This is a very good question and requires a lengthy answer due to some of the complexity of the industry. Garage doors have a few very important characteristics.
1. Function: How does the door work? Is it an Overhead type? Roll-up type? Or do the door/s swing open and close?
The most common type of Garage door used on the Home is a sectional overhead door. This is a door that from a vertical position (Closed) will in sections curve up and over your head into a horizontal position (Open). They come in many sizes and are measured in Width and height of the garage door opening 8' x 7’ for example is (Eight foot wide by Seven foot tall). A standard two car garage door is 16'x7' and has a dead weight of between 180lbs up to 400lbs depending on the Model and accessories. This weight needs to be counter balanced to allow the home owner the ability to open and close the door with little or no effort. Most sectional doors today use a Torsion Spring or Extension spring configuration to do this.
2. Design: The most diverse portion of this question is the design there are various manufactures of Garage doors and each one trying to find the next best design in the market so indeed there are various looks and designs from each manufacture.
In today’s world wide Webb we have the ability to go to those manufacture Webb sites and view the hundreds of designs to find what really makes us happy without even needing to leave our homes. Some designs are standard in the industry such as the raised panel or the Carriage door both uniquely different but very common.
3. Safety: What safety features do the Garage doors have that are the same or go beyond the normal?
Some companies have gone the extra mile to produce a door design that prevents smashed finger injuries by preventing fingers from getting pinched between the panels, and others have designed weight bearing fixtures so that they cannot be removed unless all the pressure has been removed from the torsion system thus preventing catastrophic damage to the door and injury to the owner. (This is a more common occurrence from the D.I.Y. crowd).
4. Construction: How was the door manufactured? Is it a nominal gauge or a true gauge door? Are the edges rolled or are sharp edges exposed? What type of hardware does the door come with? Is the door wind load compliant?
These are all very important questions when purchasing a Garage door, when Gauge is being talked about it is referring to the thickness of the metal used to make the door for example a 24G door is the thickest residential door manufactured, 25G is the most common size used and 26,27G is typically used for builder grade construction often considered the weakest door.
A nominal Gauge door is a door that has been formed and shaped to hold up to the stresses of a higher Gauge door for example a nominal 25G is a 26G door that has been formed and shaped in a way that it is strong like a 25G door.
Some Manufactures go the extra mile in construction of a garage door to ensure safety by rolling and forming all of the edges on the garage door to prevent fingers from getting sliced or cut by dragging them across any of the edges of the door.
Hardware are the parts that come with the door that hold everything together and are integral parts of the functioning of the door like the hinges and the rollers, end bearing plates, center bearing, Torsion Spring/s, Cables, Tracks Etc. Some companies supply the best quality of hardware with every door they supply, and some companies sell them as an up-grade Package. It is always wise to ask in the Quote process what type does your door come with.
Wind load is also very important depending on where you live it may be a requirement for the door to meet a specific wind load requirement. This is often required in coastal areas subject to Hurricanes and in areas that are subject to Snow and extreme weather conditions. A wind load door is designed and built to withstand a lot of direct pressure to the face of the door when it is closed for long periods of time.
All of these are relevant in choosing a garage door for your home and all of the manufactures have products designed to meet your needs so make a list of requirements first, As an example I would first find out if there are any requirements that you door must meet like wind load or city code then find manufactures that meet those requirements this will narrow down the list a little, then compare safety features and decide on the design and color you are looking for. Again compare to the list of manufactures that met the previous requirements and eventually you will come to one manufacture and one design at this point you need to find a few local companies that can accommodate your needs and get estimates from them and do a complete check on each company. Look at and read the reviews, check for complaints, check the BBB talk to them if they have a store front go visit the store front and do not forget to check Angie’s list. All of these suggestions will help you find the right company for you.
Now after all that is said and done my own personel preferance for durability and reliability and quality is Mid-America and Amarr Door products.