Where is everyone going to park? Countless business owners have wondered this when looking at a new location. Apartment complexes, shopping centers, downtown buildings… everything in a modern city requires parking, and if you don’t have it, you’re probably hurting your business.
So if you’re considering parking, should you go for a parking lot or a parking garage? What are the differences in cost and benefits? And what goes into maintaining them?
Parking lots and parking garages vary in price depending on location. Land is a big part of the cost, as is construction. There are permits that need to be filed for both, and you’ll have to check with your municipality for zoning rules and other details.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule on a parking lot versus a garage, but a parking garage is significantly more expensive. There’s also a significant cost per space for yearly maintenance, upkeep, and electricity to keep the lights on. Parking lots are cheaper, but not nearly as space-efficient. In some areas, a garage may be your only option due to the available space.
Parking garages can be easier to monitor and control access to, and they keep vehicles out of the weather. If it’s a public-access garage, you can usually charge more for the privilege of using it to help offset the costs.
A parking lot usually lasts around 20 to 30 years. With proper maintenance, you can extend the life of it somewhat, but there’s usually at least one complete resurfacing in that time period. A well-constructed lot will last longer than a shoddy one, and any problems will become apparent within the first few years.
Traffic load and environmental factors will take their toll on a parking lot over time, but regular maintenance can help. Staying on top of cracks, ruts, and potholes as they occur keeps the overall structure of the lot from deteriorating, and rehabilitation of heavily damaged sections may be needed occasionally. Crack sealing, pavement sealing, striping, and other maintenance tasks need to be taken care of regularly. The maintenance cost will increase over the lifespan of the lot as resurfacing becomes important.
Parking garages are a little different. Since they’re not exposed to the direct elements as much as a lot, they tend to hold up better. But because of their structure, staying on top of maintenance is even more important than it is for parking lots.
Pressure washing every now and then will keep the facade and the inside surface clean, but you’ll also need to reapply the surface coating on the concrete periodically. Inspecting the concrete for cracks, spalling, and other leaks is something you have to stay on top of. If water gets to the rebar in the concrete, it can cause serious structural issues, such as weakening decks and columns, that can cost you far more in the long run.
Every few years, you’ll also have to get seams re-caulked and expansion joints replaced. These are very important, as they can allow water to get to structural steel and weaken the building.
There’s no right answer between a parking lot and a parking garage. Depending on your needs, your municipality, and your budget, one of the two will be right for you. As long as you maintain them properly, either will serve you well for a long time to come.