How to Determine the Cost Per Square Foot of Building a Garage

Building a new garage can be a significant investment, so it’s important to understand all the costs involved before starting your project. One of the key factors in determining the overall garage construction cost is the price per square foot. Here is a detailed guide on how to calculate the cost per square foot for building a new garage.

Estimate the Total Square Footage Needed

The first step is to determine the total square footage of the garage you want to build. Consider the number of cars you want to park, size of vehicles, desired storage space, workspace needs and any other uses for the garage. Be sure to account for the thickness of the walls and don’t just measure the parking area alone. Common garage sizes are 1-car (240-400 square feet), 2-car (400-600 square feet), and 3-car (600-1000 square feet). Measure out the garage dimensions and use an online square footage calculator to determine the total area.

Determine the Garage Construction Type

The per square foot cost will vary significantly depending on the type of garage construction:

  • Wood frame – Most affordable at $30-40 per square foot. Wood framed walls with plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) exterior and drywall interior.
  • Masonry – More durable but costs $45-65 per square foot. Concrete block or poured concrete walls.
  • Steel frame – Prefabricated and quick to build for $55-100 per sq ft. Steel structural supports and sheet metal exterior.
  • Pole barn – Basic detached structure for $15-30 per square foot. Made from wood poles or steel columns with sheet metal exterior.

Consider longevity, appearance, maintenance, and costs when choosing the construction.

Factor in Design Elements

The more features and enhancements in your garage, the higher the square foot pricing will be:

  • Size – Larger garages tend to cost less per square foot.
  • Foundation – Slab is cheapest, basement is most expensive.
  • Windows and doors – More windows or specialty doors adds costs.
  • Insulation and utilities – Heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical systems add up.
  • Finishes – Fancy garage floor coatings, drywall, trim details increase price.
  • Prefab vs. custom build – Prefab is generally cheaper than custom garage construction.

Consider Location and Site Work

Where you build the garage and site prep work required also impacts the square foot pricing:

  • Access – Difficult access for trucks/equipment means higher labor costs.
  • Terrain – Flat sites are most affordable. Hillside grading or drainage work adds costs.
  • Soil/foundation – Stable soil is ideal. Compacting soil or extra foundations adds costs.
  • Permits and fees – Costs vary by city/county for permits, taxes, and inspections.

Estimate the Total Project Costs

Once you know the type of garage and square footage needed, you can roughly estimate the overall construction costs:

Total cost = (Square footage) x (Cost per square foot)

However, this is just a starting point. Be sure to add other project costs:

  • Architecture designs
  • Site preparation
  • Demolition or removal
  • Permits and fees
  • Utility connections
  • Landscaping
  • Contingency funds

This will give you a more accurate total budget for your new custom garage. Expect costs to range from $15,000 for a basic 400 square foot garage up to $60,000 or more for a high-end 1000+ square foot garage with all the amenities.

Get Quotes from Garage Contractors

The most accurate way to determine true pricing is to get quotes from local general contractors that specialize in garage construction. Provide the details on your desired garage size and specifications. Get at least 3-4 professional bids to compare costs. Be sure quotes include materials, labor and all other expenses. Carefully review what is covered to avoid surprise add-ons during the build.

With some planning and research, you can better set your garage construction budget and find the right contractor for your project needs and budget. Calculating the cost per square foot is an important first step to getting started.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average cost per square foot to build a garage?

The average cost per square foot for a new garage ranges from $35-75 depending on the type of construction, size, features and location. Simple wood-framed garages can be as low as $15-30 per square foot while high-end custom garages with premium finishes can exceed $100 per square foot.

How much does a 2-car garage cost?

A typical 2-car garage with basic finishes will cost $15,000-$25,000. With higher end features and construction, expect to pay $25,000-$50,000 or more for a 2-car garage of 400-600 square feet.

What factors increase the cost per square foot of a garage?

Larger garages tend to have lower per square foot pricing. More complex foundations, HVAC, plumbing, electrical systems, specialty doors and windows, high-end finishes, and custom features will increase the cost per square foot significantly. Location and difficult access can also add costs.

Should I build the garage myself or hire a contractor?

For most homeowners, hiring a professional garage builder is recommended. They have the expertise to properly construct and finish the garage, obtain permits, and coordinate all subcontractors. However, building it yourself can save on labor costs if you have advanced DIY skills.

How much does a garage permit cost?

Garage permit costs vary by location but typically range from $200-$800. Some areas base permit fees on the total project value. There may also be separate permits and fees for electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work. Always check with your local permitting office for current rates.


Determining the cost per square foot is an essential part of budgeting for a new garage build. With typical pricing ranging from $30-100 per square foot, the costs can add up quickly. Carefully consider the garage design, construction type, features, site conditions and total square footage needed. Get quotes from several contractors to find the best value for your budget. With proper planning using the cost per square foot estimates, you can construct the ideal garage to meet your needs.