What Is The Difference Between A Duplex And An Apartment?

Duplex vs. Apartment - 1

As an apartment hunter, you are bound to come across a variety of living options, including duplexes and a variety of apartments. While these living spaces share a few similarities, there are a number of differences that are worth noting as well. Here is a comparison of these unit types to help you determine which one best suits your needs.

What is the difference between a duplex and an apartment? A duplex comprises of two separate units that are found within the same structure, whereas an apartment is a unit that is located in a residential complex among other units. Since there are only two units in a duplex, you only have to share a wall with one other unit, while in an apartment, you will likely have neighbors on both sides of your unit.

On average, duplexes cover more square feet than apartments, and depending on location, they may also cost more. Duplexes are not as widely available as apartments, with most of them located in suburbs rather than in urban areas. The amenities found in duplexes and apartments may differ, with the former more likely to include more house-like amenities such as a washer/dryer hook-up than the latter.

Although apartments and duplexes share some similarities like being shared units and including amenities, there are some notable differences between these living spaces.

The differences

1. Size

On average, duplexes are bigger than apartments. The average size of a unit in a duplex in the U.S is slightly over 1000 square feet, which is more than enough to accommodate a family. On the other hand, the average size of an apartment in the U.S was 941 square feet in 2018, 5% smaller than it was in 2008.

2. Structure and design

A duplex is made up of two units that are spread over two floors, with each being connected by a private indoor staircase or an elevator. The bedrooms and other private spaces are situated on the upper floor of the duplex, whereas the living area and kitchen are found on the lower floor.

Apartments, on the other hand, come in varying designs, with some of them featuring fully open layouts while others are divided into several rooms. Other apartments feature a hybrid of both, with some areas of the rooms being open and others divided into rooms.

3. Cost

As with other living spaces, location is key in determining the cost of rent in both apartments and duplexes. In terms of size, duplexes may be more expensive to rent than most apartment types simply because they cover more square feet.

4. Neighbors

Since there are only two units in a duplex, you will have only one neighbor. In contrast, when you live in an apartment that is within a complex, you will probably have residents living on both sides of your unit, as well upstairs and downstairs neighbors.

5. Location

Duplexes are more commonly found in the suburbs and outskirts of urban areas whereas apartments are more likely to be found within or in close proximity to a city/town.

6. Amenities

Duplexes have more house-like amenities such as in-unit laundry, driveways, porches, and garages, whereas apartments have amenities that are more commonplace in rental units.

7. Common areas

The common areas in a duplex are shared among two residents, whereas those that are found in apartment complexes are usually shared among several other tenants.

8. Landlords vs. property management companies

Most duplexes are usually rented out by a private landlord who may or may not live on the property. An apartment in an apartment building, on the other hand, is more likely to be rented out by a property management company which oversees all aspects of the units.


Pros of duplex

  • They offer more space – Duplexes cover more square feet than apartments, hence their spacious layouts. Occupants of the unit are able to maintain their own spaces while sharing one unit. You also have room for more guests in a duplex, and you can use the space in your unit for a variety of purposes. Duplexes also offer more outdoor space, with backyards and front lawns where you can spend time with your family.
  • More freedom to customize your unit – Living in a duplex, you are likely to have more freedom to make your space feel more like your home by adding your personal touch. This is because duplexes are usually rented out by a private landlord rather than a property management company, which makes it easier for tenants to request permission to make minor modifications in the unit by painting or improving the interior décor.
  • You only have to share common areas with one other unit – In a duplex, you only have one neighbor. This makes it easier to share a driveway, backyard, and any other outdoor spaces that may be included. With the right boundaries, it is more effortless to co-exist with one neighbor as compared to having to deal with several neighbors when you live in an apartment complex.
  • They are more private – Since you only have to share a wall with one other person/family, there is more privacy in a duplex. Even though you will be sharing a yard, there are ways through which you can divide up your space if the duplex is side-by-side for more privacy. This way, you won’t feel like you are invading your neighbor’s space when you spend time outdoors.
  • They offer house-like amenities – Many duplexes usually offer amenities that you are more likely to find in a traditional house rather than an apartment complex. They may feature in-unit laundry, a backyard, a driveway, and even a garage.

Cons of duplex

  • They are not easily available – Duplexes do not come by easily. They are not as readily available as apartments since they are generally bigger in size. If you want to live within or in close proximity to an urban area, you have a better chance of finding an apartment rather than a duplex.
  • You may have to live next to your landlord – Some landlords opt to live in one of the units in order to save on costs and pay off the mortgage faster. Living in such close proximity to your landlord could potentially lead to conflict especially when the landlord-tenant relationship is well-defined.
  • You may have to take care of some maintenance work yourself – Since many duplexes are privately owned, the maintenance and repair work around the unit may be taken care of personally by a landlord in order to save on costs. This will inevitably result in delays, resulting in the tenant having to carry out some of these tasks themselves.


Pros of apartment

  • They are common within the city – Apartments are arguably the most common type of living spaces in urban areas. Thanks to their convenient locations, they are ideal for tenants who work or study in the city and want to make their commute easier.
  • They feature a variety of amenities – Many apartments usually include a wide variety of amenities that tenants have access to. Amenities such as dishwashers and air conditioning are commonplace in most apartments.
  • Come in a variety of sizes and designs – As an apartment hunter, there is a wide variety of apartments to choose from. They come in different sizes and styles, which gives you a wider selection to work with.
  • Generally more affordable – Apartments are considered cheaper to rent than duplexes since they are generally smaller than duplexes. The smaller the size of an apartment, the cheaper it is likely to be to rent.
  • Tenants have fewer responsibilities – When you live in an apartment, you don’t have to worry about responsibilities like shoveling to get rid of snow or mowing the lawn. These chores are usually taken care of by a maintenance worker/company that may also take care of all the repairs in the apartment complex.

Cons of apartment

  • Generally smaller in size – When compared to duplexes, the average size of apartments is smaller than that of duplexes. A good number of apartments are more compact than duplexes, which may be a deal breaker for those looking for spacious units.
  • More stringent rules and regulations – Many apartments have very restrictive rules when it comes to what you can and can’t do in the unit. Many apartment complexes do not allow their tenants to paint their walls or keep pets in their units.
  • Limited privacy – In an apartment building, there are more neighbors to co-exist with. Outside your apartment, there is no personal space, and you always have to be mindful of others.
  • More noise – You will likely have neighbors on both sides of the apartment, as well as below and above you. If you live with neighbors who are not mindful of their noise level, you will inevitably experience disturbances.

Final Thoughts

Whether you choose to live in a duplex or an apartment will depend on your budget as well as your needs. Both units have are viable living spaces with advantages and disadvantages, and it is up to you to decide what you are willing to compromise. It is always important to do as much research as possible so that you have all the facts at hand and make an informed decision.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author, and she enjoys traveling, reading, and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC.

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