A wood-paneled carport painted barn red, with a brown shingled roof.

What Is a Carport and Should I Build One?

A carport is an open, outdoor structure intended to partially shield vehicles overhead from the elements. While carports come in many shapes and sizes, they differ significantly from traditional garages. A typical, closed-off garage offers more protection for long-term car storage. However, there are many solutions for storing a classic car or any vehicle you may own — even under a simple carport. Find out if this economical option can work for your unique situation. 

Types of Carports

While a carport may seem self-explanatory on the surface, there are several different configurations to choose from. Among them are:

  • Open-sided — a frame with four pillars and an attached roof on top;
  • Free-standing — any type of carport that is detached and stand on its own;
  • Attached — a carport designed as an extension of a home or building, often with only two pillars; 
  • Gable (or vertical) roof — a carport with an angled roof to prevent precipitation from pooling on top;
  • Boxed-eave roof — a carport with a gable roof that is extended into a box shape with some excess siding material hanging down from the top lip;
  • Flat roof — a carport with a flat roof generally costs less, but the flat surface makes it more likely to leak from pooled precipitation;
  • Flemish (or Dutch) gable — similar to gable-roof carports but with more ornate designs on the sides of the roof;
  • Tandem or double — a carport designed to cover two vehicles: side-by-side and front-to-back, respectively;
  • Portable — a carport designed to travel easily to festival grounds, parks, and more. 

While some of the carport types overlap, they each have a unique purpose. Each is also likely crafted from metal, wood, and fabric. Steel, aluminum, and tin are the most durable and popular metal choices. Wood frames won’t last as long, but may be more aesthetically pleasing. Fabric is fashioned onto portable metal frames to allow for pop-up flexibility. 

What To Do With a Carport

Although carports are typically used to shelter cars from snow, rain, and hail, there are more unexpected uses for a carport to consider. These uses could include storage for boats, ATVs, motorcycles, scooters, bikes, dirt bikes, lawnmowers, and more — as well as shielding darker-colored cars from the damaging sun. Even more surprising, carports may be used for: 

Whether you want to keep it simple or spruce it up a bit, carports are extremely versatile. Paint, siding, curtains, and blinds may elevate your carport’s appearance and equip it for more activities than just sheltering a car. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Investing in a Carport

There are numerous benefits of choosing a carport over a garage. If you choose to add a carport to your property, it could:

  • Add value to your home
  • Come at a relatively low cost;
  • Be constructed quickly; 
  • Easily get project approval;
  • Save you money on vehicle maintenance; 
  • Nix extra property taxes;
  • Avoid extra utility consumption;
  • Drain water away from external gutters;
  • Provide natural light for working on your car.

As with all home renovations, there are some drawbacks. While carports are cost-effective, that sometimes can mean that you are missing out on durability and features. The open sides may not fully protect your items from becoming damaged from outdoor exposure or even theft. Garages are typically more secure and provide a larger, sometimes air-conditioned and heat-regulated space for your possessions. 

Adding a Carport to Your House 

Your specific situation might benefit from a carport addition. If the pros outweigh the cons, you are ready to take the steps necessary to start constructing the right carport for you. First, you must figure out the best type of carport for your needs.

Determine the Use

Before adding a carport to your property, you must decide when and how it will be used. Determine the main purpose of the carport to pick which type your lifestyle requires. For example, if you plan to routinely park two of your family vehicles under the carport, look into tandem- or double-carport options. If you are concerned about possible leaks and want the structure to last a while, consider a gable-roof carport. Make a list of your top priorities, and go from there. 

Location, Location, Location

Another key part of the planning process is deciding where you will place the carport. If you have a larger plot of land — at least an acre — you may opt for a free-standing structure. Otherwise, consider attaching the structure to your home or building. This option allows for even more customization and possible curb appeal. 

Furthermore, make sure the plot of land is secure enough to hold the weight of a carport. This includes the concrete slab that will be poured on top of the soil — as well as the vehicles that will be stored there. If needed, bring in a professional to evaluate the soil integrity. 

Build or Buy?

Financial considerations will need to be made, even though carports are relatively inexpensive structures. There are options to build a carport or buy it pre-made. This will determine the overall cost of your carport project — including whether or not you will pay for labor and parts. 

Pick a Size

Although generally smaller than full-size garages, there are still a multitude of size options for carports. As mentioned above, you want to consider the number of vehicles that will be housed under the carport at any given time. You should take any plans into account, as well. Use the size of your land, your budget, and the projected growth of your household to determine the carport size right for you. 

Select Your Materials

If building the carport from scratch, you’ll need to take the cost of materials into account. This generally means that the more durable the material, the more it will cost. However, that means less maintenance in the long run. That is likely why steel carports are a popular choice — because they last the longest and generally need less maintenance. 

However, if you’re looking to travel with your carport, consider a steel frame with a fabric overlay. Wooden carports may take longer to construct, but the timber is pleasing to the eye and may add even more value to your home for this reason. Just remember that with timber, you have to worry about dry rot and termites. Overall, weigh what is most important to you — aesthetics or integrity — when making material decisions. 

Install and Enjoy

Whichever route you take, you are free to enjoy your carport as soon as it is complete. Installation is typically a quick process, and you can start moving in your things under the new shelter. Remember that just because you planned to only use your carport for parking, this may change. The flexibility of these structures allows use for anything you may dream up in the future.