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Full Speed Ahead: The Operational Considerations of Adding Boat/RV Storage to Your Self-Storage Facility

Full Speed Ahead: The Operational Considerations of Adding Boat/RV Storage to Your Self-Storage Facility
The need for secure self-storage for boats, RVs and other large vehicles is on the rise as people continue to seek outdoor recreation, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. But before you add this profit center to your facility, consider these operational factors.

When the coronavirus put a halt to most Americans’ vacation plans last year, the sale and rental of RVs and boats skyrocketed. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, there was a 75 percent increase in boat sales in May compared to the previous year. The RV Industry Association reports that many dealers were seeing a 200 percent increase in sales compared to the same period in 2019. In fact, RV shipments were expected to surpass 400,000 at the end of 2020 and will see continued growth this year.

Finding secure storage for these large vehicles is a huge customer need. RVs can measure anywhere from 8 and 40 feet in length, 8 to 15 feet in height, and 7 to 10 feet in width. Storing such a giant at home is often out of the question due to lack of space or restrictions imposed by homeowners associations. RVs and boats are usually too tall to keep in a garage, or too wide or long to store on a driveway. Even if a vehicle does fit in one of those spots, it would likely impede other vehicles (cars and trucks) that are used more frequently.

For all these reasons, boat and RV owners will seek a self-storage facility to park their big toys. Plus, for vehicles that are used mainly for weekend getaways, it may be convenient to store them at a facility that’s on their way to their favorite outdoor recreation spot. That way, it’s just a simple stop as they head out on their adventure!

Self-storage operators can meet all these needs by providing convenient, safe and reasonably priced solutions. But before you decide to “get things on the road,” consider these important operational factors.

Types of Vehicle Storage

Leases and Liens

When you add vehicle storage to your self-storage facility, be prepared for the operational impact. You may need input from an attorney before moving forward. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You’ll need to create a special lease agreement for vehicle storage or add a vehicle addendum to your existing contract.
  • You’ll need to collect proof of vehicle registration or title, and insurance.
  • You’ll need to set rules about the condition of vehicles stored on your property, including the way they look and run. You don’t want decrepit boats and RVs detracting from your facility aesthetic or leaking oil on your floors and pavement.
  • You’ll need to determine if you’ll permit customers to perform vehicle repairs on site.
  • There are also different tax requirements in certain states (Illinois, for example) regarding parking spaces that store motorized vehicles.

Finally, foreclosing on a vehicle-storage space is a more in-depth process than a typical self-storage lien sale. You need to ensure that anything with a vehicle-identification number (car, truck, boat or RV) is able to be registered to the person who purchases it at auction. You’ll need to perform lien searches and find the required state-specific forms and paperwork. Some states have statues that allow for vehicles to be towed for lack of payment, but there are different stipulations in each state.

Security and Access

Self-storage operators who offer boat/RV storage often provide security measures to keep vehicles safe from vandals and weather. These vehicles are huge investments, so customers will seek the best accommodations they can find. Video surveillance, good lighting and electronic gate access are all important factors they’ll consider when they select a facility.

Access hours might also be critical to renters. The ability to take the vehicle out of storage and return it when it’s convenient for them is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. If possible, be flexible with your hours for boat/RV tenants. You might even be able to add a surcharge for this service. Many customers would be willing to pay a few extra dollars each month for the freedom to come and go as they please.

Extra Space Storage Murray, Utah Extra Space Storage, Murray, Utah
Vehicle storage at Extra Space Storage in Murray, Utah

Customer Care

Customers storing boats and RVs have unique storage needs, concerns and experiences. They may need more support. To help them prepare their vehicles for storage, you can provide the following the basic instructions. You should also encourage them to read their owner’s manual for specific care directives before parking.

  • Thoroughly wash the vehicle.
  • Remove the battery and keep it on a charger at home.
  • Top off fluids with fresh oil, antifreeze, brake fluids, etc.
  • Disconnect propane tanks.
  • Clean out pipes, especially if storing in cold-weather climates.
  • Clean the interior, removing any perishable items.
  • Block the exhaust and other entrances to protect against rodents and pests.
  • Close and seal any roof vents, especially if storing outdoors.
  • Protect with a quality cover.

Marketing and Pricing

To market your profit center, ensure that your website has pages that cater to customers looking for different types of vehicle storage and that the search engine optimization around these keywords is strong. Extra Space Storage, for example, created storage guides for RVs, boats, motorcycles and other vehicles. We work to keep these options front and center of ongoing digital marketing campaigns. Customers will also look to your online presence for vehicle-storage FAQs, reviews from other tenants, plus information on the amenities you offer, to see if what you offer lines up with their needs.

Pricing for the storage of boats, RVs and other vehicles will vary based on location, type and facility occupancy. However, these units can often fetch a higher price than traditional self-storage. You can also earn additional revenue by providing customer perks such as charging stations, wash bays, dump stations, specialty items in your retail store, extended access hours, and even concierge services.

Vehicle storage is a need in many major markets, and the demand may increase because of the unexpected events of 2020. Helping customers find a solution can be a boost for your self-storage business. Just pay careful attention to the way the profit center might impact the other aspects of your operation before you go full speed ahead.

McKall Morris is the corporate communications manager at Extra Space Storage, a self-storage real estate investment trust and management company. She joined the business in 2019 after working in the airline industry for several years. She received her undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and is working on an MBA at the University of Utah. For more information, call 888.586.9658; email [email protected].

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