You Herd It Here

Storing a Vehicle: Drive Up Unit vs. Outdoor Parking Space

By Sarah Clark, Certified Self Storage Manager

There are many factors to consider when thinking about storing a vehicle at a self storage facility. Some questions to ask yourself include how long you will be storing the vehicle, how prone is the vehicle to weatherization, what shape is it in and how frequently will you be able to visit the facility to check on the vehicle. While different storage facilities have varying policies for storing overall, there are a few basic rules to follow.

First thing to consider when looking into vehicle storage is what type of storage would be benefit you best. There are three options for vehicle storage which include:

  • A basic outdoor parking space in a lot that can either be covered or uncovered.
  • A large drive up unit.
  • A large temperature controlled drive up unit.

At most storage properties, the outdoor parking space is the lowest cost option (and sometimes the only option), with the temperature controlled drive up unit being the most costly. And, not all locations have large enough storage units to fit more than your basic car or truck, so be sure to talk with your property manager to see what is available.

Basic Outdoor Parking Space

The benefits to an outdoor parking space include the lower rental rate, higher height restrictions if the space if covered and no need for a lock, plus some spaces you will be able to pull the vehicle through verses backing the vehicle into the space potentially causing damage. You can easily fit anything from a small car to a large boat or RV in most outdoor parking spaces. When considering this option, also keep in mind what the typical weather patterns are in the area. If you have constant rain like Seattle, maybe the drive up unit makes more sense. If you are in a temperate zone like the East coast, outdoor parking is great for most vehicle during most of the year (outside of snow storms and heavy spring storms).

Drive Up Storage Unit

A drive up storage unit would provide a more sheltered and secure space. Think of the standard one car garage when you consider a 10×10 unit. Be sure to keep in mind the height of the vehicle when thinking about renting a drive up unit. Most commonly storage heights range between eight and ten feet, with the door being around a foot shorter. Also keep in mind that storage units are estimated sizes. For example, if your vehicle is nineteen feet long then the unit should at least be 25 feet long. Renting a storage unit at 20 feet in length will not be enough space for the vehicle to fit and the door to close. The same principal applies to the width of the unit. Most facilities only offer widths up to ten feet with the doorway being around eight feet.

Temperature Controlled Drive Up Storage Unit

A temperature controlled drive up unit is recommended for storing antique vehicles, long-term vehicle storage and seasonal vehicles such as jet skis and snow mobiles. You want to keep in mind the same information we just reviewed for the standard drive up unit. The only difference is typically the temperature controlled option – otherwise the unit is essentially the same. Sometimes, however, these units have electronic doors and they are often taller and wider allowing for small RVs and boats. Be sure if you are considering this option to visit the property and the actual unit, and take measurements to make your sure vehicle will fit and has enough clearance to easily drive in and out of the storage unit and have the door closed.

The next thing to think about when it comes to indoor or outdoor parking is the storage company’s requirements. While requirements vary from company to company, there are common obligations. The vehicle must be insured, have valid registration and be in good working condition. Most companies will ask you to provide proof of insurance. Also the name on the rental agreement for the parking space or storage unit must match the name on the vehicle registration. A license plate is also a must. Overall, self storage facilities do not allow major work or maintenance on the vehicle to occur in the space. That means you cannot tune it up, do an oil change or make any other repairs or improvements to any vehicle on the property at any time. This is spelled out in your rental agreement.

Another important thing to keep in mind is how to prepare your vehicle prior to placing it in storage. A weatherproof cover is recommended for both indoor and outdoor storage. Be sure to wash and clean the vehicle’s interior and exterior, and fully dry it to prevent damage. For example, over time mud, grease and bird droppings can cause damage to the paint. Any food particles left inside the vehicle can attract pests – so check on the floor, under seats and inside any pockets and compartments – even the trunk. These are certainly things you want to avoid. Remember to fill the gas tank and top off the oil to avoid contaminants from building up inside the engine. Either disconnect the battery or start the vehicle once or twice a month to ensure the battery and engine are working properly. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and that your other engine fluids are topped off as well. If storing a vehicle while out of town for any length of time, be sure to give a spare set of keys to a trusted friend or family member in case the vehicle would need to be moved, and notify your property manager. Let him or her know who your alternate contact is, and provide all the proper contact information just in case. Also let your property manager know when you will be back in town, and set up your payments in advance to avoid late fees. You can prepay for any number of months in the office or online through your customer portal.

Following these tips to storing a vehicle will ensure a stress-free and easy rental experience. You can decide whether an outdoor parking space will be sufficient, or if you want to opt for the drive up storage unit for more protection. If you are unsure which option is best, simply talk with your property manager and he or she can help you decide. And if you are ready to move your vehicle to storage, you can rent your storage unit or reserve your outdoor parking space online 24/7.