Storing your boat properly in the off-season can be a time-consuming process, but doing so can help you maintain the lifespan of your vessel. Between outdoor and indoor boat storage options — including dry stacks, self-storage facilities, garages and more — as well as any protective measures you take to prep your boat for disuse, there’s plenty to consider for any new or seasoned boat owner. In this piece, we’ll share our expert tips on where to store your boat (and what to do beforehand).
1. Where to Store Your Boat: Indoor vs. Outdoor
Leaving your boat in the driveway while it’s not in use for short periods of time (such as in between weekends) is a fairly common practice, but long-term storage in the off-season requires a bit more research and planning.
In general, you have two general storage options as a boat owner: indoor or outdoor. Indoor facilities include dry stack storage, garage storage and enclosed self-storage units. Outdoor facilities include driveways, outdoor self-storage parking spots and marina slips.
2. Indoor Boat Storage Options
Indoor boat storage provides several advantages to owners looking to improve the life and performance of their vessel, most importantly off-season protection from outdoor elements such as dust, UV rays, wind and rain. There are three ways to store your boat indoors:
- dry stack boat storage,
- garage storage and
- indoor self-storage facility.
Dry Stack Boat Storage
Dry stack storage is an out-of-water storage option where boats are stacked vertically in a warehouse. Operators use forklifts or cranes to transport the boats, so you’ll need to call ahead, especially during peak boating season. In addition to having protection from the elements, dry stack boat storage sometimes offers concierge services (including winterization, shrink-wrapping and other services), first-rate security and accommodations for larger boats — though costs can add up quickly.
Pros of storing your boat in a stacked storage facility:
- fewer chances of your boat being stolen due to the intricate stacked design of the storage units and
- increased security and protection (typically, these facilities are guarded and a PIN/key is needed to access the location).
Garage Boat Storage and Indoor Self-Storage Facility
If there’s room, storing your boat in your home garage is a great way to save money and enjoy direct access to your boat 24/7.
That said, your garage may be too small to fit a larger vessel, and parking it without damaging the edges of your garage door may be a challenge. Plus, garages often serve as an annexed storage space for important home items as well as a parking spot for your vehicle. If you’re low on space and still want a budget-friendly alternative to a dry stack facility, finding a local storage unit that has the amenities that your boat needs may be a better all-around solution.
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Pros of storing your boat in a garage:
- saving more money compared to a stacked storage facility;
- being able to protect it from harsh, winter weather; and
- having easy and instant access to your boat — which can be helpful if your boat requires frequent winter maintenance.
Pros of storing your boat at a self-storage facility:
- you can store your vehicle, boat and other personal belongings in the same facility;
- some indoor self-storage units will have climate control, which can help maintain the longevity of your boat’s appearance;
- the process of finding a storage unit and storing your boat is easy and stress-free; and
- you will still have 24/7 access to your boat.
Cons of Indoor Boat Storage
While there are numerous benefits of indoor boat storage, there are some inconveniences or downsides as well. For example, you may find that storing your boat indoors (in locations other than your garage) can make it more difficult to access it when you need it. Other cons include:
- having to take more time to hook up your boat and travel from the storage unit to the lake (compared to storing your boat at a marina),
- paying more than you would for other storage options and
- having trouble finding a storage unit that is big enough and/or has spots available.
3. Outdoor Boat Storage
Though your vessel will be more exposed to the elements, storing a boat outdoors during the off-season comes with several benefits — namely, lower long-term storage costs. Plus, you may have more storage options to choose from compared to indoor facilities. Popular outdoor boat storage methods include:
- keeping it at a marina slip,
- leaving it parked in your driveway with a boat cover on top,
- leaving it at a storage facility that allows you to store items outdoors,
- placing it under a cover at a local storage unit and
- storing it on a boat lift.
Driveway Boat Storage
Parking your boat in your driveway doesn’t take up valuable garage space while keeping your vessel close at hand. Still, you’ll want to make sure that you look into local or residential rules about keeping a boat idle in your driveway for an extended period of time. Some communities only allow residents to store boats at their homes if they’re “sight-screened,” meaning to the side or behind the resident’s property — or in an enclosed space such as a pole barn — so it’s not visible from the street.
Pros of storing your boat in your driveway:
- avoiding any costs associated with storage units and
- instant and easy access to your boat at all times.
Outdoor Boat Storage Units
Some self-storage facilities provide outdoor parking spaces that are perfect for boats of all sizes. Though your boat won’t be right outside of your front door, you’ll still have gated access to your boat every day of the year. If you live in an area with a warmer, more consistent climate, outdoor units can often provide you with everything you need — you won’t even need the climate-controlled features of more expensive indoor units. Be sure to check what amenities your local storage facility offers.
Pros of storing your boat in an outdoor storage unit:
- being able to still cover your boat without having to pay for an enclosed unit,
- paying less than you would if you were to invest in an indoor storage unit and
- increased security protection.
Marina Boat Storage
If you plan on using your boat at only one location, a marina slip is a convenient and attractive option for boat owners who don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of moving their boat from land storage to the water.
Pros of storing your boat at a marina:
- access to electrical hookups and other necessities,
- 24/7 access to your vessel,
- little to no delay of getting your boat in the water once off-season ends,
- not having to worry about purchasing and hauling a boat trailer and
- being able to enjoy your boat on the water while it’s docked.
Cons of Outdoor Storage
Storing your boat outdoors may generally be more cost-effective, but your boat may be:
- more exposed to weather and pests, such as mussels, crustaceans and algae (in both saltwater and freshwater environments); and
- more vulnerable to thieves and vandals, unless stored in a gated facility.
As a boat owner, you:
- may not be able to store your boat in your driveway due to rules established by your Homeowner’s Association or other rental agreements; and
- incur high expenses if your rent a marina slip.
4. Tips for Storing Your Boat
Regardless of where you store your boat for the winter, it is important to prep it before you store it. Tips to keep in mind when preparing to store your boat include:
- changing the oil,
- covering the boat with a boat tarp,
- flushing the motor,
- freshening up the interior,
- giving the boat a tune-up,
- being sure to check on it about once a month,
- removing and charging the battery,
- rinsing it off after its last use,
- taking out any personal belongings and
- winterizing the engine.
Purchasing a boat is a big investment, and deciding where to store your boat is a big part of bot ownership. Doing so not only helps prolong the life of your vessel but can also help prevent any unnecessary damage.
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