Providing informal care can be both a burden and a source of satisfaction. To understand the welfare effect on caregivers, we need an estimate of the ‘shadow value’ of informal care, an imputed value for the non-market activity. We use data from the 2006–2007 Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe which offers the needed details on 29,471 individuals in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Of these, 9768 are unpaid non-co-resident caregivers. To estimate net costs, we follow the subjective well-being valuation method, modelling respondents' life satisfaction as a product of informal care provision, income and personal characteristics, then expressing the relation between satisfaction and care as a monetary amount. We estimate a positive net effect of providing mode rate amounts of informal care, equivalent to €93 for an hour of care/week provided by a caregiver at the median income. The net effect appears to turn negative for greater high care burdens (over 30 hours/week). Interestingly, the effects of differences in care situation are at least an order of magnitude larger. We find that carers providing personal care are significantly more satisfied than those primarily giving help with housework, a difference equivalent to €811 a year at the median income. The article makes two unique contributions to knowledge. The first is its quantifying a net benefit to moderately time-intensive out-of-home caregivers. The second is its clear demonstration of the importance of heterogeneity of care burden on different subgroups. Care-giving context and specific activities matter greatly, pointing to the need for further work on targeting interventions at those caregivers most in need of them.