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Adding Boat/RV Storage to a Self-Storage Site: Structure Types, Space Requirements and ROI

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Return on Investment

The rental rates for canopies are typically much lower than for fully enclosed units, but the construction cost is also lower, consuming fewer materials and labor. The decision between canopies and enclosed units should come down to which will provide a better return on investment.

Wildcat Storage in Toole, Utah, is a good example of a three-sided canopy storage. The fully enclosed building is typically the design of choice, as the additional cost to build is offset by higher income. Another benefit is you might attract other types of renters who desire large spaces. In many situations, when you build large units for boats and RVs, as many as 70 percent of the units will be rented by customers requiring bulk storage for other items.

Outside parking is the least expensive storage alternative since all that’s needed is parking area. The only requirement is to ensure you have good access to the spaces. The area can be finished with concrete or blacktop drives, or just gravel in some rural situations.

If you plan to add parking spaces to your site, check to see if city zoning will allow the use. In many municipalities, outside boat/RV storage is prohibited because it is viewed as undesirable. In many instances, they’ll want parking areas located at the back of the facility so vehicles are not seen from the road.

The return on outside parking is fairly small, but the infrastructure outlay is fairly minimal, so there is profit to be made. Most facility owners will use their land in this fashion until they know they have enough demand for more expensive units. Then they'll convert the space.

Brookfield Self Storage in Brookfield, Wis., provides wide aisles for easy maneuvering. The biggest concern many owners have when adding canopies or outside parking are the prospects of vandalism and theft. It’s imperative to increase the security of the site by adding cameras and other measures. Your rental agreement for boat/RV-storage tenants will also be different, just in case the customer goes into default and you’re forced into a lien sale.

If you have available land, there is money to be made in adding boat and RV storage to your existing site. Just choose your storage type and style wisely, taking into consideration cost, customer requirements and potential return.

Jamie Lindau is a self-storage owner and the director of marketing and product development at Sun Prairie, Wis.-based Trachte Buildings Systems, which designs, manufactures and erects a full line of pre-engineered and customized steel self-storage systems, including single- and multi-story, portable storage, interior partition and corridor, and canopy boat/RV. For more information, call 800.356.5824; visit

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