Garage Cost – Garage Building Cost Estimating


Now that you have your garage plans picked out and you know pretty much what you want, you’re probably going to want to know if you can afford to build that new garage. That’s a dilemma many people contemplating garage building have got. The question about what your garage cost will be isn’t always an easy one to answer and can vary dramatically depending on your situation.

There are several variables you need to think about when building a garage:

  • how complicated are the garage plans you selected
  • are you planning on doing any of the garage building work yourself
  • the cost of living in your area
  • how many bays your garage plans have
  • are there living quarters in your garage plans

In addition to that, garage building material prices can fluctuate quite a bit depending on seasonal influences and other variables. There’s quite a difference between building a basic one car garage with no living space and building a 3 car garage with a studio apartment. In the first case there aren’t any fixtures or utility hookups required and in the latter case there are some expensive fixtures plus finishing materials needed, such as light fixtures, trim, carpeting, etc. Trying to create a one size fits all garage building cost estimator is not an easy thing to do to ensure an accurate value of garage cost for every situation.

Garage builders charge differently in nearly every area of the country. Our research did not turn up any reliable values in the U.S. Government statistics for the cost of building a garage, but there is good data on the cost of building a new home in various regions of the country. Comparing the home building cost data gives us some relative values that can be used for comparisons. This data is from the U.S. Census Bureau for home building cost through 2008. The average cost per square foot to build a new home in 2008:

  • South $79.64
  • Midwest $87.99
  • Northeast $117.91
  • West $111.72

Since the cost of building in the South is the least, that will be the baseline for this analysis. Compared to the cost of building in the South:

  • Midwest is 10% more expensive
  • Northeast is 48% more expensive
  • West is 40% more expensive

So right off the bat it is pretty obvious that the region you live in will have a dramatic effect on your garage cost. For example the cost to build a $10,000 garage in the South would cost you $14,800 in the Northeast. And this doesn’t take into account the differences between building a garage in a rural area versus an urban area.In surveying the other articles we could find on garage cost, the consensus seems to be that a garage should cost somewhere between $34 and $48 per square foot to build, but those numbers are pretty old. Another interesting little bit of information from the U.S. Government Census data – in the 45 years from 1965-2009, home building price increases have outpaced the Consumer Price Index in 26 of those years. Over the last 10 years:

(HPI is the Housing Price Index, CPI is the Consumer Price Index)
In 2000 the HPI increased 4.40%, the CPI increased 3.4%, the HPI increased 29.4% more than the CPI
In 2001 the HPI increased 5.00%, the CPI increased 1.6%, the HPI increased 212.5% more than the CPI
In 2002 the HPI increased 2.50%, the CPI increased 2.4%, the HPI increased 4.2% more than the CPI
In 2003 the HPI increased 5.10%, the CPI increased 1.9%, the HPI increased 168.4% more than the CPI
In 2004 the HPI increased 8.40%, the CPI increased 3.3%, the HPI increased 154.5% more than the CPI
In 2005 the HPI increased 7.40%, the CPI increased 3.4%, the HPI increased 117.6% more than the CPI
In 2006 the HPI increased 6.00%, the CPI increased 2.5%, the HPI increased 140.0% more than the CPI
In 2007 the HPI increased 0.90%, the CPI increased 4.1%, the HPI decreased -78.0% versus the CPI
In 2008 the HPI decreased 3.50%, the CPI increased 0.1%, the HPI decreased -3600.0% versus the CPI
In 2009 the HPI decreased 5.00%, the CPI increased 2.7%, the HPI decreased -285.2% versus the CPI

In the construction industry it is either feast or famine. During the boom building years of the mid-2000’s housing prices handily trounced the CPI, but when the housing market fell apart in 2007-2008 the Housing Price Index took a big hit.

The cost to build a detached garage is not going to be in perfect lock step with the Housing Price Index, and the cost per square foot to build a home isn’t going to be in perfect alignment with the Housing Price Index, but together they give us an overall feel for the relative ‘Garage Price Index’ (we just made that up).

The presumption is that the $34 – $48 per square foot garage cost is for a garage without any living quarters, just your basic garage plans. If the garage plans include living quarters then it is safe to say that the garage cost per square foot is going to approach the cost per square foot to build a home. The more your garage plans resemble a house, the closer the garage building cost per square foot will be to that of a house. Another presumption in these numbers is that a building contractor is building the garage for you. You will obviously save quite a bit on your garage cost if you do some or all of the labor yourself.


Using the Southern region of the U.S. as the baseline, the garage cost to have a builder construct a garage for you should be between $34/square foot for basic garage plans and $80/square foot for top of the line garage plans with living quarters and all of the amenities. On the other end of the scale is the Northeast, where it should cost you between $48/square foot and $118/square foot to build a garage. There is no substitute for getting real quotes from garage builders, but hopefully this information will give you some guidance. Always get a minimum of 3 quotes! In a future article we’ll address the garage cost of just the materials.

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