By Krista Diamond
Ask any boat or RV owner and they’ll tell you: Finding a place to store those vehicles can be tough. Homeowners’ associations hate seeing them in driveways; cities ticket them when they’re parked on the street; and apartment-complex managers don’t take kindly to sacrificing their limited parking.
With increasing numbers of people eager for a taste of life on the road (or sea), RV and boat storage is more desirable than ever. Fortunately, supply hasn’t caught up with demand—that’s where you come in. If the process of adding this specialized type of storage to your existing self-storage business seems daunting, start by asking yourself the following five questions.
1. Why Should I Offer Boat/RV Storage?
The first thing you’ll want to ask yourself when considering the addition of boat/RV storage is whether it’ll be profitable. In most markets, it will. The main reason is the scarcity of the service.
Typically, people who just need a 5-by-5 unit to store their winter wardrobe and a few odds and ends are only willing to travel a few miles to their storage facility. That’s because standard units are widely available in most markets, making it unnecessary for consumers to subject themselves to the inconvenience of commuting across town. When it comes to boat/RV storage, however, limited options make the old “location, location, location” adage obsolete. Even if your facility isn’t the most convenient, RV and boat owners will still want to store with you.
You can get a better understanding of this by assessing your market. Do your research and find out how many storage facilities in your area offer boat/RV storage. Next, look at the recreational opportunities available to potential customers. Is you facility near a mountainous, forested area with lots of hiking trails and camping spots? Then focus on the storage needs of RV owners. Is it in proximity to the ocean or a lake? Then make boat storage your priority. Fortunately, many of the features you’ll offer will be appreciated by both categories of tenants.
2. What Type of Boat/RV Storage Should I Offer?
The great thing about adding boat/RV storage to your facility is it won’t necessarily cost a fortune. Besides tailoring it to the needs of future consumers, you can modify it to fit your budget.
There are essentially three types of boat/RV storage, ranging from simple to luxurious. The most basic form is a simple parking lot with spaces available for rent. If you have land you can pave or an existing parking lot that rarely fills up, converting it to storage should be easy. Simply use paint to designate rental spots and number them accordingly.
One step up from parking-lot storage is canopy storage. This type features a roof only or a roof and walls on two or three sides. It’ll cost a little more, but it’s a worthwhile investment if you live in an area where it snows or you get excessive sun; tenants will be happy to know that a canopy is protecting their vehicle from the elements.
If you want to cater to customers who expect luxury, you can offer fully enclosed units. These feature high clearance for even the tallest of vehicles as well as roll-up doors, dependable locks and even unit alarms. If you live in an area where you see many high-end boats and RVs, this type of storage will guarantee you business.
3. What Basic Features Do I Need?
Installing boat/RV storage won’t require you to change everything about your facility, but it will necessitate a few tweaks. The most important thing you’ll want to offer these tenants is space—not just to park but also to drive. You’ll need drive aisles that are at least 35 feet wide to accommodate large motorhomes and vehicles that are towing boats or a fifth-wheel trailer. By giving vehicle owners that extra room, you’ll not only improve their storage experience, you’ll prevent them from potentially damaging your property.
You may also need to enhance your facility’s security measures. Assure your tenants their large vehicles will be safe in your care by equipping your property with features such as gated access, high fences, security cameras and a staff who’s willing to keep an eye on these vehicles. In addition, you can consider selling locks for fifth-wheel trailers, which you can purchase online for about $20 each. Even at the most secure storage facility, this type of RV is still the most susceptible to theft.
4. What Amenities Should I Offer?
If you really want to go the distance, there are a number of additional features and services you can offer. Wash and dump stations, propane sales, vacuums with long hoses and even air pumps are outstanding amenities that are likely to result in consumers choosing your facility over another. Providing electrical hookups in units will wow tenants as well.
For RV owners who spend months on the road, a nice restroom as well as the opportunity to purchase bottled water, ice and snacks means a lot. You can also offer shuttle or concierge service. Or simply make yourself available to assist tenants who need to back into their unit or spot. Also consider offering your boat/RV-storage tenants 24-hour access so they don’t feel rushed to return their vehicle before the facility closes. These customers will typically pay a higher rental rate, so offering these perks is well worth it.
5. How Do I Attract These Tenants?
They’re probably already looking for you! All you have to do is let them know you exist. Prioritize Web-based marketing over older techniques such as print advertising. Use your website by including quality photos of your property as well as a detailed list of amenities you offer specifically for boat and RV owners. Use the same terminology on your website that boat/RV owners use, as this will help your facility place higher in online searches.
Never underestimate the power of social media. In addition to posting about what makes your storage facility so special, use your business Facebook page to share boat- or RV-related blog entries. In fact, consider reaching out to the massive community of RV bloggers and offer someone who has a sizable following an incentive to either store at your facility or blog about it. The RV community relies heavily on referrals, and having an endorsement from someone who’s respected in the field will go a long way.
While you’re at it, brush up on your knowledge of relevant boat and RV topics, such as vehicle winterization, and pass on what you’ve learned to your new tenants via a blog on your own website. They’ll appreciate your dedication to serving them better, and you’ll appreciate their business.
Whether you decide to install boat storage by the sea, RV storage near a national park or a little something for every kind of tenant, you’ll offer your current and future customers an important service. Upgrading your facility to accommodate these vehicles might seem like a lot of work now, but if you take the time to listen to what storage users in your market want and stick to your budget, you’ll be watching your business—and your profit—grow in no time.
Krista Diamond is a staff writer for StorageFront, which allows self-storage customers to custom search and compare thousands of facilities. She’s a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and lives in Las Vegas. When she isn't writing about storage, she’s climbing mountains in the desert. For more information, visit www.storagefront.com.