Keeping your car in pristine condition while it’s in storage is not as straightforward as it may seem. No matter how long you plan on storing your car, there are several factors to consider as you choose a self-storage unit, including size, security, covered vs. uncovered, and even climate control if you have a classic vehicle that you want to protect from the elements. In this guide, we’ll explore the most important things to consider so you can choose the best possible unit for your particular car, storage needs, and personal preferences.
1. Reasons to Place Your Car in Self Storage
If you own a car that you drive occasionally and don’t depend on for your day-to-day commute, self storage can be a convenient and affordable place to keep your vehicle. But beyond that, there are other reasons to consider a storage unit for your car (or cars), including:
- You lack the space. If you recently downsized to a smaller home, you may no longer have enough space in your garage to park your car. If you live in a big city, you may not even have a garage, let alone a guaranteed parking spot.
- You want to keep your car safe from harsh weather. If you collect rare cars or classic cars that are vulnerable to the elements, or drive a vehicle that isn’t well-suited to snow and rain, you may want to store your car for part of the year to prevent damage and keep it in mint condition.
- You travel frequently. Whether you travel for business, are in the military, or have other reasons for being out of town frequently, a self-storage unit can keep your car safe for an extended period.
- You own an RV or camper. Summer is the perfect time to revitalize your RV or camper for road trips and warm-weather getaways, but self storage is a great way to keep vehicles like these out of your driveway during the cold months.
2. Choosing the Right Size for Your Car
The storage size you need for your car depends largely on its make and model, as well as your broader storage needs. Generally, you have three options:
- 10’ x 15’ (150 square feet). If you own a compact car, it will likely fit in this type of unit. Compact cars include motorcycles, two-door models, and hatchbacks that measure approximately 14 feet in length or less. Be sure to double-check the measurements of your car before booking a 10’ x 15’ unit — some compact cars are longer than 180 inches (15’), even reaching 187 inches in length. If you’re only storing your car (without any additional items), this unit is the perfect balance of size and affordability.
- 10’ x 20’ (200 square feet). This type of unit is just shy of the standard size of a single-car garage, which measures 12’ x 22’. If you own a sedan, SUV, minivan, or small pickup truck, you’ll likely have no problem comfortably fitting your car in a unit of this size.
- 10’ x 30’ (300 square feet). Any cars that are larger than the ones mentioned above — including heavy-duty trucks and cargo vans — should fit in a 10’ x 30’ unit. If you own a compact car but want enough storage space for personal items as well, including small furniture and boxes, this is the perfect size.
Remember — taking measurements is key. Your car needs to have enough clearance to enter and exit the unit, and you should factor in your mirror’s dimensions as well as those of any additional attachments on your car. Bear in mind that you also need to allow enough room so you can enter and exit the car without difficulty or dinging your door. If you plan on storing other items alongside your vehicle, be sure to give yourself enough room to move around your car while it’s in the unit.
3. Indoor vs. Outdoor Covered vs. Outdoor Uncovered Storage
You’ll typically have three main options when choosing a storage unit for your car: an indoor unit, an outdoor covered parking spot, or an outdoor uncovered parking spot. Each option has its own set of pros and cons.
An indoor unit offers the highest level of protection for your car. It guards against harsh weather conditions, reduces the risk of theft or vandalism, and keeps your vehicle out of direct sunlight, which can damage the paint over time. Indoor units often offer climate control, which is beneficial for high-value or classic cars. The drawback, however, is cost — indoor units are typically the most expensive storage option.
An outdoor covered parking spot provides a middle-ground option, as far as protection and price. It can shield your car from mild weather as well as potential damage from other vehicles or debris. That said, it may not fully protect your car as thoroughly as an indoor unit, and it doesn’t offer the same security measures.
Finally, an outdoor uncovered parking spot is the most affordable storage option but provides the least protection for your car. While many storage facilities have fences and security cameras, your car will be vulnerable to the elements, debris, and sunlight, which can lead to wear and tear over time. It’s a viable option for short-term storage or for less valuable cars, but for longer periods or more valuable vehicles, indoor units or covered parking might be a better option. Consider throwing on a high-quality car cover if you’re choosing this option.
4. 8 Things to Do Before Storing Your Car
Before you place your car in self storage, it’s important to take steps to properly prepare it — especially if you’re going to leave it idle for more than a month.
- Clean your car. Wash and wax your car to protect the paint, and clean the interior of any food, drinks, or other items that can attract pests or cause odors over time.
- Change the oil. Change the oil to keep your engine in pristine condition, especially if you’re storing your car for more than a month.
- Fill the gas tank. If you're storing the vehicle for more than 30 days, fill the tank to prevent condensation from forming and the seals from drying out.
- Inflate the tires. Make sure your tires are properly inflated to avoid flat spots, and consider using jack stands if you're storing the car for a long time.
- Pest-proof your car. Cover any openings where rats or other small animals can enter, like the exhaust pipe or air intake. You can also place animal or insect repellents around the car and inside the car as an extra measure.
- Cover your car. Whether you’re storing your car inside a unit or in a covered/uncovered parking spot, a car cover can keep your vehicle free from dust and other damage.
- Leave the parking brake off. If you’re storing your car for a long period, leave the parking brake off to prevent the brake pads from sticking to the rotors. As an alternative, use tire stoppers.
- Double-check your insurance. Check with your car insurance provider to make sure it covers storage facilities.