The 10 Worst Raleigh Suburbs For 2023

We used data and Friday Night Science to identify the worst suburbs of Raleigh for 2023. The worst Raleigh suburbs are Wilson’s Mills and Smithfield.

The suburbs of Raleigh call to all types of people looking to escape city live. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Raleigh to avoid all the hustle and bustle.

So the question arises, do the suburbs maintain a semblance of the larger-than-life appeal of their more famous neighbor?

Today, we’ll use science and data to determine which Raleigh ‘burbs need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the Raleigh area if you will. Realistically, you can’t expect all the suburbs to live up to Raleigh proper, although Apex certainly tries.

Of course, not all suburbs of Raleigh are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones..

We examined the 27 biggest suburbs of Raleigh to find out the worst places to live. And while you won’t necessarily find them on the worst places to live in North Carolina lists, these ten places are a little too far downwind of Raleigh in terms of quality of life.

Here are the 10 worst suburbs around Raleigh for 2023:

  1. Wilson’s Mills
  2. Smithfield
  3. Selma
  4. Louisburg
  5. Coats
  6. Zebulon
  7. Butner
  8. Four Oaks
  9. Franklinton
  10. Archer Lodge

What’s the worst suburb of Raleigh? Wilson’s Mills ranks as the worst suburb of Raleigh for 2023 based on the most recent Census and FBI data.

Read on to see how we determined the places around Raleigh that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don’t blame the messenger.

Or, if you’re thinking of moving to elsewhere in North Carolina check out the best places in North Carolina overall or the worst.

And remember, there are some good places to live around Raleigh too.

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Raleigh Suburbs To Live For 2023

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,506
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 4)
Median Income: $53,690 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 10.2% (4th highest)
Median Home Value: $182,000 (9th lowest)
More on Wilson’s Mills:  Data

We’ll get the ball rolling with Wilson’s Mills, the absolute worst place to live around Raleigh according to the data.

And in the world of worst rankings, Wilson’s Mills beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 7th worst in the Raleigh area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 9th worst when it comes to home values.

But hey, at least it’s cheap to live there. But there’s a reason for that… it’s Wilson’s Mills.

You won’t feel bad about not having a great income for the area, there aren’t a bunch of places to spend your money anyway.

Smithfield, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,168
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Income: $33,957 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.5% (7th highest)
Median Home Value: $165,800 (5th lowest)
More on Smithfield:  Data | Photos

Welcome to Smithfield. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.

This city is 26.6 miles to Raleigh. Income levels here are the 3rd lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $33,957 a year, which doesn’t go a long ways even on a shoestring budget.

But on the bright side, there are a lot of fast food joints in the area.

Selma, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,317
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 2)
Median Income: $25,421 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.8% (12th highest)
Median Home Value: $126,100 (2nd lowest)
More on Selma:  Data | Photos

Back up the highway we go for the third worst Raleigh suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see Selma on here. While the cost of living is low, your entertainment and work options are limited. And that’s an understatement.

In terms of numbers, it’s in the worst 15% for insurance, and the adult high school drop out rate is poor compared to other Raleigh suburbs.

But at least there are nice parks to bring the kids during the day.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,952
Rank Last Year:
Median Income: $23,169 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 29.5% (highest)
Median Home Value: $185,400 (12th lowest)
More on Louisburg:  Data

If you live in Louisburg, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the lowest Raleigh suburb when it comes to residents making money.

Not only that, but this is the worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Raleigh. Remember, we looked at 27 cities for this study.

Louisburg is about 26.5 miles to downtown.

Coats, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,109
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 1)
Median Income: $40,125 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (11th highest)
Median Home Value: $105,500 (lowest)
More on Coats:  Data | Photos

Coats has the distinction of being a Raleigh suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.

All snarkiness aside, Coats has the lowest home values in the metro Raleigh area, where the median price is $105,500. To put that into perspective, in Apex, the median income is $127,575, which is the best in the area.

Coats has an unemployment rate of 5.41% which ranks 11th worst.

Zebulon, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,958
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 3)
Median Income: $44,389 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 10.3% (3rd highest)
Median Home Value: $170,000 (6th lowest)
More on Zebulon:  Data | Photos

Zebulon has 6,958 residents that probably know it’s a pretty crummy place to live when you look at the data. (Or, if you’ve ever been there, you don’t need to look at the data.)

Incomes are towards the bottom and the poverty rate sits at 7.903132250580046%.

Butner, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,295
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 1)
Median Income: $63,548 (12th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.7% (6th highest)
Median Home Value: $170,000 (6th lowest)
More on Butner:  Data | Photos

Ah, Butner. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Raleigh.

It’s the place with the 6th most out of work residents in the Raleigh metro area (6.71%).

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,191
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Median Income: $52,159 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.1% (19th highest)
Median Home Value: $158,100 (4th lowest)
More on Four Oaks:  Data

Four Oaks is a city about 29.1 miles from Raleigh, but Raleigh probably wishes it was further away. It ranks as the 8th worst burb for 2018.

You’d be hard pressed to find a worse place to live. Four Oaks has the 3rd most uninsured people, 6th worst incomes, and has the 19th highest unemployment rate (4.11%) in the entire Raleigh metro area.

Homes only cost $158,100 for a reason. That’s cheap for Raleigh standards.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,409
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 2)
Median Income: $58,472 (9th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 13.2% (2nd highest)
Median Home Value: $134,300 (3rd lowest)
More on Franklinton:  Data

If you absolutely have to live near Raleigh, then Franklinton might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Raleigh suburb.

About 13.18% of residents are out of work.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 4,757
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 1)
Median Income: $65,929 (13th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 0.0% (27th highest)
Median Home Value: $184,500 (11th lowest)
More on Archer Lodge:  Data

Rounding out the ten worst Raleigh suburbs to call home is Archer Lodge.

Located 18.3 miles outside the city, Archer Lodges is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 27th highest unemployment rate (0.0%), and poverty is far above the area average.

Methodology: Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Raleigh for 2023

To figure out how bad a Raleigh suburb is to live in, we only needed to know what kinds of things people like and then decide what suburbs have the least amount of those things.

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using the most recent American Community Survey data from 2017-2021, this is the criteria we used:

  • High unemployment rate
  • Low median household incomes
  • Low population density (no things to do)
  • Low home values
  • A lot of high school drop outs
  • High poverty
  • High rate of uninsured families

FYI: We defined a suburb as being within 30 miles of Raleigh.

Additionally, we limited the analysis to places that have over 2,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 27 suburbs to evaluate around Raleigh.

We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 27 in each category, where 1 was the “worst”.

Next, we averaged the rankings for each place to create a quality of life index.

And finally, we crowned the city with the worst quality of life index the “Worst Suburb near Raleigh.” We’re lookin’ at you, Wilson’s Mills.

Read on below to learn more about what it’s like to live in the worst of the worst. Or skip to the end to see the list of all the suburbs ranked from worst to best.

Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2023. This is our tenth time ranking the worst suburbs around Raleigh.

Summary: The areas around Raleigh where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2023

Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding Raleigh with Wilson’s Mills casting itself ahead of the pack.

As we mentioned earlier, the suburbs around Raleigh aren’t all bad. Apex takes the cake as the best place to live around Raleigh.

  • Apex
  • Cary
  • Morrisville

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst Raleigh Suburbs

Rank City Population Median Income Median Home Values
1 Wilson’s Mills 2,506 $53,690 $182,000
2 Smithfield 11,168 $33,957 $165,800
3 Selma 6,317 $25,421 $126,100
4 Louisburg 2,952 $23,169 $185,400
5 Coats 2,109 $40,125 $105,500
6 Zebulon 6,958 $44,389 $170,000
7 Butner 8,295 $63,548 $170,000
8 Four Oaks 2,191 $52,159 $158,100
9 Franklinton 2,409 $58,472 $134,300
10 Archer Lodge 4,757 $65,929 $184,500
11 Youngsville 2,503 $59,974 $321,600
12 Angier 5,312 $56,277 $170,800
13 Durham 279,106 $66,623 $264,100
14 Clayton 25,486 $63,166 $224,400
15 Wendell 9,847 $67,321 $226,400
16 Creedmoor 4,860 $77,716 $182,400
17 Garner 30,859 $70,007 $236,600
18 Knightdale 18,614 $72,118 $246,600
19 Fuquay-Varina 33,135 $85,047 $303,400
20 Carrboro 21,237 $76,599 $396,800
21 Chapel Hill 60,920 $77,037 $454,300
22 Rolesville 8,995 $127,575 $357,200
23 Wake Forest 46,387 $104,006 $328,200
24 Holly Springs 40,198 $120,229 $383,400
25 Morrisville 28,824 $106,891 $358,800
26 Cary 171,603 $113,782 $404,300
27 Apex 58,066 $121,313 $371,200