Difference Between Sql Server VARCHAR and NVARCHAR Data Type

Below table lists out the major difference between the VARCHAR and NVARCHAR Data Type in Sql Server:

Varchar[(n)] NVarchar[(n)]
Basic Definition Non-Unicode Variable Length character data type.
Example:
DECLARE @FirstName AS VARCHAR(50) =‘BASAVARAJ’
SELECT @FirstName
UNicode Variable Length character data type. It can store both non-Unicode and Unicode (i.e. Japanese, Korean etc) characters.
Example:
DECLARE @FirstName AS NVARCHAR(50)= ‘BASAVARAJ’
SELECT @FirstName
No. of Bytes required for each character It takes 1 byte per character

Example:
DECLARE
@FirstName AS VARCHAR(50) = ‘BASAVARAJ’
SELECT @FirstName AS FirstName,
DATALENGTH(@FirstName) AS
Length

Result:
FirstName Length
BASAVARAJ 9

It takes 2 bytes per Unicode/Non-Unicode character.
Example:
DECLARE
@FirstName AS NVARCHAR(50)= ‘BASAVARAJ’
SELECT @FirstName AS FirstName,
DATALENGTH(@FirstName) AS Length

Result:
FirstName Length
BASAVARAJ 18
Optional Parameter n range Optional Parameter n value can be from 1 to 8000.Can store maximum 8000 Non-Unicode characters. Optional Parameter n value can be from 1 to 4000.Can store maximum 4000 Unicode/Non-Unicode characters
If Optional Parameter n is not specified in the variable declaration or column definition If Optional parameter value n is not specified in the variable declaration or column definition then it is considered as 1.
Example:
DECLARE
@firstName VARCHAR = ‘BASAVARAJ’
SELECT
@firstName FirstName, DATALENGTH(@firstName) Length

Result:
FirstName Length
B 1
If Optional parameter value n is not specified in the variable declaration or column definition then it is considered as 1.
Example:
DECLARE @firstName NVARCHAR = ‘BASAVARAJ’
SELECT
@firstName FirstName, DATALENGTH(@firstName) Length

Result:
FirstName Length
B 2
If Optional Parameter n is not
specified in while using
CAST/ CONVERT functions
When this optional parameter n is not specified while using the CAST/CONVERT functions, then it is considered as 30.Example:
DECLARE @firstName VARCHAR(35) =
‘BASAVARAJ PRABHU BIRADAR INDIA ASIA’

SELECT CAST(@firstName AS VARCHAR) FirstName,
DATALENGTH
(CAST(@firstName AS VARCHAR)) Length

Result:

FirstName Length
BASAVARAJ PRABHU BIRADAR INDIA 30
When this optional parameter n is not specified while using the CAST CONVERT functions, then it is considered as 30.Example:
DECLARE @firstName NVARCHAR(35) =
‘BASAVARAJ PRABHU BIRADAR INDIA ASIA’

SELECT CAST(@firstName AS NVARCHAR) FirstName,
DATALENGTH
(CAST(@firstName AS NVARCHAR)) Length

Result:
FirstName Length
BASAVARAJ PRABHU BIRADAR INDIA 60
Which one to use? If we know that data to be stored in the column or variable doesn’t have any Unicode characters. If we know that the data to be stored in the column or variable can have Unicode characters.
Storage Size Takes no. of bytes equal to the no. of Characters entered plus two bytes extra for defining offset. Takes no. of bytes equal to twice the no. of Characters entered plus two bytes extra for defining offset.

As both of these are variable length datatypes, so irrespective of the length (i.e. optional parameter n value) defined in the variable declaration/column definition it will always take the no. of bytes required for the actual charcters stored. The value of n defines maximum no. of characters that can be stored.

[ALSO READ] You may like to read below other popular articles on differences

1. Varchar vs NVarchar
2. Varchar vs Varchar(MAX)
3. Char vs Varchar
4. Text vs Varchar(Max)
5. Union vs Union All
6. DateTime vs DateTime2
7. SET QUOTED_IDENTIFIER ON vs SET QUOTED_IDENTIFIER OFF
8. Stored Procedure vs User Defined Function
9. Primary Key vs Unique Key
10. RAISERROR vs THROW
11. Temporary Table vs Table Variable
12. Len() vs Datalength()
13. Sequence vs Identity
14. DATEDIFF vs DATEDIFF_BIG

Please correct me, if my understanding is wrong. Comments are always welcome

77 thoughts on “Difference Between Sql Server VARCHAR and NVARCHAR Data Type

  1. Dear Basavaraj,

    In this article mentioned that storage size for varchar is takes 1 byte per character + 2 bytes & nvarchar is takes 2 bytes per character + 2 bytes.
    Here My question is, if the data tables created with nvarchar, then the total size of data base (ex DB size 2MB) is more than data tables created with varchar ( ex DB size 1MB). Pl, clarify.

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