Inside Self-Storage Magazine 12/2000: Boat and RV Storage

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Boat and RV StorageAn interview with Tim Soder, president of VersaTube Building Systems

The staff of Inside Self-Storage recently had the opportunity to speak with Tim Soder, president of VersaTube Building Systems, to discuss the potential of boat and RV storage for self-storage operators. The company, based in Collierville, Tenn., produces covered shelters for RV, boat and automobile storage.

Please give us some background information on VersaTube Building Systems and its connection to boat and RV storage.

VersaTube Building Systems has been in business seven years. We started as a tubing fabricator, and then developing technology allowed us to create our "swaging technology." From there, we moved into building systems. Our first structure was a carport, and then we began developing secondary structures, including those for boat and RV storage.

What are the primary concerns of boat and RV owners? What would drive them to pay for storage of those vehicles?

I think one of the primary concerns of boat and RV owners is where to store their vehicle. If they cannot store it at home--either because of limited space or local ordinances--then they need to find a suitable place. If the boat or RV sits in the sun, its surfaces will expand and contract and the finish will deteriorate. Add that to other damage from inclement weather, and it's easy to see that boat and RV owners would want to protect their investment, especially when that investment can cost as much as $250,000.

From your perspective, how popular is boat and RV storage within industries such as self-storage or marinas? Is it becoming more prominent? If so, why?

First and foremost, the biggest area of concentration in the self-storage industry is storage for personal belongings. But, with boat and RV purchases on the rise, people need the storage. They can't store the boat or RV at home because of city ordinances. Self-storage facilities now have designated areas for boats and RVs. The self-storage locations that do offer boat and RV storage need to indicate that in their advertising. People in the mini-storage industry can take advantage of extra space by offering this kind of storage--both uncovered and covered.

What are the various structures available for vehicle storage and what are the benefits to each?

There are flat-top canopies and normal canopies for covered parking made of red-iron and galvanized steel, which require heavy construction skills to erect. These canopies are designed to cover many spaces at once. Boats and RVs can be fully enclosed in stand-alone units or in large buildings that hold several vehicles. We offer a sled-based unit that can be portable. An in-line, galvanized, steel-tubed frame offers the best rust protection and is easy to ship and erect. The roof of a VersaTube structure is galvanized steel and can be painted to match the rest of the storage facility. An owner can erect a VersaTube structure himself with some labor assistants. The structure can be open-air or completely enclosed.

What size ranges need to be offered in terms of the vehicle space?

Our base unit starts at 20 feet deep and increases in five-foot increments. Units need to be at least 12 feet wide, but the height is dependent on the product mix in the marketplace. Travel-trailer storage units should be 10 to 12.5 feet high. Boat storage units need to be 7.5 feet high and 45 feet long.

What other special requirements might a facility or marina operator need to meet in order to offer this type of storage?

A storage facility or marina operator's first requirement is land and/or boat dock space. Market demand will also affect requirements. An operator might start with uncovered space and move to covered space, and then move to boat/RV storage exclusively. An operator could offer uncovered, covered and semi-covered space. People want to store all their vehicles in one place. Operators can also offer amenities such as vehicle washing, vehicle repair, preparing vehicles for storage (i.e. cleaning septic system and washing vehicle), or preparing the boat or RV for travel.

What about items such as fire sprinklers? Are they a requirement with these structures the way they are with standard buildings?

If the storage facility owner is using steel structures for storage, the storage facility is not going to burn, but the boat or RV might. The owner should check with local building officials to see what is required and check local building codes.

What important things should a facility owner be looking for in a builder of covered or enclosed structures?

He should look for companies offering quality products that can be delivered in a timely fashion.

Should cost ever be an issue?

Cost is always an issue. Owners need to go through the process of cost justification. Will they get a return on their investment? Is it financially feasible? The quicker the structure depreciates, the bigger the return. Facility operators also need to consider the construction cost of erecting storage structures, many of which require a construction crew for assembly. A system like ours is easy to erect. An owner could erect it himself with a few extra hands. Plus, it can be used to cover as few or as many spaces as the owner sees fit. Additional structures are easy to assemble. As a result, boat and RV storage is becoming its own opportunity.

Are facility operators paying attention to differences in quality of the various types of structures?

I think they are. Basically, the operators are pleased with the structures they are getting. Cost justification is a vital part of quality. VersaTube's product is a good value because of its ease of construction and seven-year depreciation rate.

For more information, visit www.versatube.com , or call (901) 854-6855.

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