What is a carport — and how is it different from a garage?

oak frame carport with storage above
(Image credit: Welsh Oak Frame)

Exactly what is a carport and could it be just the thing you need to make life run a little smoother on a day-to-day basis?

When it comes to creating a garden room or outbuilding, many people are a little unclear on the difference between a garage and a carport, as well as being unsure of the benefits of this kind of structure and what kind of costs they tend to entail. 

In this quick guide, we explain what a carport is, why and when they come in useful, how much they cost and whether or not you are likely to require planning permission in order to build one. 

What is a carport?

A carport is a structure designed to provide shelter to vehicles as well as to people getting in and out of them. 

Carports are generally made up of a roof – flat or pitched – supported by posts or columns. They can be built as freestanding structures or those that are attached to the side of the house and are open either on all sides or just one or two. 

They vary in size and can either be single, for just one car, or larger with several bays for multiple vehicles. 

Most carports will be constructed on top of a solid, level concrete base. 

The materials used to construct a carport range from plastic and aluminium to brick, concrete, blockwork and timber. Roofs can generally be polycarbonate, tiled, felted or metal. 

oak frame carport

This oak frame carport is from Border Oak and blends seamlessly with the design of the house.  (Image credit: Border Oak)

What is the difference between a carport and a garage?

It can be a little confusing to get to grips with the difference between garage design and carports — but there are some simple ways to define both. 

Garages are completely enclosed by a roof and solid walls and feature some kind of garage door too. They are very durable and are most commonly constructed  from building materials such as brick, stone, concrete, steel or timber. They can feature windows and are sometimes insulated — plus many are suitable for conversion into habitable accommodation. 

Additionally, garages are often attached to the main house and, in the case of integral garages, have direct access into the home, meaning there is no need to venture outside to enter or exit your vehicle. 

Carports, on the other hand, are more like shelters from the elements. They really vary in their designs and configurations, but are usually open on several or all sides. That said, some feature an enclosed second storey for storage or can even be designed with a home office above. 

single oak frame carport

This single carport, from Welsh Oak Frame, provides useful shelter as well as looking beautiful.  (Image credit: Welsh Oak Frame)

What can carports be used for?

Aside from the obvious use of a carport – namely to provide shelter for cars or other vehicles – there are other upsides to building this kind of structure. A carport makes the perfect spot to dine semi-outdoors when the weather inevitably takes a turn, makes a great sheltered play area for children and can even be designed to provide a spot for your outdoor kitchen ideas

They can also be configured to include one or two open bays for parking along with one enclosed bay with a door — perfect for those seeking extra storage space. 

"Our most popular size is a 3-bay because this allows for two bays for parking and then one bay which normally has a garage door and will be used as a store for tools, gardening equipment etc.," says Zoe Grey a regional design consultant for garages and outbuildings at Oakwrights. "Some clients choose to board out the roof space for additional storage too."

oak frame carport with accommodation over

This carport, from Border Oak, features storage space above, accessed by a staircase to one side.  (Image credit: Border Oak)

Is there a minimum carport size?

Obviously a carport needs to be big enough to house your car or cars, but what size is recommended by the experts?

“Typically I would recommend each bay to be 3m wide by 5.5-6m in depth," says Zoe Grey. "If you would like EV charging in the bay, 6m depth is essential. This will allow for the charging on the back of the bay and a large 4x4 vehicle.

"My favourite design is our Cotswold as it allows for the largest 4x4 and opening of doors, plus storage and charging at the rear.”

Will a carport add value to my house?

Another benefit of adding a carport is the potential it has to increase the value of your home. We say potential because a carport will only increase the desirability (and therefore value) of your home to buyers if it is designed well and complements the rest of the house.

"As a carport is typically open in some form (whereas a garage may be entirely enclosed) we find that an authentic and exposed green oak frame, with beautiful handmade, jointed and braced features, is an attractive way to create a practical structure but also looks very striking, adding value to your home, lasting a very long time and made from natural materials," says Merry Albright from Border Oak.

How much does a carport cost?

Carport costs will vary hugely depending on the materials used to build them and their size, as well as their design. For example, a simple one-bay structure comprised of just a roof and four supporting posts and built from blockwork, is going to be far cheaper than a large oak-framed structure with storage and multiple bays. 

According to Checkatrade, the average single carport costs £3,000 to install while a double is more likely to come in at closer to £5,000. Bear in mind that these estimates don't include the cost of connecting services such as electricity or pouring the concrete floor and base. 

There are ways to make savings — for example, a simple flat roof will be cheaper than a more complicated pitched roof design. 

Carport kits made from aluminium tend to start from around £1,000, while timber designs can cost as much as 50% more than this. If you fancy something bespoke made from oak or steel you are looking at anything upwards of £10,000. 

carport kit

Carports are also available in kit form and this is a cost-effective option. This flat roof carport kit, from Nucrete, costs £1,235 and features integrated gutters and built-in gutter heads.  (Image credit: Nucrete)

Do you need planning permission for a carport?

A carport is classed as an outbuilding and so will, in most cases, fall within permitted development rights. However, planning permission may be required if:

  • The carport is being constructed in front of your house
  • The carport will be more than one storey high
  • It will exceed 2.5m in height and be located within 2m of your property boundary
  • Is located more than 2m from your property boundary but has a height more than 2.5m (more than 4m for a dual pitched roof or 3m for other roof types)
  • Features a balcony, veranda or any platforms more than 0.3m high
  • Occupies more than 50% of the land surrounding the original property
  • Will be used for commercial uses or as accommodation 
  • Your property is listed or within a designated area, such as conservation area or World Heritage Site
Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.