Is It Expensive To Live in Gatlinburg? An Area Resident’s Take

downtown gatlinburg

Sales tax and housing in Gatlinburg are higher than the national average. However, there is no state income tax and gas is generally cheaper (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokie.scom)

Gatlinburg captures the hearts and minds of millions of visitors every year. Many folks dream of moving to the Smoky Mountains, thinking it will be the breath of fresh air they need. While that is certainly true in my case, it doesn’t come without its costs. Of course, vacationing here gives you an idea of what to expect in terms of sales tax and tourism. But living here is completely different. So, is it truly as expensive as it appears to live in Gatlinburg? Here’s my take as a resident.

Gatlinburg may or may not be an expensive place to live compared to where you currently reside. There are many factors when considering moving to this tourist town in Tennessee. Things like housing and rent costs, groceries, taxes and gas prices are all expenses you will have to consider. The cost of living numbers have their own set of pros and cons that will factor greatly in your desire to move to Gatlinburg, TN.

snowy driveway up to rental cabin
The hot vacation home and rental market is driving up the cost of nearby homes in Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Housing costs

By far the most important factor, in terms of expenses in Gatlinburg, is housing. You need to consider housing expenses before finding a job, as this will give you great leverage with the employer of your choice. According to Redfin.com, the median home price in Gatlinburg is just under $600k. Compare that to Redfin’s National Housing market median price home of $419k and you can see why we are personally are happy to rent.

That said, rent is also higher here. But it’s more manageable for someone who doesn’t have the means to slap down a hefty down payment for home ownership. Statistics can be tricky, though. The numbers do seem to be a bit deceiving. For instance, drawing from select data, a 2-bedroom unit in Gatlinburg is going for less than $1200 on average, according to BestPlaces.net. However, the rental website, Zumper lists a median price of $1797 per month for 2-bedroom rentals. Somewhere in between feels more in line with what I’m seeing here on the ground.

Median Home Price
Gatlinburg, TN$592,000
National Average$419,000
src: Redfin.com
There is no state income tax in Tennesee, but sales tax in Gatlinburg is higher than the national average (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

State and local taxes

Tennessee state income tax is non-existent, so that’s good. But living in a tourist town means the sales tax is likely more of a strain than your hometown. The Tennessee sales tax rate is 7%, but Sevier County adds 2.75% more, making it a minimum of 9.75%. The good thing about being a resident here, is many restaurants offer a 10% local discount. But the discount can be as high as 25% and I know of at least one that offers it.

Sales Tax (State and Local)
Gatlinburg, TN9.75%
National Average7.14%
src: RocketMoney.com
whole earth grocery
Grocery taxes are higher on prepared foods in Tennessee (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Groceries

Only 13 states in the nation include food you buy at the store in the retail tax. Tennessee is one of them.

I was spoiled by having no grocery tax while living in Ohio. Here in Tennessee, the state sales tax for most food is 4%, but prepared foods in-store, plus alcohol, tobacco, and dietary supplements are 7%. Importantly, that doesn’t include the local rate, which is an additional 2.75%. There have been a few grocery tax exemptions in the past few years, but none is expected anytime soon. This is a tough reality if you’re watching your pennies living in Gatlinburg.

Sales TaxFoodPrepared Food*Local Rate
Gatlinburg, TN4%7%2.75%
src: Tennessee Department of Revenue. *Prepared food includes candy, dietary supplements, tobacco and alcohol.
The Buc-ee's Gas Pump Area
Gas prices are affordable in Tennessee and in some cases, you may be able to walk to work or ride the Trolley in Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Gas prices

One silver lining when it comes to the cost of living in Gatlinburg is gas prices. Tennessee is always generally well below the national average, so that’s a positive. Personally, our household of three all walk to work, saving immensely on gas money. It makes us all love our daily lifestyle. It may not work for you, but if you’re considering living here, you will likely have to make grand sacrifices to make your dream a reality.

Gas Prices (reg)
Gatlinburg, TN$3.07 per gallon
National Average$3.54 per gallon
src: aaa.com, data provided 3/29/24

As a whole, yes, it certainly can be expensive to live in Gatlinburg, but it may be worth it to you if you’re aware of some of the pitfalls and plan accordingly.

Are you planning a trip (or a move) to the Smoky Mountains soon? Make sure to check out our coupons page!

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