Sanford is located at (35.475881, -79.175463). 
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 24.1 square miles (62 km 2 ). 24.1 square miles (62.3 km 2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km 2) of it (0.33%) is water.
As of the census of 2009, there were 29,922 people, which was a 28.9% increase from 2000. The population density was 1243 people per square mile (372.5/km 2 ). There were 9,223 housing units at an average density of 383.2 per square mile (147.9/km 2 ). The racial makeup of the city was 55.87% White, 29.19% African American, 0.50% Native American, 1.06% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 11.93% from other races, and 1.41% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 19.03% of the population.
There are 8,550 households, out of which 34.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.0% were married couples living together, 17.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.0% were non-families. 26.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 people and the average family size was 3.15 people.
In the city, the population was spread out with 27.1% under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 30.3% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 97.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $34,804, and the median income for a family was $39,447. Males had a median income of $30,527 versus $23,393 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,038. About 14.8% of families and 17.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.4% of those under age 18 and 13.0% of those age 65 or over.
Law and government
Sanford operates under a council-manager government. The city council consists of the mayor and seven council members, each with a four-year term. Five of the council seats are ward (district) representatives, and two seats are citywide representatives elected at-large.
Business and industry
Because Sanford sits where white beach sand from the coast meets the Piedmont clay, the city has the right ingredients to be a large producer of clay bricks. In 1959, Sanford produced 10% of the bricks in the United States and was named "Brick Capital of the USA".  Today large brick production continues via manufacturers such as General Shale and Lee Brick & Tile.
Sanford also produces textiles, and has since seen the influx of the biotech industry with the Wyeth Vaccines, aka Pfizer, facility becoming the area's largest employer in 2006. 
Situated nearly equidistant from the Greensboro, Raleigh/Durham/RTP, and Fayetteville metro areas, Sanford is well positioned to provide manufacturing, services, and housing throughout the region for business and industry.
Other large employers are:
- Air System Components, Inc.
- Alotech Inc.
- Broadway Hardware
- Caterpillar Inc.
- Central Carolina Hospital
- Coty, Inc., a cosmetics and perfume manufacturer
- Edelbrock LLC
- Frontier Spinning Mills
- Homes by Vanderbuilt
- Magneti Marelli
- Moore's Machine Company
- Pentair Aquatics
- Pilgrim's Corp
- Precision Castparts Corporation
- Re/Max Real Estate Service, residential and commercial sales
- Static Control Components, manufacturer of anti-static equipment and component parts for remanufactured laser printer toner cartridges
- Tyson Foods
The city's newspaper of record is The Sanford Herald, which has published continuously since 1930. The newspaper is owned by Paxton Media Group, based in Paducah, Kentucky. It has been run by three generations of the Horner family:
- W.E. Horner Sr. (founder and publisher emeritus)
- William E. Horner Jr. (publisher, 1991–98)
- Bill Horner III, publisher (current publisher)
The Herald is currently a six-day-a-week morning newspaper and is a member of the Audit Bureau of Circulations and of the North Carolina Press Association. In 2011, The Herald named R.V. Hight as editor.
Sanford and the rest of Lee County are also covered by the Lee County Star-Tribune, an online paper published by Apex, North Carolina -based Peak Media Group.
"The Rant"  was founded in 2008 by former journalists with experience at several print publications, including The Sanford Herald. Initially a radio show, it became an online news site in 2014. As of 2017, the site is operated by parent company LPH Media.
- WFJA Classic Hits and Oldies 105.5 FM - classic hits and oldies
- WWGP 1050 AM Today's Best Country – country, the swap shop and local news
- W204AV 88.7 – Christian
- WDCC 90.5 – variety (owned by Central Carolina Community College)
- WLHC 103.1 – pop standards
- WDSG 107.9 – beach, oldies, and gospel
- WXKL 1290 – gospel
The Lee County campus of Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) is located in Sanford. CCCC awards degrees, diplomas and certifications in a variety of programs and is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the North Carolina State Board of Education, and by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Sanford is home to three high schools: Lee County High School, Lee Early College on CCCC's campus, and Southern Lee High School. Lee County High School, home of the yellow jackets, is also locally known as Lee Senior. Southern Lee High School, home of the Cavaliers, opened its doors during the 2005-2006 school year. Lee Early College also opened for the first time during the 2005-2006 school year. In the program, students attend classes at the Lee County campus of Central Carolina Community College, and within a 4 to 5 year time frame earn not only a high school diploma, but an associate degree as well. Attending Lee Early College requires an application process.
There are three middle schools: West Lee Middle School, East Lee Middle School and SanLee Middle School. SanLee Middle School first opened its doors for the 2008-2009 school year. An alternative school, Bragg Street Academy, serves students in grades 6 through 12.
The Lee county school system has six traditional elementary schools: B.T. Bullock Elementary, Broadway Elementary, Deep River Elementary, Greenwood Elementary, J. Glenn Edwards Elementary, and J.R. Ingram, Jr. Elementary. Lee County is also home to an optional year round elementary school: Tramway Elementary.
Sanford is also home to a private Montessori school, Griffin Academy, which provides education from pre-school through fifth grade.  Also within the county are two private Christian schools, serving preschool through 12th grade: Grace Christian and Lee Christian as well as a charter school, Provisions Academy. Warren Williams Child Development Center serves pre-kindergarten students, and Floyd L. Knight the Children's Center serves severe and profoundly handicapped students.
Located in the neighboring town of Southern Pines, and offering bus service from Sanford, is the O'Neal School.  It provides education from Pre-K3 through 12th grade.
Sanford was named for C.O. Sanford, a railroad civil engineer instrumental in the building of the rail lines through the area that formed the foundation of what became the city of Sanford.
Sanford is located in Lee County, North Carolina, which was formed from parts of the surrounding three counties in 1907. On creation of the new county, both Sanford and Jonesboro were the major towns in the area. Rather than decide which would be the county seat, the decision was to place the county's new courthouse directly between the two towns. For decades, Lee County was the only county in the United States to have a courthouse with an RFD address. In the late 20th century Sanford had grown to such an extent that it eventually merged with Jonesboro. The town of Jonesboro became Jonesboro Heights, and the name of Sanford was kept for the town.
The general Sanford area played key roles in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, specifically regarding sites like the House in the Horseshoe and Endor Iron Furnace. Over the following decades, the Sanford area became an important source of coal, brownstone, and brick. In particular brownstone and subsequent brick production made Sanford a key provider of these building materials for areas throughout the United States. 
For seven seasons, 1941-42 and 1946-50, Sanford fielded a professional minor league baseball team. In 1941-42, the Sanford Spinners played in the Class D Bi-State League. After the war, a new Spinners team was a member of the Class D Tobacco State League from 1946-50. Home games were played at Temple Park. Led by manager Zeb Harrington, the Spinners won the regular season pennant three times. 
On April 16, 2011 a large tornado ripped through Sanford, demolishing a Lowe's hardware store, and a warehouse, and destroying multiple homes and buildings before moving into Wake County.
The Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Cemeteries, Downtown Sanford Historic District, East Sanford Historic District, Euphronia Presbyterian Church, Farish-Lambeth House, Hawkins Avenue Historic District, Lee Avenue Historic District, Lee County Courthouse, Lee County Training School, John D. McIver Farm, Railroad House, Rosemount-McIver Park Historic District, Sanford High School, Former, Seaboard Milling Company, and Temple Theatre are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  
Raleigh Exec Jetport (ICAO: KTTA, FAA LID: TTA), formerly known as Sanford-Lee County Airport, is located approximately 7 miles northeast of Sanford via U.S. 1. The airport opened in 2000, replacing the Sanford Lee County Brick Field, and provides both recreational and corporate services.
Designated routes and highways
- United States Highways:
- North Carolina Highways:
Commercial rail service
- CSX Transportation
- Norfolk Southern Railway
- Atlantic and Western Railway short line.
- Atlantic and Yadkin Railway
The County of Lee Transit System (COLTS) is a coordinated transit system that provides transportation services in Sanford and Lee County.
Bicycle and pedestrian
- The Maine-to-Florida U.S. Bicycle Route 1 passes through downtown Sanford and Lee County.
- A half-mile greenway trail is located in the Kiwanis Family Park with additional mileage under development.
- San-Lee Park features several miles of mountain bike trails, ranging from intermediate to advanced, as well as hiking trails, just a few miles from downtown Sanford. 
- Temple Theatre
- Lee County Community Orchestra
- Heart of Carolina Jazz Society
- A&R STUDIOS
- Floyd Council, blues musician
- Hardy Boyz, WWE wrestlers (older brother Matt was born in a Sanford hospital, and both lived there for a few months)
- Lita, former WWE Diva; now resides in Atlanta, Georgia
- J. D. McDuffie, NASCAR driver
- Herb Thomas, NASCAR driver
- Dennis Wicker, former Lieutenant Governor; partner at Nelson Mullins Law Firm; board member of Coca-Cola Consolidated and First Bank