Is It Cheaper to Build or Buy a Garage?

freestanding garage with peak roof and white door

A garage is a great addition to any property and it protects your vehicle from the worst of the weather. But is it cheaper to build or buy a garage, and which option should you choose in order to get exactly what you want?

A garage can be a workspace, a living space, even an entertaining space, but you have to start with the garage before you can think about all these extras. Choose the more affordable option for your garage project and you’ll have more money to enjoy your garage in lots of different ways.

Choosing a Garage

How much it costs for you to add a garage to your property hinges entirely upon what type of garage you want to have. The size and type of garage you choose makes all the difference in the final cost of the project.

Building a single-car garage that is detached from the home as a DIY project is going to start around $7,250 for most homeowners. A three-car garage with an entire loft upstairs, that's going to cost more like $50,000.

A two-car, attached garage is a very popular option and a pretty common one. Many construction companies have the equipment and expertise to complete this job.

On the other hand, it's not difficult to find online blueprints and tutorials to make it easier for the DIYer to build a garage.

No matter what you choose, start by choosing whether you want a garage that’s attached to the home or a detached garage that stands as a freestanding building on the property.

Next, choose the size of the garage. You need to decide between a one-car, two-car, or three-car garage.

You may also want to add a little extra space in the garage, in addition to the space for the car, if you want to add a work area, a hangout area, or a living space.

Once you know the size and type of garage you want, start thinking about the cost of building or DIYing this garage based on average prices and all the factors that will go into creating this space.

How Much Does Adding a Garage Cost?

According to Forbes, the average national cost to build a garage is $26,000. Most people will pay somewhere between $10,000 to $43,000, depending on the size and type of garage and the various features added to the design.

For example, if you want to add a living space to the garage or even a usable workspace, you will need to work with an electrician and a plumber in order to get working power and water in the space.

Building a garage costs, on average, $4 to $8 per square foot. The project will need a foundation, framing, siding, and roofing, along with a garage door, as a base minimum.

You may also want to add extras to the garage, such as drywall, paint, lighting, and likely, an electric garage door.

It's a lot to think about and a lot to budget for, whether you choose to build your own garage or have one built for you. To really consider the two options, you have to start from the ground up and really plan out your garage to get a better idea of the total cost of this project.

How Much Is a Garage Worth?

Before you start to calculate the cost of concrete and how many hours a day you can work on the project so you can get an idea of how much time it's going to take as well as the price you'll pay in dollars, is it worth it? How much value does a garage add to your property?

Garages are a big selling point for homebuyers and it really does increase the property value of your home. Simply having a garage on the property, whether it is attached or detached, increases your asking price and it’s a huge feature to show off.

When you go to sell your home, the added value of the garage will be, in most cases, enough for you to recoup the expense of adding the garage. According to real estate experts, the garage door is one of the biggest selling points for the space, as potential buyers want an attractive and perfectly functioning garage door.

Invest your money in the door, and the cost of adding a garage to the property will ultimately pay for itself.

new garage under construction

Is It Cheaper to Build a Garage?

If you're going to build your own garage, you will have a lot of work to do. However, it's all work that is possible and mostly stuff that DIYers can figure out for themselves.

Building the Base

First, you will need a foundation. This is the first step in the building process and it must be done well.

Mark out and excavate the area where you will build the garage to get rid of rocks and roots and to create a level working area.

All you really need for the floor of the garage is a gravel pad. Most choose a concrete slab, which is much more expensive than simple gravel.

If you really want to save money, however, you can cut a lot of costs by choosing gravel instead of a concrete slab. If you want a garage that is more finished overall, go with the concrete.

If you go with a concrete slab option and you want to build a garage that is attached to the house, you will need to pour footers and the slab.

The cost of the foundation, when you pour it yourself, includes the price of placing the framing for the concrete and the cost of the concrete itself. The concrete will need several days to settle and set properly.

On the low end, you will pay around $5 per square foot for a concrete slab when you pour it yourself.

Building the Structure

You will use two-by-four pieces of wood to frame out the area for the concrete slab. You will also use this same size wood to build the frame of the garage walls and roof.

To frame a building, two-by-fours should be placed standing upright every 16 inches. Pieces of wood go across the top and along the bottom of these studs to complete the frame.

You'll have to build the exterior of the building as well. Unless you have a great deal of experience with tasks like laying brick and mortar, you may need to hire a professional to complete this.

You can use concrete block walls, a common and highly affordable garage choice, for around $20 per square foot.

If you want something that looks more attractive, finish the concrete with vinyl or hire a professional to do the exterior. Remember, it is not necessary for every DIY project to be fully DIY.

After the exterior and framing are complete, insulation and infrastructure must be placed. Now is the time to run wires for electricity and piping for plumbing.

The roof must also be framed and built and finished, a project that should be completed before any insulating or electrical wiring is placed in the walls.

Spray foam insulation, which is the more affordable option among different insulation types, will cost you from $150 to $300 total, depending on the size of the garage.

Framing costs around $10 per square foot, based on the cost of the material. The roof will cost around $4 per square foot for a standard shingle roof.

Finishing the Garage

Drywall must be added next to finish the garage space. This costs just under $2 per square foot.

To complete the project, any windows must be added and finished with caulking and paint. Next, the door should be installed ad finished.

Garage doors cost an average of $400 to $1,200, depending on size and material. A small vinyl window costs around $60 to $160.

It's a lot and it does add up. But is this still the cheaper option?

Is It Cheaper to Buy a Garage?

When it comes to buying a garage, you have some options. There is a difference between purchasing a prefab (prefabricated) garage as opposed to having one built right on the site.

Generally, you will save money by going with a prefab option. Just remember that this option gives you a lot less freedom of design, since it's already built and everything about the garage is already determined.

A pre-built garage costs, on average, $50 per square foot. You can save money by choosing a steel garage, as opposed to a wood frame garage with vinyl siding.

You will pay a bit more, closer to $52 per square foot, for a two-car garage, on average. For a small, single-car garage that measures around 12 by 24 feet, expect to pay around $16,000 to have the structure built right on site.

Is It Cheaper to Build or Buy a Garage?

You can save both time and money by choosing a hybrid DIY option thanks to a garage kit. These kits cost around $1,000 to $2,000 and eliminate some of the hard work of building a garage.

Kits come with prefabricated materials and easy-to-assemble pieces, which takes the guesswork out of measuring and takes the work out of some of the other tasks that go into building a garage from the ground up.

Once you factor in the amount of work, the stuff you know you can do, and the cost of all the materials, you will know how much you will spend to build your own garage or to have one built for you. It's a big decision and it's worth taking the time to make sure you're making the right one.

There are many different options to consider and lots of decisions to make. But once all the work is done, you will have a valuable new feature on your property that is practical, highly functional, and full of future possibilities.

garage outside modern apartment

Build or Buy Garage FAQ

How long does it take to build a garage?

The time it takes to build a garage varies based on the type and size of the garage and whether or not you buy prefabricated elements or build them all from scratch. If you are starting from scratch, this project will take six to eight weeks.

With prefabricated elements, the garage can be completed in as little as 10 days. Even professional crews might take several weeks to complete this project, as the garage will be built in stages as different contractors and professionals come to the site to work on furthering the project.

Do you need a permit to build a garage?

Most states, cities, and counties will require you to take out some sort of building permit if you're going to add a garage to your property. This permit can cost as much as $2,000, depending on where you live.

Not taking out a permit before you build is usually more expensive, as you will be forced to pay fines for this oversight.

You may also be required to obtain permission from a homeowner's association or neighborhood association in order to build a garage on your property if you belong to one of these groups.

In both cases, you will likely have to pay fees that will add to the total cost of the project. Factor this in when you're considering the cost of building or buying a garage.

How much does it cost to add living space to a garage?

Many people dream of using a garage space to build a living space. However, this costs most than the cost of building a standard garage.

Expect to pay around $100 per square foot to add a kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping space to the garage.

Further Reading

3 Garage Lighting Wiring Tips

How to Create a Garage Apartment

How to Mount a Garage Heater on Your Garage Ceiling

Maintain and Weatherstrip a Garage Door