Are Garage Mats Worth It?

In the garage after shoveling my neighbor’s driveway, I noticed a white coating on the floor. It was salt left when the snowmelt from her car evaporated. If that gets wet, it’s going to eat her garage floor. Will garage mats protect that floor? Are they worth it?

Garage mats are worth the investment. In fact, they have the highest return on investment of any garage floor covering. Mats prevent ice, salt, snow, water, oil and grease damage to the garage floor. The better question might be, “Which garage mat should I get?”

While it’s fun to get all racecar pit stop with PVC floor tile, mats are an inexpensive way to prevent concrete damage. Snow, rain and ice leave moisture which, when combined with salt, can cause spalling and pitting in concrete floors. Garage floor mats protect the floor from the moisture and materials than can permanently damage and stain the concrete.

Beautiful blue roll out floor mat and a Buick Skylark
Beautiful blue roll out floor mat and a Buick Skylark

What is the Best Garage Floor Mat?

The best garage floor mat is an oil mat, a parking mat, a containment mat or a roll out floor. The mat that will work best for you depends on:

  • budget
  • aesthetic
  • protection desired (oil, snowmelt, sand, salt…)
This containment mat captures snow melting off the car
This containment mat captures snow melting off the car

Answer a few questions to decide which garage mat you want.

  • Do you want to cover under the car, or the whole garage floor?
    Oil, parking and containment mats protect the area under the car. Roll out mats can protect anywhere from under the car to the entire garage floor.
  • Does snow melt off your car onto the floor?
    Carpeted mats protect from oil but do not do a great job protecting from moisture. Plastic mats hold moisture without it sinking into the fiber the way it does with carpet. Containment mats have edges to hold in the water that accumulates when the ice and snow melt.
  • Do you have a maximum budget for your garage mat?
    From cheapest to most expensive (in general) are oil mats, parking mats, containment mats, and then roll out mats, with exceptions. Very large parking mats might cost more than containment mats, for example. Very small roll out mats can be cheaper than containment mats.
  • Can you deal with the weight and trimming of a roll out mat?
    If you are covering a parking bay with a roll out mat, you won’t need much time, talent or tools. However, if you are using roll out mat to cover the floor and possibly the garage steps, you will need a T-square and a knife. Roll out mats can be heavy and awkward, but are easy to install so long as you are comfortable with the weight and using a few tools.
This containment mat side compared to a cell phone.
This containment mat side compared to a cell phone.

Do Garage Floor Mats Work?

Garage floor mats work to protect the concrete from oil, snow, ice, salt, sand and dirt. Carpet mats are better at protection from oil spills than from moisture. Containment mats prevent melting snow from pouring into the garage. Roll out vinyl mats are beautiful and do the best job of protecting the garage floor.

Why Use a Garage Floor Oil Mat?

The oil mat is there to catch drips. It gets stained instead of the floor.
The oil mat is there to catch drips. It gets stained instead of the floor.

An oil mat is a small carpet you put under an oil drip. These mats are usually rubber-backed carpets but are sometimes waterproof plastic. You can place an oil drip mat on other floor coverings such as tiles, epoxy or paint.

As oil mats are usually carpets, they’re only partially successful at protecting the floor from snow and ice melt. They do protect the floor from salt and sand. Clean particulates with a vacuum. Clean oil and gunk with a degreaser and a power washer.

Oil mats are functional and not exceptionally pretty, but they do prevent garage floor staining. Carpets tend to hold up to studded snow tires but will move under that kind of torque.

Why Use a Garage Floor Containment Mat?

The containment mat has a wterproof back. This mat does not have sides to hold the water. It absorbs into the carpet inistead.
The containment mat has a wterproof back. This mat does not have sides to hold the water. It absorbs into the carpet inistead.

Garage floor containment mats hold onto the snowmelt, ice, sludge and salt your car brings into the garage. They protect the garage floor from the materials that cause concrete spalling and pitting. The containment works on concrete, or you can put it over other flooring. A containment mat can sit atop paint, epoxy, tiles or carpet.

Called a "containment mat," this mat is too small to catch snow falling from the sides.
Called a “containment mat,” this mat is too small to catch snow falling from the sides.

Containment mats are good at capturing snowmelt. Containment mats are usually a thinner plastic and damage more easily than vinyl and carpet mats. Turning a studded snow tire on a containment mat can rip the material. Containment mats are functional, and don’t add anything to the beauty of the garage. Containment mat warranties are usually for one year and do not cover studded snow tire tears.

Better mats have reinforced seams
Better mats have reinforced seams

Why Use a Garage Floor Parking Mat?

Dry floors are less likely to pit and crack
Dry floors are less likely to pit and crack

A garage floor-parking mat protects the floor from moisture, salt and dirt. Vinyl and rubber do better at moisture protection that does carpet. Parking mats are larger and heavier than oil mats, and so move around less. However, you can easily put double-sided tape under either to keep it from moving. Parking mats work on top of tile, epoxy and paint.

Floor mat for a motorcycle
Floor mat for a motorcycle

Parking mats are rubber, or carpet on a rubber backing. They are strong enough to withstand studded snow tires and do not easily rip, even at the seams. They’re not pretty but they do prevent floor stains. Warranties are usually for one year.

Clean the mat with a pressure washer
Clean the mat with a pressure washer

Why Use a Garage Floor Roll Out Mat?

A rollout floor mat can cover the entire garage floor.
A rollout floor mat can cover the entire garage floor.

A roll out mat is a 4 ft. to 25 ft. piece of flexible vinyl that is anywhere from 4 ft. to 8 ft. wide. It arrives on a roll that you deploy by simply unrolling into place. Roll out mats are the heaviest and most attractive of the garage floor mats. They are usually very thick and offer protection salt, sand, oil, gasoline, chemicals, snowmelt and dirt.

High quality snow containment mat
High quality snow containment mat

A studded snow tire doesn’t affect a quality roll out vinyl mat. You can deploy a roll out over epoxy or paint. They are unlikely to break under any normal garage scenario. Warranties are usually between 5 years and “lifetime.”

How to Keep Oil off the Garage Floor

While you can get an “oil mat” to keep oil off the floor, parking, containment and roll out mats also protect the floor from oil. Oil mats can be as small as the area under the hood, so they are less expensive than alternatives.

Oil and gasoline won’t eat away at the concrete, but they will stain it.

At this size, there's no much difference between and "oil mat" and a "parking mat."
At this size, there’s no much difference between and “oil mat” and a “parking mat.”

How to Keep and Salt and Sand off the Garage Floor

Sand makes it easier to drive on ice and snow. Sand creates a dusty mess. Salt causes ice to melt. It mixes with snow kicked up under your car during travel. When the salt and snow melt meet on the floor, they eat away at the concrete.

Any carpeted or plastic garage mat will protect the floor from salt and chemicals. Plastic is easier to clean because it doesn’t absorb water and salt into fibers as carpet does.

A carpet protects the floor from sand, salt, and oil. It protects the floor from some chemicals. It does not protect the floor from moisture, which actually builds up on the concrete and under the rubber.

Vinyl protects the floor from sand, salt, oil and chemicals. Depending on the thickness and makeup of the plastic, it can protect from gasoline and moisture.

How Do I Keep My Garage Floor Dry in the Winter?

Containment mats are waterproof to protect the floor underneath, but tend to be lighter weight than carpet and vinyl mats.
Containment mats are waterproof to protect the floor underneath, but tend to be lighter weight than carpet and vinyl mats.

Vinyl (plastic) mats are much better at protecting the floor from moisture than are carpeted mats. Carpet fibers hold onto moisture. Concrete also holds onto moisture. There will be moisture under rubber-backed carpets which you can avoid using vinyl-based mats. Carpeted oil mats and carpeted parking mats offer the least protection from moisture.

Containment and roll out mats do the best at protecting the floor from moisture. A containment mat has raised sides to hold onto the water that fell as snow from the car. To get rid of this water, you need to move the car and then broom the water into the driveway.

Rollout mats are thick but pliable
Rollout mats are thick but pliable

Vinyl roll out mats have the largest coverage of all the mat types. They also tend to be the thickest and most protective material.

Rollout mats are the thickest of the choices
Rollout mats are the thickest of the choices

Carpet and plastic have vastly different protection properties.

  • Oil spill mats can be either rubber-backed fiber carpet or waterproof plastic
  • Parking mats are also carpets or plastic
  • Containment mats are waterproof plastic
  • Roll out mats are thick waterproof plastic

What Size Garage Floor Mat You Should Get

Oil spill mats, parking mats and containment mats protect the area under the car. They are for protecting just a small part of the garage that is under the car.

Roll out mats can be as small as a half a parking spot and as large as a garage bay. Roll out mats can protect under the car or, the parking bay, or the whole floor.

Garage mats, listed from smallest to largest:

  • An “oil spill” mat is usually narrower than the car as it sits under the drive train.
  • A “parking mat” is a little wider than the car, and the length is usually twice as long as the car.
  • A “containment mat” is the same size as the parking mat.
  • Roll out” mats come in many sizes. They can be as small as 4 ft. W x 4 ft. D, and as large as 8 ft. W x 22 ft. D.

How to Install a Garage Mat

To install an oil mat, a parking mat or a containment mat: sweep and clean the floor, and put down the mat. There is nothing to it except making sure you’re not putting the mat on dirt, grease or moisture. You might put down double-sided tape if the mat tends to move.

To install a roll out mat, you will also want to sweep and clean the floor. If you are covering the entire garage floor then you will need a utility knife, a T-square, and a measuring tape. Higher-end roll out floor manufacturers offer seaming tapes and center strips.

I’m thinking specifically of G-Floor, which is one of the nicest roll out floor mats you can buy. The seaming tape is a proprietary double-sided tape that sticks to the garage floor and the underside of the mats where the meet in the middle of the garage. The center strip is easier to use but sits on top of the seam. You tuck mat ends into channels to keep the seam out of the way.

While it’s very easy to roll out one of these mats, it’s a bit more to get the mat into place. Large vinyl rolls of roll out mat are heavy and awkward. If you are doing the whole garage floor, you will need some measuring and cutting skills. If you are just doing one or two parking bays, the hardest part is getting the vinyl into place.