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Boat Storage

No matter what size or type of boat you own, the pleasures it provides are nearly limitless. Unfortunately, the joys of boat ownership are balanced by the responsibilities, and one of the biggest responsibilities that boat owners face is storing it when it’s not in use. Here’s what you need to know to help you choose the option most appropriate for your boat, your budget, and your personal needs.

Key Points

  • 1 The best boat storage for your needs will be largely determined by your boat’s size, but other considerations include budget, location, security, and amenities.
  • 2 The costs of storage will be based on the size of your boat, the amount of time you need to store it, and your required amenities.
  • 3 It’s a good idea to invest in a boat cover tailored to your particular vessel as it limits the amount of moisture exposure and air circulation to your boat.
  • 4 Following specific steps to before storing your boat long term is an important part of preserving its body as well as its motor.

Types of Boat Storage

Boat Storage Units

Outdoor Boat Storage

Outdoor boat storage is one of the most inexpensive ways to store your boat, but it also increases your boat’s vulnerability to the elements. You can minimize this impact by opting for outdoor boat storage that is covered with a roof. Facilities that offer cover have the added benefit of protecting your boat from rain, snow, sleet and hail, but your options may be limited based upon the height of your boat, costs, or availability in your area.  

Most outdoor storage facilities feature a driveway that leads to a paved area or field where you can park your boat on its trailer. Though some of these facilities are strictly dedicated to boats, you’re most likely to find your boat parked amidst mobile homes, RVs, and other large units. Though this option represents cheap boat storage, it also offers extremely limited security, and no protection from the elements.

Indoor Boat Storage

Indoor boat storage options range from the same self-storage units that you use to store extra belongings to specialized indoor storage units for vehicles. There are also warehouse storage facilities that stack boats vertically and provide professional maintenance. 

If your boat is relatively compact, the most inexpensive indoor option is renting a spot in a self-storage facility that can accommodate it. These generally range in size from 10×15 to 10×30 with a height of 8-to-10 feet. 

If your boat is bigger or taller than that, you may want to consider stacked boat storage inside a warehouse. This option provides full protection from the elements, though you will need to plan ahead and make arrangements when it’s time to reclaim your boat, and there are size limitations.

If you’re willing to spend more for separate storage for your boat and your vessel fits, you have the option of storing your boat in a storage unit specifically equipped with garage-style doors. Beyond being highly secure, these units provide easy access and the ability to remove your boat at any time. 

The last indoor boat storage option is one of the large warehouse buildings available for boat owners to store their boats in a single, large room. These facilities frequently offer additional services including summer trailer storage, winterizing, and other mechanical services.

Boat Storage Unit Sizes

There is a storage space available to fit any sized boat, though the larger your boat is, the fewer options you have. While boats up to 10’ x 30’ and up to 10’ high can easily and cost-effectively be accommodated in a self-storage locker, something larger like a small, 20’ x 40’ houseboat will need a specialty storage space. Most speed boats will fit into a 15×30 indoor storage space, though if you plan to store your trailer you will likely need an additional 5’ of length. 

If you own a sailboat or pontoon boat, it may be able to fit into a 15×30 storage space, though larger racing and cruising sailboats will require a 20×40 space. 

Jet Ski Storage

Jet skis are one of the most popular and accessible types of watercraft, and because of their relatively small size they can easily be stored in your own garage if you have enough room. If you don’t have a garage or don’t have the space available, a 10×10 storage unit provides more than enough space for a single unit along with additional seasonal items.

Marina Boat Storage

Of all the places you can store your boat, a marina probably feels the most natural. These specially designed harbors provide docks and moorings specifically made for boats, and generally offer the choice of either slip storage or an indoor boat dry lift. Though these provide greater flexibility in the size vessel that can be accommodated and the greatest convenience for re-launching your boat, these options are also the most expensive, and may not be an option based on climate.

  • Boat Wet Slip – A slip is a spot that has been assigned to your boat for storage. Your boat remains in the water, which may not be recommended based on weather conditions and the type of boat that you own.
  • Indoor Boat Dry Lift – A dry lift removes your boat from the water and hangs it directly above, usually in a covered environment. This provides the advantages of removing your boat from the threats posed by waves and organic material in the water.

How Much Does Boat Storage Cost?

The cost of boat storage varies in much the same way that boat prices do. Just as there are important differences based on the size, purpose, and amenities of different vessels, boat storage prices will depend upon the amount of space that is needed, the level of service included, how close the storage is to the water, and more. Other determining factors include how long you will need to store your boat, whether you will need your boat protected from the elements, and the level of access and security you need. 

The cheapest boat storage will ensure you a spot, and that may be all you need, while the most expensive will include maintenance, privacy, climate control, and security. And don’t forget that whatever the storage costs, you’ll also incur additional expenses for pulling the boat out of the water, cleaning its bottom, making any necessary repairs, and winterizing the engine and water systems.

Generally speaking, the table shown below reflects the relative costs you can expect from different types of boat storage.

Estimated boat storage costs
Uncovered outdoor boat storage $
Covered outdoor boat storage $$
Warehouse storage $$$
Private indoor storage unit $$$$
Climate-controlled private storage unit $$$$$

Preparing Your Boat for Storage

Storing your boat is not only a necessity: it is also a smart step towards extending its life and prolonging your enjoyment of your investment. But unless you select a type of boat storage that includes a comprehensive service program, the process is not entirely carefree. There are certain steps you need to follow to ensure that when you take it out of storage it is in the best possible shape and ready to motor (or sail). By paying attention to these details before you stow your boat, you save yourself on headaches repair bills, and the disappointment of having to delay getting back onto the water to address the resulting problems.

  • Make any repairs — both mechanical and cosmetic — before you store your boat long term
  • Complete the following mechanical tasks or have them done by a mechanic:
    • Tighten loosened nuts and bolts
    • Disconnect and flush the fuel line
    • Flush the cooling system and drain any water
    • Treat carburetors and spark plug cylinders with fogging oil
    • Clean out gear case by unhooking the flusher and draining it; refill it with lubricant
    • Inspect and clean the steering column and cables using anti-corrosion spray when done
  • Clean your boat thoroughly
  • Fill your gas tank and add a fuel stabilizer
  • Change the oil
  • Remove any batteries that power the boat’s electrical equipment
  • Remove the boat’s battery and spray down its terminals with an anti-corrosion treatment.
  • Lubricate the propeller shaft
  • Purchase a boat cover that allows air circulation and is designed to fit your boat. Even if you are storing it indoors, it will protect it from dust and moisture.

Other Boat Storage Tips

The information provided above should answer most questions about boat storage, but boat owners are encouraged to check the boat owner’s manual that came with your vessel to see if there are any specific requirements or recommendations from your boat’s manufacturer. 

Additionally, it’s a good idea to check the expiration of your boat’s registration prior to putting it into storage and making a note of the date on your calendar so that once you’re ready to take your boat out of storage and get out onto the water, you can do so without delay. The same is true of contacting your insurer to confirm that your insurance policy is still in place and that you’ve provided them with all of the identification numbers pertinent to both your boat and your trailer in case any items are damaged or disappear.

From a maintenance perspective, if your boat will be in storage for more than six months you should use a piece of equipment called a battery tender that makes sure that it has enough charge when you first start your boat up.