The boat/RV-storage lot at Palm Gate RV & Self Storage in Goodyear, Ariz., might resemble the outdoor parking areas found at other facilities, with row after row of colorful vehicles lined up prettily side by side. But that’s about where the similarities end.
Renters of the facility’s 126 covered storage bays have the luxury of entering and exiting the property via three gates and can easily maneuver their giant toys up and down the wide aisles. There’s also a covered wash bay, a waste-dumping station and 20-amp electrical outlets for battery charging. The management office even carries essentials boat and RV owners may need for their excursions, such as extra toilet paper, rope, wash and wax, or a utility cutter. It’s just another way Palm Gate caters to its high-end clientele.
The rare “treasure” aside, the belongings behind closed doors at most self-storage facilities usually don’t add up to more than a four-digit monetary figure. Not so for boats and RVs. Some of these vehicles cost as much as a small home. With a higher price tag comes higher expectations from customers. Operators like Palm Gate are meeting these demands through better amenities and security.
Amenities That Attract
Depending on the market, stall size and amenities, covered parking for boat, RVs and other vehicles can cost $100 to more than $300 per month. Uncovered parking is slightly less expensive, but is often still more than traditional self-storage. Renters who are shelling out big bucks to store their vehicles demand more from their storage facility.
Amenities at boat/RV-storage facilities run the gamut from vehicle wash bays and air stations to facility clubhouses and valet services. Many facility operators also partner with other business to provide services such as vehicle detailing, propane refill, and maintenance and repairs.
Burnside-Somerset Boat Storage in Somerset, Ky., offers several “extras” not found at competing facilities, according to owner Bill Zumbiel. In addition to electrical outlets in each unit, the property features a trash dumpster and water hose so owners can wash their boats before putting them in storage. Zumbiel has also created partnerships with local mechanics and marine dealers to provide service for tenants’ vehicles.
All of these benefits have led to happy and loyal customers. “Our retention rate is very high, to the point where we usually only lose a customer when he gets out of boating altogether or his employer transfers him out of the area,” Zumbiel says. “We also receive much of our business from referrals from very satisfied customers.”
For some operators, simply offering extended hours is enough. “We find that RV and boat owners like the freedom to use their items at times that are convenient for them,” says Angela Jordan, who co-manages Butterfield Ranch Self Storage in Temecula, Calif., with her husband, Mark. The property offers 33 boat/RV-parking spots in an outdoor, uncovered lot.
Of course, offering certain amenities can create challenges. Extended hours might require staff to be on site, while wash bays and other equipment may occasionally need maintenance or upgrades. For Palm Gate, these challenges include ensuring the wash bay area is clean and functioning, and the electrical outlets are working properly to provide the 20-amp electricity needed for RVs, says Debbie Vivian, the center manager. The staff also works hard to keep the parking area clean, which can be difficult in dusty Arizona. Employees regularly walk the area to check for low tires, leaking fluids or beeping alarms.
The Jordans also keep a close eye on their stored vehicles. “We assist with replacing covers blown off by wind or notifying the customer when this or other incidents occur,” says Mark Jordan.
Security That Protects
One of the core tenets to success for any self-storage business is site security. A comprehensive system is even more important for operators who have open boat/RV parking. They typically rely on security extras to ensure stored vehicles are safe. Such features include perimeter fencing, motion-sensor lighting, keypad access, security cameras, individual unit alarms, and even personal key fobs. Some properties offer tenants the ability to view their stored vehicles online via video monitoring.
While all of these security components are essential, it’s surveillance cameras—and how they’re monitored—that seem to appease most tenants when it comes to ensuring the safety of their vehicle. The cameras at AA-1 Self Storage in Ogdensburg, N.J., follow tenants’ “every move,” says property manager Jesse Richter. In addition, the footage is monitored off and on site. “As an added benefit, we have our police run through the facility several times a day,” Richter says.
The 24-hour video surveillance at Butterfield Ranch includes night vision and motion detection. In addition, the Jordans live on site and are available to conduct routine patrols, inspecting vehicles for signs of tampering or damage. “These services are clearly relayed to our customers at the time of their rental. Also, we are in the process of adding perimeter beams to our security system,” Angela Jordan says.
Palm Gate relies on several security tools including cameras, motion lighting and regular police patrols. In addition, the facility’s management software tracks all customer entry and exit activity.
Even boat/RV-storage facilities that only offer outdoor parking rely on perimeter fencing and manager diligence to keep vehicles safe. “Our 24/7 manager is the real difference we offer in security. He patrols the lot periodically on his ATV, so the locals know he’s always checking the property,” Zumbiel says.
Customer Service That Shines
As with any self-storage business, service is a cornerstone to attracting and retaining customers. “The expectation for great customer service is part of the job description at Palm Gate,” Vivian says. The staff achieves this by helping customers through the rental process, from choosing the right unit size to providing bottled water during the move-in. Ultimately, the goal for every operator—regardless of what’s behind those unit doors or parked in a lot—is to provide a safe, secure environment for customers’ treasured items.