There are many reasons you might want to put your car aside for a while.
Perhaps you’re moving to a more commuter-friendly location or just bought a new one and don’t know what to do with the old one.
Or maybe you’re just taking an extended period off.
With life changes like these, sometimes it just makes more sense to put your car away for a while rather than sell it.
So what sorts of things might you want to think about?
Here we’ve got the scoop on what to keep in mind when prepping your car for long-term vehicle storage.
Table Of Contents
- What Qualifies as Long Term Car Storage?
- How Much Does Long Term Car Storage Cost?
- How to Find Long Term Car Storage
- How to Choose a Long Term Car Storage Facility
- Long Term Car Storage at an Airport
- Long Term Car Storage Companies
- What Can Happen When You Store Your Car Long Term
- How to Get Your Car Ready for Long Term Storage
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping Up
What Qualifies as Long Term Car Storage?
If you’re going to store your car for more than three months, you’ll want to start thinking of it as long-term storage.
How Much Does Long Term Car Storage Cost?
Depending on where you want to store the car, your costs will vary greatly.
The simplest—and cheapest—solution is to store your vehicle in your garage.
But if you don’t have the extra garage space to store a car, you’ll need to start looking into other options.
A professional facility can be a great storage solution for those who can’t store a car on their premises.
A storage facility minimizes your chances of vehicle damage from break-ins, which can happen when nobody drives a car for a long time.
If you’re using a vehicle storage space at a facility, you can expect to pay anywhere from $45 to $450 per month.
If that’s worth it to you, read on!
How to Find Long Term Car Storage
Finding a facility to store your car in is fairly simple.
A Google search will do most of the work for you, but you’ll still need to have an idea of what to look for.
Location will probably be the biggest factor.
It might be handy to have a storage facility that’s close by and/or easy to access.
You’ll also want to consider the type of vehicle storage you’re looking for.
Indoor car storage, or outdoor?
Both options have their pros and cons.
Indoor car storage is typically in a climate-controlled unit, which can help protect your car from weather damage and help keep out pests.
It’s also more expensive.
Outdoor storage units are usually parking spaces on the company lot.
You can cover or uncover these spaces.
Outdoor storage spots will be cheaper, but they also offer less protection from the elements and pests.
How to Choose a Long Term Car Storage Facility
So you’ve decided that it’s a good idea to put your car into long term storage.
You can afford it, and it’s a safe place to keep the vehicle.
How do you go about choosing a facility?
What to Look For
When choosing a storage facility, it’s helpful to first decide what you need versus what you can afford.
If money isn’t an issue for you or you know exactly how long you’ll need the storage space, then you might consider indoor or climate-controlled storage.
On the other hand, if you’re on a tighter budget or are unsure how long the car will need to be in storage, outdoor parking spaces on a lot may make more sense.
You may also want to think about factors such as
- Ease of access to the storage facility
- Cost of indoor vs. outdoor car storage units
- Paperwork needed to store cars in a unit (proof of ownership, insurance, etc.)
- Procedures for checking the vehicle out of the storage facility
- Additional storage fees, if applicable
Many storage units require you to submit proof of ownership, such as the car title, or proof of insurance.
Although it may be tempting to cancel the insurance on your car to save money, this isn’t always a good idea.
Most storage facilities can guarantee your car’s safety, but your vehicle could still incur weather damage, for example, over time.
Insurance would come in handy in case a window gets broken or the paint gets scratched.
What to Avoid
It’s always a good idea to avoid using a storage facility with overly complicated policies.
You might also want to consider the storage facility’s safety guarantee.
Many facilities offer long term vehicle storage, but sometimes that can amount to little more than an open parking space.
If you’re trying to store a more valuable vehicle, such as a classic car, this is probably not the best option.
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Storage Facility
When choosing a place to store your car, it’s helpful to ask questions beforehand so you have an idea of what you’re getting into.
With each facility you talk to, try asking the following:
- What kind of storage units do they offer?
- What is the price for each type of unit?
- What does the facility guarantee?
- What vehicle paperwork do you need?
- Are there any limits on storage for a long period?
It may also be helpful to get an idea of the facility policy for moving the vehicle.
If you are storing your car because you’re moving, for example, it may not be feasible for you to travel back to retrieve it.
The logistics of moving a car out of storage can get tricky when you’re using an auto transport company, so it’s something to consider beforehand.
Long Term Car Storage at an Airport
Occasionally, it may make sense to look into storing your car at an airport.
Many airports offer vehicle storage in their long term parking lot sections.
Usually, these parking spaces are on a lot with no coverage.
Long Term Car Storage Companies
Here are a few well-known storage companies that offer vehicle storage units as well.
CubeSmart has over 1200 locations nationwide.
Most locations offer both indoor and outdoor vehicle storage.
They also differentiate between short and long term storage, so you may be able to catch a better rate depending on your needs.
2. Stow It
Stow It is a company that connects people with available storage space to people who need it.
Whether it’s an unused garage, an extension of their property, or a barn, Stow It features listings to fit your storage needs.
ADKOS is a nationwide storage facility company that also offers vehicle transport.
As if that’s not enough of a deal, it’s also veteran-owned, so if you need military storage, it’s a great spot to check out.
4. Public Storage
Public Storage is another nationwide facility.
It offers both climate-controlled units as well as traditional outdoor parking spaces.
U-Haul is also nationwide, and they offer on-site storage space as well as moving trucks and other equipment.
U-Haul Has a reputation for striking the balance between price and quality.
6. Atlantic Auto Storage
Located in central Virginia, Atlantic Auto Storage services the mid-Atlantic states.
They offer both vehicle storage and transport.
7. Self Storage
Self Storage is a storage facility database.
Users can simply enter their zip and the site provides a list of storage facilities nearby.
This is a great tool to try because you may find better deals with local businesses versus national chains.
What Can Happen When You Store Your Car Long Term
So you’ve found a storage unit you like and you have a date set.
Here are a few problems that can arise when your car sits for more than a few months.
1. Moisture in the Gas Tank
When a car sits for an extended amount of time, moisture can begin to collect in the gas tank, potentially causing rust and future issues.
Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for this one—fill up the tank before you put the car into storage.
2. Partial or Complete Battery Drainage
Batteries will drain left on their own, and without a running alternator to charge them, will eventually die.
When you put your car into storage, one option is to use a battery maintainer to keep your battery charged while you’re away.
Or, just prepare to replace it once you return.
3. Tire Flat-Spotting
Tire flat-spotting happens when nobody drives a car for too long and the tires begin to warp under the weight of the car.
If this is something you’re concerned about, consider storing your vehicle on car jacks.
4. Engine Oil Contamination
Before you put a car into long term storage, it’s a good idea to get an oil change.
Fresh oil will help ensure that the engine and car fluids are all working properly, and you won’t have to worry about leaving dirty oil sitting in your car’s engine.
5. Cosmetic Damage
Weather, accidents, and the elements can all take a toll on your car.
Storms or other bad weather can damage your car’s exterior, while accidents, such as blowing or falling debris, can also be a problem.
Even sun exposure can bleach paint colors or cause dashboard peeling.
6. Rodent Infestation
Rodents, insects, and other small critters can be a real problem for cars that sit for an extended amount of time.
Dormant cars can make great houses for pests, so it’s important to seal your car up before leaving it, especially if it’s going to be outside.
7. Sticky Brakes
When a car sits for a long time corrosion on the brakes and brake components can build up.
This is a problem because, like most people, you probably want your brakes to function as they should when you finally do drive the car again.
Cars stored in high humidity are especially prone to sticky brakes.
How to Get Your Car Ready for Long Term Storage
When you’re putting your car into long term storage, it’s a good idea to do some preparation for it first.
Cars are meant to move, so anytime you plan to leave them sitting for a long period you’ll probably want to do some housekeeping—or carkeeping—first.
1. Fill Up the Tank
Filling up and topping off your tank can keep moisture from collecting on the inside.
Too much moisture can cause the fuel tank to rust, which you don’t want.
You can also try using a fuel stabilizer in the gasoline before putting the car in storage.
2. Protect the Engine Cylinders
This one requires a little car maintenance know-how, but it’s fairly simple.
To protect the engine from rust, take out the spark plugs and spray oil into the cylinders, then replace the plugs.
Or you can ask your mechanic to do this for you if you’re taking your car in for a maintenance check before you store it.
3. Wrap the Wiper Blades
Wiper blades can stick to the windshield if left undisturbed for too long.
You can either wrap them in plastic (this might keep them from cracking and drying out as well) or pull them up off the windshield into the “out” position.
4. Plug the Exhaust Outlet
As mentioned before, your stored car, especially if it’s stored outside, can make a great home for small animals and pests.
The fix is simple—you can stuff a rag into the exhaust or other air openings.
5. Elevate the Vehicle
As touched on earlier, a car sitting for a long period can put a lot of pressure on the tires.
Some folks recommend removing the tires and elevating the car on jack stands.
A lot of it will depend on your car and the type of tires you have.
6. Clean the Interior
Keep it clean. Clean out your car’s interior before you store it, especially if there are any foodstuffs inside.
Also, take care to clean out the glove box and remove any needed paperwork.
7. Clean the Exterior
It comes down to just personal preference, but a lot of folks like to wash their car before putting it into storage.
On a more practical note, storing a clean car can also make it easier to spot any cosmetic blemishes when you start it up again.
8. No Parking Brake
If the parking brake mechanisms are in contact with the wheel for too long, they can fuse together.
If you’re worried about your car rolling, you can try using tire stoppers instead.
9. Park on a Tarp
Parking on a tarp will avoid any damage to the ground due to a leaky engine.
Some storage facilities mandate that you either use an oil pan or a tarp.
10. Use a Car Cover
And lastly—use a car cover!
Car covers are a great investment especially if you’re storing your vehicle outside.
Use the cover to protect against cosmetic damage, including sun damage, and keep your car looking nice and fresh.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need to Insure a Stored Car?
Generally no, you don’t need to insure a car in storage.
However, should any damage occur to the vehicle from weather, accidents, etc., you’ll probably be on the hook.
Some storage facilities will also offer their own liability policies to cover any damage.
This may be a good option for you if you don’t want to keep paying auto insurance on a stationary car.
How Long Can a Car Sit Without Being Driven?
It depends on a variety of factors, but generally, a car can sit (safely) for about one month without being driven.
Cars need constant use, so inactivity isn’t a great thing for them.
But if you follow the steps above to prep your car for long-term storage, your vehicle can sit well for months or even years.
Still, thinking about putting your car into long term storage?
It may make the most sense for your situation.
With a little prep and thorough research, you can safely put your vehicle away with peace of mind!