11 Essential Tips for Buying a Garage Door

Brionna Farney
Written by Brionna Farney
Reviewed by Robert Tschudi
Updated November 16, 2022
A suburban house with a garage in a neighborhood
Photo: RichLegg / E+ / Getty Images

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From potentially boosting your home’s curb appeal to lowering heating and cooling costs, knowing what to look for when buying a garage door is important. For families with small kids, it’s also essential to think about newer safety features as you shop to find the right product for your home and lifestyle.

Here are 11 tips you should consider when buying a new garage door—or replacing an old one.

1. Determine Your Budget for a Garage Door

You might be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of garage door options on the market today—or at the variety of prices you’ll find online. That’s why knowing how to buy a garage door that fits your lifestyle—and wallet—is crucial. Before you start shopping, it’s a good idea to set a budget.

“For homeowners with a tight budget, we always recommend starting with a standard, no-frills garage door and opener,” says Bob Tschudi, Expert Review Board member and a Raleigh, North Carolina-based general contractor. “That way, the budget can go towards things that are harder to change or upgrade in the future.”

A new garage door costs between $600 and $3,700, depending on the materials you select. Most manufacturers roll the garage door itself and installation costs into one fee, but be sure to double-check. Generally, the most affordable garage door types are steel, wood, and aluminum, and you’ll pay the most for wood composite, fiberglass, and vinyl. 

2. Measure Your Garage Door Opening

While there are standard garage door sizes, that doesn’t necessarily mean your home is fit for one. Standard single-car garage doors measure 8 to 9 feet wide and 7 to 8 feet high. Double-car garage doors will be about 16 feet wide. 

Measure the rough opening of your existing garage door to determine which new garage door size you should buy. A rough opening is the framed opening distance, not including any stop molding or trim. Depending on your measurements, you may be able to purchase a standard-sized garage door; otherwise, you’ll need a custom-sized one.

3. Understand Manufacturer Lingo

There are many different components of a garage door, and while knowing technical terms isn’t required, it can certainly help. One easy way to feel more prepared to shop is to understand the three main types of garage doors: single layer, double layer, and premium.

  • Single layer is made of lightweight steel, fiberglass and wood

  • Double layer is more insulated and durable than single layer

  • Premium is made with high-quality steel and wood with fiberglass sandwiched in between

Premium and double-layer doors cost more but do offer significantly better insulation, which could lower your heating and cooling costs.

Insulation is measured by R-Value. Material between R-6 and R-9 is good for a non-heated garage, but if it’s a living space, you’ll spend a lot more on heating and cooling bills if your R-value is below R-13.

4. Consider Each Type of Garage Door Material

From the classic look of wood to lightweight, durable metal, today’s garage doors are typically made from six different materials, each with a different price tag: 

  • Steel: $600 – $2,000

  • Fiberglass: $1,000 – $2,100

  • Wood: $700 – $1,800

  • Aluminum: $700 – $2,000

  • Wood Composite: $950 – $3,700

  • Vinyl: $1,000 – $2,600

Steel, fiberglass, and aluminum are some of the most common, while vinyl is a good budget-friendly option. Wood and composite wood can be expensive and may require a special wood garage door installation cost.

If you have your heart set on wooden garage doors, know that you can easily install steel and then use a wood stain to get a similar aesthetic.

Keep in mind that no matter which material you pick, you’ll need to replace the whole garage door—you shouldn’t use an old garage door track with a new garage door.

5. Pick a Garage Door That Matches Your Home’s Style

Your home’s garage door plays a key role in its overall curb appeal. Make sure the one you select matches your home’s color, yard, and overall aesthetic. A sleek garage door will stand out, but a strange style may stick out like a sore thumb.

Many manufacturers use technology so you can see what your new garage door will look like on your home. Use these features, but wait before you buy online. 

Keep in mind that you can also paint a garage door to compliment the rest of your home. Painting a garage door costs $1 to $4 per square foot, and can add a whole lot of beauty to your house's exterior.

6. Decide on Garage Door Windows

Most garage door materials give you the option to add windows. Garage windows offer advantages such as natural light. Because they're more expensive, they could also potentially increase your property value.

On the flip side, garage windows may increase heating costs. (Although if your heart is set on one, you could counter this by understanding the different types of garage heaters and installing the right kind for your space.)

For what it’s worth, some home security experts recommend garage doors without windows to detract potential thieves. As an alternative, you might consider installing a garage door screen instead.

“We had a client who wanted the look of windows, but not the security risk that windows provided,” says Tschudi. “We ended up installing a non-windowed steel garage door and then painted black squares where windows would be. You can’t tell that they aren’t windows until you are very close to the garage door.”

7. Consider Garage Door Insulation

Insulated garage door models cost between $200 and $600 more than non-insulated models.

This type of door is especially good for garages with workstations or ones with lofts or additional living spaces above. Basically, if you think you’ll be spending a lot of time in the garage, consider insulation to make it feel more comfortable. 

While you’re thinking about long-term investments for this area, you may also consider sealing your garage floors, which could save you from costly garage door repairs down the road.

8. Shop for Garage Door Safety Features

Today, many garage doors come with safety features that protect pets and children. Reverse sensors have been standard on garage doors since the ‘90s. But many new models also offer features like:

  • Outside motion detection (to ward off potential mischief-makers)

  • Manual control (in the event of power outages)

  • Finger-free designs (to prevent little fingers from getting stuck or jammed in the railing)

If you have kids, it’s worth doing research to make sure you’re getting what you need to keep your children safe.

9. Pair Your Garage Door With an Opener

Higher-end garage doors may come with an automatic garage door opener. But more affordable models may not include one, so if you need (or just really want) an opener, it’s a good idea to shop with this in mind to find the best garage door opener. The cost of a new garage opener can be up to $500 after product and installation.

10. Consider Garage Door Security

Garage door openers typically lock the garage door when in the down position; however, this mechanism won’t always stop a forceful intruder. Consider incorporating additional garage door security while upgrading your door. 

Many homeowners choose to install a smart garage door opener. With this Wi-Fi-connected system, you will be alerted if the garage door is ever opened and the alert can automatically notify the local authorities. 

If your garage door opens manually, you could install a locking handle for extra security. This type of lock attaches to the inside of your garage door frame and must be locked before exiting the inside of the garage.

11. Get an In-Person Quote for Your Garage Door

New technology makes browsing for garage doors online easy. It’s especially useful when you can see what your new potential garage door will look like without ever leaving your house.

However, when it comes time to buy your new garage door, you should get a quote at your actual home. This way, you don’t sign up for a project that doesn’t match your needs or winds up being full of surprises. 

Ask a local garage door company for a reasonable quote in your area today.

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