Where to Store Your Boat During Winter

By Patrick Galvan, Storage.com

Owning a boat is full of fun and outdoor adventure. But when the boating season ends, you have to figure out what to do with your watercraft. Boat storage comes in many forms from dry stacks to self-storage units. Choosing the right one typically boils down to a matter of convenience, price, and amount of protection.


Not sure what your storage options are? There are multiple kinds of boat storage and each has its own set of pros and cons regarding price, security, and efficiency.

Which option will work best for you? Which one will benefit you long-term? Read on to learn more about the most common ways individuals store their boat and the pros and cons for each option.


truck and boat
Photo by DiamondBack Truck Covers

When it comes to boat storage, most boat owners prefer to save as much money as possible by storing the boat outside at home during the winter months.


  • Overall cost: Since you’re storing the boat on your own property, you don’t pay a dime!


  • Neighborhood covenants: Even if you have enough space in your driveway or yard, you will not be able to store your boat outdoors if your neighborhood covenant prohibits it. Some covenants allow outdoor boat storage, but others require you to either keep your boat inside your garage or at another designated location. Violating neighborhood covenant rules could result in fines.
  • Boat cover: A boat cover is a must-have when storing boats outside in the winter. The last thing you want is to have the inside of your boat become filled with snow and debris. Of course, the price of a boat cover will vary depending on the size and shape of your boat, but most boat covers will range between $50-$150.
  • Exposed to the elements: The biggest drawback to any kind of outdoor storage is that your boat will constantly be exposed to the elements. Leaving your boat outdoors exposes it to any harsh weather such as rain, snow, sleet, and hail, and most boat covers don’t cover the bottom of your boat. Even long-term exposure to sunlight can eventually cause fading in your paint job as well as have an affect on the tires of the boat trailer it rests on. Besides the sunlight, the paint on your boat can also be chipped by debris stirred around by the wind.
  • Exposed to pests: During the winter, insects and rodents are looking for a warm place to nest, and a boat stored outdoors presents a nice, warm place for them. While making your boat their new home, the rodents could chew up the wires of your engines, resulting in a potential hazard and expensive repairs.
  • Lack of security: In addition to weather and pests, a boat stored in the open is vulnerable to thieves and vandals. Even if you live in a peaceful neighborhood, there’s no guarantee you won’t come home one day only to find your boat damaged or missing! If it’s sitting in plain view, it’s an easy target.



boat in garage
Photo by Michael Coghlan

To avoid some of the outdoor hazards, some boat owners choose to move their boat into the garage during the winter months.


  • Overall cost: Just like the driveway or backyard, the garage is your property and therefore free of charge when it comes to long-term storage.
  • Protected From the elements: The hazards of outdoor boat storage do not apply when storing your boat in the garage. Because your boat is being left in an enclosed space, you don’t have to worry about precipitation, debris, wind damage, or direct sunlight causing damage.
  • Security: Keep your boat safe from vandalism by keeping it in the garage instead of outside.


  • Reduced garage space: The main drawback to using your garage for boat storage is that you immediately lose a lot of storage space. In this situation, you can either cram your garage or move things out. To make room for your boat, you might need to move a vehicle out into the driveway. This will only inconvenience you in the cold winter months ahead. No one enjoys scraping the ice off their windshield in the morning!
  • Exposed to pests: Insects and rodents will naturally continue to seek out warm places to nest for the winter, such as the garage, and an open boat will be attractive to them. To avoid a potential infestation, you’ll need to set up traps or poison to warn them off.


boats in water

Avid boaters and fishermen sometimes choose to dock their boats, especially in seasons where they take their boat out on a regular basis. If you live in a warmer climate where temperatures rarely or never fall below freezing, you might have the option of keeping your boat in water year-round.


  • Accessibility: When the weather warms ups, your boat is immediately available for use and you don’t have to go to the trouble of putting it in the water, for it’s already there.


  • Docking fees: Unless you own the dock yourself, you’ll have to pay a fee to dock your boat at any time of the year, including the winter. Typically, you are charged a daily rate, which amounts to an expensive winter season when you are not using the boat on a daily basis if at all. What’s more, the costs of docking will vary depending on your location, the length of the dock, and even the size of your boat. Overall, this is one of the most expensive options.
  • Exposed to the elements: In addition to sunlight, debris, and weather elements, a boat stored long-term at a dock is at the mercy of the water. Over many months, the rough water could erode the paint and rust could eventually start developing.
  • Barnacles: These aquatic pests are always seeking out new places to thrive, and the underside of a docked boat are an easy target. More than just a nuisance, barnacles can lead to physical damage of your boat, so think twice before docking your boat for the winter.
  • Questionable security: The safety of a docked boat depends on security measures offered by your host. You should also keep in mind that even if the dock owner enforces security on their premises, because your boat is already in the water, it’s easier to take.


boat storage rack

Mostly found in coastal areas, dry rack storage facilities are capable of storing dozens of boats at the same time. These boat storage facilities feature indoor and outdoor locations where boats are placed out of the water upon enormous racks where they use forklifts to arrange the boats. They may also shrink wrap boats to provide superior protection.


  • Protected From the elements: If the facility features indoor storage racks, you can rest assured your boat will be protected from the weather elements.
  • Easy Access: Dry storage racks are typically close to water, so when you’re ready to use your boat again, the drive from the facility to the dock is usually a short one.


  • Higher price tag: Convenience and cheap prices do not go hand-in-hand with dry rack boat storage. Even renting a dry rack for a single month can cost upwards of $400.
  • Hard To find: Dry rack boat storage is easy to find in coastal areas where the demand for boat storage is high, but in other parts of the country, it might be hard to come by.
  • Lack of access: In order to retrieve your boat, you need to first notify the storage staff and then wait for them to fire up their forklift in order to pull your boat down from its rack. On a busy day, this could take a while.



No matter where you live, whether you are on the coast or in a landlocked state, you have the simple, easy-to-accomplish solution of winterizing your boat and keeping it at a self storage facility for the duration of winter. Self storage facilities are common all across the country, and many of them can accommodate large vehicles such as automobiles, RVs, and most certainly boats!


  • Countless options: What’s especially convenient about going to a self storage facility for winter boat storage is that you often have a choice between indoor boat storage and outdoor boat storage. With outdoor boat storage, you’ll park your boat on its trailer in a secure lot designated for storing boats, most of the time with other vehicles and RVs. If you wish to have more security, you can choose an indoor storage unit. This will cost a little more, but basically, you’ll be using a self storage unit as a makeshift garage, except you won’t have to sacrifice any personal space at home.
  • Drive-up access: With self storage, you can access your boat easily. Unlike a dry storage rack, you don’t need the facility staff to use a forklift to pull it down. You can simply drive up to your parking space or storage unit and pull it out yourself.
  • 24-hour access: If you want to have access to your boat at any given time while it’s in storage over the winter, such as to perform maintenance or maybe even take it out on an unusually warm day, look for a self storage facility which offers 24-hour access. Some facilities offer extended access hours, but 24-hour access means you’ll be able to reach your boat any time, even at dawn when the fish are starting to bite!
  • Advanced security features: Another benefit of using self storage for winter boat storage is the numerous security measures that are put in place to protect your belongings. Regardless of whether you are using indoor or outdoor boat storage, you need to consider a facility which features a fenced-in perimeter with gated entry so that only tenants and staff members can enter. Other good security features to look for include video surveillance, individually alarmed storage units, and on-site management.


  • Varying price tags: Since there are numerous forms of self storage, there are also varying prices depending on what you’re looking for. Indoor self storage offers more amenities and is the safest, most comfortable form of storage, but it’s more expensive than outdoor storage spaces.

By investing in a self storage unit to store your boat in during the winter months, you can be sure that your boat will be ready for next season when you hit the water with your family and friends!


No matter what storage option you choose, it is always a good idea to winterize your boat for the offseason. If you live anywhere where the temperature dips below freezing, you need to winterize your boat. Winterize your boat before the first freeze of the year.

  • Eliminate water: The most important step in winterizing a boat? Remove any water. This includes the engine and fresh water system. Remove drain plugs.
  • Run antifreeze: Insert the cooling water intake into a bucket of antifreeze and pump it through the engine. Once you start to see the brightly colored antifreeze coming out of the engine you can stop.
  • Treat the toilet: If your boat has a marine toliet, treat it with antifreeze also.
  • Stabilize the fuel tank: When winterizing your boat, fill your gas tank completely and add a high-quality fuel stabilizer.
  • Remove the battery: Use a trickle charger, or remove the battery completely and keep it somewhere at home. Extreme cold can crack or kill a battery. If there is any saltwater corrosion on the battery terminals, now is a good time to scrub them clean.
  • Prevent rust: Use a fogging oil to coat the engine parts in a protective coating to prevent rust during storage. Only use fogging oil with inboard motors.
  • Outboard engines: For outboard motors, store the boat with the engine in the down position. This will allow all the water to drain on its own. Double check the manual for any additional maintenance steps.
  • Keep drain plugs out: If you are storing outdoors, this will keep the boat from filling with water in the event of a torrential storm or flood.
  • Use a cover: Use a high-quality boat cover to protect against water damage to the boat’s interior and motor. Cover the wheels of your trailer to protect from sun damage. Make sure the cover is secure so that it’s not blown off in high winds. Your best option is to try and find a cover made specifically for your model of boat. Shrink wrapping is also an option at some boat storage facilities.
  • Hire a pro: Winterizing your boat properly can feel like high stakes, that’s because it is. If you don’t have time or the confidence to do it correctly, opt for a professional boat winterization service

Keep your watercraft in top shape all year long. Winterize your boat first, then compare and contrast different storage options to choose the best one for your boat. It should be smooth sailing from there.


All images have either been provided by a listed organization or are licensed under the Creative Commons.