of Charleston. 

Savannah is also home to nationally ranked health care systems, including the largest health care provider in southeast Georgia, Memorial University Medical Center, and the St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System, which is an affiliate of Emory University Healthcare. There are also two well-respected Cancer centers in the city, the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion and the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute.

Residents can take advantage of continued learning at Savannah Technical College or apply the Savannah College of Art and Design.

55+ Communities in Charleston

Aerial view of the greenery surrounding the community sign for Del Webb at Cane Bay in Summerville, South Carolina

Del Webb at Cane Bay features 1,017 single-family homes.

The Elms of Charleston

Low $200s - Low $300s

The Elms of Charleston is a gated community near Charleston that features a combination of 325 single-family and attached homes. There are six floor plans available that range from 1,474 to 1,977 square feet and have two to three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and attached one- or two-car garages.

The Elms of Charleston’s amenities include a clubhouse, an exercise room, a community lounge, a game room, billiards, and a library. Outdoor amenities include a pool, a gazebo, tennis and shuffleboard courts, and walking and biking trails.

Request more information about The Elms of Charleston.

Del Webb at Cane Bay

 Mid $300s - Mid $400s

Situated less than 30 minutes from Charleston, the gated and age-restricted Del Webb at Cane Bay community features 1,017 single-family homes with almost two dozen floor plans to choose from. Plans range from 1,109 and 2,722 square feet and have one to four bedrooms, one-and-a-half to four bathrooms, and attached two- to three-car garages.

Del Webb at Cane Bay’s amenities include a 20,000-square-foot clubhouse, a fitness center, an indoor lap pool, plus aerobics and dance studios. Outdoors, residents have access to a pool, several athletic courts, a sundeck, a fire pit, an event lawn, a dog park, and a fishing lake. 

Request more information about Del Webb at Cane Bay. 

Del Webb Charleston at Nexton

 Low $400s - Mid $600s

The gated and age-restricted, Del Webb Charleston at Nexton will feature 1,000 single-family homes upon final completion with ten distinct floor plans that range from 1,262 to 3,810 square feet and feature two to four bedrooms, two to four bathrooms, and two- to two-and-a-half bathrooms.

The community’s list of amenities includes a generously sized clubhouse, a fitness center, an indoor and outdoor pool, tennis and pickleball courts, 2,000 acres of greenspace, and 50 miles of walking and biking trails

Request more information about Del Webb Charleston at Nexton.

55+ Communities in Savannah

Greenery surrounding a lagoon on Skidaway Island in Georgia

The Landings on Skidaway Island is a private, gated community that spans 4,596 acres.

The Landings on Skidaway Island

The Landings on Skidaway Island is a private, gated community that spans 4,596 acres and features eight distinct neighborhoods. Upon final completion, the expansive neighborhood will have over 4,400 homes with both single-family and attached homes available.

Floor plans for the community’s attached homes range from 1,700 to over 2,000 square feet and offer two to four bedrooms, two to four bathrooms, and a one-car garage or carport space. Single-family floor plans range from 1,500 square feet to close to 5,000 square feet and offer two to five bedrooms, two to six bathrooms, and two-car garages.

Residents have access to an impressive list of restore-style amenities that include a number of different clubhouses, 18-hole golf courses, dozens of athletic courts, and a variety of fitness centers. Outdoor amenities include a marina, several pools, a playground, a dog park, and a community garden.

Request more information about The Landings on Skidaway Island.

Cottages at Autumn Lake

High $200s - High $300s

The gated Cottages at Autumn Lake consists of 80 single-family and attached homes. There are a variety of floor plans available with prices ranging from the high $200s to the high $300s. Plans range from 1,950 to 2,600 square feet and offer options with three to five bedrooms, two to four bathrooms, and two-car garages.

Community amenities include a clubhouse, an exercise room, a catering kitchen, a nine-acre lake with a pavilion, an outdoor pool and patio area, plus walking and biking trails.

Request more information about Cottages at Autumn Lake.

Coffee Pointe

 High $200s - Mid $300s

The established Coffee Pointe neighborhood is adding a development that will be age-restricted and feature 45 single-family homes. Floor plans range from 1,588 to 1,883 square feet and will have two to three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a den, and two-car garages. Coffee Pointe amenities include a clubhouse, a fitness center, a multipurpose room, an outdoor pool and patio area, a gazebo, and a tot lot for grandchildren to enjoy.

Request more information about Coffee Pointe.