I suppose there are quite a few reasons that a person could come to the decision to build their own garage, as opposed to having someone build it for them. In my own case, it was simply that I couldn't find anyone willing to build it for even close to what I thought was a reasonable cost. Not even close.
Now this kind of thing depends on a lot of factors, such as what part of the country you live in, what the economic climate and construction industries are like in your area, and that kind of thing. For me, the decision was easy because I solicited many quotes from builders, and the quotes I received ranged from insane to ludicrous. If I had lived somewhere else or wanted my garage built a different year, maybe things would have been different. Obviously someone out there was willing to pay these prices at that point in time, but I was not one of them.
To give you an idea of what I mean, my least expensive quote was for $28,000. The construction quality was absolutely minimal, did not include getting engineered blueprints or permits (illegal), did not include any dirt work (I was going to have to find someone separate for that) and the terms of the contract were full of exclusions for problems that "may be encountered" during construction that would drive costs up. I knew someone in my area that had been ripped off by an excavating company, and I was determined not to make the mistake that he did. He was quoted $11,000 for site preparation and ended up paying $40,000 after the "unforeseen problems" that drove prices through the roof.
The prices just went up from that quote. My most expensive quote was for $50,000, just to build this garage. And I could see that even that quote was a sham. I contacted contractors and obtained quotes for 4 months before finally giving up.
Why I Thought the Prices Were Unreasonable...
Contractors can obtain materials at a lower cost than I can as an individual, if you've ever dealt with a wholesaler you know how that works. I had assumed that my quotes would include low prices for materials and then a reasonable charge for labor, which would mean that it was worth it to have it built by professionals rather than do it myself. I did not believe that the quotes I obtained were representative of that way of doing business. Besides, all of the contractors that came to my house drove nicer cars than I have, I guess that was a warning sign in itself, hehe. I started looking up some lumber prices at home improvement stores and the few lumberyards that were open to the public, and before long it was clear that I could save many thousands of dollars by building this garage myself.
The Bottom Line...
It turns out, when all was said and done, my garage cost a total of around $11,000 to build myself. It was nice to come to the end of the project, add up all the receipts, and find that I had saved myself not thousands, but tens of thousands of dollars.
Why You Might (Or Might Not) Build Your Own Garage...
My advice is that if you decide to build your own garage or other construction project, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Building something of this magnitude takes large amounts of time, especially for a novice, a lot more time than I had at first predicted. I first began researching garages in the spring of 2006 and didn't finish the garage until the fall of 2009. In between, I had to go on living my life and doing my actual job.
Personally, I didn't do it because I thought it would be fun or a stress reliever. I lead an active life and do fun things all the time. Building this garage was a stress creator for me, not a stress reliever.
But for many of you, this kind of thing could turn out to be fun. Just don't assume that it will be a great experience without thinking it through. If this is your first attempt at a home improvement project, do yourself a favor and try something smaller first. Remodel a bathroom or kitchen. See how that works out before you dig up your yard.