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Boat Storage Options

There are two obvious options for keeping a boat if you’re not using it for a long time. The first is to keep your boat at the marina, which can be extremely expensive. The second is to bring the boat home and keep it in your garage or yard. While this latter option is clearly far cheaper, it comes with its own inconveniences. If you’re keeping your boat in the garage, you’ll either need a very large garage or completely run out of space. If you’re keeping it in your yard or driveway, the boat may become an eyesore. It will also be exposed to the elements, which creates the need for costly repairs in the future.

There are other options you may not have considered, like storage units at self-storage facilities, outdoor boat storage spaces at storage facilities, indoor boat storage facilities, and boatyards that store boats on racks. All of these options fit somewhere between keeping your boat in a marina or at home for convenience, while offering their own perks and disadvantages. Keep reading to determine which type of long term boat storage is right for you.

boat storage units

Boat Storage Units

The cheapest way to protect your boat from the elements while it’s out of the water is to rent a typical storage unit that you’ll find at a self-storage facility. Not only are storage units inexpensive, but they’re also plentiful and available almost anywhere, including nearby lakes, rivers, bays, the ocean and your home.

The downside to storing your boat in a storage unit is that it may not fit. At minimum, you’ll likely require a 10x15 self-storage unit for your boat. There are only two standard sizes that are larger: 10x20s and 10x30s. If your boat is 10 feet wide and 30 feet long, it won’t fit inside a standard self-storage unit. Keep in mind that storage units are usually between 8 and 10 feet high, meaning that if your boat is taller, then that it won’t fit either.

Outdoor Boat Storage at a Self-Storage Facility

Just because your boat is too large to fit inside a storage unit doesn’t mean that the storage facility has nothing to offer you. Some facilities have large outdoor lots available that allow you to keep your boat on a trailer. This is often still cheaper than a specialized boat storage service, but you’ll probably lose out on any perks—in most cases, the outdoor lot will essentially be a parking spot to keep your boat.

Some of these spaces may include a roof to keep your boat safe from the rain. Storage facilities near lakes, rivers, bays and the ocean are more likely to offer these kinds of spaces than those further from bodies of water. As always, services offered depend on the business. You may be able to find storage facilities that offer extra benefits like boat transportation and light maintenance that specialized services do.

outdoor boat storage
stacked boat storage

Stack Storage and Dry Stack Storage

A common way to store boats is to keep them on a lift, sometimes at a marina dock just above the water. While this may be a convenient way to keep your boat short-term between uses, it is expensive for long-term boat storage. Your boat will also be exposed to the elements and in danger of rising sea levels during major storms. Stacked boat storage offers an alternative: instead of resting up on a lift on its own, your boat will be stacked on a large rack with other boats.

In most cases, a space on a boat storage rack is less expensive and better protected from the elements than keeping your boat on a lift at the dock. Some boat storage stacks, called “dry stack storage,” will stack your boat inside a warehouse. This type of dry boat storage will keep your boat well protected from the elements year-round. However, it means getting your boat back into the water will be a more difficult and time consuming process.

Keep in mind that only boats of a certain size will fit in a rack, and that many dry rack facilities won’t be able to handle boats longer than 35 feet.

Indoor Boat Storage

Although storage units can get quite large and handle a modest range of boat sizes, some boats are simply too large to fit into any of the units you’ll find at a typical storage facility. Fortunately, some boat storage locations will allow you to store your boat inside a larger space. This can be a huge perk in areas that commonly experience extreme weather, particularly during the winter or long periods of precipitation.

If you live in the northern United States and are afraid of the wear and tear that snow and ice might put on your boat as it sits in your yard or at the dock during the winter, you should seriously consider finding an indoor boat storage facility.

Most indoor boat storage facilities are simply large warehouse buildings where multiple boats are stored in a single, expansive room. Many offer a suite of services and perks to go along with storage, such as free transport to and from the facility as well as full winterization, which can include greasing external fittings, winterizing air conditioners, pumping out head and water tanks, stabilizing your gas tank, changing gear lube, and adding antifreeze to the engine and water systems.

Some facilities will even store your boat trailer for free during the summer while your boat is in the water. Be aware that indoor boat storage facilities won’t be able to fit very large vessels into their warehouses, typically limiting boats at 50 feet. In other words, you might need to find somewhere else to keep your yacht during its winter hibernation.

While indoor boat storage may be the ideal way to store your boat, the downside is price. Renting a space inside a warehouse with all of those perks is going to cost significantly more than renting an outdoor space for your boat. At the same time, however, repairs to your boat will be extremely expensive, and storing your boat indoors is one of the best ways to prevent long-term damage. Boat owners will need to weigh the costs and decide which type of storage is right for them.

indoor boat storage
jet ski storage

Jet Ski Storage

Storing a Jet Ski or personal watercraft is much the same as storing a full-scale boat, with one major perk: size. A Jet Ski is much more likely to fit in your garage and will take up a smaller footprint in your yard or driveway. Still, many of us lack any extra garage space, and keeping your Jet Ski outside, even under a cover, will expose it to the elements.

A simple self-storage unit should be perfect for storing your personal watercraft. It offers ample space and provides a roof that protects it from the elements, while remaining cheaper than the marina. Most Jet Skis should fit inside a 10x10 storage unit, while a 10x15 will be certain to do the job.

Preparing Your Boat For Storage

Even though some storage facilities can help keep your boat clean and secure, routine maintenance and winterization (for longer periods of storage) are necessary to ensure your boat will run smoothly when it's time to hit the water again.

Basic maintenance won’t require any major mechanical aptitude. Top off your gas tank and consider using a fuel stabilizer if you’re putting the boat away for a longer period of time. Next, change the oil and remove any batteries powering electrical equipment inside the boat. You might want to remove the boat’s battery itself as well, particularly if you won’t be using it for a long time.

If the boat requires any repairs, take it into the shop before you put it away in storage. Damages, even small ones like cracks and dings, can fester or worsen over the winter. It’s best to take care of them immediately if you’d like to keep your repair bill low.

Whether you're storing inside or outside, the most important item required for boat storage is a cover. Invest in a cover specifically designed to fit your boat. This ensures that there are no low areas to collect moisture, but leaves enough room for air to circulate, preventing mildew.

Clean your boat, making sure to remove any organic material or water from the inside in particular. These things can rot or mold and cause your boat to smell foul or even inflict significant damage.

Next, there are a few mechanical preparations you might want to take before putting your boat away into storage. If you are mechanically confident, you may be able to tackle these yourself. If not, it’s best to seek a mechanic’s assistance.

Your boat’s engine will be your main focus. Get it up and running, and make sure everything is moving smoothly, tightening up any parts that are loose or wobbly. Then disconnect the fuel line and let it run until it stops. Make sure the propeller shaft is well lubricated—you might want to just go ahead and re-lubricate it anyway.

The next step is to flush the system out with the correct flush. Consult the owner’s manual to see which kit is correct for your model. Don’t forget that the cooling system requires flushing as well. Afterwards, make sure to drain the engine of any water.

Treat your carburetors and spark plug cylinders with fogging oil. This is fairly straightforward on many boats, as there will be fittings where you can add the fogging oil. This can be trickier for other boats, which require you to remove the carburetor’s cover. To apply fogging oil to your cylinders, remove the spark plugs and spray the cylinders. This is a good time to check if your spark plugs require replacing and to spray electrical connections with a coating of anti-corrosion spray. Clean out the gear case by unhooking the flusher and draining the gear case, then refilling it with lubricant. Check out the steering column and cables, and clean them of any residue, spraying them down with anti-corrosion once they’ve been cleaned. Disconnect the battery from the engine and spray down its terminals with anti-corrosion treatment. To finish up with the motor, return it to its running position and cover it with a canvas or cloth cover. Avoid using plastic, as it will trap moisture inside.

Preparing Your Boat Trailer For Storage

At most storage facilities, you'll be storing your boat on a trailer. Preparing your boat and your trailer are equally important to get the watercraft ready for storage.

To prepare your trailer, check the pressure on all the tires and tighten all the lug nuts on the wheels. Make sure the wiring is in order— your lights should be working to and from the storage facility. If you're storing the boat outside, buy an outboard motor lock to secure and protect this valuable and vulnerable piece. If you're storing for more than a few months outside, cover the tires to protect them from cracking from sun damage. Lastly, chock the wheels of the trailer and use a trailer lock to secure the boat to a large, sturdy object.

Other Tips

Note when your boat registration is set to expire. When you and your boat are ready to hit the water, you don't want an expired registration to keep you from having fun.

For insurance purposes, take note of any available identification numbers for both your trailer and watercraft. Take pictures of your boat and any other valuable items before storing.

If you're storing for more than two months, remove the battery and store it in a cool, dry location. If you're storing for more than six months, use a battery tender (also called a battery maintainer or charger) to make sure the battery will have enough charge to run when you finally take the boat out of storage.

Always check your boat's owner's manual for safety rules and complete instructions for boat storage and towing.



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