The Cost to Build a Garage: Balancing Budget and Quality

Ever found yourself in a real-life version of Tetris, trying to fit your car, garden tools, storage boxes, and other odds and ends into your garage? Then, you’ve probably thought about building a bigger garage at some point.

Before you shrug off the idea, let’s talk about the benefits. 

Building your garage is a potential money saver and a chance to customize your design, tailor-made to fit your needs.

However, it’s crucial to understand the costs of building a garage before you start. 

The size and materials you choose and details like foundation, roofing, siding, doors, windows, and finishing all affect the overall cost.

In this article, we’ll cover the two main ways to build a garage: pole garages and stick-built garages. We’ll cover the pros and cons of each to help you decide which is right for your home. Then, we’ll share some savvy tips and tricks to save money during each step of the process. 

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and take a good, hard look at building your dream garage without breaking the bank.

What is the Average Cost to Build a Garage?

Let’s give you a frame of reference before we jump into the details.

Here’s a chart showing the average costs to build standard one-, two-, three- and four-car garages.

I’ve also broken the costs down for pole garages and stick garages. We’ll explain the difference in the next section.

SizeAreaPole Garage CostStick Garage Cost
1 car garage240 – 384 sq. ft.$4,800- $7,680$13,200 – $21,120
2 car garage440 – 624 sq. ft.$8,800 – $12,480$24,200 – $34,320
3 car garage620 – 816 sq. ft.$12,400 – $16,320$34,100 – $44,880
4 car garage800 – 1056 sq. ft.$16,000 – $21,120$44,000 – $58,080
Average cost of building a garage

Pole vs. Stick Garages: Understanding the Differences

Before diving into the cost differences, let’s first understand the construction methods and appearance of pole and stick garages.

Pole Garages are built by setting vertical posts into the ground and attaching horizontal beams and trusses to form the frame. The walls and roof are then covered with metal panels or other siding materials. They’re known for being cheaper, faster, and easier to build. However, they may not be as attractive or durable as stick garages.

On the other hand, Stick Garages are built by laying a concrete foundation and erecting a wooden frame on top of it. The walls and roof are then covered with plywood, shingles, or other siding materials. These garages are more expensive, slower, and harder to build but typically look better and sturdy than pole garages.

Comparing Costs: Pole vs. Stick Garages

Nationwide, the average cost to build a garage is about $50 per square foot. 

However, this can vary depending on whether you choose a pole or stick garage. Pole garages can cost between $10 to $30 per square foot, while stick garages can cost between $40 to $70 per square foot. (source)

Let’s break down the cost differences with a specific example. 

A 24′ x 30′ pole garage with metal siding and roof may cost around $18,000 to build, while a similar-sized stick garage with shingles and vinyl siding can set you back around $43,000.

In a later section, we’ll cover some factors that affect the cost of building your own garage, but location is easily the biggest factor. 

Urban areas or neighborhoods with strict building codes or zoning regulations may require additional expenses to meet specific guidelines or obtain permits and inspections. 

In some cases, pole garages may not be allowed at all due to their appearance or structural issues.

Factors to Consider: Pole vs. Stick Garages

When choosing between a pole and a stick garage, several factors may influence your decision, such as:

  1. Personal Preference: When constructing your new garage, do you want something simple or highly customized? 
  2. Budget: Are you looking for the cheapest garage you can build, or do you have a larger budget?
  3. Space Constraints: Do you have limited space on your property, or is size not a factor?
  4. Functionality: Will you use your garage primarily for storage or workshop purposes, or do you plan to use it as a living or recreational space?
  5. Durability: Are you willing to sacrifice some durability for affordability, or do you want your garage to last for decades?

Pole garages might be the way to go for homeowners who want a simple, affordable, and quick solution for their garage needs.

They may also be suitable for those with limited space or access on their property or who plan to use their garage for storage or workshop purposes only.

On the other hand, stick garages could be better if you want a highly-customized, attractive, and long-lasting garage.

They are also more suitable for homeowners with more space and budget on their property or who plan to use their garage for living or recreational purposes.

wood garage under construction

How to Save Money on Building a Garage: Tips and Tricks

Building a garage might sound like a sizeable investment. 

It is, especially when you consider the costs associated with planning, procuring materials, labor, and obtaining necessary permits. 

This can be a huge deterrent for homeowners working within a budget or those looking to channel funds to other home improvement projects.

But what if we told you it doesn’t have to be this way? 

In this section, we will share some valuable insights on balancing cost and quality. By the end of this section, you’ll understand how to build your dream garage without your budget going through the roof. 

Do Some or All of the Work Yourself

If you have the skills, tools, and time, why not save money by doing some or all of the work yourself? 

One homeowner saved about $10,000 by taking on the demolition, site preparation, framing, roofing, siding, electrical, plumbing, and finishing work himself for his 24′ x 30′ garage. He spent around $18,000 on materials and permits compared to the $28,000 quote a contractor gave him. 

Remember that DIY work can come with risks, challenges, and limitations, so weigh the pros and cons before diving in.

Choose Simple Garage Design

Choosing a simple garage plan can save you thousands on your project. 

One homeowner saved about $5,000 by going with a rectangular shape, a gable roof, a single door, and a basic window for his 20′ x 30′ garage. He used a prefabricated kit that cost him $8,000, compared to the $13,000 quote he received for a custom design. 

Prefab kits and standard designs are readily available and cheaper than custom designs, making them an excellent option for those on a budget.

Compare Different Construction Methods

There are several construction methods that can affect your garage’s overall cost, such as a stick frame, pole barn, or steel building. You can save a lot of money by comparing these options and choosing the one that best suits your budget. 

Generally, pole barns are cheaper than stick frames, and steel buildings are cheaper than pole barns. 

One homeowner saved about $25,000 by choosing a pole barn over a stick frame for his 40′ x 60′ garage. He spent approximately $15,500 on a steel building kit with metal siding and roof, compared to the $40,000 quote he received for a stick frame with shingles and vinyl siding.

Shop Around for Materials and Labor

Another way to save money on your garage project is by shopping around for materials and labor and comparing prices and quality. 

Look for discounts, sales, or bargains on materials like lumber, siding, roofing, insulation, doors, windows, and fixtures. 

Don’t be afraid to use online platforms like Reddit or GarageJournal to gather recommendations, reviews, or referrals from other homeowners who have built garages. 

One homeowner saved about $7,000 by shopping around for materials and labor for his 24′ x 40′ garage. He spent roughly $18,000 on materials from various sources and $10,000 on labor by hiring reputable contractors who offered competitive rates and quality work. 

In total, he spent $28,000, compared to the $35,000 quote he received from a single source.

Plan Ahead and Avoid Changes

When building your dream garage, planning ahead and avoiding changes can help save you money by reducing delays, mistakes, or rework. 

A clear vision of your garage’s appearance, functionality, and budget is essential. Be sure to develop a detailed plan that outlines the project’s scope, schedule, and budget, and then stick to it as much as possible. 

One homeowner saved about $3,000 by planning ahead and avoiding changes for his 20′ x 20′ garage. He had a clear vision of what he wanted, a detailed plan, and he stuck to it. His total cost was about $27,000 compared to the $30,000 quote he received with changes.

garage under construction

Factors That Affect the Cost of Building a Garage

Now that we’ve seen how to save money when building a garage, we’ll unpack all the elements influencing the total cost. 

From the size, location, and style of the building to the materials used and finishing touches – all these aspects carry their own costs and considerations.

By the end of this section, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the cost factors, enabling you to effectively plan and budget your garage build.

Size Matters

When it comes to building a garage, the size will significantly impact the overall cost. This includes the number and type of vehicles you can house, your storage needs, or future plans for the space. 

For example, one homeowner reported spending about $30,000 for a 20′ x 20′ stick-built garage, which is about $75 per square foot. In contrast, another homeowner spent around $18,000 for a 24′ x 30′ pole barn garage, equating to $25 per square foot. 

As you can see, the cost per square foot can vary dramatically based on the type and size of the garage.


Your location can influence the overall cost of your garage due to local building codes, permits, and zoning regulations. This includes factors affecting the garage’s location, including property layout, accessibility, drainage, or aesthetics. 

For instance, a 24′ x 40′ stick-built garage in an urban area with strict building codes and zoning regulations may cost about $35,000. On the other hand, a similar-sized garage in a rural area may only be around $28,000.

Foundation Choices

The type of foundation you choose for your garage, such as a concrete slab or basement, can also affect the overall cost. Other impacts in this category include soil conditions, stability, insulation, or functionality. 

A gravel foundation for a 20′ x 30′ pole barn garage is typically about $5,000, while the concrete slab foundation for a 24′ x 40′ stick-built garage is roughly $10,000.

Those estimates increase significantly if you want to add a basement underneath your garage.

Building Materials & Design Complexity

The materials you choose to construct your garage will also affect the cost. The design and complexity of your garage will definitely impact the overall cost.

For example, one homeowner reported spending about $8,000 for a metal siding and roof kit for their 20′ x 30′ pole barn garage. Conversely, another homeowner spent approximately $13,000 for a shingle roof and vinyl siding kit for a similar-sized stick-built garage.

Accessibility Challenges

If the building site is hard to access, you will likely incur additional costs to accommodate equipment, transport materials, or address logistical challenges. This includes a problematic property layout, road conditions, utility lines, or safety concerns. 

For instance, one homeowner reported spending about $3,000 for site preparation and grading for his 24′ x 40′ stick-built garage on a flat, clear site with easy access from the street. 

On the flip side, another homeowner faced a whopping $10,000 in site preparation and excavation for a similar-sized garage situated on a sloped and wooded site with difficult access from the road.


Including utilities like electricity, plumbing, heating, or cooling systems in the garage will also impact the overall cost. This includes factors like the type of utility (gas vs. electric, etc.), functionality, extending utility lines, code compliance, and the distance from existing connections.

For example, one homeowner spent around $2,000 for basic electrical wiring and lighting for his 20′ x 30′ pole barn garage close to his house with existing utility connections. 

In contrast, another homeowner had to shell out $5,000 for advanced electrical wiring, plumbing fixtures, heating, and cooling systems for a similar-sized stick-built garage some distance from his house with no existing utility connections.

Permits and Inspections

You’ll almost always need to obtain permits and schedule inspections when you build a new garage. Permit costs are usually fixed but may increase depending on the project scope, complexity, location, or other regulations. 

A good rule of thumb is to expect to pay between $500 and $1500 for permits and inspections.

Labor Costs

Labor expenses can vary depending on the region, availability of skilled workers, and the project’s complexity. Factors influencing labor costs include project duration, specialized expertise, licensed professionals, or quality standards. 

One homeowner spent about $1,800 for labor on his 20′ x 30′ pole barn garage built by a local company with experienced workers. In contrast, another homeowner paid a hefty $10,000 for labor on a similar-sized stick-built garage constructed by a general contractor with licensed electricians, plumbers, and carpenters.

Site Preparation

Additional costs may be involved if the construction site requires clearing, grading, or excavation work. This includes factors like site condition, tree removal, existing structures, or soil quality.

For example, basic site preparation and grading for a 24′ x 40′ stick-built garage located on a flat, clear site with easy street access can be as little as $3,000. However, some homeowners have faced a $10,000 expense for site preparation and excavation for a similar-sized garage on a sloped, wooded site with difficult road access.

Doors and Windows

The type, size, and quantity of doors and windows you choose for your garage will greatly affect the cost. Factors influencing door and window choices include security, lighting, ventilation, or style preferences.

On the low end, expect to pay about $800 for a single roll-up garage door and $500 for a walk-in door. At the other end of the spectrum, you can easily spend over $3,000 for a double garage door and $1,000 for a bay window for a similar-sized garage.

Finishes and Amenities: Adding the Final Touches

The level of finishes and amenities desired in the garage, such as lighting fixtures, insulation, shelving, cabinets, workbenches, or security systems, will impact the cost. 

Basic finishing and amenities like drywall, paint, insulation, lighting fixtures, and shelving for a 20′ x 30′ pole barn garage should cost around $2,000. 

Going slightly higher-end will cost around $5,000 for features like insulation, lighting fixtures, cabinets, workbenches, and security systems for a similar-sized stick-built garage.

However, it’s worth noting that the sky is the limit here. You can easily spend tens of thousands of dollars on custom cabinets alone. 

Time of Construction

Seasonal factors, such as extreme weather conditions, may affect construction schedules, potentially causing additional costs or delays. Factors that may influence the timing of construction include the availability of materials, workers, or equipment or the project’s urgency.

Wrapping It Up

With all this information in mind, it’s time to start planning your garage project. 

Remember, choosing a simple design, using cost-effective materials, limiting doors and windows, and doing some of the work yourself can save you a significant amount of money. 

The cost will greatly depend on what type of garage you choose to build. Pole-built garages are the more cost-effective option. In contrast, stick-built garages offer more design flexibility and a polished appearance.

Then there are custom-designed buildings like barndominiums or garage apartments that add even more complexity.

No matter which you choose, there are ways to save money on your garage build. 

Here are some tips I’ve gathered during my research:

  1. Plan ahead: Determine your needs and budget before starting the project. This will help you avoid costly changes and overruns during construction.
  2. Shop around: Get multiple quotes from contractors and suppliers to ensure you’re getting the best price for materials and labor.
  3. DIY when possible: Tackling some tasks yourself, like painting or installing insulation, can save you money on labor costs.
  4. Choose cost-effective materials: Opt for lower-cost materials without sacrificing quality. For example, consider using vinyl siding instead of more expensive options like brick or stone.
  5. Look for sales and discounts: Look for deals on materials, appliances, or fixtures. This can help you save money on your overall project cost.
  6. Don’t forget about permits and inspections: Make sure to factor in the costs of permits and inspections when budgeting your garage build.

With careful planning, research, and a keen eye for cost-saving opportunities, you can build the garage of your dreams without breaking the bank.

Photo of author

Tim Wells

Tim Wells, the founder of Garage Transformed, has been featured in dozens of home renovation publications, including, Home Stratosphere, House Digest, Livingetc, and SFGate. Since 2018, he has helped over two million people transform their everyday garages into something they can be proud of. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and bulldog.