How to Store a Boat in the Winter on a Lift, Inside, or Outside

You know what they say, boat stands for “bust out another thousand”. But seriously, a boat is a big investment and needs to be taken care of, especially if you live in a colder climate.

Protecting your boat from the elements season to season is critical to protecting this investment and its resale value down the road.

From winterizing your boat to finding the perfect spot to store it, there are a few steps to follow and best practices to keep in mind to ensure it fires up in the spring and summer months.

Whether or not you have a boat lift, dock, or none of the above, in this post, I’ll break down all of the winter storage options you have for storing it both outdoors or indoors.

Winterize your boat before storage prior to winter or colder months

winterizing a boat

For most people reading this, outdoor boat storage is probably the most practical option, assuming you have already winterized it. Before diving into storage options specifically, I want to start by breaking down the process of winterizing your boat.

There are a few key checklist items to build into your process, that can really help to ensure that your boat runs well season after season.

Many of these items are applicable to several types of boats both at the coast and inland.

A simple checklist for winterizing your boat

While you can certainly find extensive lists of things to do to prep your boat for winter, this list contains a few of the key items to remember for most inboards and outboards. Keep in mind that these steps should be performed in order and by a professional if you’re not comfortable.

  1. Start by cleaning your boat. With any boat storage method, you’ll want to make sure that you remove your boat from the water and clean off any barnacles, waterline scum, as well as vacuum out the inside while you’re at it. If kept at the coast, removing salt is a must as well to prevent corrosion.
  2. Drain and replace the engine oil and add an oil filter if applicable. You may also pump out the oil.
  3. Top off the gas tank with fuel. Pockets of air can make it easier for moisture to collect.
  4. Add a fuel stabilizer after topping off the tank with fuel for added moisture protection. Fuel water absorber is another option.
  5. Flush the engine by connecting to a hose and remove the drain plugs to remove all water.
  6. Flush the engine with a non-toxic antifreeze appropriate for your boat.
  7. For outboards, fog the motor by spraying what’s called fogging oil on internal engine parts like cylinders, to protect against moisture. This oil is designed to stick to metal, and protect it.
  8. Drain the lower unit oil (if applicable) or pump oil out, and replace the oil with fresh oil.
  9. Check grease fittings and add marine lubricant where needed
  10. Vacuum out the inside and remove debris and valuables
  11. Removing trolling motors, GPS systems, or other accessories that could be stolen
  12. Select a safe indoor or outdoor storage option

Safety precautions when storing your boat outdoors

boat storage security camera 2

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, there were 4,240 boat thefts in 2019. It goes without saying the location of outdoor boat storage really matters. My dad actually had a trolling motor stolen not long ago, which really illustrates the point that boats are not immune from crime.

A few best practices to help prevent your boat from being stolen is to make sure that you always park it in a hidden location if possible. With the technology on the market today, using cameras and other sensor-driven devices can also give you extra peace of mind.

If you have any sort of shelter that’s shielded from public view, this is also a good option.

3 options for storing your boat outdoors or indoors during the winter

When it comes to outdoor boat storage, you’ve got a couple of different options here. One thing to remember is you need to have it winterized prior to storing it on a lift, inside, or outside.

1. Driveway boat storage

driveway boat storage

Once winterized, storing a boat in a driveaway is a good option generally if you have space. One tip that I’ve learned over the years is to cover the boat with a tarp or boat cover and use a device to create a ridge for draining rainwater, preventing it from pooling and entering the boat.

My dad used inflatables growing up, but they do make boat cover support poles like this one I found on Amazon specifically designed to keep water out.

Tip: Purchase a canopy to protect it from snow or rain

A canopy or carport is a great option if you have space, and can go along way when it comes to protecting your boat tarp as well as the exterior. These can be installed pretty easily for basic canopies.

You can pick up a pretty nice canopy for around $1,000 that won’t blow away, and made of steel. These are perfect for backyard storage if you have space.

2. Dry dock boat storage

dry dock boat storage

Dry boat storage —essentially any method of storing a boat out of water can fall in a few different categories for the most part: rack storage, on a boat lift, on a boat stand, in a storage unit, as well as driveway storage.

Indoor rack storage for boats

indoor rack storage boat motel

Though the price of indoor boat storage is certainly less reasonable than the other options, it is generally the safest and most dependable option for storing your boat in the winter months.

Many of these facilities located at marinas are well-protected and climate-controlled, meaning your boat is completely safe from theft or damage due to weather.

For people who do not have room to store their boat in a garage and want to avoid leaving it outside, indoor rack storage is typically the way to go.

Storing a boat in a storage unit

storage unit boat storage

Many storage facilities offer several different methods for storing your winterized boat and is one of the best and affordable options for winter boat storage.

According to ExtraSpace Storage, a 10 by 15-foot drive-up storage unit will allow you to store your boat for less than $200 per month, which is quite a bargain when compared to boat rack storage.

You can also rent outdoor boat storage or covered boat storage outdoors at these facilities.

3. Storing your boat on a lift

storing boat on lift

If you do opt to keep your boat on a lift in the winter, a covered lift is the best option, meaning that the lift has a roof protecting the boat. Winterizing a boat on a lift can be a little trickier since you’ll have to be more careful when changing the oil and cleaning it.

In some areas with extreme weather, it’s a good idea to see if your slip has a bubbler or and de-icing systems that prevent damage to the boat or lift from ice flow. It is also essential that you cover your boat to protect it from sun and wind damage, and check on it periodically.

When it comes to storing your boat correctly in the winter, options such as lift storage, indoor climate-control storage, and personal storage are all appropriate choices depending on the boat and the climate.

How much does indoor boat storage cost?

In general, the cost of indoor boat storage varies. Usually, the cost is calculated per foot or per square foot, with storage facilities typically costing $6 – $10 per linear foot of boat, while marina-based rack storage can cost around $15 per linear foot per month.

Keep in mind that with marinas, you typically are provided with the white-glove treatment you obviously won’t find at a self-storage unit. You generally have winterizing services available, as well as mechanics on-site that can help prep your boat for the next season.

While you do pay more for the storage itself, rack storage at a local marina may be well worth it, especially for larger boats.

Conclusion

Simply put, no matter the storage method you select, the most important part about winter boat storage is making sure your boat is winterized properly.

Several companies sell all-in-one kits for this process, like West Marine, and online vendors.

You also should weigh the pros and cons of storing your boat yourself vs. finding a marina that will do all of the heavy lifting (no pun intended) for you.

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