Boat Storage Tips: How to Store Your Boat Safely and Efficiently

Andreea Draguleasa
January 17, 2024
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You’ve been dreaming about a sunny day out on the lake with your boat. But when you finally get to it after a long wait, you find the seats covered in mold and the engine just won’t start. This kind of bummer happens more often than you’d think with long-term boat storage.

The thing is that the process of storing a boat at home, at the marina or in dry storage needs to follow some steps if you want it to be safe and ready to go whenever you are.

Whether it’s just for the winter or all year long, by the end of this article you should know how to store a boat outside or inside without a hitch, including after each use of the boat.

Choose the Right Boat Storage Location

So, before we get our hands into all the how-to’s, you’re probably wondering where to park your boat when you’re not making waves, right? Well, you’ve got quite a few choices, and each has its own vibe, as well as pros and cons.

  • Your yard or driveway. This one’s easy on your wallet if you’ve already got a trailer. However, some neighborhoods might have rules about this and you should check that first to avoid any surprises.
  • Outdoor storage. It could be a self-storage spot or a marina. Outdoor means cheaper, but remember to cover up your boat well. Neither sun nor rain are your boat’s best friends.
  • Indoor storage facility. That’s a good call if you’re not into showing off your boat on the lawn or if you live in an area with harsh weather conditions. Choose one that is conveniently located based on how often you want to use your boat throughout the year and consider a climate-controlled unit while at it.
  • Boatyard. Wanna stow your boat away in a high-rise apartment with fancy lift systems? You can often find them near the water and some boatyards even do the maintenance bit for you.
  • Marina. If you’ve got a big boat or just love convenience, marinas are where it’s at. They’re pricier but come with a lot of perks, much like a fancy club.

How To Prepare the Boat for Storage

Before storing a boat, especially long-term, do a complete check — this can prevent many common issues later on. Pay special attention to areas prone to wear, like hoses, wires and connections in the engine. The goal is to identify any potential problems that could worsen during long-term boat storage and address them on the spot.

Even if you use your boat on a regular basis, you still need to inspect it before every boating trip. Here’s a handy checklist before storing:

  • Clean the boat. Thoroughly wash and dry both the exterior and interior. Wash your carpets and deck. Barnacles and residue should be scraped and/or pressure washed off the hull.
  • Hull inspection. Look for any damage like cracks or blisters in the fiberglass gelcoat. Apply a protective wax to the hull, like 3M Perfect-It Gelcoat Light Cutting Polish + Wax.
  • Bilge inspection. Use a wire brush to clean up any oil spills, then spray with a lubricant and add a small amount of antifreeze.
  • Outdrive inspection. Check shafts, propeller, nuts and pins.
  • System check. Examine fuel, electrical and cooling systems.
  • Hose and line condition. Replace any that are worn, broken or cracked.
  • Throttle control. Ensure it’s in good condition.
  • Electrical connections. Clean and tighten corroded or loose connections.
  • Navigation lights. Verify their condition and functionality.
  • Engine maintenance:
    • Inspect and clean the flame arrestor.
    • Check and replace engine air and fuel filters as needed.
    • Run the engine, then change the oil and oil filter.
    • Flush the engine with fresh water.
    • Inboard engine: Drain the water / Outboard engine: Store in a vertical position.
    • Use fogging oil in the carburetor and cylinders.
  • Gauges and alternator. Test for proper operation and charging capacity.
  • Battery. Check its condition and ensure it holds a charge.
  • Fuel system. Fill the tank and add a fuel stabilizer.
  • Interior care. Use a vinyl cleaner or protector spray to prevent cracking, ventilate to prevent mold and remove all gear. This includes personal floatation devices, flares, fire extinguishers and electrical components like radios, if they’re detachable. If you live in a particularly humid area, use a commercial moisture absorption product like DampRid.
  • Cover the boat. Use a high-quality cover, ideally model-specific, for a snug fit. Make sure your cover is well-vented to prevent trapped moisture from causing mold or mildew. This is an extremely common issue with winterizing for first-time boat owners.

Pro tip: If you’re storing a boat on a trailer, be sure that your trailer tires won’t be damaged. If you’re storing in grass or in a storage unit, use wood blocks to keep the rubber off the ground.

How To Store a Boat Outside

Storing your boat outside requires special attention to protect it from the elements and wildlife. Whether the outdoor storage is covered or not, it is necessary to use a high-quality cover to protect your boat from mildew and sun damage.

  • To cover your boat, find a poly or vinyl tarp. You might look for one to fit your exact model, which will ensure hull integrity and prevent mildew. This is usually better than a standard cover that doesn’t perfectly fit.
  • You can make your own frame to keep snow from accumulating on the tarp and causing damage. Be sure the cover is securely tied to make sure it doesn’t blow off or tear.
  • Looking just for some shade and wind protection in high season? Here’s a guide on building a simple boat shelter based on a popular camping design.
  • Do not wrap your boat in plastic unless advised to do so by your marina or boatyard. Shrink-wrapping has to be done correctly, allowing for ventilation to prevent moisture buildup.

Pro tip: Do you live in an area prone to hurricanes? Check out these storm survival strategies for your boat.

How To Protect Your Boat Against Wildlife

Regularly check for signs of wildlife nesting or damage. Many critters find boats irresistible.

  • Got a problem with semi-aquatic mammals? Use boat stands for additional support and distance from the ground, and wrap hoses and wires with rodent-resistant braided sleeving like the one from ElectriDuct. Wash thoroughly after fishing — any leftover smell is like a magnet, especially to otters.
  • Is it birds that want to nest in your boat? Try adding some flashing reflective objects or a large fake owl to keep them away. Note that most bird nests are protected by law.
  • What about spiders? Well, they hate peppermint. If you don’t want to bother making your own peppermint oil and vinegar mixture, try the spider repellent spray from Star brite, Spider Away.
  • If you live up north, you probably have an issue with zebra and quagga mussels. Keep them away for good with an effective electronic repellent like The Dock Disk. It is non-toxic and safe to use.

We hope you now have a clearer picture of how to store a boat outside without worrying about any damage between boating trips, so it’s time to take a closer look at long-term boat storage.

Long-Term Boat Storage Considerations

The first and potentially most important step, depending on the unique needs of your boat, is to read your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations on long-term storage. Even if stowed away for a season or more, periodically inspect your boat. This includes checking the cover for damage or displacement, inspecting for any signs of water intrusion and ensuring that ventilation is still effective to prevent mold and mildew.

Are you storing a boat in water all year long? Hey, if the weather allows it, why not? Just make sure to periodically check the mooring lines and fenders to ensure they are secure and in good condition.

Fuel System

Fill up the gas tank to prevent water vapors from entering, then add fuel stabilizer to the tank to prevent degradation of your fuel. Regularly check the fuel lines and connections for any signs of wear or leakage.


If you’re storing a boat in water, leave the battery on board so the bilge pump can continue to function.

If you’re storing out of the water, disconnect the battery and store it at home or in your unit on a float charger. Periodically inspect battery terminals for corrosion and clean them as necessary.

Insurance for Stored Boats

Homeowners’ policies may offer limited coverage for smaller boats but usually exclude marine-specific risks like salvage work, wreck removal, pollution or environmental damage. Don’t forget about boat insurance even if you keep it in storage — this is not just for when you’re out on the water.

Now, the type of coverage you need depends on how and where you boat. Your best bet would be an “all-risk” policy. It offers the most comprehensive protection, except for the usual wear and tear or animal damage. Note that if you’re in a hurricane zone, your insurer might want to know your storm plan. This can even save you some bucks on insurance.

Seasonal changes come with seasonal savings. If you park your boat for the winter, for instance, you might score a discount. Insurers love it when you’re safe and not using the boat all year round. Also, if you’re mostly in freshwater, that’s usually cheaper to insure than salty seas.

Pro tip: Regularly review your boat insurance policy. Make sure it fits where and how you store your boat. If you change your storage location, the insurer might say the new location poses different risks and therefore might require specific coverage adjustments.

Security and Anti-Theft Measures

Keeping your boat safe from thieves and vandals is always important, especially when placed in long-term storage. Regularly check on your boat if possible, and always make sure everything’s locked up tight and out of sight.

If you live in Florida (or keep your boat there in long-term storage), you should know that it accounted for 20% of watercraft thefts in the U.S. in 2022. Next in line — California, Texas and Washington.

Anyway, here’s what you can do for extra peace of mind:

  • If your boat is on a trailer, use a hitch lock, like the heavy-duty one from Master Lock. You can also use a high-quality chain and lock to secure your boat and trailer to something immovable.
  • While your boat is in the water, secure it to the dock with a locked steel cable.
  • Install a kill switch in your boat’s ignition system. It’s a simple way to stop thieves from easily starting your boat.
  • Consider installing an alarm system. A reliable solution is to add snap, motion and entry sensors to the Siren 3 Pro main unit from Siren Marine. Too much? Even a basic alarm designed for boats can deter theft.
  • Motion-activated lights can scare off intruders. The NetBright 200-lumen LED spotlight from Mr. Beams is a good pick for only $30.
  • Don’t leave valuable equipment like fish finders or radios in plain sight. Store them securely.
  • A small investment in a GPS tracker, like the ones from Spytec, can help you track your boat if it’s moved without your permission.

Pro tip: Keep copies of your registration and boat title in a safe place, separate from the boat.

Now You Know How To Store a Boat

Alright, boat buddies! That’s a wrap on our boat storage masterclass. Whether storing a boat at home in your backyard or at a high-end marina, just pick the spot that treats your watercraft right, and don’t overlook the prep stage. From scrubbing the deck to tuning the engine, everything matters especially if you’re going for long-term boat storage.

In addition to that, you should now be equipped with everything you need to know on how to store a boat outside and make sure to cover your boat with insurance and locks like it’s your treasure chest — don’t let the pirates win.

So, there you go. Keep these tips in your captain’s hat, and your boat will be shipshape and shiny, waiting for your next great voyage.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to store a boat outside?

Outdoor boat storage generally costs between $50 and $150 a month, depending on where you live. Other factors that can affect cost include whether parking is on a paved surface, and if the boat storage location is covered or uncovered. Indoor boat storage will cost more, but provide better protection.

What happens if you don't winterize your boat?

Failing to winterize your boat properly can lead to costly repairs. Water seeps into small spaces contracts and expands when it freezes, and this process can wreak havoc on your boat and engine.

Should I consider shrink wrapping my boat?

Shrink wrapping can provide additional protection when storing your boat outdoors, and can provide more protection than a cover alone. The cost may be high, but for long term storage it is a smart way to protect your boat.

Where should I keep my boat?

If you can afford it, storing your boat at a marina in dry stack storage is an ideal option. Indoor storage at a self-storage facility is also a smart way to keep your boat safely stored. Outdoor storage is okay, however you must take extra care to winterize your boat and use a quality cover.


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The SpareFoot Blog offers tips about self-storage, information about storage auctions, advice about home organization, news about SpareFoot and much more.
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