The Ultimate Guide to Boat Storage

Owning a boat means endless summer days of adventure on the water. Of course, big fun comes with big responsibility, and one of those responsibilities is storing your boat when the season is over (even if that’s just for a few weeks).

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Even if you live in a moderate climate without harsh winters, the precipitation, humidity, sun and temperature fluctuations can impact the body and mechanics of your boat. Even one overnight freeze can cause issues. Further, any boat is valuable and tempting to someone looking for a free one.

A huge percentage of boat insurance claims are filed in the off-season when boats are stored in all sorts of places and exposed to weather elements and vulnerable to mechanical issues from disuse. 

Whether it’s a small fishing boat or a huge yacht, your watercraft is worth the investment of renting from a self-storage facility. You’ll save space, have improved security, and protect your boat from the elements.  

This ultimate guide to boat storage will prepare your boat to ensure it stays in great condition during its stay.

Types of Boat Self-Storage

Before anything else, see if your owner’s manual offers any guidance on boat storage. Depending on the size, age and style, your watercraft may have particular needs. 

Outdoor Storage

Outdoor storage is basically a parking spot for your boat. It may be covered by a canopy or it may be open to the sky. Either way, there will not be complete protection from temperatures, wetness, poor air quality or the sun. Still, outdoor facilities usually have security measures such as surveillance cameras, fencing and restricted entry.   

Indoor Storage

Enclosed storage units cost a bit more than outdoor storage, but they shield your boat from the weather as well as pests. They also offer better protection against potential theft. In some cases, you may be able to secure a climate-controlled self-storage unit. This will control the temperature and humidity to protect your boat’s interior, exterior and mechanics.  

Prepare the Boat for Storage

If you don’t have experience with general boat maintenance and winterization, consider hiring a professional to prepare your boat for self-storage. This goes double if you have a large boat or it seems too complex to tackle on your own. 

Nevertheless, here is the absolute minimum you should do:

  • Clean the interior and exterior thoroughly.  
  • Fill the gas tank, add a stabilizer and run the gas for 10 minutes to get the fuel into the whole system. For long-term storage, empty and dry out the tank.
  • Disconnect the battery and connect it to a trickle charger at home.
  • Put a good cover over the boat.

When you take your last ride of the season, look and listen for any issues that need to be addressed and repair. They won’t get any better as the boat sits dormant. 

To ensure your boat is ready to be stored and maintains peak condition while it’s there, prepare the following components:


The hull of your boat can get cracks and splits that lead to leaks. Check it over carefully for tiny cracks to widening holes and fix all of them. 

Clean the hull by scraping off any barnacles and power washing any residue. Apply a good coat of wax to protect the hull from moisture. 


Saltwater can cause corrosion in an engine, so it’s especially important to clean out your boat’s engine if it’s been in ocean water. Fuel simply left in the tank can degrade or freeze.   

Here are the steps to take to protect your boat’s engine:

  1. Drain and flush the gear case and fill it with new lubricant. 
  2. Check the wires, hoses and various connections to be sure they are intact. 
  3. Run the engine to warm it up, then change the oil and oil filter.
  4. Flush the engine with freshwater (as it idles) until the water runs clear to prevent overheating. Store the engine vertically to drain it. 
  5. Inborn/sterndrive engines should be filled with new antifreeze.
  6. With the engine on again, spray fogging oil into the carburetor. Be advised that this will cause a few minutes of smoke when you start the engine up in the spring.
  7. With the engine on, turn off the fuel supply at the fuel valve. Once it stops, pull the spark plugs and put fogging oil on the cylinders. 
  8. Crank the engine a few times, then reinstall the plugs. 


Saltwater can be hard on the body and external elements of a boat. This is bad for both the function and the aesthetics of your watercraft.  

To prevent damage, remove and clean all sails, tarps, awnings, buoys and ropes and clean them before storage. Clean the entire exterior, top to bottom. Finally, be certain the exterior is dry before you cover and store the boat. 


Remove everything you can from the interior or your boat, including: 

  • Food
  • Valuables
  • Flotation devices
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Removable electronics (like the radio)
  • Kitchen items
  • Fabrics

Before applying the cover:

  • Empty out the fridge/cabinets and leave them open.
  • Drain built-in heads (sink/shower) and use antifreeze.
  • Empty the sanitation system and clean it with water and disinfectant.
  • Wipe everything down.
  • Apply a protective conditioner to all vinyl.
  • Clean the floors, deck and carpets.
  • Use a moisture-absorbing product, especially if it’s going to be humid. 
  • Ensure the interior is completely dry.

Use a Good Cover and Tire Protection

Simply throwing a plastic tarp over your boat isn’t going to do it. You want to keep all moisture out of the interior and prevent pests from making homes in any part of your boat.  

Get a cover that fits tightly over your boat, or better yet is made for your specific watercraft. Shrinkwrap is one option for this, and can be installed with vents. Some people use wooden frames and canvas to cover their boat - it’s an option that can last up to a decade. 

The best way to store the boat is on a trailer, but if this isn’t an option, use an adjustable boat stand or put wooden blocks under the tires.

While the Boat is in Storage

As with all vehicles, the boat must be in working order and proven to be yours to stay in storage. However, you are not allowed to work on a boat while it’s at the storage facility. You should check on the boat periodically to be certain it’s in good condition and has not been vandalized. 

While a self-storage facility isn’t on the water like a marina, you can still easily access your boat whenever you want to check on it or take it out for use. To be sure, find out the hours of operation of the company -- many places give you 24/7 access.  

You understand better than anyone that your boat is a fabulous investment in your quality of life. Taking the steps outlined in this ultimate guide to boat storage will help you enjoy your fishing boat, speed boat, sailboat or any other boat for years to come!