For many parts of the country, sometime after Labor Day means moving your boat to a winter storage location for the duration of the off-season. Aside from winterizing your boat properly, finding a proper storage location is one of the key elements to a smooth spring recommissioning. If you just cover it, park it and forget it, you run the risk of allowing bad things to happen. The sticker shock of some of the better storage options could lead to making a bad decision that will cost more money in the long run.
Here are some of the options to consider, ordered from the least expensive to the most costly.
The least expensive option is to store your boat at home. The best option for those with smaller boats is storing it in the garage, out of the elements. For those with bigger boats, the next best option is to park it under a pole barn, which has a roof but no sides. Parking it behind the house is both a courtesy to neighbors and a theft deterrent, which is a problem in the off-season. Avoid parking your boat on grass, which retains moisture through condensation, which creates a rust factory. Grass also houses critters that can chew on wiring. Gravel or concrete is the best parking surface and it’s wise to jack up the trailer and rest the frame on blocks to avoid flat-spotting tires. The advantage of having your boat at home is you can inspect it frequently and remove accumulated snow or water. Unfortunately, for some boaters, this isn’t an option because of zoning or homeowner association restrictions or lack of physical space.
Estimated Cost: Free
Parking your boat in a storage yard is more expensive than at-home storage but is usually pretty reasonably priced compared to other options. It also usually has the advantage of securing your boat behind locked fences. But because you probably won’t visit your boat very often, greater care must be taken in the winterizing process, particularly with covering the boat properly to avoid the elements getting in the boat. Avoid storage lots that have grass rather than pavement or gravel to park on. Removing batteries and tires and storing those inside your house or garage is a good idea.
Estimated Cost: from $20-60 a foot and higher for the winter season depending on location and infrastructure. Prices will vary by location.
Many marinas offer rack storage and are usually used for boats year-round. Some have sides that are open to the elements and others are closed. The advantages are the boats are covered by a roof and can be periodically maintained (for a fee) by the marina staff. Another advantage is the boats can be taken down to allow owners to upgrade their boats in the off-season. The downside is boats above yours can leak and boats can get dirty if there are no side walls.
Estimated cost: Many rack storage locations charge $6-12 a foot per month and often require a yearly contract. There are often additional fees for special services. Prices will vary by location.
The advantages are obvious; your boat is kept indoors and is out of the elements but expect to pay a premium for this accommodation. While dedicated boat storage units might accommodate larger boats, regular storage locations usually have units that are 30 feet long or less.
Estimated cost: $10-20+ a foot per month at marinas or $350-750 a month for general storage venues. Prices will vary by location.
In more moderate climates and in coastal regions where the salt water doesn’t freeze, boats can be left in the water year-round. On the plus side, when conditions are moderate, you can use your boat. But if freezing conditions are possible or you won’t be using your boat for extended periods, winterization procedures need to be taken. Boat owners in the far north could dock their boats in the south for the winter and keep their season going year-round with periodic visits to “check the boat.”
Estimated cost: $10-20+ a month. Prices will vary by location.