An online search for carport prices turns up more questions than answers. The cost of a carport has many variables, depending on size, materials, durability, curb appeal, and where you live.

The first consideration for carport pricing is size. Sizing is fairly standard in the industry. A one-car unit will probably be 12 feet wide by 21' long. Standard sizing for double carports is 18' wide by 21' long.

If you're buying a portable metal carport, you can add to the width, the length, or both if you want to pay extra. Adding to the length is a simple matter of adding more "bows," which are the arches that support the carport roof. Metal carports are available in lengths up to 41 feet. Adding to the width has limitations. Anything wider than 24 feet means adding a second set of bows next to the first set to give you a triple-wide or even quadruple-wide shelter for your car.

Don't forget height. Many of the carport prices you see in ads are for a carport that's only 5 feet tall, and some of prices only include the roof-the legs are extra! Unless you like to stoop when you get out of your car, you're going to want a minimum of 6 feet in height. If you have an SUV or pickup, then 8 feet is a solid choice. All this adds to the price.

Materials, durability, and curb appeal are all related. At the very bottom end of carport prices, you'll find structures with tubular steel frames and a plastic cover stretched over them, much like a glorified tent. Next up the price ladder are portable metal carports. These are usually made from all steel, but their durability varies considerably. 14 gauge steel is actually thinner than 12 gauge steel. If you buy 14 gauge, you can expect a shorter warranty than if you buy 12 gauge. The visual appeal of these structures runs the gamut from the good to the bad to the downright ugly, but the best looking ones can fit in on a suburban lot as long as your building code allows them.

Permanent carports made from wood and shingles are really the gold standard if you choose this type of shelter for your vehicle. They're more durable than the portable structures, and most local ordinances will accept them. Of course, pricing is a factor-a permanent carport costs at least five times as much as a portable one, plus you'll probably have to pull a building permit to put it up. But with a permanent structures, you'll be adding to the value of your home.

Finally, carport pricing varies depending on what part of the country you live in. These numbers are highly localized, and your best strategy is to compare prices for your area and pick the best one.